Fantasy Hockey 32: Team by team fantasy outlook from around the NHL

Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins are loaded with fantasy hockey potential. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

Get ready for the biggest fantasy hockey ever! We're not kidding about that, as the league welcomes it's 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken. With the puck set to drop on the 2021-22 NHL season on October 12, you can get in on the action with ESPN's fun and free Fantasy Hockey game!

Before you draft your team, check out all of our resources below to know everything about every team by draft day, as we go across the NHL to tell you what you need to know about all the top players before draft day.

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Anaheim Ducks

Two bright (super?) stars lie on the horizon for a rebuilding team in need of such a lift in future top center Trevor Zegras and potential No. 1 powerplay anchor, defender Jamie Drysdale. The only question that should concern fantasy managers is whether the two young skaters are ready to sparkle at the NHL level now, or in a few months time. Either way, both dynasty/keeper gems should be monitored in all but the shallowest of re-draft league. Drafted 9th overall in 2019, Zegras split 2020-21 holding his own with 13 points in 24 games as member of the Ducks and having his way in the AHL with the affiliate San Diego Gulls (never mind his domination at last winter's IIHF World Junior Championship.) Turning only 19 in April, Drysdale also managed well at both pro levels. These kids are the real deal, fantasy and otherwise.

Recent history suggests we should anticipate a hot start from Anaheim's No. 1 in net, at least until the rebuilding Ducks start to sputter. This past season, John Gibson rode a 5-5-1 record, 2.33 GAA, and .921 SV% through his first 13 games. Not bad. The rest of 2020-21 wasn't anywhere near as pretty. Feel free to take a late-draft flier on the skilled netminder, make some early-season fantasy hay, then pull the chute if/when Gibson falls frustrated.

Arizona Coyotes

Boiling over with draft picks for a hefty rebuild, the Coyotes aren't endearing themselves much to fantasy managers competing in the now. But someone still has to score, here and there, through the next few months. That's likely Clayton Keller - who potted 23 goals and 42 goals in his 2017-18 rookie season - and, to a lesser degree, fellow top-liner Nick Schmaltz. Veteran Phil Kessel boasts modest fantasy merit prominently poised on Arizona's trade block. Young Barrett Hayton, drafted 5th overall in 2018, has the wherewithal to surprise in deeper leagues if he lands a spot within the top-six and power play, as anticipated. And offensive-defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere could serve as a nice sleeper pick as he turns the page on some challenging seasons in Philly.

But, in my burying the lede, the one true fantasy star, ranked 33rd overall, is Jakob Chychrun. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson exited for Vancouver, the 23-year-old defenseman is now in charge, without question. He'll shoot a ton, he'll score a bunch, he'll play a pile of minutes, he'll block a good number of shots. Chychrun is your one and only true fantasy jewel in the desert.

Boston Bruins

Charlie McAvoy was strong as a power-play quarterback in the playoffs (best points per 60 minutes on PP) and should finally take that mantle in the regular season. With David Pastrnak in his prime, and both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand still looking strong, the sky is the limit for McAvoy this season.

Taylor Hall has broken fantasy hearts too many times to get overly excited, but this is a good spot for him. If he comes through, it would elevate Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith to fringe value.

You can gamble on one of the goalies, but do it late. Jeremy Swayman did have the best fantasy points per 60 minutes in the NHL in his limited 10-game showing.

Buffalo Sabres

If you go through your whole draft without selecting a member of the Sabres, that is arguably a good move. There is, obviously, some potential here, but the immediate future for distilled production from one player relevant to fantasy is not bright.

Jack Eichel doesn't look like he'll be a factor this season. Rasmus Dahlin is the best player, but would need a supporting cast to be more than a fringe play.

If I'm throwing darts at the end of a deep draft, one or two might hit Dylan Cozens or Jeff Skinner. But either pick is just a wildcard hoping the right combination of scrappy underdog determination can propel the team's offense.

Calgary Flames

If they manage to collectively right themselves just a titch, the Flames could be ripe with a handful of later-round fantasy steals this fall. Outside of an underappreciated Elias Lindholm and forever rough n' ready Matthew Tkachuk (points, hits, PIM etc.), Calgary's forwards haven't given fantasy managers much reason to applaud these last two years. But Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan will be better this season. Not point-plus-per-game better like in 2018-19, but better. The addition of ex-Lightning Blake Coleman as a potential linemate will help in this regard, as will incentive brought on Gaudreau's expiring contract (Monahan has one year left). It's put up/shut up time for this previously dominant pair, now in their mid-late-20s.

Former Captain Mark Giordano's departure for Seattle means more work, especially with the man-advantage, for Rasmus Andersson. Bound to be available later than deserved in most drafts, the 24-year-old defenseman should be in for a career year. Easily. In net, I'm shying away from going all-in on Jacob Markstrom with new backup Dan Vladar lurking about. Despite playing in only five regular-season games last spring, the former Bruin is attracting a fair bit of in-the-know praise this preseason, including from former teammate Tuukka Rask. Vladar's potential for stealing starts from Markstrom - 2.66 GAA, .904 SV% in carrying a heavy load for the underperforming Flames this past campaign - makes me nervous. I'm shopping elsewhere for my top-two fantasy netminders.

Carolina Hurricanes

Dougie Hamilton leaves behind some massive potential for fantasy points on the blue line. You can't help but think Tony DeAngelo has the right skills to step in, but you have to overlook the off-ice stuff from the past couple years.

The offense is stacked with talent, with Sebastian Aho leading the charge and Andrei Svechnikov likely to challenge for the top spot this season.

In net, this team traditionally protects the puck well and gives any netminder a chance to shine. Frederik Andersen could be a pleasant surprise to those willing to take a chance.

Chicago Blackhawks

This improved Blackhawks squad is riddled with attractive fantasy assets from the net out. The reigning Vezina winner will be inspired to stick it to his old team in Vegas, much like he did as member of the Golden Knights in showing up the Penguins four years earlier. Marc-Andre Fleury has plenty left in the tank in 'tending net for a defensively-improved Blackhawks squad. The 36-year-old might not start 60 games, but betcha he plays 55. The 'Hawks intend to make the playoffs and Fleury - not Kevin Lankinen - gives them their best shot.

Former Columbus defenseman Seth Jones gets to further stretch his productive legs with a team that scores a lot more than the Blue Jackets. A gig on the No. 1 power play should help Jones break the 60-point barrier for the first time. The minute-munching 26-year-old also checks several other boxes across the fantasy defender spectrum. Conner Murphy has value in deeper leagues that prize blocked-shots.

There's also plenty to appreciate up front in Chicago. Between fantasy powerhouses Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, 20-year-old Kirby Dach - now fully fit after last season's unlucky break - could be in for a statement season. A healthy and reportedly "ripped" Jonathan Toews is back. Before this most recent lost campaign, Toews earned 60 points in playing almost 20 minutes through 70 games, and finished second only to Ryan O'Reilly in faceoffs won. He serves as a superb No. 3 center on most fantasy squads. Whoever settles in on the left side of Toews and Dominik Kubalik - Philipp Kurashev, Dylan Strome, or other - appeals as a fantasy dark horse. I like Strome in the role.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche include two Top-10 fantasy forwards, both of whom merit first-round selection in most drafts. Once Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Auston Matthews - and perhaps Andrei Vasilevskiy - are off the board, Nathan MacKinnon stands front and center as the next no-doubter selection. Following three consecutive 90-plus-point seasons (he could've broke 100 if 2019-20 wasn't necessarily curbed), MacKinnon only scored 20 goals and 45 assists in 48 contests. Averaging more than 20 minutes, he led the league in shots per game with 4.29, and finished third in power-play scoring to the pair in Edmonton. What more can you ask?

MacKinnon's linemate is no slouch either. After a more pedestrian 2019-20, Mikko Rantanen bounced back with 30 goals and 36 helpers in 52 games. Rounding out the best(?) top unit in hockey, Gabriel Landeskog serves as a steady fantasy presence worth grabbing in rounds 7 - 10 in most conventional leagues. Further down the lineup, Andre Burakovsky has value in deeper competition, and a rebound campaign from Nazem Kadri, in the physical as well as scoring department, could be worth a late-round roll of the dice in 2021-22.

Entering his third season, Cale Makar is any fantasy team's legitimate No. 1 defenseman, particularly in leagues that reward power-play points at a premium. But I'm most intrigued by how goalie Darcy Kuemper manages in his new Colorado digs. When healthy, Kuemper has been good-to-great through three full seasons in Arizona. Now he gets to compete for a team that most recently topped the NHL with 3.52 goals/game while allowing only 2.36. Again, if he can stay healthy, the Avalanche's new No. 1 could rival Tampa's best for fantasy supremacy.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Can you find the fortitude to take Patrik Laine ahead of your fantasy competition? It's a risk, but one that could pay off in spades if a new coach helps unleash his offense. If things work out for Laine, there could be other pieces of the offense that pop off, including veterans like Gustav Nyquist and Jakub Voracek or youngsters like Oliver Bjorkstrand and Jack Roslovic.

Zach Werenski gets the opportunity to shine alone on the point with the departure of Seth Jones. More responsibility could lead to more fantasy production.

Neither goaltender is appealing in the tandem, but Elvis Merzlikins is the one to take a chance on if you have to late in a draft.

Dallas Stars

While benefitting the team as a whole, the Stars' excess of decent netminding options is an absolute nightmare for fantasy managers. Does Braden Holtby back up Anton Khudobin to start, while Ben Bishop takes his acclimatizing time after an inured year off? Or maybe Bishop is ready to rock, as rumored, negating the need for Holtby's support straight out of the gates? Does Joel Oettinger, through not fault of his own, ever see the light of day outside the AHL? Who eventually gets traded, Khudobin? I don't want to play this goalie guessing game. Unless Khudobin or Bishop remain available in later rounds, and once my regular starters are already secure, I'm not nearing any Dallas goaltender. At least not until the situation clears up.

Otherwise, outside of the crease there's a lot to like about this current (healthy!) version of the Stars' roster. After missing most if not almost all of 2020-21 injured or in recovery, both shot-happy Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov are fit and sport 70-plus-point potential. Roope Hintz is on the upswing after enduring a necessary groin procedure and could enjoy similar scoring numbers. At a spritely 37 years old, Joe Pavelski hopes to approach his team-leading output of 0.91 points/game from this past run, a good percentage of them counting on the power play. Sophomore Jason Robertson, no longer a secret fantasy weapon, could be in tough repeating his wowzah rookie campaign, but the 22-year-old isn't likely to dip much.

Again, there's much to mine fantasy-wise from this healthy and inspired corps of forwards, especially after all the hardships suffered January through May. And most will be available in mid to late rounds of your draft. On the backend, with his projected presence on top power play, John Klingberg trumps Miro Heiskanen as the richer defensive fantasy asset.

Detroit Red Wings

The rebuild is still very much a work in progress, but the Red Wings might have the pieces to be a decent defensive squad this season. Alex Nedeljkovic offers a big talent upgrade in the crease and could repay fantasy managers that take a chance.

Jakub Vrana, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are worth a look in the middle rounds, but it's hard to get overly excited about any of them breaking into the top 100 -- especially with Vrana now out for months.

Keep an eye on rookie defenseman Moritz Seider. He has the skill -- and the Red Wings will present him the opportunity -- to become a fantasy factor on the blue line.

Edmonton Oilers

Have you yet heard that Zach Hyman is projected to play on a top line with Connor McDavid? It's been the hottest of summer topics in Edmonton and Toronto (especially Toronto). Truth is, if the chemistry pans out - and McDavid Himself appears pleased as punch with the configuration in preseason play - the former Maple Leaf is going to score a bunch in his seventh NHL season, particularly if he remains on the top power play. Thirty(-plus?) goals is hardly out of the question, with Hyman knocking in a good number of them from right in front of the net. McDavid's other winger, Jesse Puljujarvi, is also poised to enjoy a 50-plus-point season if he sticks full-time this campaign. Long-time Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can be relied upon for a solid 60-point haul, while fantasy megastar Leon Draisaitl should be targeted second-overall in any conventional draft right after you-know-who.

Barring injury or a complete coming apart, Mike Smith is the clear-cut starting netminder for the Oilers over Mikko Koskinen. If the 39-year-old even nears his numbers from 2020-21 - 21-6-2, .923 SV%, 2.31 GAA - he'll make his managers very happy. But the long-time NHLer has never strung two such outstanding seasons together, and I'm not sure the acquisition of 38-year-old Duncan Keith, combined with the loss of Adam Larsson, is the ideal defensive solution for Edmonton at large. Instead, Smith is a top-tier No. 2 fantasy goalie in my view. Defenseman Tyson Barrie is of exceptional value in leagues that count power-play points at a premium - he fell one short of Victor Hedman for the blue-line lead in that category last winter/spring - while all-around hot commodity Darnell Nurse is a Top-10 fantasy blueliner in competition that rewards a variety of categories.

Florida Panthers

Firmly on separate lines now, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are both talented enough to have kingmaking abilities with their linemates. Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe and Owen Tippett are all in the mix for having fantasy potential depending on the deployment and chemistry.

It's easy to want rookie Spencer Knight to get his chance and run with it as the goaltender for the Panthers, but there are 10 million reasons (in dollars) that Sergei Bobrovsky can't be ignored completely.

Aaron Ekblad is a top-50 fantasy play -- with upside for much more now that Keith Yandle is gone and his ridiculous power-play minutes up for grabs.

Los Angeles Kings

No question, the Kings extending Calvin Petersen until 2025 at $5-million/year means they hope they have their guy to supplant Jonathan Quick once the veteran's own contract expires in 2023. With two seasons of overlap remaining, that shift in net should begin in earnest this fall. Anticipating a near 65/35 workload split in his favor, the 26-year-old should serve as an immediately adequate No. 3 goaltender in most ESPN standard leagues. Petersen was not terrible for a not-good team this past season, and the Kings' defense is somewhat improved with the addition of former Canuck Alexander Edler and an emerging young talent in Michael Anderson.

Up front, Anze Kopitar endures as a steady and reliable fantasy presence (2018-19 was somewhat of a blip) that we've grown to appreciate. Above and beyond scoring, the Kings' captain ticks other fantasy boxes, such as faceoffs won, shifts, and average-time on-ice. Former Predator Viktor Arvidsson could be in for a career resurgence after two straight dismal years in Nashville - especially if he settles on the No. 1 power play with Kopitar. Up-and-comers Quinton Byfield and Gabriel Vilardi - no-brainer dynasty assets - merit consideration in deeper re-draft leagues as emerging young stars, although we may be a year away from watching them make a true fantasy impact. Particularly in Byfield's case, who only turned 19 years old in August. On the blue line, still "only" 31, Drew Doughty remains a perfectly serviceable No. 2 defender on just about any conventional fantasy squad.

Minnesota Wild

If not weighed down by the heavy expectations of earning a whopping $9-million/year (not likely, considering his personality), Kirill Kaprizov should continue his burgeoning business of nearing a point-per-game pace. However that's probably the sophomore's ceiling, as his shooting rate of 17.2% will be difficult to duplicate. Competing on a top line with Kaprizov, a healthy Mats Zuccarello is a sneaky-good late draft pick capable of a 60-plus-point campaign. But the most appealing fantasy pair might comprise of Kevin Fiala and rookie Marco Rossi. That under-radar combination of speed, playmaking talent, and scoring skill could reap substantial rewards for the Wild and fantasy managers alike. No guarantee Fiala and Rossi - who lost last season to COVID-19 - line up together, but I'll be surprised if coach Dean Evason doesn't at least give them a serious shot.

As far as defenders go, don't be surprised if Alex Goligoski nabs the No. 1 power-play role from Jared Spurgeon. Having made a career of surpassing fantasy expectations, the 36-year-old veteran will end up leading Minnesota's wholly solid blue line in scoring, just you watch. In his second season with the Wild, Cam Talbot presents as a perfectly competent No. 2 fantasy netminder, as long as Kaapo Kahkonen doesn't pinch too many starts. Talbot churned out a 2.63 GAA and .915 SV%, along with a 19-8-5 record this past season.

Montreal Canadiens

The specter of a healthy Shea Weber eating into his value has already been removed for the coming season, so confidence in Jeff Petry is at an all-time high.

The offense will be in the hands of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield for the first of many seasons to come. But don't overlook contributions from Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher and new teammate Mike Hoffman. For what it's worth, Hoffman led all NHLers in production rate on the power play last season and Brendan Gallagher was still top-25 for points per minute at five-on-five while leading the league in shots per minute.

Nashville Predators

The well-balanced Predators, with some fresh young faces, don't boast much fantasy bluster out front of their own net. Defenseman Roman Josi remains a valiant, top-tier option as the fantasy heart of this team, in providing shots, points at even-strength and on the power play, along with bolstering other categories, including average-time-on-ice. When healthy, forward Filip Forsberg checks several scoring boxes as a reliable asset in deeper leagues. Still finding his NHL legs, 22-year-old Eeli Tolvanen could serve as a pleasant fantasy surprise in securing - as he should - a steady top-six/No.1 power-play role.

