Fantasy hockey dynasty rankings: Who will be the top players in 2024?

Is Elias Pettersson the right guy to lead your team for the next five years? Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire

The first time we did the dynasty rankings at ESPN.com was August 2017. So it's been two-and-a-half years of trying to rank fantasy hockey players on a rolling five-year period.

The typical preamble reserved for this space still applies: The final ranking is a score of each player's individual ranking from five seasons (remainder of 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24). I rank the players in each season from No. 1 to (approximately) No. 250 -- and then all other players receive a ranking of 300, regardless of the situation (for example, a 2022 draft prospect would still get a 300 for next season, while Joe Thornton would still get a 300 ranking in 2023-24). The rankings from each season are added together and divided by five for the "actual dynasty rank."

These rankings are cobbled together from a number of factors, not the least of which is talent. But other big factors include age, situation and background.

In August 2017, we projected all five of the next seasons in the same way, including the 2019-20 season. I thought it might be fun to look through those specific rankings to see how they fared now that we are in the 2019-20 campaign.

The top 10, projected in August 2017 for the 2019-20 season, were as follows.

Auston Matthews
Connor McDavid
Jack Eichel
Leon Draisaitl
Matt Murray
Patrick Kane
Nikita Kucherov
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
David Pastrnak
Mark Scheifele

You know what? That's not so terrible for two-and-a-half years ago. It was made somewhat easier by the obvious talents of several superstars. The Matt Murray call aged like milk and I don't know what I was thinking with Oliver Ekman-Larsson ... but getting five of the actual top 10 correct (based on the current ESPN Player Rater values), with another two in the top 15, is solid by my standards.

But, especially as you go deeper in the rankings, there is a lot wrong with how we ranked the 2019-20 season back in August 2017 -- but that's OK. The point of these rankings is context, analysis and opinion to add to your own beliefs about each player so you can have fun putting together your make-believe NHL roster.

I still believe

Sometimes, sticking to your gut can pay off when assessing a player's future. Despite him coming off consecutive seasons with barely 50 points, I ranked Nathan MacKinnon as a top-25 asset for 2019-20 back in August 2017. That may have been the highest praise anyone had given him at that stage of his career -- and we know how that one turned out.

In that same vein of not giving up on a player due to a bad season or two, you'll find decent rankings here for Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Clayton Keller, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Thomas Chabot and many more. That's despite the fact that the stock on some of these guys is low and/or dropping.

MacKinnon is just one of many who paid off for those who kept faith. Heck, Ryan Strome was actually ranked No. 100 in the August 2017 version, subsequently fell right off the ranks (face of the earth) and is now back in business finding his form with the New York Rangers.

Don't dismiss talent you've witnessed when it's still in a youthful package. Things can change quickly given supporting cast, coaching and usage.

Miss the shots you don't take

In the August 2017 version of the 2019-20 season ranks, we had Nikita Gusev (KHL at the time), Kyle Connor (20 total games) and Ilya Kovalchuk (KHL) in the top 250. But we also had Vadim Shipachyov, Michael Dal Colle and Daniel Sprong represented, which turned out to be less wise.

For the current overall dynasty rankings presented here, we have 24 players who have 20 or fewer NHL games under their belt among the top 250. Six of them haven't even been drafted. One of them just turned 16.

For posterity's sake, I have to pick specific prospects to work with for the rankings, because otherwise it becomes too obtuse (i.e. "Unnamed 2022 Draft Prospect" ranked No. 186). But a lot of who connects and has success will change over time. If I could have ranked "No. 2 Center for the Lightning" back in August 2017, that would have been better than listing Tyler Johnson. But here we are in 2019-20 and I'd be comfortable with Anthony Cirelli in Johnson's place ... and sure enough, he's the No. 2 center for the Bolts.

For the record, here are the "untested" players included in this new top 250.

Kirill Kaprizov (67), Barrett Hayton (117), Eeli Tolvanen (122), Alex Nedeljkovic (142), Bowen Byram (153), Alex Turcotte (156), Quinton Byfield (157), Arthur Kaliyev (164), Aatu Raty (166), Kaapo Kahkonen (179), Evan Bouchard (181), Nolan Foote (182), Shane Wright (185), Vasily Podkolzin (190), Dylan Cozens (192), Josh Norris (195), Ty Smith (198), Ilya Sorokin (200), Oliver Wahlstrom (213), Jake Bean (214), Hendrix Lapierre (228), Owen Tippett (234), Spencer Knight (240) and Tyler Benson (247).

As for the Kovalchuk equivalent? I have both Jesse Puljujarvi and Mikhail Grigorenko ranked here, as I think they're candidates to make an NHL return.

Things change/stay exactly the same

For some added fun/context, I took the spreadsheet from the August 2017 rankings, removed the columns for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season (since they are behind us now), then looked at how the rankings looked back then compared to now. So, these are based on the rankings for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 season that were created in August 2017.

The top 10 are as follows, with their current (today's dynasty rankings) in parentheses:

Auston Matthews (3)
Connor McDavid (1)
Jack Eichel (2)
Leon Draisaitl (4)
Matt Murray (140)
Patrik Laine (14)
Nikita Kucherov (8)
Aleksander Barkov (11)
Mark Scheifele (6)
Nathan MacKinnon (5)

What lesson is this reinforcing for me? Don't rank goaltenders too strongly based on smaller sample sizes. Have I learned that lesson? A little bit. Goaltenders still drive a massive amount of fantasy value, so they can't simply be left out of the rankings or dropped out completely. The value will exist and will come from someone.

The stripped-down version of the August 2017 rankings leaves us with a top-five goaltender list of: Matt Murray (5), John Gibson (12), Andrei Vasilevskiy (23), Robin Lehner (50) and Sergei Bobrovsky (55). Only one of them is in the actual top five this season (Vasilevskiy) and I don't feel awesome about some of their value going forward (Bobrovsky). (How about some serious props for that Lehner call though? I know he's not lighting the league on fire, but check out how he was being viewed in August 2017 and tell me I don't get a fantasy fist bump.)

The current dynasty rankings feature a top five of Vasilevskiy (13), Connor Hellebuyck (16), Carter Hart (23), Ilya Samsonov (35) and Carey Price (57). So, maybe I haven't learned my lesson after all. But I would argue we are in a unique period of goaltender turnover that will allow some goaltenders to have solid value across all five seasons being ranked because they are so young.

Looking ahead

What about 2.5 years from now? We looked back at the initial ESPN fantasy hockey dynasty rankings from August 2017 ... But what about the specific top 10 we've pegged for August 2022. That's when we will be heading into the second year of 32 franchises (after the Seattle Krakens win the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season).

Here are the top 10 for the 2022-23 season pulled from the current dynasty rankings, and in parentheses is the 2021-22 season ranking I gave them in August 2017:

Connor McDavid (3)
Jack Eichel (1)
Auston Matthews (2)
Elias Pettersson (NR)
Nathan MacKinnon (6)
Leon Draisaitl (5)
Mitch Marner (21)
Aleksander Barkov (8)
Sebastian Aho (38)
Mark Scheifele (15)

Some things never change.