Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin.
Playoff pools aren't simple and linear, as our picks must blend good players and players expected to make deep runs. Behold, THN's definitive top 100.
There’s something more innocent about playoff hockey pools than regular season pools. Maybe it’s because playoff pools come together so quickly, haphazardly thrown together in the three days between the regular season ending and the post-season starting. They’re quick, simple and fun, often attracting casual fans.
Playoff pools are also unique. You don’t choose players purely on merit and skill. You based your selections on how far you expect every team to go. Connor McDavid will go No. 1 overall in regular season leagues next year, but anyone who believes the Sharks will knock off the Oilers in Round 1 can’t justify grabbing No. 97 so early.
Keep that rationale in mind when perusing my top 100 playoff pool picks. Do not freak out when you see Richard Panik ranked ahead of Auston Matthews. Sorry, but I have the Leafs losing in Round 1. My Stanley Cup prediction is Washington over Chicago, so expect many Capitals and Blackhawks high in the rankings.
1. Braden Holtby, G, Capitals: It’s Washington’s year, and Holtby has a .937 save percentage across 46 post-season starts. That’s No. 1 in NHL history. He will win you your pool.
2. Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks: Elite scorer on a team I predict will reach Cup final. That means 20-25 points for Kane, easy.
3. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals: Give the man his due. He’s a top-notch playmaker and was one of the league’s top scorers even during a down year for Alex Ovechkin.
4. Artemi Panarin, LW, Blackhawks: Kane’s running mate ended the regular season with 30 points in 30 games. ‘The Bread Man’ is playing better than ever.
5. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals: He had his worst season in years and may simply be exiting his glory days, but ‘Ovie’ should still rack up points thanks to sheer volume over a long post-season run.
6. Connor McDavid, C, Oilers: You can only let him fall so far. I have him winning two rounds. In one round, he could easily rattle off 10 points for you. With even one playoff series win, look out.
7. Carey Price, G, Canadiens: I have the Habs reaching the conference final, meaning I project Price to offer three rounds of top-quality goaltending.
8. Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins: If you still believe the Caps are chokers, load up on Penguins instead, starting with Sid, who is at worst the world’s second-best player.
9. Corey Crawford, G, Blackhawks: A great fantasy goalie, but has a great backup whom Hawks coach Quenneville has used during the playoffs before. That threat discounts Crawford just a hair.
10. Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks: Season totals look pedestrian, but Toews went off for 36 points in his final 33 games. Playing some of the best offensive hockey of his career.
11. Leon Draisaitl, RW, Oilers: A sublime prospect in his own right blossomed on McDavid’s right wing. A threat to post points in bunches just like No. 97.
12. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Capitals: Disappointing regression this season and disappeared in playoffs last year. Still, major scoring role and major talent on major Cup contender.
13. T.J. Oshie, RW, Capitals: Enjoying a career year as Caps’ first-line right winger.
14. Brad Marchand, LW, Bruins: If you follow the Corsi numbers, the Bruins are the best team out there, and Marchand is a beast.
15. Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins: When ‘Geno’ plays, he produces like a superstar. It appears he’s healthy enough to suit up for Game 1.
16. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Capitals: Will quarterback a deadly power play on a deadly offensive team. Sign me up.
17. Max Pacioretty, LW, Canadiens: So underrated. Fourth-most goals in the NHL over the past six seasons.
18. Phil Kessel, RW, Penguins: Do you believe the Pens will repeat? If they do, Kessel should pile up points like he did last spring.
19. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks: Was a man possessed down the stretch for Ducks. Expect him to steamroll the Flames in Round 1.
20. Duncan Keith, D, Blackhawks: Gets a nice spike in minutes during the playoffs and extra points because of it.
21. Conor Sheary, RW, Penguins: Pint-sized speedster has great chemistry with Crosby.
22. Cam Talbot, G, Oilers: A real workhorse for Oilers, who have as good a shot as any team to come out of the Pacific bracket.
23. Brent Burns, D, Sharks: A first-rounder in regular season pools, but he and Sharks slumped down stretch and could fall to Oilers in Round 1.
24. David Pastrnak, RW, Bruins: Scores goals in spurts. Can really help your playoff pool team if you catch him at the right time.
25. Mikael Granlund, RW, Wild: Faded down stretch but coming off a breakout year on one of the West’s better teams.
26. John Gibson, G, Ducks: Take him earlier than this if you think the Ducks are for real. Gibson is one of the game’s best goalies.
27. Matt Murray, G, Penguins: A stud goalie and a Cup champ. Can Penguins go deep without Kris Letang, though?
28. Alexander Radulov, RW, Canadiens: Numbers were good, not stellar, but he plays top-line minutes on a team with a fairly easy path through the Atlantic.
29. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins: Centers Bruins’ dynamite top line and will be entrusted with monster playoff minutes.
30. Tuukka Rask, G, Bruins: Played well over final 25 games just like entire Bruins squad. Mid-range playoff pick with upside.
31. Joe Pavelski, RW, Sharks: Great player on a ship that may or may not sink early this spring.
32. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Blues: Potential bust pick based on how much he’ll cost. Amazing talent but has little help in St. Louis, and Wild shutdown line will key on him.
33. Marcus Johansson, LW, Capitals: Ideal mid- to late-round steal if you try the Capital-stacking strategy. Casual fans don’t know much about Johansson.
34. Mikko Koivu, C, Wild: If Wild can succeed, it will largely depend on two-way pivot and captain Koivu’s prowess at both ends of the ice.
35. Logan Couture, C, Sharks: Last year’s top playoff scorer hasn’t played since March 25 and rejoins a team that underwhelmed down the stretch facing a team that sizzled down the stretch. I’m rather bearish.
36. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Blue Jackets: Best goalie on Earth this season. Just remember that picking him means betting on Columbus to beat Pittsburgh and then Washington. Good luck.
37. Milan Lucic, LW, Oilers: Charges into playoffs with five goals and seven points over his final seven games. That’s a wave you want to ride.
38. Devan Dubnyk, G, Wild: Spotty playoff track record, but I like the big fella to win at least one round.
39. Jake Guentzel, LW, Penguins: Rookie numbers extrapolate to 30-plus goals and almost 70 points over a full season. The latest youngster to make magic with Crosby.
40. Justin Williams, RW, Capitals: Playoff clutch rep might make him overdrafted. Pick him for counting stats with a large number of games, not because you expect him to win another Conn Smythe.
41. Alex Galchenyuk, LW: Canadiens: Talent is there, and he plays on a good team. Does Claude Julien trust him enough, though?
42. Eric Staal, C, Wild: Nice bounce-back year under Bruce Boudreau. Staal should come fairly cheap and should flirt with point-per-game production.
43. Rickard Rakell, LW, Ducks: A 30-goal man you can snatch at a 20-goal price. First-line left winger on a team I expect to win one or more series.
44. Shea Weber, D, Canadiens: The Habs will live or die with him. Would like more assists from my No. 1 fantasy blueliner, but Weber’s goals are always nice.
45. John Carlson, D, Capitals: Shattenkirk’s presence knocks Carlson down to the second power play unit, rendering Carlson more of a secondary ‘D’ pick in pools.
46. David Krejci, C, Bruins: Nothing special about the pick, but he’s a top-two center on a team with potential.
47. Filip Forsberg, LW, Predators: Boom-bust choice. If the Preds squeak by Chicago, they could go all the way to the final. They could just as easily perish in Round 1.
48. Justin Schultz, D, Penguins: Schultz takes over injured Letang’s mantle as the Pens’ top puck-moving defenseman.
49. Viktor Arvidsson, RW, Predators: Same logic as Forsberg, though lesser-known Arvidsson will come cheaper in drafts.
50. Martin Jones, G, Sharks: Was quite a find in pools last spring. Team has to show signs of life for him to repeat 2016 run, though.
51. Artem Anisimov, C, Blackhawks
52. Patrick Eaves, RW, Ducks
53. Ryan Kesler, C, Ducks
54. Richard Panik, RW, Blackhawks
55. Henrik Lundqvist, G, Rangers
56. Patrick Maroon, LW, Oilers
57. Nick Schmaltz, LW, Blackhawks
58. Charlie Coyle, RW, Wild
59. Nino Niederreiter, LW, Wild
60. Ryan Johansen, C, Predators
61. Cam Atkinson, RW, Blue Jackets
62. Roman Josi, D, Predators
63. P.K. Subban, D, Predators
64. Auston Matthews, C, Maple Leafs
65. Jaden Schwartz, LW, Blues
66. Mitch Marner, RW, Maple Leafs
67. Joe Thornton, C, Sharks
68. Alexander Steen, LW, Blues
69. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Flames
70. Erik Karlsson, D, Senators
71. Corey Perry, RW, Ducks
72. Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Ducks
73. William Nylander, RW, Maple Leafs
74. Nazem Kadri, C, Maple Leafs
75. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Blues
76. Pekka Rinne, G, Predators
77. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Maple Leafs
78. Patric Hornqvist, RW, Penguins
79. Jordan Eberle, RW, Oilers
80. Alexander Wennberg, C, Blue Jackets
81. Jake Allen, G, Blues
82. Marian Hossa, RW, Blackhawks
83. Mark Stone, RW, Senators
84. Brendan Gallagher, RW, Canadiens
85. Mike Hoffman, LW, Senators
86. Nick Foligno, LW, Blue Jackets
87. Chris Kreider, LW, Rangers
88. Brent Seabrook, D, Blackhawks
89. Mats Zuccarello, RW, Rangers
90. Oscar Klefbom, D, Oilers
91. Andrei Markov, D, Canadiens
92. Matt Niskanen, D, Capitals
93. J.T. Miller, LW, Rangers
94. Ryan Suter, D, Wild
95. Brandon Saad, LW, Blue Jackets
96. Derek Stepan, C, Rangers
97. Seth Jones, D, Blue Jackets
98. Mika Zibanejad, C, Rangers
99. Jason Zucker, LW, Wild
100. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Capitals
ON THE BUBBLE: Zach Werenski, Ryan McDonagh, Zach Parise, Kevin Hayes, Jason Pominville, Dougie Hamilton, Matthew Tkachuk, David Backes, Rick Nash, Kyle Turris, Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, Craig Anderson, Paul Stastny, Sean Monahan, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Brandon Dubinsky, Frederik Andersen, Mike Fisher, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Paul Byron, Ryan Ellis, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Spooner, Andrew Shaw, Michael Grabner, Boone Jenner, Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, Hampus Lindholm, Ryan Hartman, Sami Vatanen, Brady Skjei, Michael Frolik, Brian Elliott, Tyler Bozak, Nick Bonino, David Perron, Alexandre Burrows, Bryan Rust, Jake Gardiner