Fantasy Hockey
Sean Allen, Special to ESPN.com 49d

Fantasy hockey dynasty rankings: Connor McDavid still tops list of 250 keepers

NHL, Fantasy

A complete overhaul of the default ESPN.com fantasy hockey scoring system this season means a complete overhaul of our dynasty rankings.

With the switch to a points-based default game, and the redesign on the scoring settings, the opportunity presented itself to move to a points-based ranking system as we attempt to forecast how the next few years might play out.

For those who don't want to know more about how the sausage is made, there is some analysis on specific players and the rankings below. For those who might want to know a little bit more, I'll explain.

These new rankings use informed history from the past five years to inform what might come for the next five (four in this mid-season case, as the current season is included). But it doesn't use a linear projection of a players production. Instead, it uses how players of the same age and class have advanced their fantasy point output during the previous five years.

By taking the last five years of fantasy data and using the players age in each season, we can build a modifier for how a fantasy players future output might look. By further breaking it down to "elite," "fantasy relevant" and "other" classes, we can better pinpoint how each modifier can be applied in future seasons.

For example, taking the top 20 defensemen (the elite class) for the past five years, we can see how many from a particular age made the cut, as well as what their average fantasy points per game (FPPG) was. We can then take the difference from one year to the next for this group, and apply that FPPG as a modifier for the future.

Take for instance John Carlson. He's an elite defenseman and is 31 years old. The last five years shows that elite defensmen actually peak for fantasy production at age 32. If we take his FPPG output for last season and what he's done this season and apply the modifier from 31 to 32 for the class of elite defensemen, we can suggest what Carlson might do next year if he progresses as other similar defensemen have in recent history. In this case, he's posted 2.55 FPPG during this season and last, and the modifier suggests he'll peak at 2.67 FPPG next season.

Now take that and apply it to the entire NHL. Continue to prorate it out to the 2024-25 NHL season. Do some similar, but limited projections related to games played. Add up all the fantasy points. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. And you have yourself some delicious dynasty rankings.

Now, I didn't leave it all up to the Excel formulas. I manually made adjustments where things started to get wacky or didn't feel quite right. I also used the data related to age to "sunset" some players when the history showed that players their age tend to fade off. But I tried to keep the adjustments minimal. It was also tricky to adjust minutes for goaltenders, as predicting how many minutes each one will get season to season is a fool's errand. They more or less were credited close to what they've played in the past couple of years or projected toward reasonable comparable goalies for minutes.

As for the classes earning distinct modifiers, I used top 60, top 200 and "the rest" for forwards; top 20, top 60 and "the rest" for defensemen; and top 25 and "the rest" for goaltenders.

Extra difficult to predict is the impact the Seattle Kraken will have on the league. Some of the players who may be buried on depth charts now and certainly one lucky starting goaltender are going to get a big boost in production, but we don't know who.

But, for what it's worth, I really liked how the math drove the final top 250 rankings. I can't claim I would have come up with the same list through traditional thinking and ranking. Hope you like it too.

Goaltending's next wave

I wanted to revisit something I wrote in a previous dynasty ranking:

On Aug. 13, 2018, I wrote: "For the record, I have not ranked any Seattle Krakens here. (I'm hoping repetition of the nickname will help it catch on. It's easily my favorite on the list of potential names, if only for the pre-game ceremony where they "Release the Kraken!" and play the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.)

OK, so that's not what I wanted to repeat, but I found that when searching for what I did want to talk about and felt it necessary to establish my ownership of the bandwagon.

On Jan. 17, 2019, I wrote: There have been only 28 seasons in NHL history in which a goaltender over the age of 35 has posted a goals-against average better than 2.50 and a save percentage better than .915 in at least 30 games. Eighteen of those seasons came from just seven goaltenders: Johnny Bower, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour, Glenn Hall and Patrick Roy. In fact, if you lump in Hall of Famers Jacques Plante and Gump Worsley with the above group, you are left with only eight such seasons in NHL history that have not come from Hall of Fame goaltenders (or surefire, first-ballot choices such as Luongo). The remaining eight seasons? Two from Tim Thomas and one each from Jose Theodore, Mike Vernon, Craig Anderson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Miikka Kiprusoff ... and Pekka Rinne.

