Rest-of-season rankings: The most improved players

Erik Karlsson's bounce back year has propelled him up the defenseman charts. AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

It's not too late! If you aren't playing fantasy hockey yet, you can still get a league going here on ESPN.com before the game closes to new entries.

There isn't anything special about the rankings here compared to every week, but that's because these rest-of-season rankings aim to capture a snapshot of what a draft might be like every single week of the season.

With that in mind, we are going to highlight some of the biggest swings in value since the puck dropped in October by using our Oct. 16 rankings as a comparator.

Forward notes

Jason Robertson, W, Dallas Stars (up 67 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 11): With his contract status casting a shadow over his preseason and overall concerns about how this Stars top line would trend in Joe Pavelski's age-38 season, Robertson wasn't forecasted to bust into the top echelon of fantasy plays. His 2.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG) from last season made him elite, for sure, but not to this level. Surely some of the credit is owed to Pavelski, who currently leads the NHL in all-time points per game by a 38-year-old, just edging out Adam Oates's 2000-01 campaign. Now cruising along at 3.1 FPPG, Robertson's shooting percentage is even in line with his career norms, so this is just raw improvement and should be treated as such.

Elias Pettersson, W/C, Vancouver Canucks (up 25 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 17): As messy as the Canucks have been at time this season, Pettersson has managed to rise above the fray and pile in 2.8 FPPG. After a couple of underwhelming campaigns overall in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Pettersson has stayed dialed in to the pace he finished last season, which was not something we were sure would happen -- especially given the Canucks dreadful start to the season. Thanks somewhat to a massive boost in ice time (19:50 average this season, compared to career high of 18:35), Pettersson is safe to consider among the elite.

Tage Thompson, W, Buffalo Sabres (up 53 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 20): Perhaps we should have believed more that offense from this top line would not be among the Sabres issues. The line of Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch are scoring at the same rate they were last season and, for bonus points, are allowing much fewer goals against.

Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks (up 74 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 35): Also seeing a boost in ice time, Horvat is now among the top 15 players in average ice time. His 20 goals are a big shock through 28 games though, as his 31 last season were a career high. His shooting percentage is up and could regress, but at the end of the day gets tons of minutes and the Canucks power play is solid.

Travis Konecny, W, Philadelphia Flyers (up 61 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 54): It wasn't clear as the season approached if we could be confident in Konecny having a big year with Sean Couturier sidelined, but he's found a way to generate offense among the myriad offensive looks this depth chart has gone through. Konecny will always find himself at the top of this chart and the team supports him enough to get goals.

Johnny Gaudreau, W, Columbus Blue Jackets (down 21 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 80): We have learned quickly that a superstar free-agent winger isn't quite enough to push a team over the top. Boone Jenner is doing his best to keep the top line rolling for the Blue Jackets, but a true top-tier center is still missing for this formula.

Martin Necas, C/W, Carolina Hurricanes (up 78 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 93): Pushing past Teuvo Teravainen on the depth chart, Necas is reminding us more of his breakout 2020-21 campaign than his humdrum 2022-21 season. With 2.2 FPPG and 19:39 in average ice time (previous career high is 17:17), he is here to stay as a fantasy asset.

Jamie Benn, C/W, Dallas Stars (not ranked Oct. 16, now No. 112): With his 2.1 FPPG this season, you'd never know Benn wasn't a contributing member of the Stars top six. But he's leveraging his role on the advantage to contribute at a pace we haven't seen from Benn since 2017-18.

Gabriel Landeskog, W, Colorado Avalanche (down 60 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 139): While he's down in the rankings since Oct. 16, we didn't know then that his injury would stretch into 2023. Landeskog is among a few players you should keep an eye on that haven't laced them up yet this season, including Anthony Duclair (ranked No. 122) and Cam Atkinson (ranked No. 170). We aren't quite there yet with Max Pacioretty, who may start creeping back into the rankings closer to his projected return date in February.

Patrick Kane, W, Chicago Blackhawks (down 82 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 152): Oh, we all well aware that the Blackhawks would be in trouble this season after trading away so many assets in the offseason and last year. But the thought was that Kane would be able to rise above it all. He has not. His 41.8 fantasy points in a so-far healthy season have him just trailing the likes of Jordan Eberle and Conor Sheary. Will he be traded and take off again later this season? Maybe, but the deadline is still months away.

It's not too late to play ESPN fantasy hockey! Sign up for free right here.

Defense notes

Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (up 48 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 10): A breakout year was forecast for Dahlin, but this is next level. He leads all defensemen in FPPG and power-play points. In concert with the team's top line, the Sabres dominate possession when Dahlin and rookie Owen Power are on the ice together (58.8 percent Corsi is ninth among defense pairings with 100 minutes, per MoneyPuck.com).

Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston Bruins (not ranked Oct. 16, now No. 26): He wasn't supposed to return from offseason injuries until about now. Instead, we've already been treated to 14 games of McAvoy operating on all cylinders to the tune of 2.7 FPPG, which is tied for fourth among all defensemen.

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (up 195 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 28): In just 30 games, Karlsson has eclipsed his total production from 50 games in the 2021-22 season. His goal pace will slowdown a bit, as his 13.5 shooting percentage is more what you'd expect from a winger (his career average is 6.7 percent). But Karlsson, for all intents and purposes, is back.

Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (down 60 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 68): This one hurts, as the Lightning are all-in on Mikhail Sergachev as their top defender this season. Whether there is some subtle "load management" going on here is unclear, but it is true that Hedman is fourth in total regular season ice time for the past three seasons and easily first overall in playoff ice time during that same span. No skater has played as much as he has -- and, unfortunately, it shows.

Your fantasy football season over? Don't let your roster building skills go to waste? Try ESPN fantasy hockey and draft your team TODAY with players like Patrice Bergeron, Jason Robertson, Juuse Saros and more!

Goaltender notes

Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins (not ranked Oct. 16, now No. 24): The hype was definitely slanted toward Jeremy Swayman in the preseason, with the overall picture for the Bruins crease less than rosy due to expected long-term absences for Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy. How wrong we were, as Ullmark has the early lead on the Vezina trophy, leading the NHL in wins, save percentage and goals-against average. He even has a nearly 10-point gap on Connor Hellebuyck for the fantasy points lead despite starting three fewer games.

Alexandar Georgiev, G, Colorado Avalanche (up 217 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 32): He was untested and the Avalanche weren't bringing back the same squad from last season, having lost Nazem Kadri and with an injured Gabriel Landeskog. Nonetheless, the team has answered the bell, particularly at five-on-five, where they sit sixth in the league in goals against per 60 minutes. The penalty kill has been a little rough, with the team sitting 23rd in goals against per 60. But, especially considering all the injuries to key personnel through the first two months of the season, you can have confidence in Georgiev backstopping this Avs team.

Jacob Markstrom, G, Calgary Flames (down 89 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 106): Heaping all the blame for 0.8 FPPG from Markstrom onto the goaltender doesn't feel completely fair. Not when the two scoring lines the Flames have used most often this season have scored 14 goals at five-on-five and allowed 12 against. For reference, the Devils top two lines have 15 goals for and five against, while even the Coyotes top two lines have 13 goals for and only 10 against. But still, it doesn't compare well for Markstrom when backup Dan Vladar is creeping up on Markstrom's win total.

Jack Campbell, G, Edmonton Oilers (down 181 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 229): Disaster? Considering the contract doled out and the results to date, it's a fair word. Stuart Skinner has played just fine behind the same personnel and earned 47.4 fantasy points across 15 starts. Campbell? Minus-3.8 fantasy points across 15 starts.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Florida Panthers (down 104 spots since Oct. 16 to No. 236): See Campbell, Jack.

ESPN fantasy NHL top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edm (F1)
2. David Pastrnak, RW, Bos (F2)
3. Leon Draisaitl, LW, Edm (F3)
4. Auston Matthews, C, Tor (F4)
5. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB (F5)
6. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Min (F6)
7. Roman Josi, D, Nsh (D1)
8. Cale Makar, D, Col (D2)
9. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Wpg (G1)
10. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buf (D3)
11. Jason Robertson, LW, Dal (F7)
12. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Fla (F8)
13. Brad Marchand, LW, Bos (F9)
14. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G2)
15. John Carlson, D, Wsh (D4)
16. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Col (F10)
17. Elias Pettersson, C, Van (F11)
18. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G3)
19. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G4)
20. Tage Thompson, C, Buf (F12)
21. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (F13)
22. Mitchell Marner, RW, Tor (F14)
23. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D5)
24. Linus Ullmark, G, Bos (G5)
25. Jake Oettinger, G, Dal (G6)
26. Charlie McAvoy, D, Bos (D6)
27. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Ott (F15)
28. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D7)
29. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (F16)
30. Aleksander Barkov, C, Fla (F17)
31. Timo Meier, RW, SJ (F18)
32. Alexandar Georgiev, G, Col (G7)
33. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Wsh (F19)
34. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (F20)
35. Bo Horvat, C, Van (F21)
36. Jack Eichel, C, Vgk (F22)
37. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (F23)
38. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Col (F24)
39. Aaron Ekblad, D, Fla (D8)
40. Tristan Jarry, G, Pit (G8)
41. Logan Thompson, G, Vgk (G9)
42. Josh Morrissey, D, Wpg (D9)
43. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D10)
44. Kyle Connor, LW, Wpg (F25)
45. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vgk (D11)
46. Jakob Chychrun, D, Ari (D12)
47. Jake Guentzel, LW, Pit (F26)
48. Dylan Larkin, C, Det (F27)
49. Roope Hintz, C, Dal (F28)
50. Juuse Saros, G, Nsh (G10)
51. J.T. Miller, C, Van (F29)
52. Tim Stutzle, LW, Ott (F30)
53. John Tavares, C, Tor (F31)
54. Travis Konecny, RW, Phi (F32)
55. Moritz Seider, D, Det (D13)
56. Elias Lindholm, RW, Cgy (F33)
57. William Nylander, RW, Tor (F34)
58. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Col (F35)
59. Vitek Vanecek, G, NJ (G11)
60. Sebastian Aho, C, Car (F36)
61. Filip Forsberg, LW, Nsh (F37)
62. Ville Husso, G, Det (G12)
63. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Wpg (F38)
64. Alex DeBrincat, LW, Ott (F39)
65. Seth Jones, D, Chi (D14)
66. Joe Pavelski, RW, Dal (F40)
67. Nico Hischier, C, NJ (F41)
68. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D15)
69. Brayden Point, C, TB (F42)
70. Andrei Svechnikov, LW, Car (F43)
71. Alec Martinez, D, Vgk (D16)
72. Boone Jenner, C, Cls (F44)
73. Nick Suzuki, C, Mon (F45)
74. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bos (F46)
75. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dal (D17)
76. Mats Zuccarello, RW, Min (F47)
77. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D18)
78. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D19)
79. Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR (F48)
80. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Cls (F49)
81. Darcy Kuemper, G, Wsh (G13)
82. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edm (F50)
83. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (F51)
84. Logan Couture, C, SJ (F52)
85. Zach Hyman, LW, Edm (F53)
86. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Cgy (F54)
87. Spencer Knight, G, Fla (G14)
88. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D20)
89. Mark Scheifele, C, Wpg (F55)
90. Carter Verhaeghe, C, Fla (F56)
91. Thomas Chabot, D, Ott (D21)
92. Ivan Provorov, D, Phi (D22)
93. Martin Necas, C, Car (F57)
94. Justin Faulk, D, StL (D23)
95. Jesper Bratt, RW, NJ (F58)
96. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (F59)
97. Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Col (F60)
98. Tomas Hertl, C, SJ (F61)
99. Patrik Laine, RW, Cls (F62)
100. Alex Tuch, RW, Buf (F63)
101. Jordan Kyrou, C, StL (F64)
102. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (F65)
103. Quinn Hughes, D, Van (D24)
104. Rasmus Andersson, D, Cgy (D25)
105. Cole Caufield, RW, Mon (F66)
106. Jacob Markstrom, G, Cgy (G15)
107. Matt Murray, G, Tor (G16)
108. Troy Terry, C, Ana (F67)
109. Jeff Skinner, LW, Buf (F68)
110. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, StL (F69)
111. Pavel Buchnevich, RW, StL (F70)
112. Jamie Benn, LW, Dal (F71)
113. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Ari (D26)
114. Kris Letang, D, Pit (D27)
115. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (F72)
116. Claude Giroux, LW, Ott (F73)
117. David Krejci, C, Bos (F74)
118. Blake Wheeler, RW, Wpg (F75)
119. Darnell Nurse, D, Edm (D28)
