Fantasy hockey rankings: The returns and debuts most important to their teams

Robin Lehner (L) and a returning Mark Stone (R) will he relied upon as the Vegas Golden Knights chase a playoff spot. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Between eight and 11 games remain for NHL teams this season, which means the dust is settling on some of the positions in the standings ahead of the playoffs.

Thankfully, however, most of the races are being kept tight enough that teams won't be able to consider resting players for at least a couple of weeks.

Even though the teams in the postseason in the Eastern Conference are all but officially settled, there is enough jostling for seeding left that teams likely won't be settled into a spot until the final week.

In the Western Conference, on the other hand, we are getting close to some teams entering coast mode. The Colorado Avalanche need a combination of either wins or Calgary Flames losses to total just four in order to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West. But even that scenario shouldn't allow the Avs to rest on their laurels, as their aspirations are surely the Stanley Cup final, so they still need to push for the overall best record for home-ice advantage in that hopeful eventuality.

In fact, it's that overall push for best record that should keep most teams rolling on all cylinders until at least the final week.

That said, we might start to see a little bit more of some goaltenders like Pavel Francouz, Dan Vladar and Spencer Knight as the modicum of breathing room earned by their respective clubs can be used to keep their No. 1s more fresh for the postseason.

The other big focus this week will be the arrival of some future talent now that the NCAA season is over and entry-level deals are being signed. We have a few notables already. Fellow ESPN fantasy hockey scribe Victoria Matiash covered them from a keeper perspective this past week, but I want to focus on whether they might have some redraft value now.

Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken: If there's one fresh face I think you should try to add to your fantasy redraft roster, it's Beniers. The Kraken have proven to have next to nothing down the middle to aid their attack. Yanni Gourde has done what he can, and Alex Wennberg is not the answer here. In other words, the door is wide open for Beniers to play as much as he pushes for in the Kraken's remaining 10 games. I wouldn't even be shocked if he got 18-plus minutes as top-line center right out of the gate on Tuesday. The supporting cast isn't spectacular, but it's enough that he can potentially do enough damage for fantasy relevance.

Owen Power, D, Buffalo Sabres: While he has the profile of the type of defenseman that makes an immediate impact in the NHL, there is one massive roadblock here: Rasmus Dahlin. While there may be some incentive to have Power showcased as the season winds down, Dahlin is going to have the puck on his stick a lot more than Power. This dynamic will require much more exploration for next season, as Power's 19-year-old season in the NCAA is similar to the point production we saw from Adam Fox and Quinn Hughes - two other blue liners that required very little warmup time in the NHL. (Just while we are on the subject, I'll highlight that Jake Sanderson's points per game this NCAA season was the best we've seen from a 19-year-old since the 1990s. Unfortunately, he's hurt and we may not see him suit up with the Ottawa Senators again this season). As for Power, I don't see a big impact right away with Dahlin eating up the power-play minutes.

Kent Johnson, C/W, Columbus Blue Jackets: While he has the kind of playmaking that lines up perfectly on paper with Patrik Laine, it doesn't look like he'll debut with access to the Jackets star forward. Johnson practiced on the third line. Maybe it's because the Jackets haven't been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, even though they have been, practically speaking. Maybe once the symbolic "x" is next the Jackets name in the standings we'll get to see some Johnson-Laine time. It is in that scenario that I see a path to fantasy relevance here - and that scenario only.

Bobby Brink, W, Philadelphia Flyers: Fresh off leading the NCAA in scoring, we'll see Brink debut in the Flyers top six this week - and get some power-play access. How much value that has is debatable, as there are plenty of talented players already with those things in their pocket and no fantasy results to show for it. While the situation is quite promising, the fact that Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes can barely earn fantasy relevance isn't promising. So I think what we have here is a cautious coin flip. Will Brink's enthusiasm be the difference to give the Flyers a jolt down the stretch? If it is, there is a spot for him on your roster. But I think we'll know the answer after Tuesday's game against Washington and I'm not rushing to the free-agent pool at this stage.

