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Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Early 2014-15 top 200 rankings

By Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are 1-2 in the early 2014-15 fantasy hockey rankings.

There isn't a whole lot we can do for you at this point. Many leagues have some kind of movement cap that probably restricts your ability to make an impact in these final few days before the end of the regular season. That's why the bulk of the discussion this week will have a very early eye to the 2014-15 NHL season. The rankings this week are a super-preliminary look at the top 200 fantasy rankings for next season's fantasy drafts.

There will be some suggestions in the last section of the article for those still making some moves for this season. So feel free to scroll down. Also keep an eye out on ESPN.com for the launch of the Playoff Hockey Challenge, a salary-cap fantasy game that takes place through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But for the rest of us who are either out of the running or out of moves for this fantasy hockey season, let's cast our stare into the not-too-distant future and have a look at how rankings might shape up later this summer and into the fall. Keep in mind that this week's comparative rankings are from September 2013, as we compare to this year's preseason list rather than a ranking that includes injuries.

Forwards Rising and Falling

Nicklas Backstrom, F, Washington Capitals (up 29 spots to No. 7): The assist machine for the Capitals had an underrated season. Only Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton have more assists than Backstrom, and no one has more power-play points than the Swede. He has a modest 15 goals and takes more shots on goal than many other playmakers. The plus/minus isn't pretty, but it's a mercurial stat that can change a lot from season to season. Given some other improvements to the Capitals' lineup during the offseason, Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin could be in for even stronger seasons in 2014-15.