120. Nazem Kadri, C, Cgy (F76)
121. Jake DeBrusk, LW, Bos (F77)
122. Anthony Duclair, LW, Fla (F78)
123. Kevin Hayes, C, Phi (F79)
124. Anders Lee, LW, NYI (F80)
125. Clayton Keller, C, Ari (F81)
126. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Min (G17)
127. Kevin Fiala, C, LA (F82)
128. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Min (F83)
129. Filip Hronek, D, Det (D29)
130. Brandon Montour, D, Fla (D30)
131. Frederik Andersen, G, Car (G18)
132. Ilya Samsonov, G, Tor (G19)
133. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI (F84)
134. Drake Batherson, C, Ott (F85)
135. David Perron, RW, Det (F86)
136. Nick Schmaltz, C, Ari (F87)
137. Devon Toews, D, Col (D31)
138. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Sea (F88)
139. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Col (F89)
140. Vincent Trocheck, C, NYR (F90)
141. Sam Reinhart, RW, Fla (F91)
142. Mark Stone, RW, Vgk (F92)
143. Jeff Petry, D, Pit (D32)
144. Matty Beniers, C, Sea (F93)
145. Brent Burns, D, Car (D33)
146. Nicholas Paul, C, TB (F94)
147. Karel Vejmelka, G, Ari (0)
148. Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Van (F95)
149. Robert Thomas, C, StL (F96)
150. Dominik Kubalik, LW, Det (F97)
151. Shea Theodore, D, Vgk (D34)
152. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (F98)
153. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D35)
154. Bryan Rust, RW, Pit (F99)
155. Rickard Rakell, C, Pit (F100)
156. Hampus Lindholm, D, Bos (D36)
157. Adam Larsson, D, Sea (D37)
158. T.J. Oshie, RW, Wsh (F101)
159. Sam Bennett, LW, Fla (F102)
160. Michael Bunting, LW, Tor (F103)
161. Jordan Binnington, G, StL (G20)
162. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Wpg (F104)
163. Vince Dunn, D, Sea (D38)
164. Dylan Cozens, C, Buf (F105)
165. Martin Jones, G, Sea (G21)
166. Trevor Zegras, C, Ana (F106)
167. Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA (F107)
168. Matt Boldy, LW, Min (F108)
169. Alex Iafallo, LW, LA (F109)
170. Cam Atkinson, RW, Phi (F110)
171. Neal Pionk, D, Wpg (D39)
172. Owen Tippett, RW, Phi (F111)
173. Matt Duchene, C, Nsh (F112)
174. David Savard, D, Mon (D40)
175. Noah Hanifin, D, Cgy (D41)
176. Tony DeAngelo, D, Phi (D42)
177. Phillip Danault, C, LA (F113)
178. Brock Boeser, RW, Van (F114)
179. Stuart Skinner, G, Edm (G22)
180. Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Car (G23)
181. Jake McCabe, D, Chi (D43)
182. Adrian Kempe, C, LA (F115)
183. Tyler Johnson, C, Chi (F116)
184. Chandler Stephenson, C, Vgk (F117)
185. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Vgk (F118)
186. Marcus Bjork, D, Cls (0)
187. Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (D44)
188. Cam Talbot, G, Ott (G24)
189. Torey Krug, D, StL (D45)
190. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Cgy (F119)
191. Brandon Hagel, LW, TB (F120)
192. Lawson Crouse, LW, Ari (F121)
193. Ben Chiarot, D, Det (D46)
194. Jordan Eberle, RW, Sea (F122)
195. Anthony Cirelli, C, TB (F123)
196. Shane Pinto, C, Ott (F124)
197. Carter Hart, G, Phi (G25)
198. Brayden McNabb, D, Vgk (D47)
199. J.J. Moser, D, Ari (D48)
200. Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Car (F125)
201. Ryan O'Reilly, C, StL (F126)
202. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D49)
203. Viktor Arvidsson, RW, LA (F127)
204. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Phi (F128)
205. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Cls (D50)
206. Justin Schultz, D, Sea (D51)
207. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D52)
208. Jake Sanderson, D, Ott (D53)
209. Joel Edmundson, D, Mon (D54)
210. Morgan Rielly, D, Tor (D55)
211. Jason Zucker, LW, Pit (F129)
212. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Wsh (F130)
213. Spencer Martin, G, Van (G26)
214. Alexander Romanov, D, NYI (D56)
215. Ryan Hartman, RW, Min (F131)
216. Tyson Barrie, D, Edm (D57)
217. Luke Schenn, D, Van (D58)
218. Cam Fowler, D, Ana (D59)
219. Adam Henrique, C, Ana (F132)
220. Max Domi, C, Chi (F133)
221. Rasmus Sandin, D, Tor (D60)
222. Jared McCann, LW, Sea (F134)
223. J.T. Compher, RW, Col (F135)
224. Taylor Hall, LW, Bos (F136)
225. Dmitry Kulikov, D, Ana (D61)
226. Mike Matheson, D, Mon (D62)
227. Ian Cole, D, TB (D63)
228. Reilly Smith, RW, Vgk (F137)
229. Jack Campbell, G, Edm (G27)
230. Jani Hakanpaa, D, Dal (D64)
231. Colton Parayko, D, StL (D65)
232. Mason Marchment, LW, Dal (F138)
233. Zach Parise, LW, NYI (F139)
234. Travis Sanheim, D, Phi (D66)
235. Dan Vladar, G, Cgy (G28)
236. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Fla (G29)
237. Radko Gudas, D, Fla (D67)
238. Marcus Pettersson, D, Pit (D68)
239. Chris Tanev, D, Cgy (D69)
240. Gustav Forsling, D, Fla (D70)
241. Ryan Johansen, C, Nsh (F140)
242. Mark Giordano, D, Tor (D71)
243. Alex Killorn, LW, TB (F141)
244. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI (F142)
245. Arthur Kaliyev, RW, LA (F143)
246. Noel Acciari, C, StL (F144)
247. Alexander Barabanov, LW, SJ (F145)
248. Adam Ruzicka, C, Cgy (F146)
249. Evan Bouchard, D, Edm (D72)
250. Trevor Moore, LW, LA (F147)

Just missed

Dropped out