| Wed 11/04/2018 - 11:39 EDT

      2018 Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Fantasy Picks

      2018 Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Fantasy Picks

      NHL First Round Playoff Fantasy Picks 2018

      Eastern Conference

      C – Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins

      Some consider Ovechkin to be the greatest Russian ever to play in the NHL, but Malkin should receive consideration based on his playoff production alone. Evgeni averages more than a point per playoff game, scoring 58 goals and 157 points in 149 matches. He’s lead the playoffs in scoring twice, including 36 points for the Pens 2009 Stanley Cup win, and 28 points during last year’s ring. Even better, the Penguins first round matchup against Philly should be a high-scoring affair because the Flyers goaltending has been suspect all season. 

      RW – Phil Kessel – Pittsburgh Penguins

      Kessel has been one of the best playoff performers over the past decade, earning 31 goals and 66 points in 71 games. Over the last two playoffs, Phil the Thrill accumulated 18 goals and 45 points during Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins. Kessel put together the best regular season of his career in 2017-18, with 34 goals and 92 points. Certainly, Pittsburgh will be challenged by the Flyers offense, but Brian Elliott’s career .908 SV% in the playoffs should allow Penguins snipers to put together a strong opening round.

      LW – Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins

      Also known as the Honey Badger and/or Nose Face Killah, Brad Marchand raised his game to the next level over the past couple of seasons, becoming an elite scoring winger and pest. In 2017-18, Brad managed 85 points in only 69 games – which projects to a 100-point campaign over 82 matches. Toronto’s defense improved over the last month of the regular season, but the Bruins top line of Bergeron-Pasternak-Marchand will be tough to stop, especially in Boston. Brad’s a good candidate for a career-best playoffs.

      D – Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins

      Letang’s been itching to return to the post season after injury prevented him from participating in the 2017 playoffs. During his last Stanley Cup win, Kris was among the leading defensive scorers, earning three goals and 15 points in 23 games. Pittsburgh needs solid defense to win against Philly, but Letang will enjoy plenty of scoring chances against shaky Flyers goaltending. 

      D – Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning

      A superb regular season places Victor among the top candidates for the Norris in 2018, scoring 17 goals and 63 points, along with a +32 rating. This hulking defender also produces well in the playoffs, netting six and accumulating 37 points and a +11 rating in 65 appearances. New Jersey won’t roll over, but Hedman and the Lightning should be able to defeat the Devils because of Tampa Bay’s high-octane offense.

      G – Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning

      Despite a late swoon by Tampa’s defense at the end of the season, Andrei managed to become the first Lightning netminder to lead the league in wins with 44, while improving his save percentage to .920%. A few days of rest will benefit Vasilevskiy greatly, as the youngster experienced the grind as a workhorse starter for the first time in his career. Andrei’s performed well in limited playoff time, with a .920 SV% in eight games. 

      Eastern Conference Sleepers

      C - Brayden Point – Tampa Bay Lightning

      Point had a fantastic sophomore season, scoring 32 goals and 66 points while playing in all situations. He lead the NHL with 12 game winning goals, which shows that his production was vital to the regular season success of the Lightning. A superb inaugural playoffs isn’t out of the question for Point.

      D – Charlie McAvoy – Boston Bruins

      McAvoy started his NHL career in the playoffs, earning three points in six games while averaging 26:12 time on ice. His rookie regular season was stunted by injury, but he still produced an impressive line of 7 goals, 32 points and +20 in 63 games. Finding steady defensive scoring can be difficult in deep leagues, which makes McAvoy a great sleeper pick.

      G – Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets

      Perhaps the biggest high-risk, high-reward pick for NHL playoff fantasy pools, Bobrovsky’s has some of the worst playoff stats of any starting netminder entering the post season. Sergei has a 3-10 record, zero series wins, a 3.63 GAA and a .887 SV%. This two-time Vezina winner rocks a 2.37 GAA and .923 SV% during the regular season, occasionally turning into blend of Hasek and Khabibulin. If Bobrovsky suddenly goes incandescent, Columbus becomes an extremely dangerous team, especially against a Washington club known for folding in the playoffs.

      Western Conference

      C – Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks

      A consummate playoff performer, Getzlaf leads a Ducks offense which would be lost without his elite two-way play. Ryan lead Anaheim to the conference finals with 19 points last year, adding to his career total of 118 points in 121 playoff matches. Anaheim’s in the weaker part of the western playoff draw, giving them a legitimate chance to earn another western conference finals berth. Ryan should enjoy another successful playoff run.

      RW – Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg Jets

      Perhaps the most underrated 91-point scorer in the NHL, Blake Wheeler’s the heart and soul of the Winnipeg Jets, holding his team to high standards as the captain of the club. The Jets appear to have caught a break in their first-round matchup, against a Wild team without their top defender. This should give the Jets an opportunity to hit the ice skating in the post season, and Blake’s production will be central in the Jets push for the Stanley Cup.

      LW – Filip Forsberg – Nashville Predators

      After a difficult sophomore playoffs, Forsberg drove the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup finals with 16 points in 22 games, including a playoff-best +14 rating. He followed this up with the best regular season of his career, scoring 26 goals and 64 points in only 67 games. Anything other than a Stanley Cup win will be a disappointment for the Predators, and Forsberg’s production will be key for a lengthy Music City run.

      D – P.K. Subban – Nashville Predators

      Subban should receive plenty of attention for the Norris Trophy after a 16-goal, 59-point regular season campaign. P.K. produces at an elite pace in the playoffs too, netting 13 goals and 50 points in 77 games, including a solid outing during Nashville’s finals run last season. Subban will star on the top power play unit, enjoying plenty of opportunities to score.

      D – Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg Jets

      Dustin knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup after winning a ring with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Big Buff was crucial for Chicago, scoring eleven goals and 16 points in 22 games, including five game winning goals. He was a forward back then, but he’ll be called upon to continue orchestrating a Winnipeg power play which ranks fifth in the NHL.

      G – Connor Hellebuyck – Winnipeg Jets

      After a disappointing 2016-17 season, Hellebuyck put in a lot of work during the offseason to strengthen himself for the rigors of a full NHL campaign. The results were a Vezina quality season, earning a 44-11-9 mark, 2.36 GAA and a .924 SV%. Most highlight the Jets fantastic scoring depth and big, mobile blueline, but Hellebuyck solidifying Winnipeg’s netminding situation pushed the team into elite territory.

      Western Conference Sleepers

      LW – Kyle Connor – Winnipeg Jets

      This rookie had the quietest 31 goal campaign in the NHL, outshined by Winnipeg teammates and a strong freshmen cohort which included Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser. Part of the reason Connor succeeds is the attention paid to Sheifele, Laine and Wheeler. Kyle could be the top scoring playoff rookie.

      D – Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings

      Might seem strange to designate Doughty as a sleeper, but most of the attention rightfully focuses on Winnipeg and Nashville this post season. The Kings have plenty over playoff experience over the past few years, which might create the first upset of the post season. Doughty enjoyed a renaissance season with 10 goals and 60 points, production which could continue in the weaker part of the western conference bracket.

      G – Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings

      Quick enjoyed a superb 2017-18 season, earning a .921 SV% and five shutouts along with a 2.40 GAA, winning the Jennings Trophy. His Stanley Cup performances are legendary, including two cups, 46 wins, a 2.27 GAA and .921 SV% over his playoff career. Vegas had a terrific regular season, but the Kings were one of the few teams which matched up well against the Golden Knights.

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