I wrote that at the time to highlight what looked like a looming en masse exodus of the top fantasy goaltenders by 2022-23. That season is looming closer and closer. The six goaltenders I highlighted as "the next wave" are already well embedded in our fantasy lexicon: Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov, Thatcher Demko, Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin and Alex Nedeljkovic.

So what's changed since then? Well, Pekka Rinne did close out the 2018-19 season better than both thresholds to make it 29 such seasons -- but no other netminder has come close. At the same time, the older goalies I warned about then have, unsurprisingly, continued to age -- some like a fine wine, but others like milk. We've already seen many fall from the fantasy graces since then, including Jonathan Quick, Rinne, Devan Dubnyk and, based on how this season is going, dare I say Carey Price and Tuukka Rask. On the other hand, Marc-Andre Fleury is the top fantasy goaltender at this moment in time, while Mike Smith and Brian Elliott are still super effective in limited action.

But now, two years from that original article on fantasy goaltending's next wave, there is no doubt most of these veterans will be gone by the time these dynasty rankings expire. The background to the dynasty rankings showed that, when it comes to fantasy points, the vast majority of goaltenders fall off as cliff for production beginning at the age of 35. Of the 150 fantasy seasons by goaltenders who finished among the top 30 in each of the last five seasons, only five came from goaltenders age 36 or older.

So how's that next wave coming along?

Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia Flyers (ranked No. 7 overall, No. 3 goaltender): If we set aside his small sample from this season that has not been elite, what Hart did last season as a a 21-year-old was impressive. In fact, among 21-year-old goaltenders with at least 40 starts, he's sandwiched at fifth in NHL history for the best goals-against average -- right between Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo. The future looks bright.

Igor Shesterkin, G, New York Rangers (No. 37 overall, No. 8 goaltender): The Rangers rebuild is not quite complete, but we saw signs last season of what is to come in the medium term over the next couple of years. With a fantastic young offense, superstars to build around and the talented Shesterkin in the crease, the fantasy points should be plentiful over the next coming campaigns.

Ilya Samsonov, G, Washington Capitals (No. 68 overall, No. 11 goaltender): The Capitals still have some solid seasons ahead with their current core and Samsonov is primed to be in the crease to see them through. We saw enough of his skills last season to be confident in him as the starter -- COVID-impacted start to this season aside.

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancovuer Canucks (No. 123 overall, No. 18 goaltender): Braden Holtby has complicated things for Demko to get the minutes he needs to be a true fantasy star in the short term, with Michael DiPietro lurking behind to complicate things in the future. Still, Demko's projection as a regular starter hasn't been diminished too much. Perhaps the Kraken can solve this goalie-logjam problem come expansion draft time.

Ilya Sorokin, G, New York Islanders (No. 240 overall, No. 23 goaltender): The Islanders have proven to be an ideal home for a goaltender and, unfortunately for Sorokin, Varlamov remains sharps and is signed through 2022-23. It means it could still be a couple more seasons before he has enough of a workload to breakthrough for fantasy.

The top 10

The overall top 10 for the dynasty rankings are as follows.

1. Connor McDavid, C, EDM (C1)
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G1)
3. Auston Matthews, C, TOR (C2)
4. David Pastrnak, RW, BOS (RW1)
5. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G2)
6. Leon Draisaitl, LW, EDM (LW1)
7. Carter Hart, G, PHI (G3)
8. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (LW2)
9. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (C3)
10. John Gibson, G, ANA (G4)

I don't think anyone would argue too much with most of these. Certainly no one would quibble with the top six -- even if there's other players you'd rather include, these ones are hard to argue against. Carter Hart has the right team built around him to do this, while John Gibson will need the Ducks to improve around him to achieve this. Brad Marchand is going to be 36 in the 2024-25 season and it's doubtful Patrice Bergeron will still be around, but so long as the Bruins re-sign David Pastrnak, Marchand can stay effective. Then there's Mika Zibanejad: I had to resist the urge to adjust his numbers down a bit after the way this season has started, but, when looking at the big picture, he's still elite and this early season super slump is still a relatively small sample when looking ahead this far.

