Early fantasy hockey rankings for 2018-19

Mark Scheifele and Steven Stamkos should bring more fantasy goodness to managers in 2018-19. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The puck hasn't even dropped on the 2017-18 playoffs, and we are more than two months away from the draft and free agency. It's way too early to do any kind of rankings for the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season, right?

Not for us.

These rankings, as always, are based on the ESPN standard game and are meant to provide a base from which to work off information we get throughout the playoffs and heading into the draft.

A lot has changed in a year. You can see just how much things have changed in the column on the right in the rankings, which displays the player's way-too-early ranking at this time last year.

Before we get into the rankings, I'll offer a quick take on some players whose rankings I found somewhat surprising and notable.

Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 5): He finished 60th among skaters on the ESPN Player Rater despite missing 20 games and continued to look stronger. We could also see yet another rise in his overall ice time.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames (No. 8): I still think he's a top-10 talent, but he needs to keep the consistency going throughout the year.

John Tavares, C, New York Islanders (No. 9): He doesn't need to have elite wingers surrounding him to succeed, but the potential for his scoring to explode is scary if he signs somewhere that can provide them.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 10): My first goalie off the board based on his surroundings, youth, success and what should be improved conditioning to keep it up all season.

Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators (No. 12): He'll get better surroundings either through player movement around him or by moving to a new team. The skills are still all-world; he just had an off year.

Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres (No. 15): If he can stay on his ankles, he could finish in the top 10.

Patrik Laine, RW, Winnipeg Jets (No. 16): He played fewer than 17 minutes per game and is still only 19 years old, yet scored 44 goals. This ranking may be way too conservative.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 23): This ranking gets downgraded because Malkin never seems to give us these otherworldly seasons in consecutive years, and that is too risky when compared to the quality of players at the top.

Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins (No. 38): The only reason John Carlson led the league in points by a defenseman is because Krug had a horrifically slow start to the season.

William Karlsson, C, Vegas Golden Knights (No. 46): This ranking is meant to strike a balance between appreciating Karlsson's incredible 43-goal campaign while still being somewhat concerned about his ability to go out and do it again.

Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals (No. 52): Whatever was going on the second half of this season, Holtby is still in his prime with a fantastic track record, and he'll still be the Capitals' starter next season (Philipp Grubauer is due a pay day no matter what happens in the playoffs). That's enough to keep him among the top 10 goalies.

Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens (No. 54): Price gets a mulligan based on his track record, too.

Eeli Tolvanen, C, Nashville Predators (No. 62): My pick for next year's Calder Trophy, Tolvanen gives the Predators an elite scoring option to slot into an already dangerous top six. He has already proven that he can score at a pro level in the KHL.

Mitch Marner, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 65): I think the consistency is there for the whole season next year, but he's still blocked by coach Mike Babcock's desire to spread out the wealth. Until Marner gets to play with Matthews, his potential is somewhat capped.

Jakub Voracek, RW, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 73): A lot of the damage Voracek did this season was when he played on the top line with Claude Giroux. He was removed from that role midseason, and Travis Konecny played well enough to keep Voracek down the depth chart at 5-on-5.

Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens (No. 75): Even though it's only one lost season, Weber's age (33 next season) makes me hesitant to immediately rank him as a No. 1 defenseman again.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes (No. 82): There were enough glimmers of hope to think this was just a down year for OEL. His team is on the rise, and he should work his way back into the elite mix at some point.

Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, N/A (No. 86): He'll be 35 years old and his skills have looked as sharp as ever in the KHL. Reports are that he's close to a deal with the New York Rangers, but we'll take Kovalchuk wherever he lands. After all, his scoring prowess in the NHL was on display in Atlanta for all those years, so supporting cast need not be a huge consideration.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers (No. 92): It's way too early to think the Oilers will keep playing RNH on a line with Connor McDavid, but there was enough success at the end of the season that we can't rule it out for next year.

Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 107): He's still blocked in his ultimate potential by Shayne Gostisbehere's role on the power play, but it should be noted that a list of defenseman who scored more goals than Provorov this season doesn't exist. He tied for the league lead with Victor Hedman and Dougie Hamilton.

Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators (No. 110): How can I rank the No. 1 overall player on the ESPN Player Rater outside the top 100? First off, you can count on your fingers the goaltenders in NHL history who have provided elite statistics once they turn 36. Second, Juuse Saros has earned more playing time.

Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils (No. 112): While Schneider also earns a mulligan for this season, he only gets partial credit compared to Holtby and Price.

Matt Duchene, C, Ottawa Senators (No. 127): Part of me wants to rank Duchene in line with a breakout season with the Senators next year. But until we see what cast of characters will surround him, I just can't bring myself to do it.

Andrei Svechnikov, RW, N/A (No. 136): As the Sedin twins retire, could a new set of brothers be teamed up if the Detroit Red Wings score a top-three pick in the lottery? Andrei has a stronger scoring profile than his brother Evgeny, who made his debut with the Red Wings down the stretch.

Rasmus Dahlin, D, N/A (No. 141): The teams with the best lottery odds (Sabres, Coyotes, Senators) already boast a quality (or elite) No. 1 defenseman among their ranks. Is that enough to mute the immediate contributions of such a highly touted prospect like Dahlin? Maybe. However, if the Red Wings or Vancouver Canucks win the lottery, watch out.

Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks (No. 149): I tend to shy away from goaltenders over the age of 33, and Crawford will turn 34 in the middle of next season. He'll contribute to fantasy teams if he stays healthy and plays, but I don't know if it will be at an elite level again.

Timo Meier, LW, San Jose Sharks (No. 185): A proper breakout is due for this budding power forward. His 21 goals in a muted role for the Sharks offense offer a glimpse of his potential on a regular scoring line.

David Perron, LW, Vegas Golden Knights (No. 202): I don't want to be negative about the Knights forwards next season, but I don't envision three lines having success throughout the campaign. That means some decisions will have to be made as additional prospects push for ice time. I could see Perron losing out on key minutes.

Carter Hutton, G, St. Louis Blues (No. 228): Like Keith Kinkaid and Grubauer, Hutton is among a group of goaltenders who have probably earned more work, but won't necessarily get it with their current team. They could rise the ranks if a team in need of goaltending takes a chance on them.