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Breaking down the top 50 fantasy hockey players

Tuesday, 09.02.2014 / 11:00 AM
Matt Cubeta  - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Yahoo's fantasy hockey registration is officially open. You're building your league and inviting your friends to join. You're figuring out when and where to have the draft. Then the research begins. You're debating who to take in what round and who you can grab late in the draft. Who can help you in the penalty minutes category and who will help with power-play points?

From now until the puck drops on Oct. 8, all of these decisions come into play as the NHL and fantasy hockey seasons officially begin.

The most important thing for your fantasy draft is to remember that the more you read and take in, the better prepared you'll be.

With that, hopefully you've seen NHL.com's top 275 overall fantasy hockey rankings. That's a good start in getting ready for your draft. We've also released our sets of sleeper stories (Cubeta, Jensen, Sitkoff) as well as plenty of other helpful fantasy features. Take it all in.

Now it's time to find out the reasons behind our top 50 fantasy player rankings.

Why is Evgeni Malkin ranked higher than last season's MVP nominees Ryan Getzlaf and Claude Giroux? Why is Jamie Benn the highest-ranked left wing? Why did we choose P.K. Subban ahead of Erik Karlsson among defensemen? These are just a few of the many questions you might have asked when you first viewed our consensus rankings. Now you get to understand why these select few are considered the 50 best fantasy players in the game, according to NHL.com.

The overall ranking order is based on NHL.com's composite rankings determined by fantasy experts Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen, Matt Sitkoff and Chris Foster (average of each expert's selections).

NOTE: Positional status based on where players are listed in Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey. Age reflects how old player will be at the start of the season. Ranking reflects each player's fantasy value, taking into account statistical history, performance in default Yahoo! categories (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG), potential future lineup placement, strength of projected linemates and, most importantly, our expectations for how they will perform this coming season.

1. Sidney Crosby, C, 27 years old, Pittsburgh Penguins

Outlook: Our unanimous No. 1 player again. As long as Crosby can remain healthy, as he did last year, he'll deliver. Since debuting in 2005-06, his 1.40 points per game are by far the best in the NHL (Malkin's 1.22 is second).

2. Steven Stamkos, C, 24 years old, Tampa Bay Lightning

Outlook: Despite missing 45 games last season, he still scored 25 goals in 37 games and his .68 goals/game were tops in the NHL. His .63 goals/game since 2009 is also best in the NHL and his 380 points are third.

3. Corey Perry, RW, 29 years old, Anaheim Ducks

Outlook: Since 2010, Perry ranks third in goals, sixth in points, fourth in power-play goals and fourth in shots. He also averages 92 PIM/season and is extremely consistent with at least one point in 52 games last season (fifth).

4. Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, 28 years old, Pittsburgh Penguins

Outlook: His point production is as good as it gets (only Crosby averaged more points per game than his 1.20) and peripherals are tremendous. Just needs to stay healthy after missing 39 games in the past two seasons.

5. Ryan Getzlaf, C, 29 years old, Anaheim Ducks

Outlook: Penalty minutes (31) were lowest since his rookie season, but everything else was elite. Like Perry, he never slumped, recording at least a point in 55 games (second). He could reach 100 points in 2014-15.

6. Alex Ovechkin, RW, 29 years old, Washington Capitals

Outlook: Led NHL in goals (51) and shots (386), was second in power-play points (39) and eighth in points (79). Downside: his minus-35 was third-worst. Rating should improve and he'll be fantasy gold again.

7. John Tavares, C, 24 years old, New York Islanders

Outlook: Missed 23 games last season but still had 24 goals and 66 points in 59 games. Questionable linemates and rating issues continue to hinder value, but he should return to being a top-10 fantasy player.

8. Claude Giroux, C/RW, 26 years old, Philadelphia Flyers

Outlook: No one has more assists (158) or points (227) than Giroux in the past three seasons. After slow start in 2013-14 (0 G, 7 A in first 15 games), he had 28 goals and 79 points in his final 67 games.

