Every Friday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy right wings in our weekly segment: "Right of Way." From updated right wing rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy right wing expert all season long.
The center position has been consistent. The left wings have been unpredictable. That leads us to the right wings.
The right wing position has proven to be arguably the deepest position in fantasy hockey this season. With stars like Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, Ilya Kovalchuk, James Neal and others all having multiple position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues, it has made ranking the right wings difficult every single week. Since we already discussed the dominant nature of the aforementioned superstars in our "Center Stage" and "Turn Left Here" earlier this week, today we'll address the remaining top tier of elite right wingers.
Who better to start with than Corey Perry? Coming into the season Corey Perry was our top-ranked right wing with Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. While St. Louis and Kane have dropped off, Perry has remained one of the more valuable fantasy players in the game.
Perry was coming off one of the most impressive fantasy seasons in recent years with 50 goals, 98 points and 104 penalty minutes last season, and while he hasn't lived up to quite those numbers, he has still been a dynamic force to reckon with this year. It's hard to find a player with 35 goals and more than 100 penalty minutes (Perry currently has 35 goals and 106 PIMs) --Scott Hartnell is the only other player to achieve those two prolific numbers so far this season -- let alone someone that also chips in with decent assists, power play production and shots on goal (22 assists, 22 PPP and 258 SOG).
The only category Perry hasn't delivered in is with his minus-5 rating, and most of us didn't expect that after he registered a solid plus-9 last season. The Ducks have seven games remaining, which gives Perry a chance at 40-plus goals this season, but regardless of whether he reaches that or not, he's still an elite right wing heading into next season.
With Malkin, Giroux, Kovalchuk, Neal and Perry gone, that leaves us with Marian Gaborik, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to follow. Gaborik was expected by many to bounce back in a big way after a disappointing 22-goal campaign last year, and he has delivered graciously. The Rangers sniper has 35 goals, 66 points, a plus-16 rating, 18 power play points, 245 shots on goal and has even thrown in 34 penalty minutes to increase his value this season.
What's been most impressive about Gaborik's season is his consistency -- his longest streak without a point is four games, and he's done it just once (he's also gone three games without a point just three times). When Gaborik is healthy he is clearly an elite fantasy player, and assuming he stays that way, he'll again be among the top right wings for the 2012-13 season.
Sharp has been on the most underrated players in all of fantasy hockey this season. The fact that he has eligibility at all three forward positions has made him very unique and useful to owners. Like Gaborik and many of these top-tiered right wingers, Sharp won't hurt you in any category -- he has 30 goals, 64 points, a plus-25, 38 penalty minutes, 16 power play points and 260 shots on goal. He's done all of that despite missing eight games this season. With Toews injured down the stretch andPatrick Kane not living up to expectations this year, Sharp and Hossa have combined to be Chicago's two most valuable players this season and in all likeliness, we can expect another monster effort from Sharp next season.
As for Sharp's teammate Hossa, what can we say about him? Hossa's 45 assists on the season rank fourth among all right-wing eligible players and his plus-22 rating is tied for third best at his position; he's also got 29 goals, 19 power play points and 227 shots on goal -- numbers that certainly help fantasy owners in a big way. The key with Hossa, like Gaborik, has been his ability to stay healthy this season -- he has missed just one game all season after appearing in just 65 and 57 the past two years in Chicago.
Hossa is as hot as anyone in the League right now with two goals and eight assists during his current seven-game point-scoring streak and should be relied on heavily as we come to the most crucial point of fantasy leagues. As long as he stays healthy, Hossa is as good as a bet as anyone to start next season as a top-five caliber right wing.
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