Forwards on the move

Just a reminder that these rest-of-season rankings continue to become a bit jarring as hot and cold streaks, as well as a limited remaining schedule, can really inflate or deflate a player's projection. For example, I wouldn't put Kirill Kaprizov ahead of Connor McDavid if they had an equal number of games remaining, but with Kaprizov having two games in hand, he gets the edge.

David Pastrnak, W, Boston Bruins (down three spots to No. 34): This might be the current most-frustrating injury for fantasy. Pastrnak has been gold since he formed a line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula, so you don't want to miss a minute of action from him. But the vague updates about his status aren't allowing for firm decisions to be made for your roster. The line has been among the top 20 in the NHL for goals per 60 minutes this season (per MoneyPuck.com), so keep a close eye on Pastrnak's status in the days ahead.

Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, W, Vegas Golden Knights (enter ranks at No. 48 and No. 78, respectively): Whatever salary-cap gymnastics the Golden Knights have to perform to do it, Stone could be activated this week as the team is desperate for a playoff push. The plan was clearly to not have to resort to getting Stone in action before the postseason, but sitting outside the playoff picture means the Knights need him. Stone and Pacioretty have only played 175 minutes with Chandler Stephenson at five-on-five this season, but only the Maple Leafs top line and Avalanche top line have produced more goals per 60 minutes with at least that much time together. In other words, this trio is golden for the Golden Knights and even if it's only for a handful of games down the stretch, you need them in your lineup.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (down 104 spots to No. 144): Not a great time for Geno to lose his cool. Malkin will miss half of the Penguins remaining eight games due to a suspension. This, however, is potentially good news for Rickard Rakell. Even though he'll miss Malkin at even strength, Rakell could be in line to join the top power-play unit for four games.

Defensemen on the move

Jake McCabe, D, Chicago Blackhawks (up 107 spots to No. 98): The defensemen I'm highlighting this week are from a category of available fantasy options you need to take a closer look at down the stretch. McCabe is among some defenders driving late-season streaks through "grinder fuel," which I define as fantasy points that drive your team from hits and blocked shots. I'm using McCabe as the example, but there is a laundry list of defensemen you should have a look at if you have a hole in your lineup: Cody Ceci, Michael Stone, Jaycob Megna, Jani Hakanpaa, Joel Edmundson and Jacob Middleton, just to name a few.


Jake McCabe rockets in game-tying goal for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks tie the game vs. the Maple Leafs as Jake McCabe finds the back of the net in the third period.

Goaltenders on the move

Robin Lehner, G, Vegas Golden Knights (up 106 spots to No. 108): With the Knights in desperate need of victory, and with Stone and Pacioretty back in tow, Lehner should be leaned on again in fantasy. With only one back-to-back set remaining and need to squeeze out every point, Lehner will get a ton of action and needs to be at his best.

New to rankings

Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Jeff Petry, Nick Bonino, Dante Fabbro, Jake Muzzin, Chandler Stephenson, Michael Stone, Linus Ullmark, Joel Edmundson, Jaycob Megna, Carson Soucy, Spencer Knight, Mike Smith, Dmitry Orlov, Cam York, Jacob Middleton, Alexander Barabanov, Jani Hakanpaa, Andre Burakovsky, Dysin Mayo, Dmitry Kulikov, Trevor Zegras, Justin Holl, Owen Power, Danny DeKeyser, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Viktor Arvidsson.

Just missed

Jordan Greenway, Christian Dvorak, T.J. Oshie, Bowen Byram, Brandon Saad, Nicklas Backstrom, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Strome and Nino Niederreiter.

Dropped out

Hampus Lindholm, Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, Jeff Carter, Adam Larsson, Nazem Kadri, Yanni Gourde, Vince Dunn, Scott Mayfield, Jack Hughes, Troy Terry, Cam Atkinson, Brett Pesce, Cam Fowler, Kailer Yamamoto, Quinn Hughes, Tristan Jarry, Neal Pionk, Jeremy Swayman, Semyon Varlamov, Erik Brannstrom, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Eeli Tolvanen, Daniel Sprong, Max Domi, Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Timothy Liljegren.

