NHL Barometer: Projected 2023-24 First-Round Picks

NHL Barometer: Projected 2023-24 First-Round Picks

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

This week's article is the last of a series of three columns which began with a look at this season's biggest disappointments and surprises. This week, we'll cover potential projected top-12 draft picks in fantasy leagues next year. Take the below with a grain of salt and consider your league settings and personal preferences when reading the suggestions.

1. Connor McDavid, C, EDM – If you needed me to guide you in this direction, maybe fantasy hockey is not for you. McDavid, already the consensus first-overall pick for the past several seasons, has taken his game to another level. As of Monday's games, McDavid had recorded at least two points in a whopping 44 of 77 outings this season. He's up to 62 tallies, 146 points, 327 shots on net, 84 hits and a plus-17 rating this season. If/when McDavid tops 150 points, he will be one of six players in history — Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Phil Esposito and Bernie Nicholls — to hit that mark.

2. Leon Draisaitl, C/LW, EDM – Robin to McDavid's Batman, Draisaitl is putting together his own monstrous campaign. Draisaitl hit the 50-goal mark Saturday for the third time in his career and has set a new career-high in assists (70) and points (120). He has notched nine goals and 15 helpers during his current 12-game point streak. Of his 120 points, 58 have come on the power play with two coming while shorthanded, coupled with 238 shots and

This week's article is the last of a series of three columns which began with a look at this season's biggest disappointments and surprises. This week, we'll cover potential projected top-12 draft picks in fantasy leagues next year. Take the below with a grain of salt and consider your league settings and personal preferences when reading the suggestions.

1. Connor McDavid, C, EDM – If you needed me to guide you in this direction, maybe fantasy hockey is not for you. McDavid, already the consensus first-overall pick for the past several seasons, has taken his game to another level. As of Monday's games, McDavid had recorded at least two points in a whopping 44 of 77 outings this season. He's up to 62 tallies, 146 points, 327 shots on net, 84 hits and a plus-17 rating this season. If/when McDavid tops 150 points, he will be one of six players in history — Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Phil Esposito and Bernie Nicholls — to hit that mark.

2. Leon Draisaitl, C/LW, EDM – Robin to McDavid's Batman, Draisaitl is putting together his own monstrous campaign. Draisaitl hit the 50-goal mark Saturday for the third time in his career and has set a new career-high in assists (70) and points (120). He has notched nine goals and 15 helpers during his current 12-game point streak. Of his 120 points, 58 have come on the power play with two coming while shorthanded, coupled with 238 shots and a plus-6 rating through 75 appearances.

3. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, FLA – Coming off his first 100-point season, Tkachuk was dealt from Calgary to Florida this past off-season. The move from Western Canada to the Sunshine State has done little to slow his game, as Tkachuk has surpassed the 100-point plateau again. He's become even more judicious as to when he doles out hits, reducing the wear and tear on his body. Tkachuk has benefitted from seeing about two-and-a-half minutes more of ice time on average in each contest, resulting in 40+ shots, offsetting the decline in his shooting percentage.

4. David Pastrnak, RW, BOS – Armed with an eight-year, $90 million contract extension he signed with the Bruins in March, Pastrnak will remain in the black-and-gold for the foreseeable future. Heading into a contract year, Pastrnak took a major step forward in production, notching the first 100-point campaign of his career. Sitting with 56 goals in 77 contests, if Pastrnak scores four more times during Boston's final five games, he'll become the only player in franchise history not named Phil Esposito with 60 goals in a single season.

5. Nathan MacKinnon, D, COL – MacKinnon, very quietly, just churns out points. With seven games remaining, MacKinnon has 34 goals and 63 assists and sits two shy of career-high 99 points set in 2018-19 and one shy of the century mark. MacKinnon, making up for the absence of Gabriel Landeskog for the season, saw an uptick in ice time and shots per game as he assumed even more of the leadership mantle. With 745 points in 702 career games, MacKinnon is certainly on a Hall of Fame production pace.

6. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB – The only thing that has slowed Kucherov down in his career is injuries. After missing all of the shortened 2020-21 season, lower-body injuries limited Kucherov to 47 contests last year. Fully healthy this season, Kucherov has broken the 100-point barrier for the first time since the 2018-19, aided by his 77 helpers in 77 games. In addition, Kucherov has shattered the point-per-game plateau each of the past six seasons, further demonstrating that he's an elite offensive weapon, especially while skating on a line with Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

7. Kirill Kaprizov, RW, MIN – I may be accused of Kirill the Thrill bias by including him in this slot, though many other options exist. Prior to getting injured March 8 against the Jets, Kaprizov lead Minnesota in 2022-23 with 39 goals and 74 points through 65 games. That output follows the 47 goals and 108 points he posted last season. What was even more impressive was that in just 65 games played, Kaprizov had the same 31 points on the man-advantage as he had last year. He was also on pace for more shots on goal and possibly more goals along with two more minutes of ice time per game. If healthy next season, 50 goals and 100 points should certainly be within reach.

8. Mitch Marner, RW, TOR – While much of the focus in Toronto centers around the other half of the M&M boys, Auston Matthews, Marner has had the better season of the two. Marner had a true breakout campaign a year ago, finishing with career-best marks in goals (35) and points (97) while also posting a plus-23 rating. He's shown that the increase in production was no fluke, amassing 28 goals, 95 points (including 34 on the man-advantage) and 180 shots on net in 75 games this season.

9. Auston Matthews, C, TOR – Matthews won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP last season after finishing the year with 60 goals in 73 games, becoming the first player since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12 to reach such a milestone. He hasn't had the same goal-scoring prowess this season, tallying 37 markers in 69 games, far off his pace of a year ago. In addition, after posting 106 points a year ago, Matthews has 79 games in 69 contests this season, a good but not great year. All this said, he's still a sniper and should be in line for a rebound campaign, especially if his shooting percentage (12.3 percent) returns closer to his historical number (15.7 percent).

10. Cale Makar, D, COL – Makar, already viewed as an elite blueliner, cemented that notion by winning the Norris Trophy last season after posting 28 goals and 58 helpers in 77 games. He punctuated that fine campaign by also taking home the Conn Smythe Award. A pair of injuries have forced Makar to miss 17 games this season, but he's still averaging more than a point per game while also skating over 26 minutes a contest. Makar, despite the injury, is still in the top-10 in defenseman scoring and would be second if he had played a full campaign.

11. Jack Hughes, C, NJ – Hughes took incremental steps forward the past two seasons after being drafted first overall in 2019. The main question regarding Hughes' ascension to become one of the elite players in the league was when not if. But injuries which hampered him in the past, has not been as big of a factor this year, as he has skated in 73 contests.  Hughes has 40 goals and 50 helpers in 73 and would have been the first Devil to break the 50-goal plateau if he hadn't missed five games with an injury and only scored a one marker in his next 11 games.

12. Jason Robertson, LW, DAL – A second-round, 39th overall in 2017, Robertson has far exceeded his draft status. Pegged as not a great skater entering the draft, Robertson has improved that aspect of his game while also knowing when and how to find open space to score. His production has steadily increased the past three seasons, punctuated this year by his first 100-point campaign, tallying 43 goals and 58 assists for 101 points, including 37 power-play points, 297 shots on net and a plus-33 rating through 77 contests. Robertson has taken his place as one of the top talents and producers in the league.

Others under consideration include Artemi Panarin, Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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