Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy forwards in his weekly segment: "The Front Line." From updated rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy forwards expert all season long.
Exactly 10 days of the 2012-13 NHL season are in the books. The Blackhawks and Sharks have perfect records, Patrick Marleau leads the League in goals and is tied with linemate Joe Thornton for the League-lead in points, Craig Anderson has the NHL's best goals-against average and save percentage, and 38-year-old defenseman Sami Salo has the League's best plus/minus.
There have been plenty of surprises in the early goings of this shortened season, but what about from a fantasy perspective? Who has taken owners by surprise so far? Who has disappointed their owners?
Here's a look at 15 of the biggest surprises from the forward position after 10 days:
1. Marleau leads the NHL with nine goals. After that, five players are tied with five goals: Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Zach Parise, Jeff Skinner and … Daniel Winnik. Winnik's ownership in Yahoo! Leagues has increased to 29 percent, but it's likely he won't keep at that scoring pace and you're probably better off leaving him on waivers.
6. Six players are tied for the plus/minus lead among forwards at plus-6. Four of them aren't a big surprise: Marleau, Thornton, Eric Staal and Brad Richards. The other two are Anaheim Ducks linemates Winnik and Saku Koivu.
7. Alex Ovechkin, ranked fifth in Yahoo! Leagues coming into the season, currently is ranked 223rd. He has one goal, one assist and a minus-2 rating in five games.
8. Mike Ribeiro has been Washington's most valuable fantasy player with one goal, five assists, a plus-3, 14 penalty minutes, four power-play points and eight shots on goal -- he's currently ranked 26th overall.
9. Alexandre Burrows and Skinner are second only to Zach Parise in shots on goal -- Parise has 25, Burrows and Skinner have 24. The Detroit Red Wings' Damien Brunner, 26, leads all first-year NHL players with 22, tied for 12th in the League.
10. The Sharks have five forwards ranked inside Yahoo!'s top-30: Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. The Blues have four inside the top-40: Tarasenko, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie and David Perron.
12. Twelve forwards have recorded at least one point in every game this season (at least three games played): Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Parise, Steven Stamkos, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall.
13. Cory Conacher's ownership increased from zero to 49 percent after he had two goals, five assists and a plus-4 rating in his first five NHL games.
14. Nine forwards have recorded at least three assists in one game: Thornton, Pavelski, St. Louis, Vanek, Jason Pominville, Teddy Purcell, Evgeni Malkin, Nikolai Kulemin and Valtteri Filppula. Only Thornton has done it twice.
Steven Stamkos, Lightning -- While a lot of players remained the same in our updated rankings (remember, it's only been 10 days), Stamkos is No. 1 after getting off to a hot start (3 G, 7 A, plus-2, 2 PIMs, 4 PPP, 15 SOG). It also helped that Malkin hasn't exactly been Malkin-like to start -- he has one goal and "only" six points to go with a minus-3 in five games. So far, only Marleau and Thornton has been a more valuable pair of players than Stamkos and St. Louis, who each has recorded a point on the same goal seven times this season. Stamkos is No. 1 right now and should remain among the top three all season long.
Evander Kane, Jets -- A lot of fantasy drafters were worried that his scoring problems in the KHL would carry over to his season with the Jets. Fortunately, they have not. After being held without a point in his first two games, Kane has rattled off three consecutive two-point games (goal and an assist in each), and also has added six penalty minutes and 20 shots on goal in five games. He's seeing over 19 minutes of ice time per game while skating on a line with Blake Wheeler and Olli Jokinen. After posting a 30-goal, 57-point effort last season, there's reason to believe Kane can keep climbing in our forward ranks.
David Clarkson, Devils -- Many weren't sure Clarkson would be able to replicate his breakout performance from last season (30 goals, 138 PIMs), but through four games he's been just as good, if not better. Clarkson has at least one point in each game and has totaled three goals, three assists, 11 penalty minutes and 17 shots on goal. Clarkson is getting nearly four minutes of power-play time after averaging 3:03 last season, and with his nasty edge, he could finish as a top-50 Yahoo! forward this season. Clarkson is owned in 66 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, but that number will continue to rise if he keeps putting up dominant performances.
Henrik Sedin, Canucks -- Sedin was selected on average with the 17th pick of Yahoo! drafts. As of now, he's ranked 145th -- not exactly paying dividends for his owners. While he'll surely rise in the coming weeks, Sedin's stat line (0 G, 4 A, plus-1, 2 PIMs, 3 PPP, 7 SOG) has been a disappointment to this point. What's most concerning is his lack of shots -- he has been held without a shot on goal in three of his six games. Sedin is one of the League's best playmakers, so his tendency to pass more than shoot crushes his fantasy value. There's always a chance he'll be among the League leaders in assists, but his goals, shots on goal and penalty minutes surely will hurt his owners this season.
Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs -- Kessel might not be notching assists like Sedin, but at least he has 24 shots on goal in his first five games. However, he has yet to score on any of those shots. But it's a good sign he's still shooting. The loss of Joffrey Lupul definitely will hurt Kessel's value -- opposing defenses solely can focus on Kessel, who now is skating on a line with fantasy-irrelevant players Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur. The goals may come, but without Lupul on his side, there's a good chance Kessel will disappoint his owners this season.
