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 insider all season long.
While it's not even close to March, we saw our first impact trade of the NHL season on Sunday. Everyone's talking about it, and those of you that own Thomas Vanek are surely excited. And for those of you that have Matt Moulson on your team, keep your head up, things could change yet again as the March 5, 2014 trade deadline approaches.
The initial fantasy response to this trade is obvious: Vanek is going to get a giant boost going to the New York Islanders while Moulson's value will take a major hit on the Buffalo Sabres. And for now, that's the way my updated top-100 forward rankings portray it. However, like I mentioned, I'm betting the Sabres end up flipping Moulson again sometime in the future. In all likelihood he'll land on a contending team, and that will definitely get his value back up to what we've come to expect from him.
As for Vanek, the future is bright -- for this season anyway. The Austrian native is a two-time 40-goal scorer and had 20 goals and 41 points in 38 games during last year's lockout-shortened season (the equivalent of 43 goals and 88 points over an 82-game season). He has a lethal shot and he's not afraid to use it (he's had 200-plus shots on goal in every season where he's appeared in more than 73 games) and that has helped result in 106 career power-play goals in 598 games.
In 13 games for the Sabres this season, Vanek had four goals and five assists (four of those points coming on the power play) and 50 shots on goal. He is currently ranked 67th among all players in Yahoo leagues. Not exactly the best results for a guy that landed Moulson, a first-round pick and a second-round pick in Buffalo. Of course, all of that is about to change.
Vanek, 29, will join forces with John Tavares to form one of the NHL's most dynamic duos (Kyle Okposo will be the other member of the line). We all know how creative and talented Tavares is, and now he'll be flanked by one of the League's premier goal scorers. Assuming he stays healthy, I believe Vanek is more than capable of putting home 35 goals from this point on. His plus/minus should certainly improve, as he's going from a Sabres team that was last in the NHL in points (five) and second to last in goals per game (1.57) to the Islanders, who have 11 points and are ninth in goals per game (3.09). I moved him up to No. 33 among my forward rankings, but he could continue to climb once he proves he's comfortable on Long Island.
Moulson was actually on a tear recently with eight points in his final six games with the Islanders. Five of those six goals came on the man advantage and that leads the NHL. Unfortunately, he's going to lose that Tavares factor. According to dobberhockey.com, 77.98 percent of all of Moulson's ice time was with Tavares (this includes even-strength, power-play and shorthanded time). That is a remarkable amount of ice time to play alongside one of the NHL's best players.
While Moulson's debut on Buffalo's top line with Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis was successful from a fantasy standpoint (two goals, a plus-1 and four shots on goal), the team still took the loss. You can't expect him to score like he was with the Islanders (or on Monday) now that he's playing on a team with far less offensive firepower.
For the time being, Moulson has dropped two slots in my rankings and might continue to fall depending on how grim things look in Buffalo. If you have him on your team, you have to sit back and hope the Sabres deal him sooner rather than later.
David Krejci, Boston Bruins -- Krejci has recorded at least one point in nine of Boston's 10 games this season and has even helped fantasy owners out with 12 penalty minutes. While his shot count is expectedly low (19), his plus-8 rating has been a boon to fantasy owners and he has point-per-game potential for the 2013-14 season.
Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes -- Miraculously available in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues, Vrbata could be of great help to any team in need of an extremely productive right wing. He has six points in his past three games and 12 points in 12 total games. People seem to forget Vrbata had 35 goals, 62 points and a plus-24 rating just two seasons ago and then followed that up with a productive 2012-13 season. He's a proven player that should be owned in far more leagues.
Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Over the past 14 days, Dubinsky has been the No. 7 overall fantasy player in Yahoo leagues thanks to his unmatched category coverage. During that time he has two goals, three assists, a plus-3 rating, 30 penalty minutes, one power-play point and 21 shots on goal. He's emerging as a real fantasy asset and could be headed for a career year.
PA Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche -- Not playing on the top line is definitely hurting Parenteau's value. Last year Parenteau was putting up nearly a point per game (43 in 48), but now off that first line, he seems to be a bit lost. He's been held without a point in the past five games and one of the biggest factors to the diminished production seems to be his ice time. Last season Parenteau received 19:08 of playing time per game; this year he's at 15:58.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens -- After recording seven points in his first four games, Galchenyuk has just one goal and one assist in the past eight. He's on the verge of being completely off the top-100 forwards list and should be benched until his line (Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher) breaks out of this slump.
