John Tavares (Getty Images)
Who are the best bets to be fantasy hockey monsters over the next several years? Pool guru Matt Larkin names his top 30 keeper players at each position.
It's nowhere near time to panic. You aren't behind on your cramming for fantasy hockey draft day. You can print out my latest top 200 player list and leaf through it at the cottage.
Keeper and dynasty league GMs, though, have to be a bit more on the ball. These folks are running long-term franchises. They technically never stop playing, as they're free to make trades all off-season. They can also host their drafts earlier, as their leagues depend less on immediate health and up-to-date depth charts.
It's thus an ideal juncture to explore some keeper league rankings. Doing so means dispelling the hell out of some myths. For one, keeper league rankings are not merely prospect rankings. Sorry, but Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and Aaron Ekblad do not automatically top these lists. Elite prospects like Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and William Nylander don't make the cut at all here, as I think they're still multiple seasons away from being impact NHLers.
And here's the thing too many people forget about keeper leagues: they still have standings and championships this year, and the next, and the next. So as long as an established star player projects to stay dominant for the next few seasons, he warrants strong keeper league consideration over the youngsters. McDavid tops the ranks if we're projecting for five or 10 years down the road. But will he outscore John Tavares in the next two or three years? Doubtful. That's not a knock on Connor. That's a compliment to Johnny T.
Some veterans, however, are punished in these rankings. The likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have reached their mid-30s and dealt with nagging injuries in recent seasons. They will outscore many of the players on these lists this season, but they could decline sharply within two years. Give me Mark Scheifele in 2016-17 over Datsyuk if I'm starting a keeper league team from scratch. That's why you won't see Detroit's dynamic veterans make the list.
Here are my top 30 keeper league picks by position. Age as of opening night, Oct. 7, 2015, listed in brackets.
1. John Tavares (24) – Flirting with the scoring crown and MVP every year and still on a marked upward trajectory.
2. Tyler Seguin (23) – It's easy to forget how young he is since he won a Stanley Cup as a teenager. One of the game's elite scorers already.
3. Steven Stamkos (25) – Entirely possible 'Stammer' has another goal scoring gear left.
4. Sidney Crosby (28) – A decline should arrive in his 30s, but he should remain a top-notch producer a couple more years.
5. Connor McDavid (18) – Ranking him fifth is not an insult. It's a vote of supreme confidence. And on the other side, no, it's not too high. He's that good. Funny how polarizing McDavid is in fantasy, eh?
6. Claude Giroux (27) – NHL's leading scorer over the past five seasons. Extremely durable and still in his prime.
7. Ryan Johansen (23) – Has burst into the 70-point stratosphere, and his NHL career is only four seasons old.
8. Nathan MacKinnon (20) – A bad sophomore year shouldn't deter you from building a keeper franchise around this speedy sniper.
9. Sean Monahan (20) – Already a 30-goal man by age 20? Wasn't that supposed to be his ceiling as a two-way force? I'll never underestimate him again.
10. Tyler Johnson (25) – Bloomed relatively late and is thus already in his prime. That means he may be at his peak. Not that there's anything wrong with it. A great producer.
11. Nicklas Backstrom (27)
12. Evgeni Malkin (29)
13. Ryan Getzlaf (30)
14. Jonathan Toews (27)
15. Jack Eichel (18)
16. Joe Pavelski (31)
17. Matt Duchene (24)
18. Derek Stepan (25)
19. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (22)
