2017 Projections

1. J. Benn, Dal LW
Benn is in a class of his own. Over the past three seasons, the Stars' captain has emerged as an elite, consistent offensive force. He has continuously upped his goal and point totals during that span, culminating last season with 41 goals (17 on the power play) and 89 points -- both career highs. The 2007 fifth-round pick has also racked up exactly 64 PIM during those three campaigns as well, while firing no less than 247 shots on net, giving him that rare multi-categorical value so coveted in fantasy circles. Although he's not as big as many might think at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Benn plays a heavy, all-around game and is far-and-away the league's most dynamic, productive power forward. Together with linemate and fellow Canadian superstar Tyler Seguin, the duo form arguably the most dangerous two-headed monster in the NHL, and owners would be lucky to build their fantasy roster around either of them come October.
2. P. Kane, Chi RW
Kane was fantastic in 2015-16, capturing the Art Ross Trophy with a 106-point campaign that included a 26-game point streak. The skilled winger formed a lethal 1-2 punch with rookie Artemi Panarin and set a career high with 46 goals. While the Blackhawks seem to lose key players every offseason, the team's core remains intact and Kane is the centerpiece. The 27-year-old is in the prime of his career and his ridiculous consistency makes him one of the most sought after fantasy players entering the 2016-17 season. Kane was held without a shot on goal just once last season and was the only player to appear on the scoresheet in more than 60 games. Kane should continue to skate on a line with Panarin and be the key cog on the power play, where he piled on 37 of his points in 2015-16. After breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career, Kane is bound for greatness once again on a dynamic and potent Chicago team.
3. B. Holtby, Wsh G
It's no secret that Holtby is an excellent netminder, but the 26-year-old reached another level in 2015-16 and cemented himself as elite. The Vezina Trophy winner etched his name in the history books with 48 wins, tying one of the greats, Martin Brodeur. His record (48-9-7), .922 save percentage and 2.20 GAA were good enough to beat out the likes of Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick for the hardware, but now all eyes are on a repeat performance after the Caps' season ended earlier than expected. With essentially the entire roster returning, don't expect a step back from Holtby, who has now reached 40 wins in two straight campaigns. Don't underestimate the hunger to silence the critics, either, as the team -- and Holtby -- must prove that 2015-16 regular season was no fluke. Draft him as the first or second netminder off the board and you'll be sitting pretty in the blue paint.
4. S. Crosby, Pit C
You know you're dealing with a special player when none of his 36 goals, 49 assists, 85 points, plus-19 rating, 20:28 of ice time and 248 shots on goal amounted to career highs in 2015-16. Crosby now has a second Stanley Cup in addition to the two gold medals and pile of other hardware he's racked up in his 11-year NHL career, and at 29 years old, he once again belongs in the discussion as the very best player in the game. It doesn't appear that Sid the Kid is likely to post gaudy triple-digit point totals like he has five times in his career, but he doesn't have to. The Pens boast a deep arsenal of offensive weapons with guys like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, and it's exactly that depth that allows Sid to do his thing on both sides of the puck. Fantasy-wise, that scoring-by-committee luxury in Pittsburgh might put Crosby behind Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn as the most coveted player on draft day -- especially since the center position is so deep -- but No. 87 should still be a top-4 pick this fall, as long as the concussion he was diagnosed with just before the opening of the season costs him more than a few games, which at this point, we are unable to ascertain. Drafting Crosby at this time is the ultimate high risk, high reward proposition.
5. C. Price, Mon G
Will the best goalie in the world be healthy this season? That's the big question surrounding the 2014-15 league MVP, who was limited to just 12 appearances last year due to a strained ligament in his knee suffered in November. Price is reportedly back to 100 percent and ready for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September, a tournament that will be something of a fantasy godsend for determining his health status -- and ultimately, his value -- heading into the NHL season. At his best, the 29-year-old is an easy choice for the first goalie off the board in drafts, but considering the uncertainty regarding his knee and the struggles of the Canadiens last season, a safer option might be the Capitals' Braden Holtby, who is coming off an insane 48-win year that saw him take home the Vezina trophy. On the flip side, if Price is good to go, he's more than capable of carrying just about any team, so if others sleep on him too long in drafts for some reason, make sure you capitalize.
6. M. Jones, SJ G
Last season was Jones' first with the Sharks, and the 26-year-old netminder was able to make one heck of a first impression, compiling an impressive 37-23-4 record with a 2.27 GAA and .918 save percentage over 65 regular-season appearances. The former King also earned six shutouts during his debut campaign with San Jose, good for second most in the NHL, and backstopped the Sharks to within two wins of the franchise's first Stanley Cup title, posting a 14-10-4 record with a 2.16 GAA and .923 save percentage during San Jose's impressive postseason run. Despite his fantastic performance in 2015-16, the British Columbia native is still somewhat of an unproven commodity, and could regress a bit in his second season as a full-time starter. Either way, as long as Jones can stay healthy and continue to handle the rigors of life as a No.1 goaltender in the NHL, he should be one of the top fantasy options in net in 2016-17.
7. J. Pavelski, SJ C, RW
Over the past few years, Pavelski has quietly emerged as a top-tier fantasy player who can deliver in almost all categories. The sniper set a career high with 38 goals in 2015-16 and finished sixth in the NHL scoring race with 78 points. With three consecutive seasons in the 70-point range, Pavelski is no longer a hidden fantasy gem. The 32-year-old, who has scored 30-plus goals in each of his past four full seasons, is now one of the best fantasy centers out there. He's the centerpiece on a talented Sharks squad that recently made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and is a proven goal-scoring machine who thrives while manning the point on the team's top power-play unit. Given his 14 goals in the 2016 postseason and willingness to always fire the puck on net, Pavelski will likely be one of the NHL's top goal-scorers once again in 2016-17.
8. J. Quick, LA G
Quick traded in a few overtime losses for wins last year, but otherwise nearly replicated his stat line from 2014-15, notching a .918 save percentage (identical) and 2.22 GAA (0.02 lower). Those ratios fall short of elite status, but Quick's high volume of starts for a quality Los Angeles team resulted in his first 40-win season. At 30 years old, the American netminder shouldn't be slowing down anytime soon, so he appears to be in line for another season of close to 70 starts. Other goalies may put up better save percentages, but the Kings' strong defense keeps his GAA solid, and Quick's huge volume combined with his ratios makes him enormously valuable in fantasy. After Braden Holtby and Carey Price are off the draft board, Quick makes for an easy, low-risk choice over the rest of the field as part of one of the most consistently solid teams in the Pacific Division.
9. E. Karlsson, Ott D
If you're searching for the first blueliner off the board, look no further. The Swede has recorded 65-plus points in four of the past five seasons while staying exceptionally healthy despite being so heavily leaned on by the Senators. The 26-year-old exploded for a historic season in 2015-16, scoring 16 times and tacking on a whopping 66 assists, not to mention 175 blocked shots. It should come as no surprise, then, that he was also prolific with the man advantage with a goal and 25 helpers in 4:39 per game, numbers that are actually set to improve as Ottawa figures out its 29th-ranked power play under new head coach Guy Boucher. If your league counts shots on goal, the case could be made for Brent Burns (353 SOG plus seven power-play goals last year) to supplant Karlsson (248 SOG) as the No. 1 fantasy rearguard. At the end of the day, though, the Sens' captain is pure fantasy gold and any owner would be lucky to build their squad around him.
10. V. Tarasenko, StL RW
Tarasenko is a bona fide NHL star who is only just entering his prime. His 40 goals in 2015-16 put him one out of the top three in the NHL and his 292 shots were fourth-best in the league. He was also top-12 in overall scoring with 78 points. In addition, Tarasenko finished tied with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Tyler Seguin (among others) with 24 power-play points. There has been plenty written about his so-called postseason rift with head coach Ken Hitchcock and perhaps there's a bit of fire with all that smoke, but the numbers don't really indicate that, as Hitch treated him like the star he is by starting him in the offensive zone 65 percent of the time. Still, Tarasenko does have some growing up to do, as everyone saw from his postseason pouting. As long as he does that, a repeat of 40 goals and an 80-plus point season should be on tap for the 24-year-old.
* - Projected