Where are the young guns?

This dynasty ranking approach has a firm end goal. We are forecasting within a confined period of time with a hard cut-off after the 2024-25 season. For that reason, and that reason alone, you won't find the top of the rankings populated with the likes of Alexis Lafreniere, Kirill Kaprizov, Trevor Zegras or Quinton Byfield.

You could make the argument that "dynasty" rankings could encompass a longer-term outlook and, as such, include the youngest players at the top because they'll keep playing for much longer.

My counter argument would be that you are looking too far down the road to collect your fantasy championship. If you aren't competing for the prize this season, then next season should always be your goal to come out on top. In extreme circumstances, you can set up for a title run a couple of years off -- but certainly not more than five years out.

Do Lafreniere or Jack Hughes possibly have more total lifetime fantasy points packed into their value than any others in the league right now? From a pure counting stats perspective over a career, that's a fair argument. But you need to keep your eye on the prize and look to win fantasy titles sooner than later. Otherwise, you could be rebuilding your team forever.

Top 250 Dynasty Rankings

1. Connor McDavid, C, EDM (C1)
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G1)
3. Auston Matthews, C, TOR (C2)
4. David Pastrnak, RW, BOS (RW1)
5. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G2)
6. Leon Draisaitl, LW, EDM (LW1)
7. Carter Hart, G, PHI (G3)
8. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (LW2)
9. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (C3)
10. John Gibson, G, ANA (G4)
11. Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL (C4)
12. Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR (LW3)
13. Jack Eichel, C, BUF (C5)
14. Roman Josi, D, NSH (D1)
15. Patrick Kane, RW, CHI (RW2)
16. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D2)
17. Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (G5)
18. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB (RW3)
19. Tuukka Rask, G, BOS (G6)
20. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (C6)
21. Jordan Binnington, G, STL (G7)
22. John Carlson, D, WSH (D3)
23. Andrei Svechnikov, LW, CAR (LW4)
24. Elias Pettersson, C, VAN (C7)
25. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (RW4)
26. Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (C8)
27. Mark Stone, RW, VGS (RW5)
28. Robin Lehner, G, VGS (G8)
29. Kyle Connor, LW, WPG (LW5)
30. Brayden Point, C, TB (C9)
31. Mikko Rantanen, RW, COL (RW6)
32. Brady Tkachuk, LW, OTT (LW6)
33. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, FLA (LW7)
34. Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (C10)
35. Dougie Hamilton, D, CAR (D4)
36. Taylor Hall, LW, BUF (LW8)
37. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G9)
38. Mitchell Marner, RW, TOR (RW7)
39. Darnell Nurse, D, EDM (D5)
40. Max Pacioretty, LW, VGS (LW9)
41. Jake Guentzel, LW, PIT (LW10)
42. Patrik Laine, RW, CLS (RW8)
43. Cale Makar, D, COL (D6)
44. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D7)
45. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM (C11)
46. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (D8)
47. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI (D9)
48. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, CGY (LW11)
49. Seth Jones, D, CLS (D10)
50. Sebastian Aho, C, CAR (C12)
51. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJ (G10)
52. John Tavares, C, TOR (C13)
53. Alex DeBrincat, LW, CHI (LW12)
54. Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA (D11)
55. Tyler Seguin, C, DAL (C14)
56. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (C15)
57. Elias Lindholm, RW, CGY (RW9)
58. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D12)
59. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (LW13)
60. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D13)
61. Neal Pionk, D, WPG (D14)
62. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, MIN (LW14)
63. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (LW15)
64. Logan Couture, C, SJ (C16)
65. Alex Ovechkin, LW, WSH (LW16)
66. Calvin Petersen, G, LA (G11)
67. Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH (G12)
68. Thomas Chabot, D, OTT (D15)
69. Dylan Larkin, C, DET (C17)
70. Evander Kane, LW, SJ (LW17)
71. J.T. Miller, C, VAN (C18)
72. Tom Wilson, RW, WSH (RW10)
73. Alex Pietrangelo, D, VGS (D16)
74. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, WPG (LW18)
75. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (LW19)
76. Brayden Schenn, C, STL (C19)
77. Rasmus Andersson, D, CGY (D17)
78. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR (D18)
79. Bo Horvat, C, VAN (C20)
80. Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (C21)
81. Frederik Andersen, G, TOR (G13)
82. Bryan Rust, RW, PIT (RW11)
83. Philipp Grubauer, G, COL (G14)
84. Kyle Palmieri, RW, NJ (RW12)
85. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D19)
86. Brock Boeser, RW, VAN (RW13)
87. Darcy Kuemper, G, ARI (G15)
88. Jakob Chychrun, D, ARI (D20)
89. Travis Konecny, RW, PHI (RW14)
90. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF (D21)
91. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI (C22)
92. Oscar Klefbom, D, EDM (D22)
93. Nick Suzuki, C, MON (C23)
94. Filip Forsberg, LW, NSH (LW20)
95. Shea Theodore, D, VGS (D23)
96. Petr Mrazek, G, CAR (G16)
97. William Nylander, RW, TOR (RW15)
98. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (C24)
99. Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (D24)
100. Christian Dvorak, LW, ARI (LW21)
101. Ty Smith, D, NJ (D25)
102. Adam Larsson, D, EDM (D26)
103. Anders Lee, LW, NYI (LW22)
104. Ryan O'Reilly, C, STL (C25)
105. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI (C26)
106. Vincent Trocheck, C, CAR (C27)
107. Kris Letang, D, PIT (D27)
108. Nico Hischier, C, NJ (C28)
109. Ben Chiarot, D, MON (D28)
110. Torey Krug, D, STL (D29)
111. Timo Meier, RW, SJ (RW16)
112. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (C29)
113. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D30)
114. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (C30)
115. Anthony Mantha, RW, DET (RW17)
116. Matt Dumba, D, MIN (D31)
117. Tyler Toffoli, RW, MON (RW18)
118. Pavel Francouz, G, COL (G17)
119. Linus Ullmark, G, BUF (G18)
120. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, NYR (LW23)
121. Dominik Kubalik, LW, CHI (LW24)
122. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (G19)
123. Colton Parayko, D, STL (D32)
124. Mike Hoffman, LW, STL (LW25)
125. Sean Couturier, C, PHI (C31)
126. Roope Hintz, C, DAL (C32)
127. Alexander Romanov, D, MON (D33)
128. Jake Muzzin, D, TOR (D34)
129. Denis Gurianov, LW, DAL (LW26)
130. Ryan Strome, C, NYR (C33)
131. Teuvo Teravainen, RW, CAR (RW19)
132. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, WPG (C34)
133. Justin Faulk, D, STL (D35)
134. Ondrej Palat, LW, TB (LW27)
135. Jeff Petry, D, MON (D36)
136. Alex Tuch, RW, VGS (RW20)
137. Tanner Pearson, LW, VAN (LW28)
138. John Klingberg, D, DAL (D37)
139. Kevin Fiala, C, MIN (C35)
140. Jamie Benn, LW, DAL (LW29)
141. Kailer Yamamoto, RW, EDM (RW21)
142. Tyson Barrie, D, EDM (D38)
143. Zach Hyman, LW, TOR (LW30)
144. Ryan Ellis, D, NSH (D39)
145. Damon Severson, D, NJ (D40)
146. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL (D41)
147. Victor Olofsson, RW, BUF (RW22)
148. Jack Roslovic, C, CLS (C37)
149. Martin Necas, C, CAR (C38)
150. Joel Farabee, LW, PHI (LW31)
151. Zach Werenski, D, CLS (D42)
152. Kevin Hayes, C, PHI (C39)
153. Josh Anderson, RW, MON (RW23)
154. Jaccob Slavin, D, CAR (D43)
155. Max Comtois, LW, ANA (LW32)
156. Kevin Lankinen, G, CHI (G20)