9. Tuukka Rask, G, 27 years old, Boston Bruins

Outlook: Has to be first goalie off board come draft day after posting 2.04 GAA, .930 SV% and an NHL-best seven shutouts. Should receive more than 60 starts for first time and be among League leaders in all categories.

10. Patrick Kane, C/RW, 25 years old, Chicago Blackhawks

Outlook: Was headed to the best season of career before getting injured (29 G, 69 pts in 69 games), and again stepped up in Stanley Cup Playoffs (8 G, 20 pts in 19 games). With new contract, he'll continue to be elite.

11. Henrik Lundqvist, G, 32 years old, New York Rangers

Outlook: After a slow start (.907 SV% , 2.76 GAA in first 32 games), he finished the season with a .920 SV% and 2.36 GAA and had an outstanding playoff run (.927 SV%, 2.14 GAA). Has ability to be No. 1 overall goalie.

12. Jamie Benn, LW, 25 years old, Dallas Stars

Outlook: Erupted for career bests in every fantasy category (34 G, 79 pts, plus-21, 64 PIM, 19 PPP, 279 SOG) playing alongside Tyler Seguin. Could turn into Corey Perry-type but at LW and remain elite for years.

13. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, 22 years old, Dallas Stars

Outlook: He has potential to exceed 90 points after turning in career highs last season (37 G, 84 pts). His 294 shots were fourth-most in the NHL. Only category he won't help with is penalty minutes.

14. Phil Kessel, RW, 27 years old, Toronto Maple Leafs

Outlook: Model of consistency; has missed just 12 games in five seasons with Maple Leafs and averages 35 goals, 75 points and 312 shots. His plus/minus and PIMs won't help you, but he'll provide elite point production.

15. Jonathan Toews, C, 26 years old, Chicago Blackhawks

Outlook: Elite production in all categories except PIMs. Still has upside to produce even more points playing on line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Expect 30 goals, 75 points, plus-25 and a top-20 player.

16. P.K. Subban, D, 25 years old, Montreal Canadiens

Outlook: The gap between Subban and Karlsson is close, but Subban's PIMs give him the edge. In past two seasons among d-men, his 91 points are tops, 21 goals are fifth, 138 PIMs are third and his 330 shots are fourth.

17. Anze Kopitar, C, 27 years old, Los Angeles Kings

Outlook: If you draft Kopitar, you'll be getting 25-plus goals, 70-plus points, an excellent plus/minus, 25-plus power-play points and 200-plus shots. Addition of Marian Gaborik to his line could see him reach new heights.

18. Jonathan Quick, G, 28 years old, Los Angeles Kings

Outlook: Among goalies with at least 150 games since 2010, Quick's 2.14 GAA ranks first, .918 SV% is tied for seventh, 115 wins are fifth and 23 shutouts are second. Elite defense in front of him doesn't hurt, either.

19. Erik Karlsson, D, 24 years old, Ottawa Senators

Outlook: In terms of point production on defense, no one can compete with Karlsson. In past three seasons, his .92 points per game are easily tops (45 G, 111 A in 180 games). Loss of Spezza could hurt, though.

20. Taylor Hall, C/LW, 22 years old, Edmonton Oilers

Outlook: After struggling with injuries in first two seasons, Hall has remained healthy in past two years; his 87 assists and 130 points during that time are sixth in NHL. If plus/minus improves, he could be a top-10 player.

21. Joe Pavelski, C/LW, 30 years old, San Jose Sharks

Outlook: Had career year in 2013-14 with personal bests in goals (41), points (79), rating (plus-23) and power-play points (31), but extremely high shooting percentage (18.2) should result in some regression.

22. Chris Kunitz, LW, 35 years old, Pittsburgh Penguins

Outlook: In past 10 seasons, hasn't finished with a minus rating and continues to thrive on the top line with Crosby. Getting older, but 30 goals, 60 points and phenomenal peripheral stats are still likely.

