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Fantasy Hockey: First-round pick-by-pick draft targets

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By Janet Eagleson, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

To Vasilevskiy or not to Vasilevskiy. That is the question.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is the top goalie in the NHL and in fantasy. He's a stud. His ADP is 5.2. But the answer is clear in 10-team (or even 12-team) leagues, even if it's unpopular. Vasilevskiy's numbers for 2020-21 were great and so was he for the first three-quarters of the season. However, he stumbled the rest of the way — his save percentage barely topped .900 while his GAA almost hit 3.00. 

Looking back, Vasilevskiy did almost the same thing the season before. Those kind of prolonged slumps from your first-round pick can destroy a season. I know. I took him seventh overall last year. I was competitive until the three-quarters pole.

In contrast, a point-per-game (plus) scorer rarely slumps for more than a few games. Yep, safe can be boring, but consistency is critical out of your top picks.

Do your prep. Don't get sucked into ADP. Don't get left behind right out of the gate. This season, a stud forward is your best bet for a competitive team all season long.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 07: Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save during the second period of Game Four of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on July 05, 2021 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Are you willing to take an elite goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round over a consistent scorer? (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton

This is going to be a special season for McDavid. He's in his prime and the team around him is better than it's been in years. Shedding the weight of carrying the whole squad will lift McDavid to new heights, even if he's not in the run-and-gun North. He's going to earn yet another Art Ross and Hart on the back of a 50-goal, 135-point season. Maybe more.

2. Leon Draisaitl, C/LW, Edmonton

Nathan MacKinnon is the second-best player on the ice, but Draisaitl tops him in pure fantasy value. Why? Goals will always be worth more than helpers, especially the secondary ones, and 10 more over a season make a difference. Draisaitl is headed for 50 goals and 120 points, while piling up power-play production, firing a load of shots and winning a lot of faceoffs.

3. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado

Mack has Hart potential and will carry the Avalanche far into the postseason. And he'll carry your squad, too. MacKinnon will top 300 shots and find twine about 40 times. Add in elite playmaking and power-play prowess, and you have a 110-point season. Win-win. Literally.

4. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay

Kucherov's playoff performance was Gretzky and Lemieux elite. Beyond special. A full season of Kuch is fantasy gold — maybe even 50 goals and 110 points good. That should put him ahead of MacKinnon and into third, but the Lightning are likely to take their foot off the gas a bit to shoot for a three-peat. Even 90-95 percent of Kucherov is worth this high of a pick.

[It’s winning season: Create or join a Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league today]

5. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto

Matthews is the best goal scorer since Mario Lemieux and Alexander Ovechkin. And he's a model of consistency when he's on the ice. But there's reason for pause. Matthews is a little injury prone, and he's coming off mid-August wrist surgery that requires a minimum of six months to heal. If he's in top form this season, he has 60 goals and 95 points in him.

6. Artemi Panarin, LW, NY Rangers

The Bread Man produced at a 113-point pace last season. Yes, you read that right. Sure, small sample size, but his talent is real — he's that rare winger who can carry a team. Over the last two seasons, Panarin's 1.38 points-per-game is third to only McDavid and Draisaitl. He's poised for his first 100-plus point season this year, including 35 goals, and he could challenge those top-two Oilers for overall fantasy production.

7. David Pastrnak, RW, Boston

Pasta isn't far removed from a co-Rocket Richard trophy and he's good enough to contend again this year. At a minimum, the slick winger is a 40-goal, 90-point stud. At best, Pastrnak will be one of five or maybe six 50-goal players this season and a possible Hart contender. Cha-ching.

8. Brad Marchand, LW, Boston

This could be the last time we see the Honey Badger in the first round. Marchand is 33 and it's hard to know when the drop-off begins. Still, he's an aggressive player who's piled up 426 points in the last five seasons — that's third best in that span. Marchand will deliver 35 goals and 95 points, with plenty on the PP, and 275+ shots. Add in elite plus/minus and it's hard to go wrong with him at eight.

9. Mitch Marner, RW, Toronto

The worm turns quickly in Leafland and fans have Marner under a microscope after this past postseason. Playing in Toronto in those conditions can be hard. But he's one of the best playmakers in the NHL. He'll be fine. And that means Marner will likely score 30 goals and out-point Auston Mathews. A 100-point season will come if the Leafs' power play can get it together.

10. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington

Ovie is still one of the best snipers in the NHL and he's still unstoppable on the power play. He's unabashedly pursuing The Great One's all-time record, so his teammates are going to feed him plenty of pucks this year. And another 50-snipe season is in his crosshairs. Sure, he might "just" get 75 points, but Ovechkin is at 10 because goals are far, far harder to come by than helpers.

Parting shots

Patrick Kane, Chicago; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh; Mikko Rantanen, Colorado; Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida. Stack on one of these guys in the 11-14 range and your offensive foundation will be elite. Then hope to snag Marc-Andre Fleury in Round three, and you'll have one of the best fantasy trios in your league.

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