157. Tomas Hertl, C, SJ (C40)
158. Kaapo Kahkonen, G, MIN (G21)
159. Samuel Girard, D, COL (D44)
160. Brendan Gallagher, RW, MON (RW24)
161. Jake Allen, G, MON (G22)
162. Anthony Cirelli, C, TB (C41)
163. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF (D45)
164. Bowen Byram, D, COL (D46)
165. Nikita Zaitsev, D, OTT (D47)
166. Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN (D48)
167. Jakub Vrana, C, WSH (C42)
168. Alex Iafallo, LW, LA (LW33)
169. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (LW34)
170. Jordan Eberle, RW, NYI (RW25)
171. Esa Lindell, D, DAL (D49)
172. Jordan Kyrou, C, STL (C43)
173. David Perron, RW, STL (RW26)
174. Alec Martinez, D, VGS (D50)
175. Erik Brannstrom, D, OTT (D51)
176. Nick Schmaltz, C, ARI (C44)
177. Rickard Rakell, C, ANA (C45)
178. Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA (C46)
179. Boone Jenner, C, CLS (C47)
180. Tim Stutzle, LW, OTT (LW35)
181. Devon Toews, D, COL (D52)
182. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (D53)
183. Anthony Duclair, LW, FLA (LW36)
184. Josh Norris, C, OTT (C48)
185. Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT (C49)
186. Adam Henrique, C, ANA (C50)
187. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (C51)
188. Brady Skjei, D, CAR (D54)
189. Cam Atkinson, RW, CLS (RW27)
190. Sam Reinhart, RW, BUF (RW28)
191. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, DET (LW37)
192. William Karlsson, C, VGS (C52)
193. Kirby Dach, C, CHI (C53)
194. Andre Burakovsky, LW, COL (LW38)
195. Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, EDM (RW29)
196. Tomas Tatar, LW, MON (LW39)
197. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D55)
198. Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (RW30)
199. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, MIN (C54)
200. Arthur Kaliyev, RW, LA (RW31)
201. Tony DeAngelo, D, NYR (D56)
202. Filip Hronek, D, DET (D57)
203. Ryan Graves, D, COL (D58)
204. James van Riemsdyk, LW, PHI (LW40)
205. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (C55)
206. Sean Monahan, C, CGY (C56)
207. Matt Murray, G, OTT (G23)
208. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, NSH (LW41)
209. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, VGS (LW42)
210. Trevor Zegras, C, ANA (C57)
211. Mattias Ekholm, D, NSH (D60)
212. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, CLS (RW32)
213. Scott Mayfield, D, NYI (D61)
214. K'Andre Miller, D, NYR (D62)
215. Nazem Kadri, C, COL (C58)
216. Blake Coleman, LW, TB (LW43)
217. Scott Laughton, C, PHI (C59)
218. Max Domi, C, CLS (C60)
219. Reilly Smith, RW, VGS (RW33)
220. Dylan Strome, C, CHI (C61)
221. Adrian Kempe, C, LA (C62)
222. Phillip Danault, C, MON (C63)
223. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, DET (C64)
224. Sami Vatanen, D, NJD (D63)
225. Conor Garland, RW, ARI (RW34)
226. Quinton Byfield, C, LA (C65)
227. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH (C66)
228. Evan Bouchard, D, EDM (D64)
229. Jonas Brodin, D, MIN (D65)
230. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, ARI (D66)
231. Tyler Myers, D, VAN (D67)
232. Pavel Buchnevich, RW, NYR (RW35)
233. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D68)
234. Frank Vatrano, LW, FLA (LW44)
235. Brandon Tanev, LW, PIT (LW45)
236. Nick Ritchie, LW, BOS (LW46)
237. Nikita Gusev, LW, NJ (LW47)
238. Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (RW37)
239. Joel Edmundson, D, MON (D70)
240. Luke Kunin, C, NSH (C67)
241. T.J. Oshie, RW, WSH (RW38)
242. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G24)
243. Jason Zucker, LW, PIT (LW48)
244. Elvis Merzlikins, G, CLS (G25)
245. David Savard, D, CLS (D71)
246. Erik Johnson, D, COL (D72)
247. Carey Price, G, MON (G26)
248. Connor Brown, RW, OTT (RW40)
249. Mikael Granlund, LW, NSH (LW50)
250. Joel Armia, RW, MON (RW42)

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