Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy hockey analyst Jon Litterine outlines his draft tiers for 2022-23. Next up, the forwards.
There's more depth at the forward position than any other in fantasy hockey, so don't panic if you're unable to land one of the top players below early on in your draft.
TIER 1 – THE McDAVID plus three
The Skinny: The best player in the world plus the next three runners-up.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon
McDavid (123 points in 80 games) led the NHL in scoring last season for the second straight campaign and the fourth time in the past six years. He should be the No. 1 fantasy pick in all formats.
I don't have a strong preference between Draisaitl and Matthews. Draisaitl had 110 points last season while Matthews led the league with 60 goals. MacKinnon has a high floor, an even higher ceiling and plays for the best team in the league in the Avalanche.
TIER 2 – THE ELITE
The Skinny: Guys worth a mid-to-late first-round pick on draft day.
Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikko Rantanen, Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Aleksander Barkov, Mitch Marner, Artemi Panarin, David Pastrnak
Kaprizov finished fifth in the league in scoring with 108 points last season. Tkachuk is moving from Calgary to Florida where he'll team up with Barkov. Both players' fantasy values should be bolstered by the new arrangement. Rantanen had a career-high 36 goals and 92 points last season. Ovechkin will eventually slow down, but it hasn't happened yet. The Great 8 scored 50 goals last year and gets a bump in leagues that value hits.
Kucherov and Stamkos are injury risks but both offer elite production when healthy. Marner and Panarin are easy point-per-game guys who get a bump in leagues that value assists. Pastrnak (and Patrice Bergeron) are going to be without Brad Marchand (hip) early on in 2022-23, but Pasta should be able to produce at an elite level even while missing a key member of Boston's "Perfection Line."
TIER 3 – MORE DIFFERENCE MAKERS
The Skinny: More players with the potential to carry your fantasy team to victory.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Sidney Crosby, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Brady Tkachuk, Brayden Point, Kyle Connor, Mika Zibanejad, Sebastian Aho, Patrick Kane
Huberdeau was in the perfect situation with the Panthers. He'll be fine in Calgary, but don't expect him to finish tied for second in the league in scoring (115 points) again in 2022-23. Crosby's concussion history is worrisome, but he's an elite talent. That player Huberdeau was tied with in scoring? Gaudreau. Johnny Hockey left the Flames this summer, opting to sign with Columbus in free agency. I'm expecting a massive bounce-back performance from Eichel this season with his neck injury behind him.
Tkachuk is a top-five overall player if your league counts hits and shots. Point is this low because I just can't get past his injury history. Connor had 47 goals last season, while Zibanejad has turned into one of the NHL's best two-way centers. Aho, while great, has a better floor than ceiling. The Blackhawks might be the worst team in the league this year, so Kane's fantasy managers should be hoping for a trade.
TIER 4 – STEADY AS EVER
The Skinny: Reasonable choices in the early-to-mid (3-5) rounds of drafts.
Andrei Svechnikov, J.T. Miller, Jake Guentzel, Nazem Kadri, Filip Forsberg, Alex DeBrincat, Brad Marchand, Elias Lindholm, Evander Kane, Jason Robertson, Jack Hughes, Mark Scheifele, Kevin Fiala
Svechnikov underwhelmed a bit last season, but he still racked up 30 goals and 69 points. Miller notched 99 points a year ago and has since signed a long-term extension with the Canucks. Guentzel will be fine as long as Crosby remains healthy. I don't like Kadri's fit in Calgary as much as Colorado, but it's difficult to argue against a guy who posted 87 points in 71 games in 2021-22. Forsberg and DeBrincat are both elite goal scorers, with the latter having moved from Chicago to Ottawa this summer. Marchand is an easy Tier 2 guy whose stock is only down due to the fact he underwent double hip surgery this offseason. Lindholm lost Gaudreau and Tkachuk this offseason but gained Huberdeau and Kadri.
Kane will be playing alongside either McDavid or Draisaitl, boosting his fantasy value dramatically. Robertson had 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games last year. Hughes could be one of the league's best forwards in 2022-23 if he's able to remain healthy. Scheifele remained steady with 29 goals and 70 points through 67 contests last campaign, while Fiala moved from Minnesota to the Kings this summer following a career-high 33 goals and 85 points last season.
TIER 5 – A MIX OF VETERANS AND YOUNGSTERS
The Skinny: Rock-solid mid-round selections.
Patrice Bergeron, William Nylander, Gabriel Landeskog, Sam Reinhart, Patrik Laine, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Larkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Roope Hintz, Elias Pettersson, Teuvo Teravainen, Timo Meier, Pavel Buchnevich
I touched on Bergeron earlier; someone will have to fill in for Marchand early on during the upcoming season. Nylander (Toronto), Landeskog (Colorado) and Reinhart (Florida) play for three of the league's best teams. Laine gets a massive bump following the Blue Jackets' addition of Gaudreau. Thomas and Kyrou both had breakout seasons for the Blues last year. Same goes for Buchnevich. Tarasenko hasn't rescinded his trade request, but that doesn't change the fact he racked up 34 goals a year ago for St. Louis. Pettersson is a buy-low candidate after tallying a somewhat disappointing 68 points through 80 games last season, while Hintz, Teravainen and Meier will look to string together consecutive solid campaign-long performances.
TIER 6 – DON'T OVERPAY
The Skinny: Players (mostly older ones) with risks attached.
Mark Stone, Claude Giroux, Chris Kreider, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Duchene, Joe Pavelski, Mats Zuccarello
Stone is a player I'm targeting in drafts, but his chronic back issue is definitely a concern. There's major risk here. Giroux's ceiling is limited, but he'll be joining a good situation in Ottawa. Kreider had 52 goals last season after never scoring more than 28, so look for significant regression in that category. Malkin is one of the league's greatest injury risks. Duchene had 43 goals and 86 points in 78 games last season. He managed just six goals and 13 points through 34 games two years ago, so there's major risk for regression here. Pavelski scored a career-high 81 points last season at age 38. Zuccarello racked up 79 points in 2021-22 at 34 years of age. He also had offseason surgery for a core muscle injury and a fractured leg, although he's expected to be ready for training camp.
TIER 7 – LAST CHANCE
The Skinny: Young players on the rise. This could be your last chance to get them at a discount on draft day.
Zegras is one of the most gifted offensive players in the NHL. Norris and Stutzle are both long-term building blocks for what should be a much-improved Senators team. Thompson scored 38 goals for Buffalo last season and recently signed a seven-year contract extension with the team. Bratt has racked up 103 points through 122 games over the past two campaigns combined.