The true potential fantasy diamond for 2021-22 lies between the pipes. With Pekka Rinne basking in retirement, Juuse Saros is set to make the No. 1 job thoroughly his own. Through 36 appearances in this past truncated campaign, Saros posted a 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% and 21-11-1 record. Those are Top-10 fantasy netminder numbers. All goes well, and new backup David Rittich shouldn't see much relief action at all.

New Jersey Devils

Admittedly, the situation with the Carolina Hurricanes was better than the one Dougie Hamilton has signed onto in his deal with the Devils. But with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier both in position to take another step forward, and a stable of supporting cast members on the rise, Hamilton should be able to achieve the top-tier fantasy value in his new digs.

As for Hughes, he remains packed with potential to be among the superstars of the game, but will come at a massively discounted cost after having failed to erupt during his first two seasons. Factoring in the cost of acquisition, it will be worth taking another chance.

New York Islanders

There is no doubt Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov could cancel out each other's fantasy potential by splitting time. While Varlamov was awesome to start last season, Sorokin was the better goalie late in the season and into the playoffs.

While Ryan Pulock remains the smart choice for fantasy from the team's blue line, Noah Dobson had some fantastic peripherals last season and a lot of key ice time opens up with the departure of Nick Leddy.

Mathew Barzal is the focus on offense, with Anders Lee a lock to be at his side. But watch out for potential chemistry from Kyle Palmieri and/or Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom's contributions on a per-minute basis were elite last season (11th in points per minute on the PP).

New York Rangers

Stacked with elite fantasy assets, there should be several Rangers selected in the first couple rounds of your draft.

Per Natural Stat Trick, Igor Shesterkin led all NHL starters in high-danger save percentage and looks ready to challenge for the fantasy equivalent of the Vezina Trophy.

Mika Zibanejad had a massive slump at the start of last season, but still managed to finish in the top 20 for total fantasy points. Only two players in the NHL spent more time on the power play than Adam Fox last season. Artemi Panarin remains one of the most dangerous wingers in the NHL.

With all that quality up top, make sure you don't forget Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome and Jacob Trouba.

Ottawa Senators

Aside from Brady Tkachuk, there aren't any must-haves among the Senators. Josh Norris and Drake Batherson have the potential to be fantasy contributors this season, but neither is a lock yet. Tim Stutzle and Shane Pinto could likely be another year from being household fantasy names, too.

Thomas Chabot is also a quality pick for fantasy, but it's better to draft him for what he is, not what he still could be. Until the young forwards mentioned above hit their stride, Chabot will have a hard time pushing into the very top of the defensive ranks.

Philadelphia Flyers

It may be difficult to give Carter Hart a mulligan for last season's dismal showing, but it's a wise choice. The Flyers are giving him the chance to shake it off and, from a pure talent perspective, he remains primed to become one of the league's best.

Helping Carter, the Flyers massively improved their defense in the offseason, adding Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan Ellis. Both get enough counting stats to be factors in fantasy, but it's still Ivan Provorov at the top of the depth chart. And keep an eye on Keith Yandle, too. He's a specialist on the power play.

Sean Couturier is the top choice from the offense, but Joel Farabee could take another step forward. Farabee's points per minute were slightly better than Mikko Rantanen last season at five-on-five.

Pittsburgh Penguins

With both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin injured to start the season, all eyes are on Jake Guentzel to see if he can anchor the offense. Discount Guentzel, Bryan Rust and other Penguins in drafts to account for some time for a healthy attack to come together.

Kris Letang remains one of the best at his position when healthy -- and he was last season. That said, he's now 34 and the absence of Crosby and Malkin will take some juice out of the power play that pad's his stats.

Tristan Jarry had a great run late last season, but Casey DeSmith also played well enough to earn a split of duties. Really, the fantasy points for the goalies here are tied to one earning the lion's share of starts and the team winning games. I'm not sure both of those things will align.