Top-250 rankings

1. Auston Matthews, F, TOR (F1)
2. Mitch Marner, F, TOR (F2)
3. Kirill Kaprizov, F, MIN (F3)
4. Aleksander Barkov, F, FLA (F4)
5. Roman Josi, D, NSH (D1)
6. Timo Meier, F, SJ (F5)
7. Cale Makar, D, COL (D2)
8. Jonathan Huberdeau, F, FLA (F6)
9. Connor McDavid, F, EDM (F7)
10. Nathan MacKinnon, F, COL (F8)
11. Alex Ovechkin, F, WSH (F9)
12. Leon Draisaitl, F, EDM (F10)
13. John Carlson, D, WSH (D3)
14. Filip Forsberg, F, NSH (F11)
15. Mikko Rantanen, F, COL (F12)
16. Johnny Gaudreau, F, CGY (F13)
17. Josh Norris, F, OTT (F14)
18. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G1)
19. Matthew Tkachuk, F, CGY (F15)
20. J.T. Miller, F, VAN (F16)
21. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (F17)
22. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D4)
23. Elias Lindholm, F, CGY (F18)
24. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (F19)
25. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G2)
26. Alex DeBrincat, F, CHI (F20)
27. Patrick Kane, F, CHI (F21)
28. Brock Nelson, F, NYI (F22)
29. Brad Marchand, F, BOS (F23)
30. Darcy Kuemper, G, COL (G3)
31. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, STL (F24)
32. Matt Duchene, F, NSH (F25)
33. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (F26)
34. David Pastrnak, F, BOS (F27)
35. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (D5)
36. Ville Husso, G, STL (G4)
37. Jack Eichel, F, VGS (F28)
38. Sebastian Aho, F, CAR (F29)
39. Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (G5)
40. Mats Zuccarello, F, MIN (F30)
41. Nikita Kucherov, F, TB (F31)
42. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G6)
43. Seth Jones, D, CHI (D6)
44. Brady Tkachuk, F, OTT (F32)
45. Brent Burns, D, SJ (D7)
46. John Tavares, F, TOR (F33)
47. Tom Wilson, F, WSH (F34)
48. Max Pacioretty, F, VGS (F35)
49. Sam Reinhart, F, FLA (F36)
50. Patrice Bergeron, F, BOS (F37)
51. Joe Pavelski, F, DAL (F38)
52. Jakub Vrana, F, DET (F39)
53. William Nylander, F, TOR (F40)
54. Robert Thomas, F, STL (F41)
55. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D8)
56. Moritz Seider, D, DET (D9)
57. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR (D10)
58. Frederik Andersen, G, CAR (G7)
59. Elias Pettersson, F, VAN (F42)
60. Sidney Crosby, F, PIT (F43)
61. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D11)
62. Juuse Saros, G, NSH (G8)
63. Brayden Point, F, TB (F44)
64. MacKenzie Weegar, D, FLA (D12)
65. Brayden McNabb, D, VGS (D13)
66. Roope Hintz, F, DAL (F45)
67. Nico Hischier, F, NJ (F46)
68. Dylan Larkin, F, DET (F47)
69. Pavel Buchnevich, F, STL (F48)
70. Artemi Panarin, F, NYR (F49)
71. Bo Horvat, F, VAN (F50)
72. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G9)
73. Zach Werenski, D, CLS (D14)
74. Jason Robertson, F, DAL (F51)
75. Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN (D15)
76. Brayden Schenn, F, STL (F52)
77. Devon Toews, D, COL (D16)
78. Mark Stone, F, VGS (F53)
79. Joel Eriksson Ek, F, MIN (F54)
80. Logan Couture, F, SJ (F55)
81. Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, WSH (F56)
82. Nick Schmaltz, F, ARI (F57)
83. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (G10)
84. Justin Faulk, D, STL (D17)
85. Kevin Fiala, F, MIN (F58)
86. David Perron, F, STL (F59)
87. Alex Pietrangelo, D, VGS (D18)
88. Kyle Connor, F, WPG (F60)
89. Ryan Johansen, F, NSH (F61)
90. Mathew Dumba, D, MIN (D19)
91. Evander Kane, F, EDM (F62)
92. Mark Scheifele, F, WPG (F63)
93. Tanner Jeannot, F, NSH (F64)
94. Nikolaj Ehlers, F, WPG (F65)
95. Darnell Nurse, D, EDM (D20)
96. Mark Giordano, D, TOR (D21)
97. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D22)
98. Jake McCabe, D, CHI (D23)
99. Tyler Bertuzzi, F, DET (F66)
100. Jake Oettinger, G, DAL (G11)
101. Tim Stutzle, F, OTT (F67)
102. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI (D24)
103. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F, NYI (F68)
104. Jesper Bratt, F, NJ (F69)
105. Anders Lee, F, NYI (F70)
106. Jonathan Marchessault, F, VGS (F71)
107. Cam Talbot, G, MIN (G12)
108. Robin Lehner, G, VGS (G13)
109. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, MIN (G14)
110. Ben Chiarot, D, FLA (D25)
111. Radko Gudas, D, FLA (D26)
112. Jack Campbell, G, TOR (G15)
113. Kris Letang, D, PIT (D27)
114. Ryan Hartman, F, MIN (F72)
115. Calvin de Haan, D, CHI (D28)
116. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D29)
117. Claude Giroux, F, FLA (F73)
118. Matthew Boldy, F, MIN (F74)
119. Ryan McDonagh, D, TB (D30)
120. Mika Zibanejad, F, NYR (F75)
121. Andrei Svechnikov, F, CAR (F76)
122. Jamie Benn, F, DAL (F77)
123. Jake DeBrusk, F, BOS (F78)
124. Rasmus Andersson, D, CGY (D31)
125. Nick Suzuki, F, MON (F79)
126. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D32)
127. Mario Ferraro, D, SJ (D33)
128. Esa Lindell, D, DAL (D34)
129. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, ARI (D35)
130. Jake Guentzel, F, PIT (F80)
131. John Klingberg, D, DAL (D36)
132. Valeri Nichushkin, F, COL (F81)
133. Dylan Strome, F, CHI (F82)
134. Rickard Rakell, F, PIT (F83)
135. Alec Martinez, D, VGS (D37)
136. Taylor Hall, F, BOS (F84)
137. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D38)
138. Travis Sanheim, D, PHI (D39)
139. Jeff Petry, D, MON (D40)
140. Tyler Seguin, F, DAL (F85)
141. Jordan Kyrou, F, STL (F86)
142. Adrian Kempe, F, LA (F87)
143. Erik Johnson, D, COL (D41)
144. Sam Bennett, F, FLA (F88)
145. Evgeni Malkin, F, PIT (F89)
146. Noah Hanifin, D, CGY (D42)
147. Bryan Rust, F, PIT (F90)
148. Jonas Brodin, D, MIN (D43)
149. Tage Thompson, F, BUF (F91)
150. Damon Severson, D, NJ (D44)
151. Colton Parayko, D, STL (D45)
152. Mattias Ekholm, D, NSH (D46)
153. Joel Farabee, F, PHI (F92)
154. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, PHI (D47)
155. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, CLS (D48)
156. Erik Haula, F, BOS (F93)
157. Cody Ceci, D, EDM (D49)
158. Adam Pelech, D, NYI (D50)
159. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D51)
160. Marcus Foligno, F, MIN (F94)
161. Gustav Forsling, D, FLA (D52)
162. Lucas Raymond, F, DET (F95)
163. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, EDM (F96)
164. Tyler Toffoli, F, CGY (F97)
165. Nick Bonino, F, SJ (F98)