20. Anze Kopitar (28)
21. Mark Scheifele (22)
22. Kyle Turris (26)
23. Evgeny Kuznetsov (23)
24. Ryan O'Reilly (24)
25. Aleksander Barkov (20)
26. Nick Bjugstad (23)
27. Mika Zibanejad (22)
28. Logan Couture (26)
29. Elias Lindholm (20)
30. Sam Bennett (19)
Just missed: Bo Horvat, Mikael Granlund, Kevin Hayes
1. Alex Ovechkin (29) – Two straight 50-goal campaigns suggest he won't slow down any time soon.
2. Jamie Benn (26) – His 87-point scoring title might be as good as it gets, but that's damn good.
3. Taylor Hall (23) – Still as young as Seguin, and there's potential for Hall to make beautiful music with McDavid.
4. Johnny Gaudreau (22) – Forms a great keeper-league tandem with linemate Monahan.
5. Filip Forsberg (21) – Poised to reign as Nashville's first true star scoring forward for years to come.
6. Alex Galchenyuk (21) – Don't call him a disappointment yet. All his numbers improved last season. He's heading in the right direction.
7. Jonathan Huberdeau (22) – Underrated playmaking winger flourishing on Panthers' top line.
8. Gabriel Landeskog (22) – Because he's a great all-around player, his offense might not improve much past the 65-point range.
9. Jaden Schwartz (23) – A good bargain in keeper leagues because Tarasenko gets the credit for the line's dominance.
10. Brandon Saad (22) – Doesn't come cheap. Already assumed to be a first-line talent. Will he prove it this year?
11. Max Pacioretty (26)
12. Rick Nash (31)
13. Tomas Tatar (24)
14. Ondrej Palat (24)
15. James van Riemsdyk (26)
16. Zach Parise (31)
17. Nick Foligno (27)
18. Evander Kane (24)
19. Chris Kreider (24)
20. Andrew Ladd (29)
21. Mike Hoffman (25)
22. Milan Lucic (27)
23. Brayden Schenn (24)
24. Alexander Steen (31)
25. Max Domi (20)
26. Brock Nelson (23)
27. Boone Jenner (22)
28. Jonathan Drouin (20)
29. Jeff Skinner (23)
30. Nikolaj Ehlers (19)
Just missed: Josh Bailey, Scott Hartnell, Andre Burakovsky
1. Vladimir Tarasenko (23) – This generation has enjoyed Ovechkin and Stamkos, and Tarasenko will soon take the torch as the game's pre-eminent goal scorer.
2. Phil Kessel (28) – Kessel remains years away from his 30s and gets to finish his prime with one of Crosby or Malkin centering him. Yes, please.
3. Patrick Kane (26) – We'll see how the police investigation affects his future. For now, we'll still call him an elite source of points when he's in the lineup.
4. Jakub Voracek (26) – Hard to believe how young he still is. It makes last year's breakout feel far less fluky and more like a logical ascension for a former top prospect.
5. Nikita Kucherov (22) – Easy to forget his 28-goal, 64-point breakout was his first full season.
6. Corey Perry (30) – Nearing the end of his prime but should remain a strong source of goals for several more years.
7. David Pastrnak (19) – Looked like a legit NHL scoring winger last year, and he was the league's youngest player.
8. Jordan Eberle (25) – Could the McDavid factor produce a new spike in points for Eberle?
9. Ryan Strome (22) – Of all the Isles prospects, he's most likely to become a star in his own right to accompany Tavares.
10. Mark Stone (23) – Doesn't always pass the eye test, as skating has been a bugaboo, but he was one of the game's best players from Jan. 1 onward last season.
11. Gustav Nyquist (26)
12. Tyler Toffoli (23)
13. Kyle Okposo (27)
14. Blake Wheeler (29)
15. Jiri Hudler (31)
16. Jakob Silfverberg (24)
17. Valeri Nichushkin (20)
18. Anders Lee (25)
19. Nail Yakupov (22)
20. T.J. Oshie (28)
21. Wayne Simmonds (27)
22. Bobby Ryan (28)
23. Patric Hornqvist (28)
24. James Neal (28)
25. Tyler Ennis (26)
26. Nino Niederreiter (23)
27. Mats Zuccarello (28)
28. Tomas Hertl (21)
29. Loui Eriksson (30)
30. Ryan Callahan (30)
Just missed: Teemu Pulkkinen, Craig Smith, Mikko Rantanen
1. Erik Karlsson (25) – He's two Norrises deep and still just 25? Scary. No other D-man can touch his scoring ceiling.
2. P.K. Subban (26) – A true fantasy monster who fills the stat sheet in multiple categories.
3. Victor Hedman (24) – Matured slowly, as expected for a D-man his size. Now he's good enough to dominate a game any given night.
