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Fantasy left wing rankings for 2017-18

Benn leads position with improved Stars; Panarin remains in top 5 after trade to Blue Jackets

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

With the 2017-18 NHL season inching closer by the day, NHL.com is previewing each of the five positions (center, left wing, right wing, defenseman, goaltender). From top-tier players to underrated options at each position, these guides will prepare you for your upcoming draft. Remember to also keep NHL.com's fantasy cheat sheet handy for top 250 rankings, stat projections, team previews and more.

 

FANTASY RANKINGS: Top 250 | Top 100 'F' | C | LW | RW | Top 50 'D' | Top 25 'G'

DRAFT GUIDES: Standard mock draft 1.0 | Keeper / dynasty | Hits | Faceoff wins

2017-18 PROJECTIONS: Forward points | D-man points | Goalie wins | Team previews

LISTS: Forward bargains | D-man bargains | Breakouts | Sleepers | Deep sleepers | Rookies

 

STARTING AT THE TOP

With the Dallas Stars adding right wing Alexander Radulov and center Martin Hanzal to an already strong offense, and boosting their defense with goaltender Ben Bishop and defenseman Marc Methot, Jamie Benn has to be the best fantasy left wing in a standard league. The 28-year-old covered five of the six standard categories well in a down season and could return to the 80-point realm with an improved plus/minus. If you're in a hits league, there's a legitimate case that Benn (1.7 per game in NHL career) is worthy of the top overall pick.

Video: SJS@DAL: Benn uses silky hands to beat Dell

Not far behind Benn is Alex Ovechkin , who remains a fixture alongside Nicklas Backstrom in all situations and a lock to finish among the League leaders in goals, shots on goal and power-play points if healthy. He finished 10th in Yahoo despite his lowest goal (33; 32 in 2010-11) and point (69; 65 in 2011-12) totals in years. Even with the Washington Capitals bound for a step back after losing some key players this offseason, Ovechkin is one of the safest first-round picks.

Rounding out the first round of a standard-league draft, Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins) clearly belongs among the elite with stellar category coverage over the past two seasons. He was one of five players to have at least 70 goals (76) and 70 assists (70) in the span, and he leads that group in plus/minus (plus-39) and penalty minutes (171).

Fantasy owners also shouldn't sleep on the notable left wings who changed teams, especially with the position thinning out the later you go in a draft. Artemi Panarin has a chance to prove he's not just a product of Patrick Kane upon joining the high-powered Columbus Blue Jackets offense. Brandon Saad returns to the Chicago Blackhawks with a chance to seize a spot at left wing alongside Kane or Jonathan Toews, as well as first power-play duties with Panarin gone and Marian Hossa (skin condition) out for the season. Jonathan Drouin will take on an expanded role with the Montreal Canadiens, but his ceiling hinges on his team's glaring questions at center and on defense. And Patrick Marleau could have a throwback season if he plays alongside center Auston Matthews on the Toronto Maple Leafs' top line.

 

BARGAIN HUNTING

Taylor Hall, LW, NJD (Yahoo average draft position: 93.2) -- Hall, a top-25 fantasy asset in 2013-14 and top-50 finisher two seasons ago, has a chance to return to fantasy prominence after the New Jersey Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery and landed center Nico Hischier with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. With potential power-play reinforcements in left wing Marcus Johansson and defenseman Will Butcher, Hall should score at least 60 points and could set an NHL career high in PPP (21 in 2011-12).

Jake Guentzel, C/LW, PIT (102.8) -- If Guentzel sticks with Sidney Crosby on the Pittsburgh Penguins' top line for a full season, he could end up finishing much higher than his ADP. His power-play role could be limited with the Penguins having Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and a healthy Kris Letang on their first unit, but Guentzel was a lethal goal-scorer in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs (led League with 13 goals) and finished in the top 10 in points per 60 minutes (3.12; eighth among players with minimum 40 games) in the regular season as a rookie.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel buries a rebound for second

Rickard Rakell, C/LW, ANA (103.4) -- Playing frequently on Ryan Getzlaf's wing last season, Rakell scored an NHL career-high 33 goals and finished fifth in the League in even-strength goals (28). He had 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and was plus-13 in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and, like Guentzel, still is being underestimated in fantasy circles. He saw a significant SOG uptick in the postseason (3.2 per game; 2.5 in regular season) and could have a full-fledged breakout if he gets more time on the first power-play unit.

 

POTENTIAL STEALS

Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW, WSH (135.2) -- With top-six forwards Johansson (traded to Devils) and Justin Williams (signed with Carolina Hurricanes) out of the picture, Burakovsky will have opportunities to play on the left side of Evgeny Kuznetsov's line and on the first power-play unit with Backstrom, Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. He had an 82-game pace of 45 points last season playing on the third line and second power-play unit, so he feasibly could set NHL career highs in at least four standard categories.

