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The Front Line: Rangers' Nash a fantasy game-breaker

Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 12:00 PM
Pete Jensen  - NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen provides owners with in-depth fantasy forward analysis in this week's edition of "The Front Line." From updated top-100 rankings to players worth keeping an eye on, Jensen will guide your fantasy squad in the right direction.

If his recent performance is any indication, Rick Nash has taken his game to new heights as a member of the New York Rangers.

Nash is locked into the longest point streak of his NHL career (10 games) with seven goals and nine assists over that span. He's notched multi-point games in five of his last six outings after missing four contests due to an undisclosed injury last month.

Most importantly, Nash is making a habit of putting the Rangers on his back when their offense goes quiet. Whether it was his power-play onslaught against the Buffalo Sabres on March 3 or his late-game heroics in a road win over the New York Islanders on March 7, Nash has come through in a number of big spots since being shipped from Columbus to the Big Apple last offseason.

Consistency has been the most impressive facet of Nash's fantasy arsenal. He has registered at least a point in 16 of his 20 games played, while turning in shots on goal at a high rate. Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets (4.4) is the only forward with a higher shots-per-game average in the League than Nash (4.2) -- who reeled off a career-high 12 on net in his return from injury on Feb. 28.

The Rangers have shuffled lines all season long, but Nash is beginning to settle in during his point streak on a unit with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin. But regardless of which line he's operated on in any particular game, Nash has put forth maximum effort consistently -- and it's paying dividends from a fantasy standpoint.

And to think that most fantasy owners didn't even have to spend a first-round pick on Nash (average draft position: 20.4) heading into the season. All things considered, few fantasy forwards have been more valuable to this point -- which justifies Nash's rise to No. 3 overall in this week's top-100 rankings.

TRENDING UPWARD:

Anaheim Ducks' top line: The reunion of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry has been a blast from the past for fantasy owners. The trio has combined for seven goals in three games since coach Bruce Boudreau opted to switch back to a combination that combined for nearly 250 points two seasons ago. Getzlaf, who signed a long-term extension last week, has points in 11 of his last 13 games with eight multi-point showings during that stretch. Corey Perry had only one goal in his first 12 games, but has suddenly reeled off eight in his ensuing 12 outings. Even Bobby Ryan, who regressed last season with 57 points in 82 games, is riding a seven-game point streak with no signs of letting up.

Chris Kunitz, Penguins - It's no secret that Kunitz is a primary beneficiary of Sidney Crosby's point production prowess, but that shouldn't take away from the 33-year-old's emergence as one of the most balanced fantasy forwards in the game today. In his last seven games, Kunitz has exploded for 10 goals -- all of which have been assisted by Crosby. He currently stands among the League leaders in goals (17, T-2nd), assists (19, T-6th), points (36, 3rd), plus/minus rating (plus-21, 1st) and power-play production (12 PPP, T-12th) through 26 games.

Jaromir Jagr, Stars - Per Elias Sports Bureau, Jagr became the first player in NHL history to light the lamp in four consecutive games at age 41 or older when he scored on March 9 against the Phoenix Coyotes. He's seeing nearly three-and-a-half minutes per game with the man advantage and providing Dallas with a boost in those situations (7 PPP in 23 games). He's also registered at least a shot on goal in every game this season with two or more in 20 of his 23 contests.

TRENDING DOWNWARD:

David Clarkson, Devils - Clarkson still leads the Devils in goals (10), but that doesn't excuse his 12-game goalless drought that stretches back to mid-February (2 assists, minus-6 in that span). He's still a valuable commodity because of his top-notch production in shots (92, 7th in NHL) and PIMs (47), but has come back down to earth offensively since his torrid start.

Danny Briere, Flyers - Briere seemed to be back on track after a five-game point streak spanning from Feb. 16 to Feb. 23, but a stretch of only two assists in his ensuing seven games has nearly dropped him out of the top-100 forward ranks. The veteran forward is a far cry from the points-PIMs fantasy asset he was years ago, only accumulating six PIMs in 23 games this season with a minus-8 rating. He was held without a point in four games last week as the Flyers' struggles continue to mount.

Teemu Selanne, Ducks - Last season, Selanne didn't go more than three games without a point, but 2012-13 has been a different story -- he hasn't registered a point in five games and counting. With points in only two of his last 11 games and a combined minus-6 rating in that span, the 42-year-old sniper is likely either struggling due to a lack of potent weapons on his line or his age. Either way, it's a major surprise to see Selanne mired in such a dry spell in what could very well be his final NHL season.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Brandon Saad, Blackhawks - Owned in only 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues, the LW-eligible Chicago rookie is finally finding the scoresheet with regularity on the team's top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. He's come a long way since his eight-game pointless drought to begin the season and is in the midst of a career-long four-game point streak (1 goal, 5 assists, plus-3, 9 SOG in that span). While he only sees a tad over a minute per game on the power play, he's shown composure beyond his years all season long and warrants consideration in deep fantasy leagues.

TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS

1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)

2. Steven Stamkos, Lightning (same)

3. Rick Nash, Rangers (+5)

4. Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)

5. John Tavares, Islanders (+1)

6. James Neal, Penguins (+5)

7. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (same)

8. Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils (+1)

9. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (+1)

10. Claude Giroux, Flyers (-6)

11. Thomas Vanek, Sabres (NR)*

12. Corey Perry, Ducks (+1)

13. Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+2)

14. Anze Kopitar, Kings (+5)

15. Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+14)

16. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (+8)

17. Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-3)

18. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (-6)

19. Zach Parise, Wild (-1)

20. Henrik Sedin, Canucks (+1)

21. Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-1)

22. Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (same)

23. Daniel Sedin, Canucks (-6)

24. Tyler Seguin, Bruins (+3)

25. Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+8)

26. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (-10)

27. Joe Thornton, Sharks (-4)

28. Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+12)

29. Patrick Marleau, Sharks (-4)

30. Patrik Elias, Devils (+2)

31. Taylor Hall, Oilers (NR)*

32. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+12)

33. Joe Pavelski, Sharks (-2)

34. Scott Hartnell, Flyers (-8)

35. Bobby Ryan, Ducks (+22)

36. Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (-2)

37. Logan Couture, Sharks (+6)

38. Jarome Iginla, Flames (+8)

39. Matt Moulson, Islanders (+8)

40. PA Parenteau, Avalanche (+12)

41. Mike Ribeiro, Capitals (-2)

42. David Backes, Blues (-7)

43. Jeff Carter, Kings (+22)

44. Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning (-7)

45. Jamie Benn, Stars (-15)

46. Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-8)

47. Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (-2)

48. Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+10)

49. Jason Pominville, Sabres (-7)

50. Evander Kane, Jets (-2)

51. Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (+2)

52. Brad Marchand, Bruins (+9)

53. Mikko Koivu, Wild (+1)

54. Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (-5)

55. James van Riemsdyk (same)

56. Marian Gaborik, Rangers (-20)

57. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+2)

58. Milan Lucic, Bruins (-2)

59. David Clarkson, Devils (-18)

60. Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (+13)

61. Brad Richards, Rangers (-10)

62. Sam Gagner, Oilers (+2)

63. Jaromir Jagr, Stars (+15)

64. Cody Hodgson, Sabres (same)

65. Jiri Tlusty, Hurricanes (+14)

66. Johan Franzen, Red Wings (-6)

67. Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+2)

68. Andrew Ladd, Jets (+3)

69. Michael Ryder, Canadiens (NR)

70. Damien Brunner, Red Wings (-8)

71. Chris Stewart, Blues (+18)

72. Jordan Staal, Hurricanes (-6)

73. Teemu Selanne, Ducks (-23)

74. David Perron, Blues (-7)

75. Loui Eriksson, Stars (-5)

76. Brayden Schenn, Flyers (-4)

77. Dustin Brown, Kings (+13)

78. David Krejci, Bruins (+3)

79. Dany Heatley, Wild (-11)

80. Ryan Callahan, Rangers (+3)

81. Teddy Purcell, Lightning (-4)

82. Derek Roy, Stars (same)

83. Cory Conacher, Lightning (-3)

84. T.J. Oshie, Blues (-8)

85. Brad Boyes, Islanders (NR)

86. Troy Brouwer, Capitals (+1)

87. Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-13)

88. Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (+3)

89. Clarke MacArthur, Maple Leafs (+3)

90. Mike Richards, Kings (-6)

91. Derek Stepan, Rangers (+4)

92. Patrik Berglund, Blues (NR)

93. Tyler Ennis, Sabres (-5)

94. Brian Gionta, Canadiens (NR)

95. Danny Briere, Flyers (-20)

96. Carl Hagelin, Rangers (+2)

97. Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (NR)

98. Andrew Cogliano, Ducks (-2)

99. Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (-2)

100. Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (NR)

*Listed on IR in last week's rankings

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mike Cammalleri, Blake Wheeler, Jiri Hudler, Nail Yakupov, Saku Koivu

INJURIES: Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Sharp, Valtteri Filppula, Stephen Weiss, Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Kesler, Alex Steen, Radim Vrbata, Andy McDonald, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brandon Dubinsky, Ray Whitney, Jason Spezza, Joffrey Lupul, Steve Downie

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