Special to Yahoo Sports
As you can see below, there’s a ton of depth when it comes to drafting forwards in your fantasy hockey leagues. Virtually all of the players listed below (and many who aren’t) should be rostered in standard leagues.
Here’s a preview of this year’s forwards, ranked by tier.
TIER 1 – THE McDAVID
The Skinny: The best of the best.
McDavid was the unanimous winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season, marking the first time that’s happened since Wayne Gretzky in 1981-82. He posted 33 goals and 105 points in 56 games. He should be the first pick in all fantasy leagues this coming fall, regardless of format.
TIER 2- THE ELITE (but not McDavid)
Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Brayden Point, Artemi Panarin, Mitch Marner, Alex Ovechkin
The Skinny: Each of these guys is worthy of first-round picks on draft day.
-MacKinnon is probably the most talented player in the NHL other than McDavid.
-Matthews’ 41 goals in 56 games last season led the NHL.
-Draisaitl posts elite numbers year after year despite playing on the same team as McDavid.
-Kucherov missed the entire regular season with an injury but dominated in the playoffs. He and Point are terrific together.
-Same goes for Pastrnak and Marchand, who play on the same line in Boston.
-Panarin has racked up 153 points and a plus-50 rating in 111 games over the course of his first two years with the Rangers.
-Marner has 98 assists and 134 points over his past 114 games.
-Ovechkin will be 36 years old by the time the 2021-22 campaign starts but he’s a lock for 30-plus goals and 200-plus hits.
TIER 3 – THE GAMECHANGERS
Patrick Kane, Mikko Rantanen, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sidney Crosby, Mika Zibanejad, Steven Stamkos, Mark Scheifele, Mark Stone, Sebastian Aho, John Tavares, Kyle Connor, Jake Guentzel, Jack Eichel, Elias Pettersson
The Skinny: Every player here can help anchor your fantasy squad and is worth an early (2-3) round pick on draft day
-Kane continues to roll along and the Blackhawks should be a better team this season.
-Rantanen plays on the same line as MacKinnon, which tells you all you need to know.
-Barkov has been a top-tier player for years, while Huberdeau has posted well over a point-per-game the past two seasons.
-Crosby has played 16 NHL seasons and has never averaged less than a point-per-game.
-Zibanejad — who is entering a contract year — has 65 goals in his past 113 games.
-Stamkos is an injury risk but dominates when healthy.
-Scheifele has averaged at least a point-per-game over the past five seasons.
-Stone and Aho are two of the most consistent players in the NHL for Vegas and Carolina, respectively.
-Tavares was injured in the playoffs but he’s expected to be 100 percent healthy for training camp.
-Connor is one of the league’s most underrated players.
-Guentzel flanks Crosby each year and has the production to show for it.
-Eichel should be at least one tier higher based on ability, but he needs neck surgery and the Sabres have yet to trade him.
-Pettersson should also be ready for camp after a wrist injury which limited him to just 26 games last season.
TIER 4: STEADY AS EVER
Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, Alex DeBrincat, Gabriel Landeskog, Kirill Kaprizov, Brock Boeser, Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, Blake Wheeler
The Skinny: Players who make for rock-solid early-to-mid round picks this year.
-Malkin deserves to be at least a tier higher, at a minimum, but he was banged up last year and has a long injury history.
-Bergeron will play this entire year at age 36 but he’s part of what is arguably the top line in the NHL alongside Pastrnak and Marchand.
-DeBrincat scored 32 times in 56 games a season ago, in addition to notching 18 power-play points.
-Landeskog signed a new long-term deal in Colorado which should maximize his fantasy value.
-Kaprizov (27 goals, 51 points in 55 games) was the NHL Rookie of the Year last season; just make sure he doesn’t follow through on his threat to return to Russia.
-Boeser led Vancouver in goals (23) and points (49) a year ago.
-Gaudreau has 107 points in his past 126 games despite the fact he’s been “slumping.”
-Giroux and Wheeler are both aging veterans who remained locked in as core pieces for their respective clubs.
TIER 5 – THE NEXT BEST THING
Max Pacioretty, Sam Reinhart, Andrei Svechnikov, William Nylander, Brady Tkachuk, Matthew Tkachuk, Filip Forsberg, Teuvo Teravainen, Mathew Barzal, J.T. Miller, Sean Couturier, Vladimir Tarasenko, Anze Kopitar, Ryan O’Reilly, Nicklas Backstrom, Pavel Buchnevich
The Skinny: Top-six forwards who should produce as such this coming year.
-Pacioretty averaged more than a point-per-game (24 goals, 51 points in 48 contests) for the first time in his career last season.
-Reinhart’s stock should remain steady following an offseason trade to Florida.
-Svechnikov and Nylander are both excellent young players with true breakout potential.
-Both Tkachuk brothers are highly desirable commodities, while Brady is a borderline top-three overall pick in leagues that value hits.
-Forsberg and Teravainen both missed significant time last season with injuries.
-Barzal’s value is somewhat limited by the fact he plays on a defensive-minded Islanders team.
-Couturier is amazingly consistent whenever he’s in the lineup.
-Tarasenko has played just 34 games over the past two seasons due to a shoulder injury. He has also requested a trade from the Blues which has yet to be granted.
-Kopitar is locked into a big role on a rebuilding Kings team.
-O’Reilly is a steady player whose shot totals have declined significantly over the past two seasons.
-Backstrom remains one of the league’s better playmakers despite his advanced age.
-Buchnevich was quietly excellent last season for the Rangers and was stolen by St. Louis via trade this past summer.
TIER 6 – THE REBOUND CROWD
Sean Monahan, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brendan Gallagher, Patrik Laine, David Perron, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Strome, Jason Robertson, T.J. Oshie, Vincent Trocheck, Tomas Hertl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Roope Hintz, Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Toews, Taylor Hall, Brayden Schenn, Bryan Rust, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Conor Garland, Jakub Vrana
The Skinny: The vast majority of this tier consists of veteran players who struggled last season for one reason or another. Others are steady players with solid, but limited upside.
TIER 7 – SHOOT FOR THE MOON
Alexis Lafreniere, Jack Hughes, Tim Stutzle, Kaapo Kakko, Martin Necas, Kirby Dach, Trevor Zegras
The Skinny: Very young players with elite, high-end upside who should get an opportunity to break out this coming season. Make sure they don’t go undrafted in standard formats.