Ranking the best fantasy hockey players for the Stanley Cup playoffs
By Gil Martin
The Stanley Cup playoffs are almost here. By far, hockey’s annual two-month race to a championship is the most exciting playoff tournament in sports. There are more upheavals and unexpected twists and turns in hockey than in any other sport, mainly because of parity and the rise of players and goaltenders. This makes choosing the best players for your hockey pool more difficult, fun and rewarding.
Part of the equation is deciding which teams will make long playoffs. If you stock up on good players from both teams that reach the Stanley Cup Final, you have a great chance of winning your pool or your league. Then you need to know which players to choose for those teams.
Every year there’s also a surprise player who seems to come out of nowhere to be at or near the top of the league in points. John Druce was a great example of that with the Washington Capitals in 1990. If you can have this player on your team, you’re in great shape.
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Here’s a look at the best players to add to your hockey playoff pool or fantasy league:
- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
It’s hard to choose against McDavid, the most dynamic offensive player in the NHL today. The Oilers star is the only player in the league to record 100 points in this pandemic-shortened 56-game season.
McDavid is dangerous every time he touches the puck and keeps fans on the edge of their seats. His speed and hands are second to none in the league right now.
The big question with McDavid is how far the Oilers will go in the playoffs when their team’s defense remains a question mark. If the Oilers got out of their division, McDavid would be the first pick in any fantasy draft.
- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
While McDavid leads the league in points, Matthews is the top scorer. He passed the 40-goal mark in a 56-game season and had a heavy shot and a quick release.
The Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, when there were still six teams in the league. If Matthews leads the team to its first championship in more than half a century, he will cement his place in Toronto sporting history forever.
Toronto is considered the favorite in the North Division and that makes Matthews a great player to have on your team. If you like the Leafs, consider adding Mitchell Marner as well.
- Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Marchand is a tough, strong and dynamic player. Throughout the season, the Bruins were primarily a one-line team and Marchand was the heart and soul of that line and of this team.
The 33-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia is built for playoff hockey because of his physical style of play. He’s also a leader in a Bruins team that is one of the favorites to emerge from the competitive Eastern Division.
Adding Taylor Hall to the trade deadline should help Marchand as defenses won’t be able to focus exclusively on his playoff stoppage.
- Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche is one of the best teams in the NHL this season and Nathan MacKinnon is their leading scorer and emotional leader.
The former first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is averaging well over a point per game during this shortened season.
MacKinnon was exceptional in last year’s playoffs, scoring nine goals and 25 points in just 15 games for the Avs. He plans to lead Colorado in scoring again in this year’s playoffs.
The Avalanche are one of the league’s biggest contenders this year and if they feature in a long playoff streak, MacKinnon should be among the league’s top scorers this year.
- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Even at 33, Sidney Crosby remains one of the best players in the game. The Penguins captain should score his 500e career goal in the NHL next season if he stays healthy and remains among the league’s top scorers this year.
Crosby has won three Stanley Cups already and he knows what it takes to lead a team to the Promised Land. For his career, he has 189 points in 168 career playoff games, so he’s been extremely productive in the playoffs. He even won two Conn Smythe trophies as the playoff MVP.
Perhaps the most difficult problem for the Penguins is coming out of the competitive Eastern Division with their inexperienced goaltender. But if they do, expect Crosby to be among the most productive offensive players in the league.