The Top 200


Note: Sean Allen's top 200 players are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues for the 2014-15 NHL season. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice for skaters and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies. This year's preseason ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Sidney Crosby, F, Pit (2)
2. Alex Ovechkin, F, Was (4)
3. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (1)
4. Evgeni Malkin, F, Pit (3)
5. John Tavares, F, NYI (6)
6. Corey Perry, F, Ana (8)
7. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Was (36)
8. Claude Giroux, F, Phi (9)
9. Henrik Zetterberg, F, Det (13)
10. Ryan Getzlaf, F, Ana (31)
11. Tyler Seguin, F, Dal (29)
12. Patrick Sharp, F, Chi (42)
13. James Neal, F, Pit (27)
14. Phil Kessel, F, Tor (10)
15. Joe Pavelski, F, SJ (92)
16. Erik Karlsson, D, Ott (7)
17. Jamie Benn, F, Dal (46)
18. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Wpg (22)
19. Chris Kunitz, F, Pit (24)
20. David Backes, F, StL (76)
21. Ryan Miller, G, StL (NR)
22. Tuukka Rask, G, Bos (12)
23. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (15)
24. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (33)
25. Zach Parise, F, Min (41)
26. Patrick Kane, F, Chi (14)
27. Shea Weber, D, Nsh (37)
28. Patrick Marleau, F, SJ (67)
29. Carey Price, G, Mon (35)
30. Taylor Hall, F, Edm (34)
31. Keith Yandle, D, Pho (103)
32. Alexander Steen, F, StL (143)
33. Jonathan Toews, F, Chi (21)
34. Kris Letang, D, Pit (11)
35. Semyon Varlamov, G, Col (NR)
36. P.K. Subban, D, Mon (17)
37. Max Pacioretty, F, Mon (45)
38. Nathan MacKinnon, F, Col (178)
39. Duncan Keith, D, Chi (65)
40. Ben Bishop, G, TB (NR)
41. Matt Duchene, F, Col (64)
42. Jarome Iginla, F, Bos (73)
43. Mark Giordano, D, Cgy (NR)
44. Thomas Vanek, F, Mon (68)
45. Wayne Simmonds, F, Phi (97)
46. James van Riemsdyk, F, Tor (98)
47. Gabriel Landeskog, F, Col (94)
48. Logan Couture, F, SJ (58)
49. Blake Wheeler, F, Wpg (108)
50. O. Ekman-Larsson, D, Pho (119)
51. James Wisniewski, D, Cls (120)
52. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Cls (30)
53. Antti Niemi, G, SJ (104)
54. David Krejci, F, Bos (144)
55. Johan Franzen, F, Det (52)
56. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pit (66)
57. Kyle Okposo, F, NYI (NR)
58. Jeff Skinner, F, Car (NR)
59. Jeff Carter, F, LA (133)
60. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, StL (118)
61. Victor Hedman, D, TB (197)
62. Patrice Bergeron, F, Bos (56)
63. Gustav Nyquist, F, Det (NR)
64. Scott Hartnell, F, Phi (109)
65. Zdeno Chara, D, Bos (53)
66. Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR (5)
67. Marian Hossa, F, Chi (40)
68. Martin St. Louis, F, NYR (39)
69. Milan Lucic, F, Bos (110)
70. Jaromir Jagr, F, NJ (130)
71. Alex Pietrangelo, D, StL (80)
72. Corey Crawford, G, Chi (44)
73. Jason Spezza, F, Ott (47)
74. Brent Burns, F, SJ (NR)
75. Joe Thornton, F, SJ (50)
76. Drew Doughty, D, LA (79)
77. Bryan Little, F, Wpg (167)
78. Pekka Rinne, G, Nsh (20)
79. Kari Lehtonen, G, Dal (142)
80. Ryan Johansen, F, Cls (NR)
81. Jonas Hiller, G, Ana (87)
82. Niklas Kronwall, D, Det (61)
83. Clarke MacArthur, F, Ott (NR)
84. Jordan Eberle, F, Edm (74)
85. Pavel Datsyuk, F, Det (18)
86. Daniel Sedin, F, Van (26)
87. David Perron, F, Edm (131)
88. Paul Stastny, F, Col (NR)
89. Henrik Sedin, F, Van (19)
90. Rick Nash, F, NYR (32)
91. Jakub Voracek, F, Phi (55)
92. Torey Krug, D, Bos (NR)
93. Aleksander Barkov, F, Fla (NR)
94. Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR (200)
95. Jimmy Howard, G, Det (54)
96. Cory Schneider, G, NJ (72)
97. Roberto Luongo, G, Fla (25)
98. Ryan O'Reilly, F, Col (NR)
99. T.J. Oshie, F, StL (137)
100. Craig Anderson, G, Ott (16)
101. Mike Cammalleri, F, Cgy (NR)
102. Radim Vrbata, F, Pho (99)
103. Troy Brouwer, F, Was (112)
104. Jonathan Bernier, G, Tor (129)
105. Andrew Ladd, F, Wpg (77)
106. Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Was (NR)
107. Eric Staal, F, Car (23)
108. Patrik Elias, F, NJ (93)
109. Evander Kane, F, Wpg (51)
110. Kyle Turris, F, Ott (149)
111. Brandon Dubinsky, F, Cls (123)
112. Valtteri Filppula, F, TB (NR)
113. Mats Zuccarello, F, NYR (NR)
114. Jonathan Drouin, F, TB (NR)
115. Nazem Kadri, F, Tor (82)
116. Jason Pominville, F, Min (83)
117. Matt Moulson, F, Min (59)
118. Jacob Trouba, D, Wpg (NR)
119. Steve Mason, G, Phi (NR)
120. R. Nugent-Hopkins, F, Edm (111)
121. Patric Hornqvist, F, Nsh (NR)
122. Jussi Jokinen, F, Pit (183)
123. Dion Phaneuf, D, Tor (60)
124. Derek Stepan, F, NYR (48)
125. Derick Brassard, F, NYR (114)
126. Brad Richards, F, NYR (90)
127. Andrei Markov, D, Mon (49)
128. Ryan Kesler, F, Van (69)
129. David Legwand, F, Det (NR)
130. Jaroslav Halak, G, Was (128)
131. Chris Stewart, F, Buf (191)
132. Mike Smith, G, Pho (105)
133. Anton Khudobin, G, Car (NR)
134. Jaden Schwartz, F, StL (160)
135. Ryan Suter, D, Min (28)
136. Alexander Semin, F, Car (38)
137. Mikko Koivu, F, Min (85)
138. Matt Niskanen, D, Pit (NR)
139. Tyler Ennis, F, Buf (179)
140. Ben Scrivens, G, Edm (NR)
141. Brendan Gallagher, F, Mon (163)
142. Shane Doan, F, Pho (158)
143. Martin Hanzal, F, Pho (NR)
144. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (NR)
145. Bobby Ryan, F, Ott (89)
146. Ondrej Palat, F, TB (NR)
147. Eric Gelinas, D, NJ (NR)
148. Frans Nielsen, F, NYI (NR)
149. Mike Fisher, F, Nsh (NR)
150. Mike Green, D, Was (43)
151. Tyler Johnson, F, TB (NR)
152. Tyler Bozak, F, Tor (NR)
153. Adam Henrique, F, NJ (181)
154. Karri Ramo, G, Cgy (NR)
155. Roman Josi, D, Nsh (189)
156. Dan Boyle, D, SJ (117)
157. Andrej Sekera, D, Car (NR)
158. Marek Zidlicky, D, NJ (186)
159. Daniel Alfredsson, F, Det (132)
160. Carl Soderberg, F, Bos (NR)
161. Joffrey Lupul, F, Tor (63)
162. Antoine Vermette, F, Pho (NR)
163. Tomas Plekanec, F, Mon (91)
164. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (NR)
165. John Carlson, D, Was (127)
166. Travis Zajac, F, NJ (NR)
167. Cody Hodgson, F, Buf (148)
168. Alex Goligoski, D, Dal (155)
169. Erik Johnson, D, Col (NR)
170. Kimmo Timonen, D, Phi (71)
171. Justin Williams, F, LA (84)
172. Brent Seabrook, D, Chi (172)
173. Jay Bouwmeester, D, StL (175)
174. Marian Gaborik, F, LA (62)
175. Alex Burrows, F, Van (75)
176. Mikael Backlund, F, Cgy (NR)
177. Josh Harding, G, Min (417)
178. Valeri Nichushkin, F, Dal (NR)
179. Drew Stafford, F, Buf (NR)
180. Jake Gardiner, D, Tor (NR)
181. Andrew Shaw, F, Chi (NR)
182. P.A. Parenteau, F, Col (81)
183. Cam Fowler, D, Ana (NR)
184. Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI (170)
185. Brad Marchand, F, Bos (78)
186. Alec Martinez , D, LA (NR)
187. Ales Hemsky, F, Ott (NR)
188. David Desharnais, F, Mon (NR)
189. Ryan Murray, D, Cls (NR)
190. Al Montoya, G, Wpg (NR)
191. Milan Michalek, F, Ott (147)
192. Alexander Edler, D, Van (139)
193. Justin Faulk, D, Car (173)
194. Pascal Dupuis, F, Pit (113)
195. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, StL (159)
196. Brandon Saad, F, Chi (138)
197. Nick Bonino, F, Ana (NR)
198. Jiri Hudler, F, Cgy (NR)
199. Ryan Strome, F, NYI (NR)
200. Mark Scheifele, F, Wpg (NR)

