Okay, you’re wearing shorts and a tee, a sleek pair of shades, and you’re sipping ice-cold beverages in the sun. Your mind may not immediately leap to the imminent fantasy hockey draft but you have to start somewhere.
There’s an old adage about how success is where preparation and opportunity meet.
Well, how about it? Take a break from the sun and start thinking about fantasy hockey draft strategy.
Whether you’re in a keeper pool or you’re prepping for a one-year team, you probably won’t be surprised by the number one pick heading into the 2023-2024 fantasy hockey seaon. BUT it’s worth doing a quick dive into the top 30 picks to at least get that leg up on your competitors (who are probably a few ice-cold Coronas deep by now).
And for what it’s worth, next year’s fantasy hockey championship will look a lot better than this summer’s sunburn.
So let’s get to it. Here are our top 30 NHL picks for the 2023-2024 fantasy hockey draft.
And no, it’s not too early to start thinking about the best fantasy hockey team names, either. Until then, here are a few noteworthy fantasy hockey players that will not crack the top 20 draft list but are definitely worth keeping an eye on. We won’t call them sleepers, let’s consider ’em “nabbers.”
Way too early fantasy hockey draft notes: Forwards
If you’re keen on nabbing a good pick relatively early on, you might want to keep an eye on these forwards in the not-so-late rounds:
Lukas Reichel, LW/RW, Chicago Blackhawks
The 21-year-old German forward got a taste with the Blackhawks over the past two seasons after getting drafted 17th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He’s put 16 points (7G, 9A) in 34 games spread out across two seasons BUT look for him to get a lot of playing time next to Connor Bedard, even after the Hawks traded for Taylor Hall. Or better yet, maybe they all play on a line together. If he’s available in the mid-rounds — especially in a keeper pool, give him some serious consideration.
Wyatt Johnston, C, Dallas Stars
Another young gun, Johnston had an impressive rookie campaign with Dallas, nearly notching 30 goals in 82 games as a rookie (he finished with 24 goals, 17 assists AS A 19-YEAR-OLD). He was drafted 23rd overall in the 2021 draft and gets top-line minutes and first-unit powerplay time. He could be a phenomenal mid-round steal.
Dawson Mercer, C, New Jersey Devils
If you’re pre-planning for the fantasy hockey draft and want a low-risk high-reward bet, Mercer might be the way to go. He amassed 56 points (27G, 29A) in 82 games with the Devils after notching 17 ginos as a rookie in 2021-2022. He’ll be an experienced 22-year-old at the start of the 2023 campaign and will log solid top-line minutes for a potent Devils team. Like Reichel and Johnston, he should be available in the mid-rounds and has dirty potential to put up 40.
Way too early fantasy hockey draft notes: Defensemen
Defensemen are tough to draft. You don’t want to go too early because even the top-tier guys don’t put up as many points as even second-line forwards. Don’t count on Erik Karlsson to have another season like he did in 2022-2023. Sit on D-men for a while and keep your eyes on these guys in the late rounds.
Brandon Montour, D, Florida Panthers
Keep an eye on Montour. Coming off a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Panthers have a high-potent offense and would rather draft Montour over Aaron Ekblad. Plenty of fantasy owners will do the opposite so try to nab the 29-year-old in the middle rounds. He put up career highs in goals (16), assists (57), shots (242), and time on ice (averaged 24:08 per game) in 2022-23. The Panthers will generate plenty of offense again this upcoming campaign and Montour is sneakily the best D-man on the team (sorry, Ekblad fans).
K’Andre Miller, D, New York Rangers
Miller might be the ideal last pick in this year’s upcoming fantasy hockey drafts. He’s poised to break out after popping 9 goals and 34 assists on a Rangers team that is expected to do well in 2023-24. If you want a deep sleeper, you can’t go wrong with K’Andre. (Plus, you can call your team K’Andre 3000 for a smooth OutKast reference…)
Way too early fantasy hockey draft notes: Goalies
Goaltenders are another fantasy hockey draft crapshoot. Sometimes they pay off big time, sometimes they don’t at all (ahem… Jacob Markström). Keep your eyes on these tendies in the mid-rounds who might blossom big rewards.
Jeremy Swayman, G, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark had a phenomenal season last year and some fantasy owners might jump at the opportunity to draft him again — even quite high. The truth of the matter is Ullmark will be splitting time with Swayman this time around and they’re both very valuable as fantasy goalies.
Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Carolina Hurricanes
Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are both unrestricted free agents this offseason and Kochetkov proved himself very capable last year in 24 games, going 12-7. The Hurricanes could very well let both Andersen and Raanta walk this offseason, meaning Kochie might be an obvious choice for your first goalie if you want to prioritize forwards with your first several picks. (Also, the Hurricanes will be really good this year…)
Filip Gustavsson, G, Minnesota Wild
A restricted free agent, it will be interesting to see where the Wild go with Gustavsson. He had the second-best ratios in the league (behind Ullmark) and wherever he ends up, he’ll be good.
The Top 30 Fantasy Hockey Rankings for the 2023-24 NHL Season
Alright folks, here they are. The top 30 picks for the upcoming NHL draft. Plain and simple, the best of the best.
11. Jason Robertson, LW, Dallas Stars
20. Jake Oettinger, G, Dallas Stars
22. William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
30. Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks