Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article looks at the first-half fantasy All-Star teams. For purposes of this column, we tried to avoid clear first-round picks, because what’s the fun in including them? More importantly, we didn’t include them because expectations were already heightened for those players.
Keeper fantasy leagues may have seen some of these players go in the first round due to retention, but the primary focus here is redraft leagues.
(All 2022-23 stats are through Monday’s games)
Tage Thompson, C, BUF
Thompson took a major step forward last season, posting 38 goals, 68 points (including 16 with the man advantage) and 253 shots on goal in 78 games. Those numbers came after Thompson managed just 18 goals and 35 points in his first 140 NHL games. Thompson, who signed a seven-year, $50 million contract extension with the Sabres last August, has shown that last year’s rise in production was no fluke, as he has 34 goals and 68 points in 50 games.
One caveat is that Thompson missed the All-Star Game with an upper-body injury that plagued him last week, so check his status going forward.
Jason Robertson, LW, DAL
Robertson has moved into elite status with his play during his first two-and-a-half seasons in the league. A second-round pick in 2017, Robertson was a Calder Trophy finalist in his first full NHL season. Robertson built off that success in 2021-22, as he was one of just 17 NHL players to score 40 or more goals (41), while his 79 points placed him top 35 in the league. He has taken another step forward this season, notching 33 goals and as many assists in 51 games. He’ll be a top pick in next year’s fantasy drafts.
Mitch Marner, RW, TOR
Marner was a borderline first-round fantasy pick coming into the season after returning to the heights of his 2018-19 season by notching 35 goals and 62 assists in 72 games. His production this year has been steady, albeit at a slightly more than point-per-game rate, with 19 goals and 41 assists in 52 games. Marner came into the All-Star break with 18 points in his last 15 games and his production could spike as Toronto relies upon him even more with Auston Matthews (lower body) sidelined.
But if you want to swap out Marner for William Nylander here, you’ll get no arguments from me.
Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF
Those who read this column consistently know that I am loathe to include two players from the same team in bold treatment. But it would almost be criminal, and I would be derelict in my duty, if I didn’t have Dahlin as a first-team fantasy All-Star. The first overall pick in 2018, Dahlin has already set new career-high in goals (14), assists (44) and points (55) in 49 games. Buffalo would be wise to lock him in long-term, as they did Thompson, but his asking price has rightly risen substantially this season.
Erik Karlsson D, SJ
Karlsson was likely a late-round selection in most leagues, as he played less than 57 games for the fourth straight season while his production has been nothing to write about. One component that we all may not have considered enough was the trade of Brent Burns to Carolina, opening additional ice time (especially on the man advantage) for Karlsson. He has more than resurrected his career this year, notching 16 goals and 50 assists in 51 games, putting him on pace to exceed the career-high 82 points he tallied in 2015-16 while in Ottawa. Karlsson’s name has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors, though his contract (four more years at $11.5 mil AAV) will make dealing him somewhat difficult.
Linus Ullmark, G, BOS
Fantasy leagues are won by avoiding major mistakes, your stars staying healthy, making good pick-ups and finding late-round gems. Ullmark showed last season that he was a better goalie than what we’d seen back when he still suited up for Buffalo, posting a 26-10-2 record with a 2.45 goals-against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage in 41 games while splitting time with Jeremy Swayman. This year, he’s shown those numbers were no fluke, as he hit the All-Star break with a 26-4-1 record, a 1.90 GAA and a .937 save percentage through 33 appearances. He and Swayman may alternate starts the rest of the way, however, so Ullmark may not finish the season as the First-Team Fantasy All-Star at goalie.
Jack Hughes, C, NJ
Hughes, the first-overall pick in 2019, had the expected breakout last season but was limited to just 49 games due to injuries. Increased strength this offseason raised expectations that this was the year Hughes took his place among the league’s pantheon. So far, so good, as Hughes is up to 35 goals, 67 points, 229 shots on net and a plus-15 rating through 50 contests. Hughes has become a true first-line center, and Wayne Gretzky said during the All-Star break that Hughes is the only one he believes could challenge Connor McDavid. Heady praise indeed.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, FLA
Tkachuk posted 43 goals and 61 assists last season in Calgary, matching his production from the prior two years combined. After that brilliant campaign, Tkachuk was moved to Florida in a deal for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. Tkachuk took a little while to find his sea legs in the Sunshine State, but he has been cooking with gas for a while. He is up to 27 goals and 44 assists in 50 games, putting him on pace to exceed last year’s total. In addition, Tkachuk was named the All-Star MVP in front of the hometown fans.
David Pastrnak, RW, BOS
Pasta has become the key driver of the Perfection Line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. We thought 2019-20, when Pastrnak notched 48 goals and 47 assists, might be the high point of his career, but he’s on pace to blow through that total, having potted 38 markers while dishing out 34 apples in 51 games. Pastrnak signed a six-year, $40 million contract with the Bruins in September of 2017, a deal that has been a major bargain for the B’s. An unrestricted free agent after the year, Pastrnak — at 26 — should easily clear double-digits AAV whenever he signs.
Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL
John Klingberg‘s departure was expected to result in a rise in production for Heiskanen, who finally would be the main man on the Dallas blueline, both at even-strength and the man advantage. Heiskanen posted between 27 and 36 points his first four years in the league after being selected third overall in 2017 but left you wanting more. With Klingberg now out of the picture, Heiskanen has started to live up to those high expectations, posting 40 points (18 on the power play), a plus-11 rating, 132 shots on net and 59 blocked shots through 49 appearances as a true No. 1 blueliner.
Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ
Hamilton, signed to a seven-year, $63 million contract by the Devils in July of 2021, dealt with multiple injuries in his first season with New Jersey, ultimately missing 20 of New Jersey’s 82 regular season games and scoring just 30 points. His production this season has put that difficult campaign in the rearview window. Hamilton is up to 13 goals, 36 helpers, a plus-18 rating, 179 shots on net, 51 blocked shots, 42 hits and 34 PIM through 50 outings. He needs just one point to match the career-best 50 he posted in 2016-17 with the Flames.
But if you want to sub him for Josh Morrissey, no arguments from me.
Alexandar Georgiev, G, COL
Profiled last week, Georgiev gets the second-team nod due to where he likely was drafted in most leagues. Connor Hellebuyck and others were under consideration here, but Georgiev likely was selected later than those netminders. Acquired this offseason from the Rangers for draft picks, Georgiev signed a three-year, $10.2 million contract with the Avalanche last July, which so far has looked like a steal of a deal for the Avs. Georgiev is 20-11-3 with a 2.60 GAA and .919 SV%, numbers that look even more impressive due to the myriad of injuries suffered by the Avalanche this season.
Others include Elias Pettersson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brock Nelson, William Nylander, Brandon Hagel, Travis Konecny, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Alex Tuch, Zach Hyman, Josh Morrissey, Brandon Montour, Vince Dunn, Jake Oettinger, Logan Thompson, Vitek Vanecek.
Matty Beniers, C, SEA
Matias Maccelli, LW, AZ
Dylan Guenther, RW, AZ
Owen Power, D, BUF
Calen Addison, D, MIN
Logan Thompson, G, LV
Others include Wyatt Johnston, Mason McTavish, Dylan Holloway, Cole Perfetti, Jake Sanderson, Pyotr Kochetkov and Stuart Skinner.