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Fantasy: Finding keepers key to long-term success

Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews deserve better ranking when drafting for future

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

Drafting for a fantasy hockey keeper league is different than drafting for a one-year league because the players who are the best right now won't necessarily be the best in a year or two -- or five.

For example, Shane Doan led the Arizona Coyotes in goals (28) last season, but he'll be 40 when the season starts. He could provide an adequate return on investment this season (points, penalty minutes), but he won't help much beyond that, if at all. The same applies to many players 35 and older, although 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who led the Florida Panthers in points (66) and finished second in goals (27), has shown no signs of slowing down.

Taking a look at Pete Jensen's Top 200 overall rankings for July, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is listed as the No. 1 player. But his value in a keeper league would be lower. Kane likely would still be ranked in the top 10, but you'd be wise to consider options other than the 27-year-old defending NHL scoring champion. For example, Edmonton Oilers 19-year-old center Connor McDavid, No. 9 in Jensen's rankings, should be valued higher than Kane in a keeper league. You can get similar production now with the idea that McDavid's will improve and Kane's will decline into the future.

Video: VAN@EDM: McDavid puts puck past Markstrom for a PPG

Rounding out Jensen's top five are Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars) and Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators). Each of these players is ranked higher than he would be in a keeper league, with Karlsson maintaining the most value and Ovechkin probably dropping to the 15-20 range.

Although drafting certain players will depend on the rules in your league, such as how many players you can keep each year, and for how long, here are some who should be targeted higher or lower in a keeper league draft when compared to a standard draft.

PLAYERS TO DRAFT HIGHER

These players should be considered earlier than their standard-league ranking.

Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers (No. 9 in Top 200) -- The Calder Trophy finalist had 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games last season and should continue to be a point-per-game player throughout his career. McDavid will be considered in the top five of standard drafts and is the best keeper selection.

Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 17) -- The 23-year-old has developed into a top 15 goal-scorer in three seasons in the League. He had 30 goals last season and 28 in 2014-15. He is a staple on the Lightning power play (25 power-play points last season) and has 131 points in 159 games the past two seasons.

Artemi Panarin, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (No. 25) -- The undrafted 24-year-old won the Calder Trophy last season, when he finished tied for ninth with 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists). He showed great chemistry with Kane and could be a first-round keeper league pick.

Filip Forsberg, C/RW/LW, Nashville Predators (No. 35) -- The 21-year-old had 33 goals and 64 points last season, is the Predators' top offensive threat, and one of the top young forwards in the League. Forsberg is eligible at each forward position, which gives him another advantage.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 43) -- In his rookie season, he helped transform the Flyers offense when he was called up, scoring 17 goals and 29 assists in 64 games. He had 22 power-play points and five game-winning goals. Gostisbehere, 23, is one of the top defensemen to consider when drafting for a keeper league.

Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers (No. 47) - At 20 years old, he has plenty of upside. He increased his point total in each of his three NHL seasons; 24 in 2013-14, 36 in 2014-15 and 59 last season when he led the Panthers with 28 goals. Barkov signed a six-year contract this offseason and will be a big part of Florida's up-and-coming offense going forward.

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm5: Barkov ties the game on Petrovic's dish

John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks (No. 49) -- The Ducks goalie of the future after Frederik Andersen was traded to the Maple Leafs, Gibson was 21-13-4 with a 2.07 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and four shutouts last season. The 23-year-old is one of a handful of goalies who likely can be trusted to maintain a high level of play for years to come.

Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 81) -- The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews had 46 points in 36 games in Switzerland's top professional League (National League A) for Zurich last season. He also led the United States with six goals at the 2016 IIHF World Championship. The 18-year-old will likely be the Maple Leafs' top-line center this season and in the future.

Brandon Saad, LW/RW, Columbus Blue Jackets (No. 93) -- The 23-year-old has increased his goal and point production in each of the past four seasons, scored a career-high 31 goals last season, and had 200 or more shots on goal in each of the past two seasons (203 and 233).

Patrick Laine, LW/RW, Winnipeg Jets (No. 101) -- The MVP of the Liiga playoffs with Tappara last season in Finland was MVP of the World Championship for silver medal-winning Finland. He should provide a boost to the Jets offense and is worth a pick in the first three rounds of a keeper league draft.

PLAYERS TO DRAFT LOWER

These players should be consider later than their standard-league ranking.

Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks (No. 6) -- A fantasy standout with 27 goals and 75 points in 82 games last season, the 31-year-old may not be able to keep up that pace. There are younger defensemen (P.K. Subban, 27; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 25) ranked lower who should be targeted higher in a keeper league.

Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 14) -- With at least 20 goals in each of the past five full NHL seasons, he would be a fine fit on a keeper league team, but there are plenty of lower-ranked players who will produce longer into the future who should be considered before him.

Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 23) -- There's no denying Bishop is an elite goalie, but the Vezina Trophy finalist is the second-ranked goalie in the Top 200, a value that won't transfer to a keeper league. He may see fewer starts this season with Andrei Vasilevskiy in the mix, and is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so who knows where he will be playing in 2017-18.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Bishop stones Malkin, freezes the puck

Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks (No. 42) -- The Ducks captain did have 50 assists and 63 points in 77 games last season, but his goals and points have declined in each of the past three seasons (87 in 2013-14, 70 in 2014-15). At 31, his best days are behind him, and he shouldn't be taken in the first three rounds of a keeper league draft.

Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild (No. 56) -- Once one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the League, the 31-year-old has dealt with injuries the past two seasons. He had 25 goals and 53 points in 70 games last season and hasn't topped 70 points in a season since he had 82 with the New Jersey Devils in 2009-10.

Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 71) -- He took a huge step back offensively last season with 14 goals and 38 points in 69 games after he had at least 24 goals and 50 points in each of his first two seasons. Johnson's point production has dropped lower than several of his teammates, including Kucherov and Ondrej Palat (40), and he could be the odd-man out of the Lightning plans after he becomes a free agent next summer.

Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, Dallas Stars (No. 84) -- He finished fifth on the Stars in points last season with 55 (20 goals, 35 assists), and scored at least 33 goals in four of the previous seven full NHL seasons, but the 34-year-old might not see more than 20 goals and 50 points ever again.

Rick Nash, LW/RW, New York Rangers (No. 108) -- He scored the fewest goals (15) of his 13-year NHL career last season and had 36 points in 60 games. Even when healthy, the 32-year-old was far from his former production. He scored 42 goals in 2014-15 and had at least 20 in 11 straight seasons prior to last season, but Nash won't put up high numbers for long, even if he does score 25-30 this season.

Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, Detroit Red Wings (No. 122) -- The Red Wings captain is 35 years old and in the final leg of his playing career. Zetterberg had 13 goals and 50 points in 82 games, his fewest goals in a full NHL season in his 13-year career. If drafting him in a keeper league, it should be in the later rounds, and with a plan to not keep him past this season.

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