Derek Roy, St. Louis Blues -- Roy's peripheral stats force him to drop outside the top-100 ranks. Playing on one of the League's best teams, Roy has a minus-1 rating (he's had a plus rating just three times in nine games), averages 1.77 shots on goal per game and has just four penalty minutes. If you need power-play points he's definitely useful there (four of his seven points have come on the man advantage), but be careful not to get drawn into a player that will probably hurt your team more than he'll help it.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers -- Last season Hagelin tallied 10 goals, 24 points, a plus-10 rating and 132 shots on goal in 48 games. He's finally recovered from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of this season, and once he's given the OK from Alain Vigneault to join the lineup, you can expect to see Hagelin's name among the Rangers' top-six forwards. Hagelin could be a major spark for a team that has struggled to score, and he's worth grabbing if you have the roster space. He's available in 90 percent of Yahoo 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 Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)
2 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same)
3 Steven Stamkos, Lightning (same)
4 John Tavares, Islanders (same)
5 Corey Perry, Ducks (same)
6 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (same)
7 Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (same)
8 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)
9 Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (+2)
10 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (-1)
11 Zach Parise, Wild (+1)
12 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (-2)
13 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (same)
14 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (same)
15 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (same)
16 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (same)
17 Logan Couture, Sharks (+5)
18 Evander Kane, Jets (+1)
19 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+1)
20 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (-2)
21 Anze Kopitar, Kings (same)
22 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+1)
23 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (-6)
24 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+6)
25 Jason Spezza, Senators (+1)
26 David Backes, Blues (+6)
27 Tyler Seguin, Stars (-3)
28 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+6)
29 Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets (-4)
30 Claude Giroux, Flyers (-3)
31 Bobby Ryan, Senators (-2)
32 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-4) DTD
33 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+7)
34 Joe Thornton, Sharks (+2)
35 Jamie Benn, Stars (same)
36 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-3)
37 Milan Lucic, Bruins (+5)
38 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (+6)
39 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (-2)
40 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-2)
41 Matt Moulson, Sabres (-2)
42 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (+5)
43 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (-2) DTD
44 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+1)
45 Jeff Carter, Kings (+1)
46 Alexander Steen, Blues (+9)
47 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (+4)
48 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (+1)
49 Derek Stepan, Rangers (-6)
50 Brent Burns, Sharks (same) DTD
51 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (+6)
52 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (+2)
53 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+5)
54 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (-6)
55 Mikko Koivu, Wild (+4)
56 Andrew Ladd, Jets (same)
57 David Krejci, Bruins (+20)
58 Tomas Hertl, Sharks (+3)
59 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (+16)
60 Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (+2)
61 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (-9)
62 David Perron, Oilers (+4)
63 Jason Pominville, Wild (+4)
64 PA Parenteau, Avalanche (-11)
65 Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (-1)
66 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (+2)
67 Justin Williams, Kings (+4)
68 Johan Franzen, Red Wings (-5) DTD
69 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (same)
70 Dustin Brown, Kings (same)
71 T.J. Oshie, Blues (+3)
72 Brad Richards, Rangers (+1)
73 Tomas Fleischmann, Panthers (-1)
74 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+2)
75 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+5)
76 Vincent Lecavalier, Flyers (NR)*
77 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (+4)
78 Nail Yakupov, Oilers (same)
79 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (+9)
80 Steve Downie, Avalanche (+3)
81 Brad Marchand, Bruins (-21)
82 Mike Richards, Kings (+4)
83 Kyle Turris, Senators (+1)
84 Chris Stewart, Blues (-5)
85 Mike Cammalleri, Flames (NR)*
86 Teddy Purcell, Lightning (-4)
87 Frans Nielsen, Islanders (NR)
88 Patrik Elias, Devils (+1)
89 Blake Wheeler, Jets (+3)
90 Teemu Selanne, Ducks (-3)
91 Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (NR)*
92 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (+6)
93 Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens (-3)
94 Jiri Hudler, Flames (-1)
95 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (-1)
96 Mikhail Grabovski, Capitals (-1)
97 Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-1)
98 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (-1)
99 Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (same)
100 Bryan Little, Jets (NR)
* Appeared on injured list last week
Injured: Rick Nash, James Neal, Taylor Hall, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Callahan, Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, Scott Hartnell, Jakob Silfverberg, Beau Bennett, Nathan Horton, Carl Hagelin, Ryane Clowe, Daniel Briere, Martin Havlat, David Jones
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