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.
Back in January, I discussed some early fantasy hockey surprises after 10 days of NHL action. The list included Patrick Marleau leading the League in goals, Alex Ovechkin not living up to expectations, Cory Conacher's hot start and many others.
Months later, we clearly notice there have been plenty of changes since those first 10 days of the 2012-13 season. With just a week and a half remaining in the regular season and fantasy hockey, let's have a look at the biggest surprises from the forward position this year.
1. Chris Kunitz is still ranked third among all players in Yahoo! leagues (21 G, 26 A, plus-29, 39 PIMs, 14 PPP, 92 SOG). This comes after he was initially ranked 142nd coming into the year and after many people expected his value to decline when Sidney Crosby got hurt. He continues to prove us wrong.
2. Sticking with the Pittsburgh Penguins, three of the top four players in plus/minus this season are Kunitz (plus-29), Pascal Dupuis (plus-28) and Crosby (plus-26) -- Jonathan Toews is sandwiched in there at plus-27.
3. Despite a hat trick last night, it turns out Scott Hartnell's fantastic 2011-12 season may have been more of a fluke then we expected. In 26 games, Hartnell has just seven goals and 10 points. Toss in his minus-3 rating, five power-play points and 65 shots, and you'll realize he's only been valuable for his 60 penalty minutes.
4. Ryan Getzlaf once again is an elite fantasy player (14 G, 30 A, plus-14, 39 PIMs, 12 PPP, 90 SOG).
5. Patrick Kane is also an elite fantasy player (20 G, 27 A, plus-14, 6 PIMs, 14 PPP, 118 SOG).
6. David Clarkson is third in the NHL with 159 shots on goal. While Clarkson's point production cooled off after an amazing start, his shot totals have remained sky-high.
8. Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro are tied for the lead among forwards with 22 power-play points apiece. Ovechkin might not be a big surprise for this, but Ribeiro certainly is (as well as for his 41 points in 42 games).
9. Of the top-50 players coming into the year, three are currently outside the top-100 in Yahoo! leagues (must have appeared in at least 30 games): Dany Heatley (43 at start of season), Gabriel Landeskog (44) and David Backes (46).
11. No one has had more multi-goal games than ... Jiri Tlusty, who has had seven of them. Ovechkin is next with five.
12. No one has had more games with a minus rating than ... Jason Pominville. Check this out, though, Pominville is actually a plus-one on the season overall, but he has still recorded a minus rating in an NHL-worst 21 games among forwards!
13. Among the 33 NHL players with at least 15 goals, only two have less than 10 assists: Jeff Carter (5) and Patrik Berglund (7). On the other side, of the 19 forwards with at least 25 assists, only three have less than 10 goals: Nicklas Backstrom (6), Joe Thornton (7) and Henrik Zetterberg (9).
14. If we averaged out players' current stats over the course of an 82-game season, six players would have more than 40 goals: Ovechkin (his 27 would be equal to 53), Steven Stamkos (26 = 51), Carter (24 = 47), John Tavares (24 = 47), Kunitz (21 = 41) and Toews (21 = 41).
15. My single biggest surprise in fantasy hockey this season: Kadri is a top-30 fantasy player (17 G, 24 A, plus-17, 21 PIMs, 8 PPP, 92 SOG). He came into the season ranked 359th in Yahoo! leagues and was undrafted in nearly every league.
Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets -- As expected, the change of scenery has already done wonders for Gaborik's game. In seven games with his new club, Gaborik has three goals, three assists, a plus-7, four penalty minutes and 21 shots on goal. He has recorded a plus rating in five of the seven games and has looked like his old self in Columbus. Gaborik is once again a must-start player and with his talent and his streakiness, he can single-handedly win you a fantasy championship if you're in head-to-head leagues.
Pascal Dupuis, Penguins -- Dupuis finally earns a spot within our top-50 rankings after putting together arguably his best NHL season to this point. Dupuis is one of only eight 20-goal scorers in the NHL and despite the loss of his linemate, Crosby, the veteran winger has been red-hot with three goals and six assists during his current five-game point-scoring streak. Add in his plus-28, 24 penalty minutes and 125 shots on goal, and it's quite evident that he's worthy of his new ranking.
Derek Stepan, Rangers -- Not too many players have been as hot as Stepan has been in April. In seven games during the month, he has four goals and five assists while recording a plus-7 during that span -- he also hasn't been a minus in his last eight games. Stepan is used in all aspects of the game, averaging 20:52 of total ice time, including 2:46 of power-play time per game, where he has added nine man-advantage points. The Rangers might change their lines every period, but one thing that seems to be sticking over the last month or so is the duo of Rick Nash and Stepan -- and assuming it remains this way, that's great news for Stepan owners.
Mikko Koivu, Wild -- Koivu is still ranked 47th among all players in Yahoo! leagues, but he has cooled off quite a bit over the last few weeks. After putting together a seven-game points streak at the end of March, Koivu was then held without a point in seven straight games to start April. Koviu still centers an elite line with Zach Parise and newcomer Jason Pominville on his wings, so there's reason to believe he'll snap this slide sooner rather than later -- he scored a goal on Monday, so perhaps he's starting to turn things around.