166. Joshua Morrissey, D, WPG (D53)
167. Dante Fabbro, D, NSH (D54)
168. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D55)
169. Jake Muzzin, D, TOR (D56)
170. Chandler Stephenson, F, VGS (F99)
171. Teuvo Teravainen, F, CAR (F100)
172. Anton Lundell, F, FLA (F101)
173. Ivan Barbashev, F, STL (F102)
174. David Savard, D, MON (D57)
175. Matthew Beniers, F, SEA (F103)
176. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (F104)
177. Anthony Duclair, F, FLA (F105)
178. Cole Caufield, F, MON (F106)
179. Andrew Copp, F, NYR (F107)
180. Jared McCann, F, SEA (F108)
181. Michael Stone, D, CGY (D58)
182. Linus Ullmark, G, BOS (G16)
183. Ryan Graves, D, NJ (D59)
184. Ryan O'Reilly, F, STL (F109)
185. Blake Wheeler, F, WPG (F110)
186. Kyle Palmieri, F, NYI (F111)
187. Joel Edmundson, D, MON (D60)
188. Mason Marchment, F, FLA (F112)
189. Mathew Barzal, F, NYI (F113)
190. Michael Bunting, F, TOR (F114)
191. Patrik Laine, F, CLS (F115)
192. Christopher Tanev, D, CGY (D61)
193. Torey Krug, D, STL (D62)
194. Jaycob Megna, D, SJ (D63)
195. Frank Vatrano, F, NYR (F116)
196. Ilya Mikheyev, F, TOR (F117)
197. Yegor Sharangovich, F, NJ (F118)
198. Conor Sheary, F, WSH (F119)
199. Carson Soucy, D, SEA (D64)
200. Luke Schenn, D, TB (D65)
201. Zach Hyman, F, EDM (F120)
202. Kevin Hayes, F, PHI (F121)
203. Spencer Knight, G, FLA (G17)
204. Mike Smith, G, EDM (G18)
205. Travis Konecny, F, PHI (F122)
206. Tony DeAngelo, D, CAR (D66)
207. Alex Tuch, F, BUF (F123)
208. Andrew Mangiapane, F, CGY (F124)
209. Shea Theodore, D, VGS (D67)
210. Evan Bouchard, D, EDM (D68)
211. Mikael Granlund, F, NSH (F125)
212. Evgenii Dadonov, F, ANA (F126)
213. Dmitry Orlov, D, WSH (D69)
214. Tyson Barrie, D, EDM (D70)
215. Cam York, D, PHI (D71)
216. Alexander Kerfoot, F, TOR (F127)
217. Drake Batherson, F, OTT (F128)
218. Jacob Middleton, D, MIN (D72)
219. Alexander Barabanov, F, SJ (F129)
220. Jani Hakanpaa, D, DAL (D73)
221. Andre Burakovsky, F, COL (F130)
222. Anthony Cirelli, F, TB (F131)
223. Zach Parise, F, NYI (F132)
224. Jeff Skinner, F, BUF (F133)
225. Vincent Trocheck, F, CAR (F134)
226. Dysin Mayo, D, ARI (D74)
227. Mathieu Joseph, F, OTT (F135)
228. Alexander Romanov, D, MON (D75)
229. Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, WPG (F136)
230. Dmitry Kulikov, D, MIN (D76)
231. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL (D77)
232. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, FLA (G19)
233. Adam Henrique, F, ANA (F137)
234. Zach Whitecloud, D, VGS (D78)
235. Ryan Suter, D, DAL (D79)
236. Trevor Zegras, F, ANA (F138)
237. Justin Holl, D, TOR (D80)
238. Josh Anderson, F, MON (F139)
239. Owen Power, D, BUF (D81)
240. Danny DeKeyser, D, DET (D82)
241. Phillip Danault, F, LA (F140)
242. Artem Zub, D, OTT (D83)
243. Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, WSH (D84)
244. Viktor Arvidsson, F, LA (F141)
245. James Reimer, G, SJ (G20)
246. Anthony Mantha, F, WSH (F142)
247. Anton Forsberg, G, OTT (G21)
248. Alex Killorn, F, TB (F143)
249. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF (D85)
250. Jaccob Slavin, D, CAR (D86)