Mike Richards, Kings -- Richards had just 18 goals and 44 points in his first season with the Kings last season (not exactly what we expected). He rounded into form in the playoffs with 15 points and 17 penalty minutes in 20 games (exactly what we expected). His playoff run stuck in fantasy owners' minds and gave us hope for a big season. Unfortunately, the 2012-13 season is off to an even worse start than last season for Richards -- he had his first point on Monday on an assist, has just seven shots on goal and is a minus-4 in five games. Richards is still seeing 17:29 of ice time with 4:24 of that coming on the power play, giving hope he'll turn things around, but until he shows any sign of life, you're better off benching him.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Michael Grabner, Islanders -- Two seasons ago Grabner broke out with 34 goals and 52 points for the Islanders, but last season he regressed to 20 goals, 32 points and a minus-18. The start of the 2012-13 season has been a welcome sight for Grabner, who has three goals, two assists and a plus-4 rating in his first five games. Grabner has been skating primarily on the team's second line, with Brad Boyes and Frans Nielsen, and is getting plenty of scoring chances -- he's averaging three shots per game. Fantasy players are taking notice of his play -- Grabner's Yahoo! ownership has risen to 39 percent -- and he could crack the top-100 next week.
TOP-100 FORWARD RANKINGS
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings.
1. Steven Stamkos, Lightning (+1)
2. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (-1)
3. Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)
4. Claude Giroux, Flyers (same)
5. Corey Perry, Ducks (same)
6. Daniel Sedin, Canucks (same)
7. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (+1)
8. Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils (+4)
9. Rick Nash, Rangers (+1)
10. Zach Parise, Wild (+5)
11. Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (+3)
12. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (+5)
13. James Neal, Penguins (-6)
14. Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+19)
15. John Tavares, Islanders (-4)
16. Marian Gaborik, Rangers (+11)
17. Anze Kopitar, Kings (+7)
18. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (-9)
19. Joe Thornton, Sharks (+20)
20. Jason Spezza, Senators (+1)
21. Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-8)
22. Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)
23. Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+8)
24. Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (-5)
25. Brad Richards, Rangers (+3)
26. Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-1)
27. Thomas Vanek, Sabres (+9)
28. Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+9)
29. Logan Couture, Sharks (+6)
30. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (-1)
31. Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (-13)
32. David Backes, Blues (-10)
33. Tyler Seguin, Bruins (-13)
34. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (-2)
35. Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-5)
36. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (-10)
37. Jamie Benn, Stars (+4)
38. Dany Heatley, Wild (+4)
39. Taylor Hall, Oilers (-1)
40. Mikko Koivu, Wild (+4)
41. Teemu Selanne, Ducks (-1)
42. Milan Lucic, Bruins (+1)
43. Jason Pominville, Sabres (+20)
44. Evander Kane, Jets (+11)
45. Jarome Iginla, Flames (-11)
46. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-1)
47. Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+3)
48. Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning (+19)
49. Johan Franzen, Red Wings (+4)
50. Bobby Ryan, Ducks (-1)
51. Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (same)
52. Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (+10)
53. Loui Eriksson, Stars (-7)
54. Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+24)
55. Cody Hodgson, Sabres (+22)
56. David Perron, Blues (+17)
57. Ray Whitney, Stars (+7)
58. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (-4)
59. Patrik Elias, Devils (+12)
60. Ryane Clowe, Sharks (+16)
61. Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues (+29)
62. Matt Moulson, Islanders (-2)
63. T.J. Oshie, Blues (+19)
64. Brad Marchand, Bruins (-3)
65. Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (+1)
66. Andy McDonald, Blues (NR)
67. Ryan Callahan, Rangers (-10)
68. Chris Kunitz, Penguins (-3)
69. Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (same)
70. Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-18)
71. Jordan Staal, Hurricanes (+1)
72. Mike Ribeiro, Capitals (+12)
73. Dustin Brown, Kings (-15)
74. Teddy Purcell, Lightning (+15)
75. David Clarkson, Devils (+23)
76. Milan Michalek, Senators (+5)
77. Mike Richards, Kings (-18)
78. Jeff Carter, Kings (-10)
79. Jaromir Jagr, Stars (-23)
80. Cory Conacher, Lightning (NR)
81. PA Parenteau, Avalanche (-7)
82. Danny Briere, Flyers (NR - was injured)
83. Damien Brunner, Red Wings (+4)
84. Martin Havlat, Sharks (+2)
85. David Krejci, Bruins (-10)
86. Erik Cole, Canadiens (-16)
87. Nathan Horton, Bruins (-8)
88. Shane Doan, Coyotes (+4)
89. Andrew Ladd, Jets (+6)
90. Chris Stewart, Blues (+4)
91. Kyle Turris, Senators (NR)
92. Derek Stepan, Rangers (-4)
93. Curtis Glencross, Flames (NR)
94. Blake Wheeler, Jets (+5)
95. Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (-2)
96. Travis Zajac, Devils (-5)
97. Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (-1)
98. Nail Yakupov, Oilers (-1)
99. Mikkel Boedker, Coyotes (NR)
100. Matt Read, Flyers (NR)
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