Brad Marchand, Bruins -- Marchand had been rising steadily in our rankings, but after suffering a concussion last Wednesday against the Devils, he moves to our injured list. He was on the ice with the Bruins on Monday, but a timetable for his return has not been provided. Keep him on your bench until Boston activates him.
David Perron, Blues -- Perron hasn't lived up to the high expectations placed upon him by many of us coming into the season -- he has just nine goals and 23 points in 41 games. What's even worse is that he seems to be fading during the most important time of the year for both the Blues and his fantasy owners -- he has just one point (an assist) in his previous eight contests. Perron is also struggling to contribute anywhere else on the stat sheet, as he is averaging less than one shot on goal per game during that time (including three games with zero shots). This all adds up to one thing: drop him if you're still fighting for a league title.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Sven Baertschi, Flames -- A popular sleeper pick coming into this season, Baertschi hasn't lived up to expectations -- not even close. In 15 games for the Flames, the Swiss native has just two goals, two assists and is minus-3. However, of those four points, three of them have come in the past two games while skating on a line with Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak. Baertschi is just 20 years old and has an extremely bright future in Calgary -- he's worth a look for those of you in keeper leagues.
TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same)
2. Steven Stamkos, Lightning (same)
3. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (same)
4. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (+2)
5. Eric Staal, Hurricanes (same)
6. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (-2)
7. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (+1)
8. John Tavares, Islanders (-1)
9. Rick Nash, Rangers (same)
10. Claude Giroux, Flyers (+1)
11. Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+1)
12. Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (+4)
13. Corey Perry, Ducks (-3)
14. Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+3)
15. Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-1)
16. Anze Kopitar, Kings (-1)
17. Zach Parise, Wild (-4)
18. Daniel Sedin, Canucks (+1)
19. Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-1)
20. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+1)
21. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (+1)
22. Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+1)
23. Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (+1)
24. Taylor Hall, Oilers (-4)
25. Evander Kane, Jets (+5)
26. Tyler Seguin, Bruins (-1)
27. Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (same)
28. Mike Ribeiro, Capitals (same)
29. Joe Thornton, Sharks (same)
30. Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+2)
31. Matt Duchene, Avalanche (same)
32. Thomas Vanek, Sabres (-6)
33. Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets (+18)
34. Matt Moulson, Islanders (same)
35. Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (same)
36. Jakub Voracek, Flyers (same)
37. PA Parenteau, Avalanche (-4)
38. Jamie Benn, Stars (+1)
39. Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning (-1)
40. Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (+5)
41. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (NR)*
42. Jarome Iginla, Penguins (-2)
43. Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (+20)
44. Andrew Ladd, Jets (+2)
45. Mikko Koivu, Wild (-8)
46. Michael Ryder, Canadiens (+1)
47. Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+1)
48. Patrick Marleau, Sharks (-6)
49. Dustin Brown, Kings (+1)
50. Logan Couture, Sharks (-7)
51. Ryan Kesler, Canucks (+10)
52. Ray Whitney, Stars (+1)
53. Derek Stepan, Rangers (+14)
54. Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (-10)
55. Jason Pominville, Wild (+2)
56. Jeff Carter, Kings (+2)
57. Jaromir Jagr, Bruins (+7)
58. Joe Pavelski, Sharks (-2)
59. Bobby Ryan, Ducks (-10)
60. Johan Franzen, Red Wings (+5)
61. Patrik Elias, Devils (-9)
62. Justin Williams, Kings (same)
63. Sam Gagner, Oilers (-9)
64. Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-9)
65. David Backes, Blues (-5)
66. Chris Stewart, Blues (-7)
67. Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (-1)
68. Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (same)
69. Milan Lucic, Bruins (+1)
70. Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-1)
71. Mike Richards, Kings (+5)
72. Scott Hartnell, Flyers (same)
73. James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+2)
74. Troy Brouwer, Capitals (+6)
75. Jiri Tlusty, Hurricanes (+6)
76. Brad Richards, Rangers (+1)
77. David Krejci, Bruins (-3)
78. Alexander Steen, Blues (-7)
79. Brent Burns, Sharks (+4)
80. David Clarkson, Devils (-7)
81. Loui Eriksson, Stars (+3)
82. Teemu Selanne, Ducks (same)
83. Cody Hodgson, Sabres (-4)
84. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-6)
85. Blake Wheeler, Jets (+2)
86. Ryan Callahan, Rangers (-1)
87. Jordan Staal, Hurricanes (-1)
88. Teddy Purcell, Lightning (+9)
89. Nail Yakupov, Oilers (+10)
90. Ryane Clowe, Rangers (-1)
91. Steve Ott, Sabres (+5)
92. Shane Doan, Coyotes (-2)
93. Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (+1)
94. Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (-2)
95. Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (-2)
96. Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (NR)
97. Derick Brassard, Rangers (NR)
98. David Perron, Blues (-10)
99. Milan Michalek, Senators (NR)*
100. Tyler Ennis, Sabres (-5)
Injured: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, James Neal, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Brad Marchand, Dany Heatley, T.J. Oshie, Artem Anisimov, Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Steve Downie, Alex Tanguay, Patric Hornqvist
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