Fantasy hockey season is right around the corner, and NESN.com has you covered with rankings at each position. This edition features left wing, a position with plenty of depth but not as much top-tier talent as right wing or center.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top left wingers you should consider drafting regardless of the scoring settings that your fantasy league uses.
Safest Pick: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Benn had a tremendous 2013-14 season with the Stars, posting 79 points (34 goals, 45 assists). He also excelled for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and scored the game-winning goal in the Canada-USA semifinal. He’s one of the 10 best players in the league, but he flies under the radar nationally because he plays in a non-traditional hockey market.
Benn is a near-lock for 75-plus points. He’s talented enough to reach that mark by himself based on his superior talent, and his chances increase dramatically when you consider he plays alongside Tyler Seguin, who should be a top Art Ross Trophy candidate this season. Outside of Anaheim Ducks veterans Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Benn and Seguin were the most prolific scoring duo in the league last season. The Stars duo tallied a combined 163 points and make up two-fifths of Dallas’ top power-play unit (they average over 3:40 of power-play ice time per game).
Benn is about to enter his prime, and with a ton of offensive talent around him (Dallas’ lineup also features skilled forwards Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky and Valeri Nichushkin), there’s no doubt the Stars captain is the top left wing in fantasy hockey.
Other safe picks: Taylor Hall (Edmonton), Patrick Sharp (Chicago)
Riskiest Pick: Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
Kane has more talent than most players in the league, but he has yet to put together back-to-back quality seasons in Winnipeg. The former No. 4 overall draft pick scored a career-high 30 goals in 74 games during the 2011-12 campaign, but he has fallen below that pace over the last two seasons, totaling just 36 goals in his last 111 games.
Kane missed 19 games because of injuries last year, and his only full season was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Another concern with Kane is that he doesn’t have a legitimate No. 1 center to create scoring chances for him, which means a lot of his offense is created individually.
If the 23-year-old winger stays healthy, he will provide fantasy owners with goals, PIM, shots and power-play goals. His value will increase significantly if he’s traded to a contender before or during the upcoming season. Kane constantly is involved in trade rumors and speculation.
Other risky picks: Loui Eriksson (Boston), Jeff Skinner (Carolina)
Rookie To Watch: Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drouin didn’t make the Lightning last season and was sent to the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, where he tallied career highs in points (108) and assists (79) in just 46 games.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft can do a little of everything offensively. He’s a tremendous goal scorer, a skilled playmaker and excels on the power play. He also brings fantastic speed, quickness and a high hockey IQ.
Drouin should receive plenty of chances to score goals because he’s likely to play alongside elite center Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay’s top line. Any player on Stamkos’ wings will be fantasy relevant in all types of leagues, especially those as talented as Drouin, who also must be owned in all keeper leagues.
Other notable rookies: Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary)
Top 15 Fantasy Left Wings
15) Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
14) Rick Nash, New York Rangers
13) James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs
12) Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
11) Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
10) Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
9) Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
8) Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
7) Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
6) Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
5) Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
4) Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
3) Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
2) Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
1) Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars