By Michael Finewax, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The NHL is off from Thursday until Monday for All-Star Weekend, so in lieu of the usual weekly Puck Drops article, we're going to look at the best fantasy players from the first part of the season. As this is a Fantasy All-Star Team, it won't feature any player who should have been taken in the first round, as they came with star-level expectations already. You won't see Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov or Cale Makar on this list. Instead, you'll see players who have risen up from other parts of the draft to perform at a very high level. (All stats are through Monday's games).
J.T. Miller, C, Vancouver Canucks
There are a lot of Vancouver players on this list and rightfully so. The group is led by Miller, who has been on a tear since the beginning of the season. Miller has had 21 multi-point games this season, including eight games with at least three points. Miller is sitting tied for fourth place in scoring with 67 points, including 25 points on the power play. Miller was taken in the fourth or fifth round in most fantasy leagues, making the 30-year-old one of the best picks in the draft.
William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nylander was taken around the same time as Miller in most drafts. Nylander started the season off with a 17-game scoring streak and while he has slumped of late — scoring twice and adding two assists in his last nine games — he is still 11th in the league in scoring with 61 points. Nylander is fifth in the league in shots on goal with 197 and has been a terrific bargain this season in fantasy leagues.
Jesper Bratt, LW, New Jersey Devils
Bratt has been a big surprise this season, but he shouldn't have been as he had back-to-back 73-point seasons heading into 2023-24. He has 19 goals and 50 points in 47 games (even while missing superstar center Jack Hughes, who has been out for the last 10 games with an upper-body injury), leading the Devils in points. Bratt was likely drafted in the middle rounds in your league, typically going between the eighth and 10th rounds, making him another great fantasy pick.
Quinn Hughes, D, Vancouver Canucks
Hughes has to be considered the leading candidate for the Norris Trophy at this stage of the season. The 24-year-old defenseman leads all blueliners with 62 points in just 49 contests, four points better than Cale Makar. Hughes leads the entire league with a plus-34 rating. Hughes had 76 points last season in 78 games and is slated to smash that mark this season, as he's on pace for 104 points. Erik Karlsson became the first defenseman in 30 years to get to the 100-point mark last season and Hughes is already on his way to bettering the mark just one year later.
Noah Dobson, D, New York Islanders
Dobson has nine assists in his last five games, giving the blueliner 52 points in 49 outings. He was drafted in the late middle rounds, giving him outstanding value in fantasy pools this season. Dobson has already bettered his career high, set two seasons ago when he had 51 points in 80 games. He's only going to get better and will likely be a fourth- or fifth-round pick next season. Dobson has 20 points on the power play, just two points shy of the 22 points he had in 2021-22 with the man-advantage.
Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets
Hellebuyck was around the fifth goaltender off the board in most fantasy leagues, but he's played like a top-two netminder this season. The 30-year-old hasn't given up more than three goals since Nov. 2. He is 23-9-3 with a sensational 2.20 GAA and an equally-as-good save percentage of .924. With all the top goaltenders (Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin) struggling this season, Hellebuyck's outstanding performance makes him an easy pick as the top goaltender in the NHL.
Sam Reinhart, C, Florida Panthers
Reinhart is second in the NHL in goals with 37, three behind the Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews. Reinhart has already set a career high in goals and has 62 points in 49 games, tied for ninth in the Art Ross Trophy race. It has been a surprisingly strong season for Reinhart, who is slated to become a UFA at the end of the campaign. Reinhart is on a 13-game point streak and has points in 37 of 49 games this season. He leads the NHL with 20 power-play goals.
Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Boeser got off to a great start with four goals and an assist on Opening Night, and concluded the first half with a hat trick and one helper Saturday, giving him the first 30-goal season of his career. Boeser has also chipped in with 22 assists, giving him 52 points in 49 games. Boeser is third in the NHL in power-play goals with 12. His plus-20 rating is tied for 10th in the NHL, making Boeser a gem of a fantasy player this season.
Filip Forsberg, LW, Nashville Predators
I considered Zach Hyman here, but Forsberg has more points than the Oilers' top left winger. Forsberg was drafted in the later rounds of most drafts, perhaps as early as the 12th round or as late as the 16th. Forsberg had an injury-filled 2022-23 campaign, missing 32 games, but has been quite healthy this season and has 50 points in 50 games. He is a plus-six on a mediocre Predators team and his 197 shots on goal are tied for fifth in the NHL.
Evan Bouchard, D, Edmonton Oilers
Bouchard got a big break at the trade deadline last season when Tyson Barrie was dealt to Nashville. That opened up a spot on the Oilers' first power play, and Bouchard took full advantage. The momentum has carried over to this season as Bouchard is sixth in scoring among defensemen with 43 points. The budding star has five goals and 20 points quarterbacking the power play and has a plus-11 rating, giving him extra value. Bouchard has slumped a bit of late, but he snapped a four-game pointless drought Saturday with an assist in a 4-1 win over Nashville.
Vince Dunn, D, Seattle Kraken
Dunn had a stellar 2022-23 campaign, scoring 14 times while adding 50 assists. But the Kraken's top defenseman was overlooked in many drafts, going between the 10th and 13th rounds in most pools. Dunn has rewarded all those who selected him, as he has eight goals and 37 points in just 45 games. He has been chippy as well this season with 50 PIM. Dunn has four goals and 14 points on the power play, but those numbers could stagnate in the second half of the season as the Kraken have recalled Ryker Evans from the minors. Evans could take over quarterbacking the first power play, relegating Dunn to the second unit.
Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks
While Hellebuyck has been the best goaltender in the league this season, Demko isn't far behind. Demko was on many lists as a top sleeper among goaltenders, and he has not disappointed. The 28-year-old was likely drafted between Rounds 6-9 after a 14-14-4 record last season. He had a 3.16 GAA and a .901 save percentage to boot. This season has been completely different, as Miller is a gaudy 26-8-1 with a 2.44 GAA and a .920 save percentage. He is tied for the NHL lead in shutouts with Tristan Jarry and Connor Ingram with five. Demko has played extremely well and will receive Vezina Trophy consideration if he keeps up his solid play.
Honorable Mentions: Sergei Bobrovsky, Stuart Skinner, Connor Ingram, Sebastian Aho, Robert Thomas, Mathew Barzal, Carter Verhaeghe, Mark Stone, Zach Hyman, Matt Duchene
Connor Bedard, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Connor Zary, RW, Calgary Flames
Matthew Knies, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Luke Hughes, D, New Jersey Devils
Brock Faber, D, Minnesota Wild
Joseph Woll, G, Toronto Maple Leafs
Honorable Mentions: Samuel Ersson, Pyotr Kochetkov, Joel Hofer, Lukas Dostal, Pavel Mintyukov, Marco Rossi, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Pavel Dorofeyev, Logan Cooley