Having a well-rounded forward group is key to success in Fantasy Hockey. Knowing which player to pick in your draft is only half the battle. It's also essential to know at what point in your draft you should be targeting specific players. Here's a look at this season's options at forward broken into tiers based on their respective Fantasy value. This is not a precise ranking, but an estimation of the levels of production you can expect from the forwards you'll be considering on draft day.
Tier 1 – The McDavid Tier
McDavid led the NHL in goals (64), assists (89) and points (153) a season ago. It marked the third straight year in which he's won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer. He won't turn 27 years old until January and has already won three Hart Trophy awards as NHL MVP. When you're this good, you deserve your own tier. McDavid is the unquestioned No. 1 pick in all Fantasy formats in 2023-24.
Tier 2 – Not McDavid but close
Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikko Rantanen
The seven names above are all worthy of a first-round pick on draft day. Should something happen to McDavid injury wise, it's easy to envision any of these six skaters emerging as the most valuable Fantasy forward in the game. The order in which they should be ranked depends on what you're looking for. Matthews and Pastrnak are elite goal scorers. Kucherov is an elite setup man. Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Rantanen do everything, while Tkachuk plays with some jam.
Tier 3 – Early round high-end
Jack Hughes, Kirill Kaprizov, Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, Jason Robertson, William Nylander, Tage Thompson, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos,
The players listed above are a tick below the Tier 2 guys but are also a lock to produce at an elite level all season, health permitting. Every single one of these players is a legitimate Fantasy anchor and a rock-solid pick at any point in Round 2. Hughes and Kaprizov likely bring the most to the table from a ceiling perspective. Robertson and Thompson both broke out in a big way in 2022-23. The two Maple Leafs (Marner/Nylander) and the two Rangers (Zibanejad/Panarin) work exceptionally well together, while Crosby and Stamkos are showing zero signs of slowing down in the latter stages of their respective careers.
Tier 3B – The upside crowd
Timo Meier, Alex Ovechkin, Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, Jack Eichel, Brayden Point, Kyle Connor, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
It's difficult to believe that any of the names above could be underrated, but each of these seven skaters has upside beyond where they're likely to be selected on draft day. Meier could easily explode playing with Jack Hughes for a full season. Stutzle and Tkachuk are obvious bets for improved production. Eichel appeared fully healthy while leading Vegas to its first Stanley Cup championship. Point had 51 goals last season. Connor has had 80-plus points in back-to-back seasons. Nugent-Hopkins plays with McDavid and Draisaitl, enough said. And Ovechkin. Well, you know about him.
Tier 4 – Safe and steady
Roope Hintz, Sebastian Aho, Kevin Fiala, Alex Tuch, Jesper Bratt, Mark Scheifele, Pavel Buchnevich, Andrei Svechnikov, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel
I'd be more than happy to draft any of the above names. Each should provide early round value on draft day. That said, I'm also not going to go out of my way to target any of them. Averaging upwards of a point-per-game is exceedingly valuable from a Fantasy perspective, but I'd be shocked if any of these skaters really make you regret passing on them by the end of the season. I'd like to see a full season of high-end productivity from a guy like Svechnikov before investing a high pick on him.
Tier 5 – The bounce-back candidates
Aleksander Barkov, Johnny Gaudreau, JT Miller, Elias Lindholm, Alex DeBrincat, Patrik Laine, Jonathan Huberdeau, Cole Caufield
Every single player in this group greatly underachieved a season ago, except Caufield, who was great (26 goals in 46 games) before a shoulder injury ended his season. All the other guys have a history of producing at an All-Star level. One thing to keep an eye on is that aside from Barkov, the other six players' teams missed the playoffs last season. Improvement from a team perspective will be crucial for them to bounce-back from a Fantasy perspective. DeBrincat is joining what should be an improved team in Detroit. I have less confidence in Gaudreau/Laine (Columbus), Miller (Vancouver) and Huberdeau/Lindholm (Calgary) getting the help needed to reach their previous levels. The Flames in particular could be heading towards a total rebuild.
Tier 5B – The rookie
The second "Connor" to receive his own tier. Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, is a franchise-altering talent who will immediately make the Blackhawks a better team. He should flirt with 30 goals immediately. Just remember Chicago projects to once again be one of the worst clubs in the NHL, meaning Bedard could be looking at a horrific plus-minus rating this year.
Tier 6 – The prove-it group
John Tavares, Brad Marchand, Zach Hyman, Trevor Zegras, Nico Hischier, Jeff Skinner, Clayton Keller, Mats Zuccarello, Carter Verhaeghe
It would be wise to tread carefully with the names above. Some of the players have long histories of production, but a guy like Zuccarello is getting up there in age, and Marchand lost his long-time center Patrice Bergeron to retirement. Tavares and Skinner are veterans that bounced back last season after appearing to be on the downswing for an extended period. Hyman and Verhaeghe both had seasons well beyond what we had seen from them in the past, while Zegras, Keller and Hischier finally broke out. I'd like to see each one of them do it again in 2023-24.
Tier 7 – Filling out your roster
Anze Kopitar, Nick Suzuki, Bo Horvat, Brock Nelson, Andrei Kuzmenko, Dylan Cozens, Martin Necas, Sam Reinhart, Jordan Kyrou, Jesper Bratt, Matt Boldy, Tyler Toffoli, Vincent Trocheck, Nikolaj Ehlers, Matty Beniers, Troy Terry, Jared McCann, Matt Barzal, Filip Forsberg, Adrian Kempe, Vladimir Tarasenko, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Schmaltz
This is a mix of names, each of whom have the potential to really lengthen your Fantasy lineup. Guys such as Kopitar, Trocheck and Tarasenko are solid veterans. Names such as Boldy, Cozens, Necas and Beniers are obvious upside candidates. Forsberg was injured most of last year, while Toffoli and Dubois will be joining new teams.
Bonus – Everyone loves (more) rookies
Logan Cooley, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Luke Hughes, William Eklund, Matthew Knies, Devon Levi
If Bedard somehow doesn't win the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year, these are the best bets to steal the crown. Cooley and Fantilli should receive enough playing time to be worthy of a pick in standard Fantasy formats, while Levi could be the starting goalie for the Sabres. Just don't be afraid to cut bait early on if things aren't working out.