50 players to draft in your NHL playoff pool

St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) and teammate right wing T.J. Oshie (74). (LM Otero/AP)

When doing a fantasy hockey playoff draft (not a box pool) it’s obviously important to stack certain teams.

The strategy to draft players contained in this article should be like a concentric circle: start with a focus on two teams that are expected to get to the Stanley Cup Final. After those teams are picked bare, then expand to the four teams you think will be in the Conference Finals, etc. Read about other draft strategies here.

It’s not a straight line. For instance, don’t draft Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues over Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning just because of an expectation of St. Louis to reach the Final while the Lightning may not. Getting 13 games out of Johnson is preferable to 24 games of Reaves. But in any case where the players are even remotely similar in terms of expected production per game, go with the player whose team is expected to go farther.

In that sense, this list of top-50 players is devised with the strategy to focus on two teams, and then four, and then eight. That’s why the players will be listed largely in groups of their teams — at least at the top of the board. These players are also listed with the format of points-only (goals and assists) in mind.

1. Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)
2. John Tavares (NYI)
3. Alex Steen (STL)
4. Jaden Schwartz (STL)
5. Kyle Okposo (NYI)
6. David Backes (STL)
7. Ryan Strome (NYI)
8. Jori Lehtera (STL)
9. Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)
10. Frans Nielsen (NYI)
11. T.J. Oshie (STL)
12. Johnny Boychuk (NYI)
13. Steven Stamkos (TBL)
14. Tyler Johnson (TBL)
15. Blake Wheeler (WPG)
16. Paul Stastny (STL)
17. Andrew Ladd (WPG)
18. Anders Lee (NYI)
19. Alex Pietrangelo (STL)
20. Nick Leddy (NYI)
21. Bryan Little (WPG)
22. Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
23. Ondrej Palat (TBL)
24. Dustin Byfuglien (WPG)
25. Ryan Callahan (TBL)
26. Drew Stafford (WPG)
27. Mark Scheifele (WPG)
28. Victor Hedman (TBL)
29. Jonathan Toews (CHI)
30. Marian Hossa (CHI)
31. Rick Nash (NYR)
32. Derek Stepan (NYR)
33. Radim Vrbata (VAN)
34. Patrick Sharp (CHI)
35. Max Pacioretty (MTL)*
36. Henrik Sedin (VAN)
37. Daniel Sedin (VAN)
38. Chris Kreider (NYR)
39. Brandon Saad (CHI)
40. Patrick Kane (CHI)*
41. Derick Brassard (NYR)
42. Duncan Keith (CHI)
43. Mats Zuccarello (NYR)
44. P.K. Subban (MTL)
45. Alex Burrows (VAN)
46. Martin St. Louis (NYR)
47. Brendan Gallagher (MTL)
48. Tomas Plekanec (MTL)
49. Nick Bonino (VAN)
50. Alex Edler (VAN)

There are some things to note about this list.

It’s obvious that I personally have the St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders in the Cup Final — that’s why there are so many players from those two teams at the top of the list. That’s how I personally see things shaking out, but many will disagree. Adjust draft lists accordingly.

There are two players whose status is currently up in the air: Max Pacioretty and Patrick Kane. Pacioretty is out with an “upper-body injury” while Kane is recovering from a broken clavicle. There are reports that Kane may be returning for the first game of the playoffs, which would be a large improvement from his original diagnosis. He’s a game-changer in every sense of the word, so his potential return a month early changes the outlook quite a bit for the Blackhawks. If they and St. Louis win their first round matchups, they would face each other in the second round. If Pacioretty misses even a couple of games for Montreal, the Canadiens could be in a lot of trouble against Ottawa.

The way the NHL bracket has shaken out this year means that one of Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, or Anaheim will be in the Conference Final. I would expect that to be the winner of the Winnipeg/Anaheim first round matchup. Ondrej Pavelec doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but Anaheim was 20th in the NHL in team five-on-five save percentage this year. That shouldn’t inspire much confidence either.

Detroit hasn’t looked very good down the stretch, either. It seems like Tampa Bay is fortunate to be in the top half of the East bracket. The bottom half of the bracket looks to be a lot tougher, so I’m less confident in the Islanders getting through. Decisions have to be made, though, and as long as Jaroslav Halak doesn’t implode, the Islanders should be able to get to the Conference Final.

I will have a post coming out in the next day or two that discusses playoff draft strategies, but as I mentioned earlier, this one employs starting with the two finalists, then the East/West finalists, and then the Conference semi-finalists. It’s an attempt to spread around risk a little bit while still focusing on a whittled-down pool of players.

There will be disagreement about this list, and that’s fine. Fantasy sports, at their core, are still about having fun.

Good luck with the draft!

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