As part of NHL.com's 30 in 30 series, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.
Starting at the top: Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW
The Colorado Avalanche has many bounce-back candidates, none bigger than MacKinnon. He turns 21 on Sept. 1 and signed a seven-year contract July 8, so expectations are high after he missed the final 10 games of last season. It was the second straight year that MacKinnon's season was cut short because of injury, he had a low shooting percentage (7.3 in 2014-15; 8.6 in 2015-16), and Colorado missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
MacKinnon had a solid power-play point output (16 in 72 games) and set an NHL career high in shots on goal (245), but had a negative plus-minus again (minus-4) and failed to match his career bests in goals (24), assists (39), plus-minus (plus-20) and PPP (17) from his rookie season of 2013-14. He's ranked 53rd by NHL.com based on fantasy potential but has a lot to prove.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy also needs to decide whether to stack him with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog on the same line or split up his top forwards for added depth. There are plenty of questions surrounding MacKinnon's value, but he could be a huge draft bargain if he is available in the late fourth or early fifth round on average, stays healthy for a full season and returns to the 60-point realm.
Undervalued: Tyson Barrie, D
Barrie has the seventh-most points (102 in 158 games) among defensemen the past two seasons. Despite the Avalanche's scoring inconsistencies last season, Barrie had 49 points with 13 goals and 21 PPP to finish 23rd among defensemen in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. Fantasy owners should view him as borderline top 15 defenseman entering the season and a must-have player inside the top 100 overall.
The 25-year-old signed a four-year contract July 31 and should again anchor the first power-play unit, which includes MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog and Jarome Iginla. Barrie's plus-minus (minus-16) remains a concern because of Colorado's defensive structure, but he's one of the more underrated puck-moving defensemen in the game and one of the few fantasy owners can expect to score 50 points.
Avalanche 30 in 30: Season outlook | Top prospects | Burning questions, reasons for optimism |
Overvalued: Semyon Varlamov, G
Similar to Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, it's hard to trust Varlamov from a fantasy standpoint anymore despite the name value and potential attached. He had an .850 or worse save percentage in 10 games (tied for third-most in the League) and a .950 or better SV% in 18 games (tied for eighth). He has bounce-back potential the later he falls, but the Avalanche need its defensemen to stay healthy and committed on the back end in order for him to have any chance of salvaging his career with this team.
Colorado added Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch for more depth on defense, so Varlamov may be worth taking a chance on as the third or fourth goalie on your roster beginning in the 13th or 14th round. But there are plenty of sure-fire starters or time-share goalies worth drafting ahead of him.
Sleeper: Jarome Iginla, RW
Iginla was drafted on average with the 116th pick last season but finished 174th in Yahoo rankings with the worst rating (minus-22) of his NHL career and fewest goals (22) in a full season since 1997-98. But even after such a poor season by his standards, his chances at 55 points with 25 goals remain strong, especially if he gets MacKinnon or Duchene as his full-time center.
Iginla played almost three minutes per game on the power play last season (02:55; 19 PPP), mostly on the first unit, and is capable of 180-200 SOG. He could go undrafted in a 10-team league but had 29 goals and 30 assists in 82 games two seasons ago, leaving a glimmer of hope he can go from forgotten veteran to late-round steal.
Bounce-back: Matt Duchene, C/LW; Gabriel Landeskog, LW
There's so much for the Colorado coaching staff to sort out among the top six, and there is little room for error with the Avalanche competing in the Central Division, where five teams qualified for the postseason and the Winnipeg Jets have improved by drafting forward Patrik Laine. Duchene and Landeskog were fantasy disappointments based on average draft position last season; Landeskog's final rank was 99 after a 52.2 ADP and Duchene was 110th after a 77.2 ADP.
That said, each carries high upside. Landeskog finished 27th in 2013-14 and 46th in 2014-15 in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. Even Duchene, whose career has been much more inconsistent than Landeskog's, finished 51st in 2013-14 and had flashes of brilliance last season on a line with MacKinnon. Landeskog covered five of the six standard categories in a down season and has three straight seasons of at least 140 hits, making him much more valuable than his NHL.com rank (102nd) in such a league.
Impact prospect: Mikko Rantanen, LW/RW
Mikhail Grigorenko had some decent stretches as a top-six forward last season, and the Avs likely are itching to get their touted prospect permanently on one of their first two lines. Rantanen could be a dark horse Calder Trophy candidate if he cracks the roster and earns a spot on a line with MacKinnon, Duchene or Carl Soderberg.
Rantanen did not make much of an impact in two brief NHL stints (nine games; 8:57 per game) last season but was an explosive point producer for San Antonio of the American Hockey League with 60 points (24 goals, 36 points) and a plus-20 in 52 games. Rantanen likely will go undrafted but could be worth adding after training camp or during the season if he finds a top-six window of opportunity.
If Varlamov sustains an injury or struggles again with consistency, backup Calvin Pickard could take over. Pickard was much more steady than Varlamov last season with a 7-6-1 record, 2.56 goals-against average, .922 SV% and one shutout. He was 1-1-1 with a .937 SV% in three games facing 40 or more shots. The 24-year-old signed a two-year contract to remain with the Avalanche and remains a deep sleeper goalie and respectable streaming option.