Jamie Benn will lead the way for an improving Dallas squad. (Edmonton Sun)
We are back, with another batch of the 2014-15 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit, as we near the completion of our forward position rankings. So while you wait to see what happens with Ryan Johansen’s holdout, let’s review the top 42 left wingers.
The wings are now positions where multiple positional eligibility is more and more common aside from ESPN, which lists a player typically at one position when the season starts and then adapts from there. Knowing the parameters of your league before you draft is just as important as anything else.
There are always deep picks further down on the list that make the break upward in a big way. There has also been an unusually high amount of injuries that have wreaked havoc on rankings the past few seasons. The key is also to keep an eye on line combinations. This cannot be emphasized enough. Things change in training camp and seem to be altered like the wind. Be ready and be vigilant. This is going to be a fun ride. Time for the rankings!
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers (1): Basically, Hall is too good not to be over a point a game this season — especially playing with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hall is a near given 90-point dude at the moment as he only improves each season. The key will be the players on his line and their health to an extent. Hall actually does have near triple digit upside but it just seems like it never quite comes together. This season that prediction comes closer to reality and that is welcome news for Fantasy owners.
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (2): There is some controversy as to why he is not number one on our list but the answer should be obvious. For as great a player as he is, he could actually be better. That is not necessarily on Ovechkin, but on the team that surrounds him as well. The bottom line is he can easily put up 40+ goals and 20+ power play goals almost at a whim. How the rest of it goes is up to new coach Barry Trotz. Can he get Ovechkin back up above 30 even strength goals? If that happens, along with the expected improvements in defense and goaltending (even if it is slight), then Ovechkin could be number one on two lists. He is also listed in our Right Wing Rankings. Ovechkin is the only such player we have listed at more than one position, but made an exception for him because of the uncertainty over where he’ll qualify. However, since we released our RW rankings, it’s been revealed that OV will in fact play on the left side.
3. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (10): Benneguins… it was a term used so often last season that it even made our head spin. Benn and Tyler Seguin are more than just point a game players and the duo could both go over 90 points or come damn close. The potential was realized last season and now there is expected to be a further rise. Dallas is a team that is getting better and better. As the offensive depth rises, the points do as well. Inevitably, this is a team ready for some good offensive times ahead and Benn is helping lead the way, even scoring winning goals in the virtual world (see video below). He will be a top five LW for the next half dozen years at least.
4. Patrick Sharp, LW/C, Chicago Blackhawks (15): Sharp surprised a lot of people last season by pulling out a nearly 80-point season with 34 goals and 44 assists. This included 25 power play points. Needless to say the shoulder concerns are a distant memory. There is no doubt Sharp can be a top five LW this season as well, though some will say that others could challenge that lofty perch. His abilities on the man advantage always make him a very attractive Fantasy player and usually he goes lower than expected.
5. Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins (4): Kunitz has proven that he can ride the perfect shotgun to Sidney Crosby and had a pretty solid season. It is a tough juncture in the rankings because there are about a half dozen guys very close together when all things are considered. However, the Crosby factor pushes Kunitz into the top five and just barely keeps him there (just make sure Sid the Kid’s injury isn’t too serious). There are players nipping at Kunitz’s heels so any misstep will open the door for wingers that might be considered more talented.
6. Patrick Marleau, LW/C, San Jose Sharks (32 at C): The durable veteran found a way to play 80+ games and achieved a 70-point season. Though the end may be near in San Jose, if Marleau eventually winds up somewhere else, he will still be a very productive player. He remains first line caliber and though the defensive part of his game has regressed, the offense still more than offsets any deficiencies. Marleau is a nice vet to have except maybe in salary cap Fantasy leagues. Everywhere else, he’s a go.
7. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (5): Parise had a solid season, but nothing spectacular. Yes, he missed some time but the expectation is that he is nowhere near his heyday in New Jersey where he was an 85-to-90 point talent. The contention is that Parise is held back by too much burden on and off the ice. It is part of the reason he is outside of our top five, but do not be surprised if one of these seasons he gets close to that 80-to-85 point level.
8. James Neal, Nashville Predators (7): This big (6′2″, 215) winger was still a point a game player despite missing over 20 games for a variety of reasons. Ultimately he wound up in Nashville but the guy can score even without Evgeni Malkin feeding him the puck, so expect him to still be a 60-plus point player with great power play point potential. Neal could be top three in the left wing position on the man advantage. Don’t worry about the two-way game so much but do worry about the attitude. If Nashville can keep Neal in line, he is going to be very good for Fantasy owners.
9. Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild (12): Vanek bounced around from Buffalo to Long Island to Montreal last year and the playoffs was a tough one for him and his Fantasy owners. He did finally sign with Minnesota after rumours went back and forth and sideways. Vanek did what everyone expected. Now can he be the first line answer Minnesota has been looking for? Will he play more on the right wing? There are lots of questions and uncertainty. Chemistry is going to be interesting on that top line. We guess we will all find out quickly.
10. James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs (14): JVR is a Jersey native and his game screams New Jersey as he enters our top 10. Some say he is a Phil Kessel-aided player, but the winger has talent in his own right obviously. Coach Randy Carlyle will play van Riemsdyk and Kessel together so expect about the same Fantasy results as last season. Could JVR be a 30-30 candidate? He absolutely could. As for 2015-16, when Carlyle and Kessel are expected to be gone? Well, let’s worry about that next year.
11. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings (3): It has been said many times but rankings change and so do players as they get older. Zetterberg still has the talent and the desire to do it, but can he? We still believe that the longtime Red Wing can perform at that high level but injuries may keep him just outside the top 10. This is just how it is in the very competitive NHL. What can you expect? He and Pavel Datsyuk are going to play more than 45 games but probably less than 75. That means 60+ points is rather possible.
12. Rick Nash, New York Rangers (6): The playoffs are the time when Nash does his best Where’s Waldo impression, but during the regular season he just does fine. There are plenty of concerns but at least Nash should be able to put up 30 goals barring injury. After that, it just seems all bets are off. He has to produce on the power play and finish chances. It’s just that simple. Put up or shut up, Rick!
13. Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins (26): Lucic will stay with longtime centre David Krejci, but will now find Loui Eriksson on the right wing. The left winger will have an added responsibility of protecting the Swedish talent, but he is more than capable of scoring goals and being an overall nuisance all at the same time. Lucic came very close to 60 points last season playing on the best first line at even strength in the league. That is not an accident. He is the motor that helps generate the space. If you keep Lucic into the game, the line gets the results.
14. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning (13): Tampa Bay is building a nice collection of young offensive dynamos, of which Drouin is one of the most important. In fact, he could add so much in his rookie season, that there could be enough talent here to make the Lightning a serious contender this season. Drouin stayed in junior last season, going a ridiculous +50 in 46 games with Halifax, but he’s now ready for prime time. He may start the season on a line with centre Tyler Johnson, who enjoyed a hell of a rookie campaign himself in 2013-14.
15. Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks (35): Saad broke out nicely to a near 50-point season and some suggest that he could come close to 60 points this season. He is a feisty player, yet has plenty of speed with above average hands and can now play on any scoring line in Chicago. Now that Saad will be a top six fixture, Fantasy owners should expect solid value from him. Get ready Chicago, this kid is ready for prime time!
16. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche (21): Landeskog had 65 points last season which seems lost on everyone as he also rode the “PDO wave” a bit but not as much as other Colorado players. We don’t think he’ll get 40 assists this season but 35 is reasonable. Colorado is not going to drop off 25-to-30 points in the standings, ladies and gentlemen. It will regress, but individual numbers won’t go completely crazy. Let’s put it another way. Landeskog is not going to drop 10-to-15 points unless he gets hurt.
17. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens (11): Montreal’s top line winger is a 40-goal scorer and with the right linemates can probably increase his assist total modestly, but that is a bit more dicey right now. Long term his upside is greater than 70 points but don’t expect that this season. Just relax and enjoy the 55-to-65 point level with 30+ goals. That is not so bad. Is it?
18. Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils (17): The temptation was to rank Elias closer to the top 10, but the fan needs to know that you are getting very good value if he slides here. Don’t look at some of the projections out there because the hunger still burns within the Devils stalwart. The 1,000 career point plateau awaits and he would be the first New Jersey player to do achieve this entirely as a Devil. Last season’s 53 points in 65 games was nothing to sneeze at. Any kind of continuity and Elias breaks 60 with ease. He is one of those players that defies age and is still a wizard with the puck.
19. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (3): Sedin should bounce back this season as 2013-14 was just a total nightmare. Yes the “Sedin Twins” are never going to come close to their previous monster numbers, but they are still top 15-to-20 options when they are healthy. Playing with new acquisition Radim Vrbata will actually help as Vrbata may drag a different dynamic out of the twins that was definitely missing last season. Father Time is not quite ready yet to sink his teeth into the Sedins.
20. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes (NR): Skinner may just be the best point producer on the Hurricanes when all is said and done this season. Yes, that means more points than Eric Staal. Skinner’s patience and finishing ability will serve him well in what is going to be a very trying season for Carolina. He is just relentless on the puck and is not afraid to battle in the corners. Simply put, the forward does everything you ask him to do and beyond.
21. David Perron, Edmonton Oilers (32): Perron was a lot better than people expected last season despite seeing players rotate in and out like musical chairs. He is nearly a top 20 LW but we have questions as far as what Edmonton will do to keep more consistent linemates flanked by his side. While we are a bit more optimistic than most, Perron’s power play possibilities cannot be overlooked. Fantasy wise, he will be just fine but with better talent, the points could go up.
Others to Consider
22. Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues (39)
23. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets (23)
24. Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens (22)
25. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR)
26. Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues (NR)
27. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (NR)
28. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets (16)
29. Ryan O’Reilly, LW/C, Colorado Avalanche (28 at C)
30. Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (NR)
31. Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets (30)
32. Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers (28)
33. Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes (25)
34. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings (29)
35. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings (27)
36. Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators (28)
37. Curtis Glencross, Calgary Flames (40)
38. Clarke MacArthur, Ottawa Senators (NR)
39. Viktor Stalberg, Nashville Predators (37)
40. Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres (9)
41. Jeff Carter, LW/C, Los Angeles Kings (29 at C)
42. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton Oilers (12 at RW)
Okay ladies and gentlemen, debate away in our comments section below. This should be fun.