Congratulations on another successful fantasy hockey season. Yes, that also includes anyone who finished at the bottom of the standings. A successful season is defined by enhancing your enjoyment of the NHL by participating in a fantasy league. That may sound lame, but in the fantasy realm, everyone gets a participation medal.
Of course, a real congratulations to those of you who finished atop the standings and won your league. All that junk about participation medals a moment ago was just to make everyone else feel better.
But win or lose, it's time to start turning attention to next season -- and in some cases, the season beyond that and the season beyond that. That's where these dynasty rankings come in.
Instead of the usual top 250 rest-of-season rankings, what we have here is rankings that are applicable to keeper and dynasty league formats for standard ESPN scoring.
There are a couple of very important changes from the in-season version of these because this is an end-of-season edition.
1. I'm only ranking four seasons instead of five. You know how this season shook out, so nothing that happened this season is applicable to the rankings. The rankings are inclusive of the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns. When we do these rankings at the start of the 2018-19 season, we'll bring 2022-23 into the mix to have five seasons again. But let's just allow the summer play out first.
2. These rankings are weighted to put a focus on the shorter term for your fantasy leagues. Next season counts for 50 percent of the ranking, 2019-20 counts for 30 percent, 2020-21 counts for 20 percent and 2021-22 counts for 10 percent. This not only puts a focus on winning now, but removes more of the players who aren't even available in the ESPN universe yet (and won't be for years in some cases). It also adds a bit more reliability since there are so many unexpected circumstances in the NHL. No one on the planet would have had William Karlsson on any dynasty rankings at this time a year ago.
3. Rather than show you where each player stacked up in the last dynasty rankings, I've provided each player's un-weighted dynasty ranking in the second column. This is a rank that takes each of the next four seasons as 25 percent of the total value. Anyone playing for the distant future or rebuilding can get a better idea of which players should be less of a focus for the short term.
Of course there are going to be countless players emerging that haven't been considered here. As with the Karlsson example, players will come out of the woodwork and showcase skills that were unexpected. But this is hopefully a helpful benchmark for the future of many players. The players' ages, success at different levels and in different leagues and projected teammates and roles are among the most important factors I considered in each case.
Generally speaking, forwards are a little more reliable to predict into the future, as the prospects who are really expected to excel manage to do so more often. Defensemen peak a little later in their careers and are heavily dependent on their role for value. Goaltenders are tough, as for every Andrei Vasilevskiy and John Gibson who were tracked as prospects, there is a Corey Crawford or Jonathan Quick who snuck up as a late-bloomer and didn't necessarily have a "goaltender of the future" designation.
If you are in a league that still allows player movement before the season ends for players you can keep (although I would argue against such a league rule for fairness), here are a few of the names currently in the ESPN universe who I have projected to climb the ranks quickly during the next couple of years.
I highlighted Tolvanen in the January dynasty rankings, and all he's done since then is suggest his impact in the NHL could come even sooner than hoped. He's already playing meaningful games for the Predators as we speak and may very well land a role in the postseason on what has to be considered a Cup-contending team. Before joining the Preds, Tolvanen completed the best-ever season by an 18-year-old in the KHL, lapping the record previously set by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Considering his surroundings next season, I have him penciled in as a top-50 player on a going-forward basis.
It's been a tough haul waiting for Strome in keeper leagues, but keep the faith. After tearing up the AHL this season, Strome is getting some NHL reps right now. He has seven points in eight games during his most recent summoning, and if not next year, he should ascend the depth chart to be Clayton Keller's linemate by 2019-20 at the latest.
The now-21-year-old Sprong had an 18-game cup of coffee with the Penguins in 2015-16. Last year, he led the QMJHL in points per game. This year, he was top 10 overall in AHL scoring and was second among rookies. Wingers have boundless opportunities for success with the Penguins, and Sprong is ready to kick down the door next season.
Although the clock will be ticking on Fabbri's opportunities over the long term, he should be able to get at least one season in before Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas invade the Blues roster. Fabbri missed all of this season with a knee injury, but looked ready to take a step forward. Assuming rehab goes well, he's almost a shoe-in for a top-six role next season.
Even though we know he's not coming for at least two years, Kaprizov still cracks the rankings here because he's going to be something special. Remember how Tolvanen has the KHL record for scoring by an 18-year-old? Kaprizov owns the mark for a 19-year-old, and if he hadn't missed 14 games this season, he'd also own the record for a 20-year-old. He finished with 40 points in 46 games this year, and the record is 47 (Vladimir Tarasenko). Kaprizov is signed for two more seasons in the KHL, but be ready for him in 2020-21.
The inconsistency is very concerning, but Ekman-Larsson has shown us his overall skills in the past. I, for one, still believe he has those skills. He flashed them enough this season that I still consider Ekman-Larsson an elite option for fantasy purposes, especially with the future looking so bright for the Coyotes. In October, December and February, Ekman-Larsson's combined statistics this season were three goals, 16 assists and a minus-32 in 47 games. However, look at his combined stats from November and March: 32 games, 11 goals, 12 assists and a plus-1. He's still got it, but he's just not showing it with consistency.
I don't think Shayne Gostisbehere is a slouch by any means, but I do think Provorov is next-level elite as a defenseman. I think the Flyers are going to come around to that thinking eventually, too. Provorov had more goals and more even-strength points than Gostisbehere this season, but Gostisbehere's stats are padded by his league-leading 32 power-play points. Put Provorov with that first unit, and I think he equals or exceeds what Gostisbehere has done. Better yet, try putting them both on the point for the man advantage.
Whether Erik Karlsson returns to the Sens next season (or beyond) doesn't influence too much the idea that Chabot is going to be a fantasy factor in the future. That said, if Karlsson does get traded out of Ottawa, Chabot is ready to step into the limelight of being the team's No. 1 defenseman following a rookie season with nine goals.
It's not a stretch to say that if Pekka Rinne wasn't around, Saros would have been the No. 1 player on the ESPN Player Rater this season (which ranks fantasy value). Rinne was the No. 1 on the Player Rater, but Saros has matched his mentor ratio for ratio this season as a valuable backup. Rinne turns 36 next season, and while he may still be around a bit longer, it's logical for him to hand over even more of the responsibility next season to the Preds' "goaltender of the future."
Speaking of Rinne, the Nashville goaltender is the most often-cited comparison for the skill set possessed by Canucks prospect Demko. We got one game from Demko with the Canucks last week (5-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets), and it won't be the last we see of him in the NHL. The Canucks have quietly put the pieces in place to be a contender again in another two or three seasons, and it will most likely be Demko patrolling the crease when they are. Jacob Markstrom has shown enough this season that he should be the outright starter again next season, but don't think for a second that Demko isn't the long-term plan.