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Waking Up in 2019 – What Will the BIG Four Look Like?

Theorizing about the future state of fantasy hockey is fun. If you’re right, people will heap upon you Nostradamus-like praise for your foresight. If you’re wrong, well, you can always chalk it up to poor look or blame it on some wrinkle in the space time continuum that threw off your prediction.  

I’m busting out the plutonium and taking a look at 2019 and who will be atop the world of fantasy hockey (I’m also looking for any and all excuses to kill 30 minutes watching Back to the Future videos on You Tube)

The BIG 4, as they’re commonly known, consists of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, and Stamkos (in no particular order). They are the royalty of fantasy hockey - the Will and Kate of your league.

They’ve been in place more or less since 2009-10 when Stamkos forced his way into the group with 51 goals and 95 points. It has been an impressive five year run, and one that may not be over. Amazingly they are all relatively young; Ovechkin (28), Malkin (28), Crosby (27), and Stamkos (24). We know from Eric Tulsky’s research that 30 can sometimes be the death knell for elite offensive production, but even so, you have to believe that this group still has some time to go before they drop off of the proverbial cliff.

As a long-time Malkin owner I’d like to believe the next five years will mirror the previous five. But that’s probably doing a disservice to the generation that is coming along next. The question is: in five years’ time who will be the crème de la crème of fantasy hockey?

Some of this is dependent on your league categories. For instance, if hits is measured then it’s hard to think Ovechkin won’t be an elite option. He quite simply dwarfs other superstars when it comes to finishing his checks (even though the media rarely gives him credit for his physical presence, often telling him to HIT LESS – he can never win). No other premier scorer is able to routinely hit over 200 times a season. Ovechkin is in a league of his own in this regard.

In points only formats Crosby has to be considered a runaway number one pick. While his goal and shot numbers have fluctuated wildly over the years his points have remained consistent. Five years with over 100 points and more than a point per game every one of his nine seasons – he’s pretty good.

With Malkin and Stamkos there has been a longstanding debate over who should own the number three spot outright. I’ve read strong arguments either way, with some citing Stamkos’ consistency of 50 goals and over 90 points and comparing that to Malkin’s injury issues and up and down numbers. On the other side, Stamkos has never displayed the ceiling that we know Malkin possesses – 50 goals and 109 points in 2011-12. There’s the added issue that Malkin is nearly four years older than the Lighting captain. A minor concern in single season leagues, a major one in dynasty pools. I don’t have the answer to this one and tend to use them interchangeably.

Turning our attention to the future – it’s interesting to ponder who will be the NEW big four. Will that tier even exist? The next wave of players has many sublime talents but does it have generational options like the one that preceded it?  

For starters, let’s assume that Stamkos will still be one of the five most valuable assets. He’ll only be 29 years old, the tail end of his prime, and we have little to no evidence that he’ll have slowed down by that point (although I will be watching closely in 2014-15 – his first full season without Martin St.Louis).

Next, the old guys (ok they won’t be THAT old). Crosby, Ovechkin, and Malkin will be entering their mid-thirties by this point. While 33 isn’t prehistoric, it’s an age where you start to worry, at least a tad. It’s when players like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Datsyuk, and Hossa began their declines. This past season, of the top 15 scorers, only one guy was over 33 years old (Joe Thornton). They might all go Teemu Selanne on us and be dominant until 40, but they might not.

So what if they don’t? What if injuries or declining physical abilities infect the games current stars, who is coming next?

There are so many good young assets establishing themselves that we could probably list 10 options below. If I’m working to narrow it down to four it would be: Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, and Nathan MacKinnon.

Hall and Tavares are gimmies. Both have been knocking (forcefully) on the door for some time. At times I’ve even considered creating a big six and including both of them. Next season Tavares will more than likely crack 90 points with a real chance at the century mark if Garth Snow can surround him with one or two strong free agents. He needs a running mate, heck he needs his Jamie Benn.

Seguin and MacKinnon come with a bit more risk, in that we haven’t seen their production over an extended period. However, when you combine their draft pedigree (Seguin second in 2010, MacKinnon first in 2013) with their numbers last year it’s easy to let your imagination wander. Seguin is locked up in Dallas for the next five years, and will likely have Jamie Benn flanking him for the duration. MacKinnon is part of a young Colorado core that will be built around him for the foreseeable future. In five years these two should be sitting in the middle of their peak fantasy seasons.

What does this all mean for your pool? I by no means think you should send a text to your buddy tonight asking “Hey man, what about Malkin for Seguin?” or something to that effect. We aren’t there – yet. We seem to be in the midst of a weird time in history. The guard is changing, I’m sure of that much. But it’s not time to officially move on from our current group elite assets. I’ll be watching closely over the next two seasons. As soon as we start to see telltale signs of decline in our current big four it might be time to target one of the guys coming next.


Darren Kennedy is a contributor for McKeen’s and Dobber Hockey. You can follow him on twitter @fantasyhockeydk. He has seen Back to the Future more times than you have.