Max Domi, LW, ARI (160.0) -- Even though Domi's 2016-17 season was derailed by a hand injury, his points-per-game average (0.64) was in line with his rookie season, when he finished 84th in Yahoo. A top-line spot next to veteran addition Derek Stepan and first power-play minutes alongside defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson means Domi could bounce back for at least 60 points and solid totals across the board in a standard league for the much-improved Arizona Coyotes.

Teuvo Teravainen, C/LW, CAR (175.2) -- The Hurricanes are being severely underestimated in fantasy drafts; their top scorer last season, left wing Jeff Skinner (63 points), is being taken on average with the 86th pick in Yahoo. That means you likely can land Teravainen, who found chemistry with Sebastian Aho at even strength and on the power play last season, in the finals rounds of your draft. A shooting percentage uptick (8.5 percent in 196 NHL games) could lead to his long-awaited breakout.

 

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Kyle Connor, LW, WPG -- Nikolaj Ehlers has quietly become a top-10 fantasy left wing, but that doesn't mean Connor won't find relevance in his rookie season with the Winnipeg Jets. Even if the Jets' top line remains Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, Connor can edge Mathieu Perreault for second-line time alongside Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Connor had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games for Manitoba of the American Hockey League last season.

Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, WSH -- A prospect even more overdue for an NHL promotion, Vrana has totaled 75 points (35 goals, 40 assists) and 214 SOG in 88 career AHL games for Hershey. The 21-year-old potentially could play either wing opposite Burakovsky on the second line. If the young trio of Kuznetsov, Burakovsky and Vrana works out at even strength and on the second power-play unit, it could give Washington's special teams an added dimension.

Alex Debrincat, LW/RW, CHI -- The rookie crop of left wings is unheralded entering this season (none are being drafted on average in Yahoo), so this 19-year-old has sneaky upside given Chicago's voids on the wing. The candidates to replace Panarin and Hossa include Saad, Patrick Sharp and second-year forward Nick Schmaltz, but a dark horse could emerge in Debrincat, a 5-foot-7 wing who has scored more than 50 goals and 100 points each of his three seasons with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League.

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TOP 50 LEFT WING RANKINGS

Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP and SOG for skaters. ... Value has been quantified based on factors including but not limited to past production, line combinations, power-play usage, team's offseason changes, injury history, age, sleeper, bounce-back or breakout potential, anticipated regression, contract status, Yahoo ADP and overall upside for this season. ... Left wing is the primary position of the dual-eligible forwards on this list.

1. Jamie Benn, LW, DAL
2. Alex Ovechkin, LW, WSH
3. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
4. Artemi Panarin, C/LW, CBJ
5. Filip Forsberg, LW, NSH
6. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY
7. Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL
8. Mike Hoffman, LW/RW, OTT
9. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, WPG
10. Jonathan Drouin, LW/RW, MTL*
11. Jeff Skinner, LW, CAR
12. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, FLA
13. Rickard Rakell, C/LW, ANA*
14. Taylor Hall, LW, NJD
15. Brandon Saad, LW, CHI
16. Jake Guentzel, C/LW, PIT
17. James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR
18. Evander Kane, LW, BUF
19. Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW, WSH
20. Max Domi, LW, ARI
21. Anders Lee, LW, NYI
22. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
23. Patrick Marleau, C/LW, TOR
24. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, CGY (INJ.)
25. Marcus Johansson, LW, NJD
26. Zach Parise, LW, MIN
27. Milan Lucic, LW, EDM
28. Nino Niederreiter, LW/RW, MIN
29. Nick Foligno, LW/RW, CBJ
30. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR
31. Patrick Maroon, LW, EDM
32. J.T. Miller, LW/RW, NYR*
33. Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL
34. Teuvo Teravainen, C/LW, CAR
35. Nick Schmaltz, C/LW, CHI
36. Robby Fabbri, C/LW, STL
37. Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL (INJ.)
38. Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJS
39. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL
40. Jonathan Marchessault, C/LW, VGK
41. Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN
42. Patrick Sharp, LW/RW, CHI
43. Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, DET
44. Kyle Connor, LW, WPG
45. Kevin Fiala, LW/RW, NSH
46. Boone Jenner, C/LW, CBJ
47. Scott Hartnell, LW, NSH
48. Vladislav Namestnikov, C/LW, TBL
49. Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, WSH
50. Tanner Pearson, LW, LAK

NOTES: Drouin (LW/RW in Yahoo) and Miller (LW/RW) have been moved to center in training camp, but neither has center eligibility (yet). ... Rakell (C/LW) is now playing center with Ryan Kesler (recovery from hip surgery) out indefinitely. ... DeBrincat (RW in Yahoo) is playing LW on a line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane this preseason.

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