Joe Pavelski, F, San Jose Sharks (up 77 spots to No. 15): What can we say about Pavelski's season that hasn't been said already? How about pointing out that Pavelski, Corey Perry and Crosby (and maybe Tyler Seguin) are the only candidates for a 40-goal, 40-assist season? Pavelski has equal acumen scoring goals and setting up his teammates. The Sharks will keep the same offensive attack together next season, and Pavelski will continue to be the centerpiece.

Alexander Steen, F, St. Louis Blues (up 111 spots to No. 32): One of this season's biggest pleasant surprises, Steen showed that with a little health (and only a little) and a dash of consistency with linemates he can be one of the top scorers in the NHL. Steen easily surpassed 30 goals despite missing quite a bit of time due to his ongoing concussion issues. Better performance on the power play could take Steen into the top 25 fantasy skaters.

Nathan MacKinnon, F, Colorado Avalanche (up 140 spots to No. 38): A rookie season for the ages, MacKinnon was undaunted against much older competition in the NHL all season. He has been getting better as the campaign continued and has dealt with an array of linemates as the Avalanche managed mounting injuries. Moreover, MacKinnon will be in line for an additional minute or two of ice time next season.

Wayne Simmonds, F, Philadelphia Flyers (up 52 spots to No. 45): Most of his value came in bursts, and he gets a big boost thanks to his penalty minutes, but overall Simmonds helped win some fantasy leagues this season. As the Flyers' young attackers, such as Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matt Read, get a year older and wiser, Simmonds will still have a role on a scoring line. The good news is that when he isn't playing with Claude Giroux he could still have value as the young players improve.

Blake Wheeler, F, Winnipeg Jets (up 59 spots to No. 49): On a team that kept having to find a new identity this season, Wheeler turned in an impressive season. A strong finish could net him 30 goals and 70 points total, all while contributing positively to penalty minutes, shots and time on ice. The Jets' power play is a weak point, and improvement could mean even better things on the horizon for Wheeler.

Defensemen Rising and Falling

Keith Yandle, D, Phoenix Coyotes (up 72 spots to No. 31): No debating it after this season, Yandle is an elite fantasy defenseman. Even on a team with a young blue-line stud (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) trying to usurp his minutes, Yandle leads all defensemen in power-play points, is third in shots on goal (second if you don't count Dustin Byfuglien) and is third in assists. With the numbers he continues to put up, Yandle is firmly in the second tier of fantasy defensemen heading into next season.

Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (down 23 spots to No. 34): This isn't a huge drop, because in the 34 games that Letang played this season, he dished out elite-level fantasy production. However, playing only 34 games and ending the season on a scary note (stroke) does not bode well for his ranking heading into 2014-15. Just remember that if all health reports remain positive heading into next season, Letang is still one of the best.

Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames (enter ranks at No. 43): The post-Olympic break numbers put up by Giordano have been nothing short of jaw-dropping. On a red-hot Flames team in March, Giordano collected a forward-esque 16 points in 16 games with a plus-10 rating. His numbers through the rest of the season, which bookended an injury in late October, were also fairly strong. Coming into next season, Giordano needs to be viewed as a strong asset playing for a rising Flames club.

Goaltenders Rising and Falling

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins (down 10 spots to No. 22): You'll notice Ryan Miller and Rask are ranked as the top two goaltenders at Nos. 21 and 22 overall. They are followed quickly by the next three goaltenders in the top 35. We have the top 10 goaltenders by No. 66, and the top 100 rankings include 18 goaltenders. So what does this have to do with Rask dropping? Well, there are more strong fantasy goaltenders to choose from heading into next season than we've had for a while. Furthermore, there are several nice lottery tickets outside that top 18. That means the elite goaltenders, such as Rask or Miller (depending on where he lands), lose a little of their appeal. It looks like it will be more difficult to justify grabbing a goalie early next year with such a cornucopia to choose from.

Next Year's Young Guns

Aleksander Barkov, F, Florida Panthers (enters ranks at No. 93): We saw some very positive signs from Barkov before his season ended with a knee injury. The Panthers were not a friendly team to fantasy owners this season, but that will change in the coming years. Barkov will be leading the turnaround next season.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Washington Capitals (enters ranks at No. 106): Now that he has crossed the pond to play in North America, there is little that will hold Kuznetsov back from making an experienced charge at next season's Calder Trophy. In 13 games this season, he has three goals and five assists and is doing it all in limited minutes. Expect big things from the Russian forward next season, especially if he finds a connection on the ice with another Russian forward we happen to like a lot in the fantasy realm.

Jonathan Drouin, F, Tampa Bay Lightning (enters ranks at No. 114): When the Bolts said farewell to captain Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline, you can bet visions of Drouin's presence next to Steven Stamkos next season were dancing in their heads. An exceptional playmaker who can replace St. Louis in the future, Drouin will get his chance to settle into the NHL next season. He finished third in scoring in the QMJHL this season despite playing in 46 games (the two players ahead of him played in 57 games and 67 games).

Big Question Marks

Dustin Byfuglien, D/F, Winnipeg Jets: Whether Byfuglien is a forward or a defenseman next season has profound implications on the rankings. As a defenseman, he bridges the gap between Erik Karlsson and the next tier of fantasy defensemen, thus bringing down the overall value of Karlsson as the top fantasy defenseman. With Byfuglien eligible as a forward only, Karlsson's separation would become more obvious and he would be valued higher than his current No. 16 overall ranking. Byfuglien fits in well as an elite fantasy defenseman, but as a fantasy forward, his overall value would slip. Coach Paul Maurice inherited Byfuglien as a forward and stuck with him there, but he could change his mind for next season.

Thomas Vanek, F, Montreal Canadiens: He is listed as playing for the Canadiens now, but Vanek is a free agent who will score a big payday this offseason. He produced big numbers with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Canadiens this season. He may not be a 40-goal threat anymore, but his game has adjusted and he still plays at an elite fantasy level. If Vanek lands in a plum depth chart role somewhere in the NHL, he could be a top-30 forward.

Jaromir Jagr, F, New Jersey Devils: Who cares if he is 42 years old, Jagr still has it going in fantasy hockey. Despite the Devils not finding an offensive rhythm until partway through the season, Jagr still finishes as a top-50 fantasy forward for 2013-14. If he keeps playing, he'll be worth drafting in fantasy leagues.

Playing for This Season

Josh Bailey, F, New York Islanders: Kyle Okposo remains out, which means Bailey remains on the de facto top line with Frans Nielsen and Anders Lee. Bailey has six points in his past five games and could easily put together another string of points in the coming days.

Trevor Daley, D, Dallas Stars: Thanks solely to the production of defense partner Alex Goligoski, Daley is piling up enough points to help any fantasy team desperate in the final days of the season. Looking toward the playoffs, the Stars will be fighting tooth-and-nail for every point until the season is over.

Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers: The young Oilers have awoken to finish out the campaign on a high note. That includes Schultz, who is following the lead of the forwards by collecting some positive plus/minus ratings and three points in the past two games.

Brandon Pirri, F, Florida Panthers: As the Panthers continue to check out what they have for next season, Pirri keeps sorting himself to the top of the list. Leading on the power play and at even strength, Pirri has a four-game point streak that he will look to ride to the end of the season.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Minnesota Wild: Two consecutive shutouts are certainly hard to ignore, but don't forget that the Wild's position in the standings is just about set in stone. Win or lose their remaining games, they will remain the first wild-card team heading into the playoffs so long as they pick up two more points. If the Wild win their next game, it would not be a shock to see Bryzgalov take a rest before the postseason begins.

Karri Ramo, G, Calgary Flames: The Flames have three games left, and Ramo continues to play lights-out in goal. Somehow still available in more than 60 percent of ESPN leagues, he could be the difference-maker for a team short on goaltending.