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Fantasy first line rankings for 2018-19

O'Reilly will get chance to center Tarasenko; Sabres rise into top 15 with Skinner

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

NHL.com projects the top forward line for each of the 31 teams in 2018-19 and ranks them for fantasy purposes. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Pacioretty trade spin | Second line rankings | Power plays

 

OFFSEASON LINE TRENDS:

-- Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has said he expects center John Tavares, who signed a seven-year contract July 1, to play on a line with wings Mitchell Marner and Zach Hyman. Fellow elite fantasy center Auston Matthews is slated to skate with veteran left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing William Nylander, and each of Toronto's first two lines has gained plenty of fantasy attention.

-- Los Angeles Kings wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed a three-year contract July 1 after playing the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, is expected to play either on the top line with center Anze Kopitar or on the second line with Jeff Carter. Candidates to round out a Kopitar-Kovalchuk duo include wings Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli and Alex Iafallo.

-- The San Jose Sharks played left wing Evander Kane and center Joe Pavelski mostly with right wing Joonas Donskoi after they acquired Kane from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26. But with Joe Thornton (knee) signing a one-year contract July 2 and expected to be ready for training camp, this line can be one of the most potent in the NHL given the chemistry Pavelski, who also plays right wing, has with Kane and Thornton separately.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm4: Pavelski taps home own rebound for PPG

-- Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau recently said a line with him, center Sean Monahan and forward James Neal , who signed a five-year contract July 2, "would be a great fit." Other candidates to play right wing with the elite Gaudreau-Monahan duo include versatile forward Elias Lindholm (acquired by the Flames on June 23) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (if he changes positions). This line could have an even higher fantasy ceiling than past years considering Monahan played through multiple injuries last season. He is expected to be ready for training camp.

-- The New York Islanders offense could take a big step back after losing Tavares in free agency, but their potential top-line wings still have plenty of fantasy worth with Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal set for an expanded role. Barzal played frequently on a line with left wing Anthony Beauvillier and right wing Jordan Eberle last season, but Anders Lee should get every opportunity to start the season with Barzal considering the left wing scored an NHL career-high 40 goals last season. Lee and Eberle each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019, providing added fantasy intrigue.

Video: Andrew Gross on Tavares leaving, Barzal's emergence

-- The Buffalo Sabres were weak at left wing after trading Kane prior to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, but addressed their need by acquiring Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and also getting Conor Sheary from the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 27. Skinner is a proven goal-scorer who could easily score at least 30 on the top line with elite center Jack Eichel and breakout candidate Sam Reinhart. Sheary played frequently with center Sidney Crosby in the past (53 points in 61 games in 2016-17) and is a potential top-six fit with Eichel or rookie Casey Mittelstadt. If Reinhart ends up playing second-line center, right wings Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville and Tage Thompson (acquired from St. Louis Blues on July 1) are candidates to skate on Eichel's line.

-- The St. Louis Blues are expected to start Ryan O'Reilly centering the top line with right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. Options at left wing include Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, Alexander Steen and Robby Fabbri, giving the first line high upside but potential instability compared to the lines from other teams ranked ahead. Schwartz and center Brayden Schenn found chemistry on the top line with Tarasenko last season, so NHL.com has projected that duo to remain intact but move down to the second line.

Read: Fantasy impact of Skinner trade to Sabres; projection for 2018-19

 

FIRST LINE RANKINGS FOR 2018-19

These rankings have taken into account NHL.com fantasy top 250 rank, recent production in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal, hits), line stability or fluctuation from previous season(s), team scoring distribution and injury risk or contract status of any individual player(s).

1. Boston Bruins: Marchand -- Bergeron -- Pastrnak

2. Dallas Stars: Benn -- Seguin -- Radulov

3. Washington Capitals: Ovechkin -- Kuznetsov -- Wilson

4. Tampa Bay Lightning: Miller -- Stamkos -- Kucherov

5. Winnipeg Jets: Connor -- Scheifele -- Wheeler

6. Toronto Maple Leafs: Hyman -- Tavares -- Marner**

7. Colorado Avalanche: Landeskog -- MacKinnon -- Rantanen

8. Vegas Golden Knights: Marchessault -- Karlsson -- R. Smith

9. Los Angeles Kings: Kovalchuk -- Kopitar -- Brown**

10. San Jose Sharks: E. Kane -- Thornton -- Pavelski*

11. Calgary Flames: Gaudreau -- Monahan -- Neal**

12. Nashville Predators: Forsberg -- Johansen -- Arvidsson

13. Anaheim Ducks: Rakell -- Getzlaf -- Perry/Eaves

14. Philadelphia Flyers: Giroux -- Couturier -- Konecny

15. Buffalo Sabres: Skinner -- Eichel -- Reinhart**

16. Pittsburgh Penguins: Guentzel -- Crosby -- Sprong*

17. Edmonton Oilers: Nugent-Hopkins -- McDavid -- Yamamoto*

18. St. Louis Blues: Perron/Maroon -- O'Reilly -- Tarasenko

19. Columbus Blue Jackets: Panarin -- Dubois -- Atkinson

20. New York Islanders: Lee -- Barzal -- Eberle*

21. Carolina Hurricanes: Zykov -- Aho -- Teravainen

22. Chicago Blackhawks: DeBrincat -- Schmaltz -- P. Kane*

23. Florida Panthers: Dadonov -- Barkov -- Bjugstad

24. New Jersey Devils: Hall -- Hischier -- Bratt

25. Minnesota Wild: Niederreiter -- E. Staal -- Zucker

26. New York Rangers: Kreider -- Zibanejad -- Buchnevich

27. Vancouver Canucks: Baertschi -- Horvat -- Boeser

28. Arizona Coyotes: Keller -- Stepan -- Panik

29. Detroit Red Wings: Zadina -- Larkin -- Mantha**

30. Ottawa Senators: Tkachuk -- Duchene -- Stone**

31. Montreal Canadiens: Domi -- Drouin -- Gallagher**

* indicates a line combination that was either not used frequently last season or involves a player who dealt with injury, spent time in the American Hockey League or was sent back to juniors.

** indicates a projected line involving either a player who has changed teams this offseason, joined the NHL from a different league or was selected in the 2018 NHL Draft.

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