San Jose Sharks

While former favorite Brent Burns has tumbled from the elite fantasy shelf, the hybrid skater still serves as a splendid No. 2 defenseman on most fantasy squads. Fellow Sharks "defender" Erik Karlsson (speak of tumbling) is both a shadow of his former self and still better than his 22-point haul in 2020-21 suggests. I'm not reaching for Karlsson, but if he's available later in drafts, the gamble makes sense. Forward Tomas Hertl is a ready-steady fantasy sort, while Logan Couture has discernibly regressed in recent seasons. As for Evander Kane, his immediate and long-term future remains unclear. If active, Kane is San Jose's top fantasy asset as a prolific shooter, goal-scorer, banger, and penalty-earner. But he may not play an NHL game this season.

In net, James Reimer, with a side serving of Adin Hill, is an upgrade over the departed Martin Jones. But the Sharks collective isn't strong enough to justify endorsing the 33-year-old outside of serving as a depth defenseman in super-deep leagues. This isn't Carolina. Or Florida. Or even San Jose, five years ago.

Seattle Kraken

Since someone needs to score for the freshly-assembled Kraken, who suddenly steps up in the spirit of Vegas circa 2017? Top-line wingers Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle appear the most obvious candidates, since they've produced in the past. Alexander Wennberg, who once potted 59 points in Columbus, presents as a potential dark horse in the deepest of fantasy leagues. Brandon Tanev has value in competition that rewards hits and blocked-shots (by a forward), along with some scoring. Out until December after undergoing shoulder surgery, Yanni Gourde is worth stashing in an IR spot, if you have several. But that's about it, up front, until we get a closer look at how it all comes together.

There's more to appreciate on the blue line, via well-rounded fantasy favorite Mark Giordano and Vince Dunn - who's poised to blossom as a natural offensive-defenseman, away from the gifted blue-line cluster in St. Louis. If shopping for blocked shots, Adam Larsson might fit the bill. Larsson finished second only to Alec Martinez in that category this past season.

But the No. 1 in net is the organization's most enticing fantasy commodity to start. The ever-consistent Philipp Grubauer boasts an impressive resume dating back to his first real season in Washington (2013-14). And this Kraken team is built to keep pucks out of the net. If Grubauer doesn't rank Top-5 as a fantasy netminder (he doesn't), then likely Top-10.

St. Louis Blues

In their contemporary state, the Blues are one of the league's tougher teams to scrutinize through the fantasy microscope. Outside of the top forward pairing of Ryan O'Reilly - who provides a high-impact fantasy punch in leagues that celebrate more than just scoring - and last season's overachieving David Perron, that lineup is shuffled around more than most. Throwing some new faces in the mix only adds to the challenge. Pavel Buchnevich, for instance. The former Ranger could saddle up next to centre Brayden Schenn and rise another notch up the production escalator. Not terribly loudly, Buchnevich put up a career-best 20 goals and 28 assists in 54 games with New York in 2020-21.

In fitting in on a possible scoring line behind O'Reilly and Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko - who hails from roughly the same part of Russia as Buchnevich - could conceivably slide in on the other side of Schenn. Yes, the shoulder is a big concern, as is his future with the Blues and league altogether, but Tarasenko remains with the club today. And if he wants to play for another club tomorrow, as is everyone's understanding, the 29-year-old's best chance is to once again pot north of 30 goals and an equal-plus number of assists. As long as the shoulder holds up, I like this later-round fantasy gamble. Tarasenko is currently ranked 167th overall.

The full-season healthy return of Colton Parayko, by no means a guarantee considering the defenseman has been dealing with back issues, would help Jordan Binnington bolster his numbers slightly from last year (2.65 GAA, .910 SV%). The Blues' clear No. 1 makes for an attractive enough No. 2 netminder in most fantasy leagues.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Based on the postseason we witnessed from Nikita Kucherov a couple months ago, you should have zero qualms about making him a first-round fantasy pick again. The exact same is true for Andrei Vasilevskiy in the crease.

Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point should also be earlier picks, but don't sleep on Ondrej Palat, who somehow is always underrated in drafts. He was a top-50 fantasy play last season.

Victor Hedman will, of course, compete to be the top fantasy defensemen for a few more years to come.

Toronto Maple Leafs

You know Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are fantasy stars, and you know John Tavares and William Nylander will also earn their keep. The question is who joins them and benefits? Nick Ritchie looks like the early candidate to replace Zach Hyman on the top line, and he fits the mould nicely for a potential breakout. From there, Michael Bunting has some unheralded upside and Ondrej Kase is the extreme dark-horse candidate.

Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek will both be very good fantasy plays this season -- but it's likely they undercut each other's potential value by splitting the crease evenly. Still, on a per-game basis for those managing their lineup regularly, both should shine. Of goaltenders with a decent sample size last season, they ranked fifth and eighth in fantasy points per 60 minutes.

Vancouver Canucks

Alongside a healthy (and re-signed) Elias Pettersson, and last season's Canucks top-scorer Brock Boeser, look for J.T. Miller to return to his previous point/game pace, including a solid tally garnered on the power play. Second-line center Bo Horvat won't wow you in the production department but outshines most in fantasy leagues that count face-offs won, average-time-on-ice or shifts. Horvat's new projected linemate, if he doesn't slide in adjacent Pettersson, Conor Garland should enjoy the campaign of his young career surrounded by better scoring talent. As a late-round draft selection, the ex-Coyote could serve as a sneaky-good asset in deeper conventional leagues. Another Arizona export, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, takes a fantasy backseat to top power-play quarterback Quinn Hughes (also re-signed), but contributes in enough other ways to merit consideration in leagues that reward more than scoring.

With new backup Jaroslav Halak on the scene, goalie Thatcher Demko could see his playing time take a hit. Otherwise, competing for an improved side in Vancouver, he would project as a No. 2 netminder on most fantasy teams. As it stands - Halak could easily curry regular favor if he wins games, as able - I feel Demko fits more comfortably into your G3 spot.

Vegas Golden Knights

Once Marc-Andre Fleury was unceremoniously shown the door, there's been zero debate about who owns the Golden Knights' net. Never mind new backup Laurent Brossoit, after playing casually in three different cities in three years, Robin Lehner is earning his opportunity to shine full-time. The career numbers - a good percentage of them earned with sub-mediocre teams - speak for themselves. If he can stay healthy, and that is a significant if, Lehner should be included amongst the crease's fantasy elite. He's any manager's No. 1 netminder in my preseason mind.

Defenseman Alec Martinez will be in tough to reproduce his unprecedented combo of 0.6 points/game and 3.17 shots/game. I fear, if drafted too high, Martinez might disappoint managers hoping for a carbon-copy showing. Shea Theodore is a productive beast due for a 60-point season, while Alex Pietrangelo serves more as a well-rounded defensive fantasy asset. Vegas' most potent forward line features the criminally underappreciated Max Pacioretty (who just finished Top-15 in averaging 2.4 fantasy points/game in ESPN's standard league but still won't be drafted until mid rounds in most leagues), the appropriately appreciated Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, who's growing into his own at age 27 and has value in the deepest leagues.

Washington Capitals

How much faith should we have in a leading trio on offense that will all turn 34 or older this season? That's a key question when it comes to Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. They all showed well enough last season, but the Caps will need to mix some youth into the attack in order to maintain success. Can Evgeny Kuznetsov regain his form after some rough seasons? Is Anthony Mantha the answer?

For the record, the top trio should be fine for another season, but it would not be a shock to start seeing a drop in what has been elite production for the better part of 15 years.

This is also the season when Ilya Samsonov should properly break out, after missed time allowed Vitek Vanacek to take a bigger piece of the pie last year.

Winnipeg Jets

From a fantasy view, your 2021-22 Jets are fairly similar to the 2020-21 version. Top-line forwards Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Kyle Connor - watch him score 40 this year - are tried/tested/true assets you can take to the proverbial fantasy bank. Despite not playing (often) on the top power play, Nikolaj Ehlers should again flirt with a point/game pace alongside veteran center Paul Stastny. Some are expecting a big bounce-back campaign from Pierre-Luc Dubois. Bounce back? Sure, he was awful last year. Big? I'm not so convinced of that. And unless Andrew Copp squeezes his way into the top-six once more, don't count on another uncharacteristic 0.71 point/game pace. Defenseman Neal Pionk trumps Josh Morrissey as the club's top fantasy defenseman in satisfying a slew of non-scoring categories while still contributing on the power play.

The offseason acquiring of Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt helps bolster the Jets' defense, which is great news for a perpetually busy Conner Hellebuyck. No goalie started more games, allowed more goals, and made more saves than Winnipeg's No. 1 this past campaign. Tighten up that second category a titch without dropping too many saves, throw in a handful more wins, and we're into Vasilevskiy fantasy territory. From where I'm sitting, Hellebuyck comfortably ranks as the No. 2 goaltender overall this preseason.