4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (24) – Have to think he has even more offensive potential since he's scored so much on bad Coyotes teams.
5. Aaron Ekblad (19) – A historically good season at 18 means a wildly high career trajectory ahead.
6. Kevin Shattenkirk (26) – Will be interesting to see if he maintains the new points pace he set last season.
7. Tyson Barrie (24) – Still toils in relative obscurity with Avs. Already a premier point-producing blueliner, though.
8. Alex Pietrangelo (25) – Still young enough that his best years could be ahead of him.
9. Roman Josi (25) – Already outscored Weber by 10 points in 2014-15, and Josi is five years younger.
10. Sami Vatanen (24) – Power play quarterback potted 12 goals in 67 games as a sophomore.
11. John Carlson (25)
12. Shea Weber (30)
13. Dougie Hamilton (22)
14. Drew Doughty (25)
15. John Klingberg (23)
16. Jacob Trouba (21)
17. Mark Giordano (32)
18. Dustin Byfuglien (30)
19. Torey Krug (24)
20. Brent Burns (30)
21. Kris Letang (28)
22. Justin Faulk (23)
23. Duncan Keith (32)
24. Morgan Rielly (21)
25. Justin Schultz (25)
26. Keith Yandle (29)
27. Seth Jones (21)
28. Mathew Dumba (21)
29. Hampus Lindholm (21)
30. Olli Maatta (21)
Just missed: Nick Leddy, Tyler Myers, Cody Franson
1. Carey Price (28) – The best in the biz should stay that way for many more years.
2. Tuukka Rask (28) – Even when his team has a down year, Rask posts stellar numbers.
3. Braden Holtby (26) – If he repeats his breakout effort, he'll ascend to No. 2 in these rankings a year from now.
4. Cory Schneider (29) – Lousy team, but Schneider has absolutely lived up to the hype since winning starting role.
5. Henrik Lundqvist (33) – Still a top-two goalie in standard redraft leagues. Age may start to affect him a couple years from now, though.
6. Sergei Bobrovsky (27) – A relatively young stopper on an ascending team. Should be a fun keeper-league own in coming seasons.
7. Pekka Rinne (32) – Isn't ancient in goalie years, and he has that great young defense corps in front of him.
8. Semyon Varlamov (27) – Especially handy in leagues that count volume stats like saves. Avs 'D' still needs to mature, so Varlamov should keep getting peppered.
9. Corey Crawford (30) – Somehow feels like his leash is shorter than those of the guys above him, even though none of them has a Cup (as a starter) and he has two. Go figure.
10. Ben Bishop (28) – Propensity to get dinged up, presence of Vasilevskiy hold back his long-term value a bit.
11. Marc-Andre Fleury (30)
12. Jonathan Quick (29)
13. Petr Mrazek (23)
14. Devan Dubnyk (29)
15. Jake Allen (25)
16. Steve Mason (27)
17. Martin Jones (25)
18. Cam Talbot (28)
19. Frederik Andersen (26)
20. John Gibson (22)
21. Jaroslav Halak (30)
22. Andrei Vasilevskiy (21)
23. Jonathan Bernier (27)
24. Robin Lehner (24)
25. Roberto Luongo (36)
26. Kari Lehtonen (31)
27. Jonas Hiller (33)
28. Eddie Lack (27)
29. Michael Hutchinson (25)
30. Andrew Hammond (27)
Just missed: Ondrej Pavelec, Jimmy Howard, Calvin Pickard
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin