This week’s question is:
As we hit the midway mark of the season, who are your fantasy picks for top forward, defenseman and goaltender?
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Brian: It's hard not to pick Morgan Rielly as the best defenseman. He leads all NHL rearguards in points, plus/minus and goals scored. Rielly's only blemish is that he has only two minor penalties to his name. Honorable mention goes to Mark Giordano, who is experiencing a rebirth at the age of 35.
As for the goalie, my vote goes to last season's Vezina Trophy winner, Pekka Rinne. I would not have bet much on Rinne playing better than he did in 2017-18 when he was the best netminder in the NHL. Surprisingly, that would have been a very good wager. With a 2.33 goals-against-average, a .922 save percentage and 14 wins, Rinne is near the top of all statistical goaltending categories.
The toughest pick for me is my top fantasy forward. Of course Mikko Rantanen, Nathan McKinnon, Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov are all having exceptional seasons. But I'm going to vote how I always vote. I want an all-rounded player. One who contributes in all the scoring categories, has a strong plus/minus rating and gets a considerable amount of penalty minutes. There is only one player who has skated in most of his team's games, has contributed better than a point-per-game, has a positive plus/minus rating and registers at least a penalty minute per contest, and that is Brad Marchand. I've taken a lot of heat for putting his name up as the most valuable fantasy forward in the past, but I can't tell you how many pools I've finished in the money because of his contributions.
Corey: I still have to go with Nathan MacKinnon as the top forward. He has been a consistent producer this season and has only gone more than one game without picking up at least one point once this season. MacKinnon has been successful whether he is setting up his linemates or finishing plays himself, which is why he ranks among the league leaders in goals (23), assists (35) and points (58). He also leads the NHL with 177 shots.
On defense, it's Morgan Rielly for me. He not only leads all rearguards in points (44), but he also sits first in goals (13), plus-minus rating (plus-25 rating). Rielly is also among the top power-play producers among defensemen. He has racked up 105 shots, which ranks him seventh among blueliners. Rielly topped 50 points for the first time last year and he's on pace to comfortably surpass that total in 2018-19.
Between the pipes, I will go with Frederik Andersen. He is second in the league in wins (20), while maintaining a .923 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average. Hopefully, his groin injury does not keep him out for very long. Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves an honorable mention for his outstanding 14-3-2 record, but he has had some shaky performances since his return from injury.
Ryan: There are a few forwards pretty close to each other at the halfway point, but I'll take Nathan MacKinnon. He's close to Nikita Kucherov and Mikko Rantanen in terms of points, but edges them out in goals and SOG. I feel like Alex Ovechkin also deserves an honorable mention though. He has left winger eligibility, which makes him a rarer commodity, leads the league in goals, and unlike most of the other top forwards, Ovechkin is an asset when it comes to hits. I gave serious consideration to making him my choice for top forward, but ultimately felt that the gap in points and PPP was too significant to justify it.
In terms of defensemen, I feel like it has to be Morgan Rielly. He leads all defensemen in goals (13), plus/minus (25), and holds a six-point edge in the blueliner scoring race. His 14 PPP isn't amazing compared to the cream of the crop, but it's still great and not enough of a downside for me to give serious consideration to any alternatives at this time. I do want to note though that Erik Karlsson has 23 points in his last 20 games, so he's clearly gotten over his adjustment period with San Jose. It wouldn't surprise me if Karlsson is the best defenseman in the second half.
When it comes to goalies, I'll take Frederik Andersen. His 2.50 GAA wouldn't have looked that great a few years ago, but with scoring up in the league, that's actually pretty solid for a workhorse goaltender. He also has a great .923 save percentage and has posted a 20-9-1 record in 30 starts. I'll give an honorable mention to Jaroslav Halak, whose workload has been lighter, but boasts a 12-6-2 record, 2.28 GAA, and .928 save percentage.
Joey: There's a lot of great candidates for top forward, but I'll go with Nikita Kucherov. The Bolts winger has put up 85 points and 100 points in his previous two seasons, but he's currently on pace to shatter those numbers. The 25-year-old has 18 goals and 63 points in 39 games this season, which means he's heading for a 133-point season. That's simply ridiculous.
Although Morgan Rielly is a great choice, I feel as though Thomas Chabot's 38 points in 38 games are a little more impressive. In Toronto, Rielly is surrounded by a plethora of talented players and he gets to play on his team's dynamic first power play unit. Chabot has had to perform at a high level with an Ottawa team that's been surrounded by drama. He was forced to exit Saturday's game with an upper-body injury, so it'll be interesting to see how the Sens manage without him.
As for the top goalie, I'd have to go with Frederik Andersen. He's been incredibly consistent from the start of the season to this point. He's second in wins and he a solid .923 save percentage. Again, he has a very good team in front of him, but there's times where he's had to stand on his head, too. If his latest injury sidelines him for a while, everyone will see just how valuable he is to that team.
Michael: Nathan MacKinnon has been the best overall forward to date in the NHL. He has had a fabulous season (as have so many including linemate Mikko Rantanen) and as mentioned earlier, his shots on goal totals are so much better than anyone around him, it gives him the edge. His 23 goals are the best among forwards in the top-10 in scoring and his plus/minus is equal to any others in the top-10. He has 20 power play points which is tied for fourth best in the NHL. Kucherov is close as he has five more points as well a league-leading 23 power play points but his 109 shots on goal, gives the Colorado center the slight advantage.
As far as blueliners are concerned, it’s a two-man race at this time between Morgan Rielly and the veteran Mark Giordano who has been a stud for Calgary and a big part of their resurgence. Rielly leads in goals, points and plus/minus so it’s hard to give it to anyone else. John Carlson has also had a great first half and will be in the conversation the rest of the way.
Frederik Andersen is being touted by most and deservedly so but the most valuable could be Marc-Andre Fleury. After a horrible start to the season, giving up 14 goals in his first four starts (he was pulled halfway through the opener) he has come back quite nicely and has been the reason the Golden Knights are tied for first in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights are playing him far too much but he leads the NHL in wins with 22 and his 2.55 GAA and .921 save percentage are quite good.