23. Patrick Sharp, C/LW, 32 years old, Chicago Blackhawks

Outlook: Was a top-10 fantasy player last season after career year (34 G, 78 pts, plus-13, 313 shots) skating on line with Toews and Hossa. Expect a step back to 30 goals, 65 points and 275 shots.

24. Nathan MacKinnon, C/LW, 19 years old, Colorado Avalanche

Outlook: In past 15 years, only eight rookies have had more points than MacKinnon's 63 last season, and none had better rating (plus-20). Should see increase in ice time (17:20). No player on this list has more upside.

25. Nicklas Backstrom, C, 26 years old, Washington Capitals

Outlook: Since 2008, Backstrom's 312 assists are fourth in the NHL and 425 points are ninth. Like Ovechkin, plus/minus hurt owners last season, but career-best 54 PIMs helped. Expect point-per-game stats in 2014-15.

26. Ben Bishop, G, 27 years old, Tampa Bay Lightning

Outlook: Surprised many with fourth-most wins (37) and shutouts (5) as well as seventh-best GAA (2.23) and SV% (.924) last season. Improved Tampa Bay defense could make Bishop a top-five goalie again.

27. Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, 36 years old, Detroit Red Wings

Outlook: Still one of the best in reality, but Datsyuk's fantasy value is diminishing after 37-point season in just 45 games. Still has talent to post point-per-game numbers, but age and injury potential drop him in ranks.

28. Carey Price, G, 27 years old, Montreal Canadiens

Outlook: Coming off career year (34 wins, 2.32 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO), Price will cost you an early pick. But still just 27, he's worth it and has potential to be No. 1 fantasy goalie by season's end.

29. Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, 33 years old, Detroit Red Wings

Outlook: Despite missing 37 games last season, Zetterberg's production was still excellent (16 G, 48 pts, plus-19, 151 shots). If he and Pavel Datsyuk can remain in lineup, a top-25-caliber season is within reach.

30. Shea Weber, D, 29 years old, Nashville Predators

Outlook: In the past five years, his 83 goals are most among defensemen, his 224 points rank fourth, 1,025 shots are second and he's missed just 11 games. Season averages during that time: 17 G, 28 A, plus-5, 19 PPP, 48 PIMs, 205 shots.

31. Matt Duchene, C/LW, 23 years old, Colorado Avalanche

Outlook: Quietly had best season of career, setting highs in points (70), rating (plus-8) and shots (217) in 71 games. Shooting percentage was lower than normal (10.6), so expect 30 goals in 2014-15.

32. Logan Couture, C/LW, 25 years old, San Jose Sharks

Outlook: Among players 25 or younger, only Stamkos, Tavares and Toews have more goals than Couture's 112 and his 924 shots rank second. Couture is the new face of the Sharks and could finish with 35 goals, 70 points.

33. Patrice Bergeron, C, 29 years old, Boston Bruins

Outlook: Had most complete fantasy season of career in 2013-14 and was the only player with 30-plus goals (30), 60-plus points (62), 40-plus PIMs (43), rating of plus-30 or better (plus-38) and 30-plus power play points (32).

34. Zach Parise, LW, 30 years old, Minnesota Wild

Outlook: His point-per-game days are in the past, but he still provides solid value across the board (29 G, 27 A, plus-10, 30 PIMs, 20 PPP, 245 shots in 67 games). Should be able to put up 30 goals, 70 points.

35. David Backes, C/RW, 30 years old, St. Louis Blues

Outlook: In the past five years, only four players have had a season with 25-plus goals, 55-plus points, 100-plus PIMs and a rating of plus-10 or better. Backes did it last season and could do so again in 2014-15.

36. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, 26 years old, Columbus Blue Jackets

Outlook: In the past two years, only Rask has better save percentage and more shutouts than Bobrovsky (.926 SV% and 9 SO). Playing on improved Columbus team could see him return as Vezina Trophy finalist.

37. Jason Spezza, C, 31 years old, Dallas Stars

Outlook: Since 2005, only five players with more than 300 games averaged more points per game than Spezza's 1.06. Despite being Dallas' No. 2 center, he should return to 30 goals and 75 points with a much-improved rating.

38. Max Pacioretty, LW, 25 years old, Montreal Canadiens

Outlook: Broke out with 39 goals (fourth in NHL) and 60 points in 73 games last season. He should continue to get better and better. His 10 multi-goal games led NHL, and he won't hurt you in any single category.

39. Duncan Keith, D, 31 years old, Chicago Blackhawks

Outlook: His 208 assists and 242 points in the past five years are most by any defensemen, and his plus-73 during that span ranks fifth. As consistent as they come and has plenty of firepower up front in Chicago.

40. Semyon Varlamov, G, 26 years old, Colorado Avalanche

Outlook: Came out of nowhere last season to post most wins (41) and third-best save percentage (.927) after averaging .912 SV% and 2.61 GAA in 147 previous games. Should easily be a top-10 goalie again.

41. Eric Staal, C, 29 years old, Carolina Hurricanes

Outlook: After big year in shortened 2012-13 season (18 G, 53 pts in 48 games), Staal regressed with 21 goals, 61 points and a minus-13 last season. Low shooting percentage (9.1) didn't help and owners should expect a bounceback.

42. Marian Hossa, RW, 35 years old, Chicago Blackhawks

Outlook: Great category coverage (30 G, 30 A, plus-28, 241 SOG in 72 games) despite dealing with injuries. Draft him knowing he'll miss some time, but he still has top-five RW potential playing on elite line.

43. Daniel Sedin, LW, 34 years old, Vancouver Canucks

Outlook: Had least-productive season in past 10 years, and goals/game and points/game have decreased in each of the past four seasons (.22 goals/game, .64 points/game). Could bounce back, but a risky pick.

44. Wayne Simmonds, RW, 26 years old, Philadelphia Flyers

Outlook: In the past five years, seven players have had seasons with 25-plus goals, 60-plus points, 100-plus PIM and 200-plus SOG. Simmonds did so in 2013-14. He's also a power-play machine (15 G, 9 A last season).

45. Joe Thornton, C, 35 years old, San Jose Sharks,

Outlook: Still capable of point-per-game numbers, but lack of goals (11), penalty minutes (32) and shots on goal (122) diminish fantasy value. Still a top-20 center, but Pavelski and Couture are the new guns in San Jose.

46. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, 21 years old, Colorado Avalanche

Outlook: As flawless as they come in terms of complete fantasy category coverage (26 G, 39 A, plus-21, 71 PIMs, 10 PPP, 222 SOG last season); still has plenty of room to grow playing alongside Nathan MacKinnon.

47. Patrick Marleau, C/LW, 35 years old, San Jose Sharks

Outlook: He may be getting older, but production is still exceptional (33 G, 70 pts last season) and hasn't missed a game in past five years. During that time, he's fourth in goals, 15th in points and fifth in shots.

48. Martin St. Louis, RW, 39 years old, New York Rangers

Outlook: Struggled after joining Rangers (1 G, 7 A in 19 games) but had productive playoffs (8 G, 7 A in 25 games). Comfort level should increase in year two in New York, but he won't put up the numbers he had with Stamkos.

49. Drew Doughty, D, 24 years old, Los Angeles Kings

Outlook: Regular-season production hasn't quite been elite in past four years, but playoff numbers show potential (5 G, 13 A in 26 games). We've ranked him fifth among defensemen; we're believers in a breakout.

50. Rick Nash, LW/RW, 30 years old, New York Rangers

Outlook: Since 2012, no player has averaged more goals per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 regular-season play or averaged more shots on goal per 60 minutes than Nash. Despite rough playoffs, expect massive bounceback season.

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