THN’s top 100 playoff fantasy players for 2015

Matt Larkin
Steven Stamkos. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Congrats if you won your regular season fantasy pool. Apologies if you didn’t. Now it’s time to (a) win another pool and further annoy your pals or (b) redeem a nightmare season with a magical playoff run.

Playoff fantasy rankings are a vastly different beast. We can no longer evaluate players on merely their skill, role and teammates. Now we must factor in how far we believe each guy’s team will go. Note the lack of Sidney Crosby atop these rankings. Sorry, but given how done-like-dinner his Pittsburgh Penguins looked down the stretch, and that they face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers, we can’t expect to have Crosby alive for long.

The list below reflects a blend of my personal Eastern and Western Conference team predictions and players’ overall values. Even if I don’t see the likes of Crosby or Carey Price going far, I recognize some people will disagree, so I won’t bury those superstars in the rankings too much. Above all else, playoff pools are about playing your hunch of what team will do well – and loading up on that team’s players. Juggle the rankings for yourself if you have a different idea of who goes far. But consider these 100 names within whatever order you set.

Positions listed reflect Yahoo league eligibility.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: MacKinnon vs. Drouin, and other keeper league pickles

Matt Larkin
Jonathan Drouin. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Seeking advice in your fantasy hockey pool right now? You must be:

(a) Seeking upgrades or smart last-minute roster adds for your post-season push
(b) Scraping the roadkill that is your team off the pavement, and assessing keeper players

Today’s mailbag tackles questions from both perspectives.

Jeremy Aubin (@JAubs19) asks
Strictly a points league, better player to draft next year: Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin?

Answer: Who knew this would be such a good question? It boils the blood of any MacKinnon owner, especially after he was shut down with a broken foot last week, adding injury to the insult of his sophomore slump. MacKinnon made poolie mouths water as an 18-year-old rookie in 2013-14, churning out 63 points, spurred by a great second half, and dominating in the post-season.

This year? A measly 12 goals and 38 points in 64 games. Yikes. And just when he showed signs of life with five goals and nine points in his past 10 games, his season ended. So it’s understandable to wonder if Tampa Bay left winger Jonathan Drouin, Mackinnon’s former Halifax Mooseheads teammate and the young man picked two spots after him in 2013, is a better keeper-league option.

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Fantasy hockey: NHL trade deadline risers and fallers

Matt Larkin
Keith Yandle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Time to take a deep breath after several weeks worth of stunning NHL trades. We’ve seen Evander Kane, David Clarkson (!), Jaromir Jagr and Keith Yandle change teams, just to name a few players.

Real-life GMs can rest until the draft. Fantasy GMs? No way. Now’s the time to capitalize on altered player values as a result of the trade flurry. Some players’ situations improve in their new environments and others’ take a downturn. The guys to dig deep for are those whose values change by association. A new linemate or ‘D’ partner can work wonders.

Here’s a look at some risers, fallers and changes to keeper-league stocks in hockey pools.

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Fantasy hockey: Top 20 sneaky keeper league buys

Matt Larkin
Aaron Ekblad. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

FIRE SALE!

Some GM posts that subject header on many a fantasy league message board around this time every year. Most standard regular season pools have roughly six weeks remaining, meaning plenty of teams are eliminated from contention.

Hey you, bottom dwellers. If you play in a keeper or dynasty format, it isn’t time to take your ball and go home yet. Start advertising your veteran assets in search of building blocks for next season and beyond. Who are the best keeper-league players to target if you don’t have them? The answer should be “no” to at least two of the following questions:

1. Has he reached his peak value? Tyler Seguin, in a sense, makes a phenomenal keeper. He’s 23, and he’s in the running for a scoring title. If he’s not on your team right now, however, you aren’t likely to get him. Any team that has Seguin this year is probably contending for a league crown. You won’t see Vladimir Tarasenko or Filip Forsberg on this list for the same reason. All the power to you if you can get one of these three guys, but keep in mind it’ll cost you a fortune. So will a big-time brand name like Nathan MacKinnon, even on a down year. This list focuses more on sneaky adds.

2. Is his developmental path blocked? John Gibson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jake Allen, Zach Fucale, Malcolm Subban. All outstanding prospects in net. None has a clear path to unquestioned starter status anytime soon. They’re still quality bench stashes as they can succeed if given the opportunity, but they’re not worth surrendering your best trading chips for. Even Allen, who has the closest path to starting of that quintet, shares the crease with a goalie who just went to his second All-Star Game in Brian Elliott.

3. Is he still a couple years away from his true breakout? Players like Sam Reinhart and Max Domi have bright NHL futures, but they don’t top my keeper league buy list just yet. How long do you want your rebuild to be in a hockey pool? You can trade vets for these blue-chippers but may not get the return you want for a couple more seasons. It’s better to target players who already have some extensive NHL experience and are closer to spikes in production.

With that, here are 20 keeper buys to consider.

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Fantasy hockey: 20 trade targets for your stretch run

Matt Larkin
Boston's entire top unit of David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Milan Lucic makes for a fine fantasy trade target. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Most fantasy hockey seasons have reached the turn, meaning it’s time to start negotiating magical trades to put your team over the top. Figuring out who to target is ultimately a buy-low, sell-high ballet, but at this time of year, it’s not so obvious. The sample sizes are big and less extreme than, say, a star player without a goal in his first 10 games. We have to factor history in much more, examining first and second-half splits.

Above all else, the key is to target any player you believe (a) will have significant value down the stretch and (b) can be had for his proper price or anything less, even the tiniest discount. That’s why you’ll see some big names on his list. It’s amazing how lazy certain GMs can be in any given league, placing such massive value on current numbers. Jakub Voracek is untouchable because “he’s the top guy in the whole game this year, come on.” Great player, but wouldn’t you still trade him for a John Tavares? And see if you can get the Tavares owner to add a sweetener because “Hey, Tavares has 11 fewer points, it’s gonna take more than him”?

Here are 20 names of varying value to consider in your negotiations, with positions listed according to Yahoo qualifications.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: MacKinnon makes managers miserable

Matt Larkin
Nathan MacKinnon owners haven't gotten anywhere near the production they expected of him this season. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Raise your virtual hand if you’ve been in this situation before: you have a sore throat and that wonky knee of yours is bothering you, too. You head to your family doctor and spot a sign taped to the wall: “Please limit your visit to one issue.” What does that mean? Are you seriously supposed to make two appointments?

I’m out to right that wrong in this week’s fantasy mailbag. Many readers crammed multiple questions into their “one” question. But I’ll answer them all if it’s the last thing I do.

John Daniels (@Daniels1984J) asks…
Is it time to bail on Nathan MacKinnon (i.e. take anything in a trade)? I feel like I’ve been holding out for too long.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: Why Vatanen is (mostly) for real and Brodeur is (mostly) not

Matt Larkin
Sami Vatanen (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s not…too…late.

So you’re mired in the basement of your hockey pool standings. Your dad, your boss and your friggin’ 10-year-old niece ridicule you endlessly. Don’t take your ball and go home. Fight back.

I’m here to (hopefully) help. I’ve collected your excellent Twitter questions over the last few days, and I’ll answer as many as I can below. You’re welcome for the good advice / Sorry for the bad advice.

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