The Front Line: Giving thanks in fantasy hockey

Tuesday, 11.26.2013 / 12:00 PM
Matt Cubeta  - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

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.

To say we should be thankful for the play of Alexander Steen is an understatement. After all, on average he was selected with the 163rd pick in Yahoo leagues during draft season and right now he's ranked fifth among all players. I mean, the guy's second in points (29), is second in goals (19) and is tied for second among forwards with a plus-15 rating. This coming from a player that I ranked 154th coming into the season.

Steen is the obvious forward to be most thankful for this season. But what about the rest of the bunch? So, in honor of Thanksgiving, from the forwards that have performed as expected to the guys that have surprised everyone, let's have a look at what fantasy owners should be thankful for at this point of the season.

Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets -- For being one of the most complete fantasy players in the game. I ranked Little 192nd among all players at the start of the season and right now he's 40th in Yahoo leagues. Only three players in the NHL have more than 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 penalty minutes and a plus rating: Corey Perry (no surprise), David Backes (not a huge surprise) and, you guessed it, Bryan Little.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins -- For not missing any games this season. To no one's surprise, Crosby is my No. 1 overall fantasy player right now, and as long as he can stay healthy, he should remain there.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals -- For shooting like no one else can. And it's not even close. Ovechkin is averaging 5.6 shots on goal per game. After him are Zach Parise and Evander Kane, at 4.3. Only 7 players (a few of them multiple times) in the history of the NHL have ever averaged more than five shots on goal per game for a full season (see table to the right). While Ovechkin hasn't achieved this feat since the 2009-10 season, he has clearly found his shooting touch again and that's great news for his fantasy owners. He's averaged at least five shots on goal four times in his career and if he were to do so again this year, he'd join Phil Esposito as the only players to accomplish it five times. And he's still just 28.

Player -- Season -- Games Played -- Shots/game -- Total Shots

Phil Esposito -- 1970-71 -- 78 -- 7.05 -- 550

Alex Ovechkin -- 2008-09 -- 79 -- 6.68 -- 528

Phil Esposito -- 1971-72 -- 76 -- 5.61 -- 426

Bobby Hull -- 1968-69 -- 74 -- 5.59 -- 414

Brett Hull -- 1991-92 -- 73 -- 5.59 -- 408

Alex Ovechkin -- 2013-14 -- 22 -- 5.59 - 123

Alex Ovechkin -- 2007-08 -- 82 -- 5.44 -- 446

Bobby Orr -- 1969-70 -- 76 -- 5.43 -- 413

Raymond Bourque -- 1993-94 -- 72 -- 5.36 -- 386

Phil Esposito -- 1969-70 -- 76 -- 5.33 -- 405

Phil Esposito -- 1972-73 -- 78 -- 5.27 -- 411

Alex Ovechkin -- 2005-06 -- 81 -- 5.25 -- 425

Paul Kariya -- 1998-99 -- 82 -- 5.23 -- 429

Bobby Orr -- 1973-74 -- 74 -- 5.19 -- 384

Bobby Hull -- 1967-68 -- 71 -- 5.13 -- 364

Alex Ovechkin -- 2009-10 -- 72 -- 5.11 -- 368

Phil Esposito -- 1973-74 -- 78 -- 5.04 -- 393

Bobby Orr -- 1970-71 -- 78 -- 5.03 - 392

Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets -- For playing with an edge, but still having talent. Of players with at least 40 penalty minutes this season, no one has more points than Dubinsky's 15. Steve Downie was a close second (13) and if he didn't miss time due to injury, he might be listed here. But Dubinsky has been an extremely pleasant surprise this season and contributes a bit in all categories.

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks -- For being the NHL's best rookie. No rookie forward has more goals (12) or points (18) than Hertl. Not only that, Hertl is also a plus-8 and has 60 shots on goal. Not bad for a 20-year-old.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks -- For double duties. Perry, as mentioned earlier, is the ultimate six-tool fantasy player, but he also leads the NHL in multi-point games this season with nine.

John Tavares and Henrik Sedin -- For being the most consistent players. Tavares and Sedin are tied for the NHL lead in games with at least one point. They've done it 20 times. There's something to be said for consistency in fantasy hockey and both of these players have delivered more than anyone else in that way.

Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils -- For continuing to be an effective fantasy player at the young age of 41. Jagr is ranked 74th among all players in Yahoo thanks to a flawless stat line: 9 goals, 9 assists, plus-7, 14 penalty minutes, 4 power play points and 55 shots on goal. I hope he never retires.

The Anaheim Ducks -- For trading Bobby Ryan to the Senators. The former Duck is thriving in Ottawa and is currently ranked 35th among all players in Yahoo. I actually think there's more room for him to rise in those ranks as his power play production should increase the rest of the way.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars -- For being the best duo. I talked about them last week. They're good individually, but they're even better together and fantasy owners are reaping the benefits from them this year.

Kyle Turris and Kyle Okposo -- For two things: being the best players named Kyle and for finally living up to expectations. Turris was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft. Okposo was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. They are both rounding into form. Turris is ranked 41st in Yahoo leagues and Okposo is 68th. Not bad, Kyles.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers -- For being the best late bloomer. For years, Rangers fans, fantasy fans and the Rangers themselves have had high expectations for Kreider. This year, he's finally delivering. Kreider has 12 points in 17 games and has found a home on the team's most productive line.

Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks -- For being the best third-liner. It doesn't matter who he plays with, Pavelski is the type of player that makes everyone around him better, and it has shown as he's the 23rd ranked player in Yahoo. It also helps that 11 of his 22 points have come on the power play with the likes of Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings -- For being the most underrated player. Williams finished last season ranked 59th among all players in Yahoo. Of course, he was still drafted on average with the 149th overall pick in drafts this season. And where is he ranked now, you ask? He's 33rd overall. Williams continues to thrive on the top line alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown and needs to not be underrated anymore.

The Philadelphia Flyers forwards -- For turning the corner? This one is still up for debate, but Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell all might be coming around. After starting miserably, they could finally be playing close to what we were expecting back on draft day.

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 John Tavares, Islanders (same)

4 Corey Perry, Ducks (same)

5 Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (same)

6 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (+1)

7 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (+2)

8 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)

9 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (+1)

10 Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-4) DTD

11 Zach Parise, Wild (+1) DTD

12 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (-1)

13 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+5)

14 Logan Couture, Sharks (+3)

15 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (-2)

16 Anze Kopitar, Kings (same)

17 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (-2)

18 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-4)

19 James Neal, Penguins (+5)

20 David Backes, Blues (same)

21 Jamie Benn, Stars (same)

22 Bobby Ryan, Senators (-2)

23 Rick Nash, Rangers (NR)*

24 Tyler Seguin, Stars (-2)

25 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1)

26 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (-3)

27 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (+1)

28 Alexander Steen, Blues (+1)

29 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (-2)

30 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (-5)

31 Claude Giroux, Flyers (+3)

32 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-1)

33 Jason Spezza, Senators (-3)

34 Joe Thornton, Sharks (-1)

35 Taylor Hall, Oilers (-3)

36 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+5)

37 Derek Stepan, Rangers (-1)

38 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (+4)

39 Mikko Koivu, Wild (+5)

40 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+7)

41 Evander Kane, Jets (-6)

42 Milan Lucic, Bruins (-4)

43 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-4)

44 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-4) DTD

45 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (+3)

46 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (-3)

47 Jason Pominville, Wild (-2)

48 Brent Burns, Sharks (NR)*

49 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (-3)

50 Matt Moulson, Sabres (-13)

51 Andrew Ladd, Jets (-2)

52 Brad Richards, Rangers (-2)

53 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (-2)

54 Tomas Hertl, Sharks (+1)

55 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (NR)*

56 Justin Williams, Kings (-2)

57 David Perron, Oilers (+8)

58 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (-2)

59 Kyle Turris, Senators (-1)

60 David Krejci, Bruins (-8)

61 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (-4)

62 T.J. Oshie, Blues (-2)

63 Loui Eriksson, Bruins (-2)

64 Johan Franzen, Red Wings (NR)*

65 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (-12)

66 Mike Richards, Kings (-7)

67 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (-3)

68 Ryan Callahan, Rangers (-5)

69 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (-7)

70 Jeff Carter, Kings (NR)*

71 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (+2)

72 Bryan Little, Jets (+10)

73 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (-5) DTD

74 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (-7)

75 PA Parenteau, Avalanche (-6)

76 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (-4)

77 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+7)

78 Shane Doan, Coyotes (+2) DTD

79 Chris Kreider, Rangers (-5)

80 Vincent Lecavalier, Flyers (-1)

81 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+5)

82 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (-7)

83 Mike Cammalleri, Flames (-7)

84 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (+3)

85 Steve Downie, Flyers (NR)*

86 Frans Nielsen, Islanders (-15)

87 Nail Yakupov, Oilers (+2)

88 Chris Stewart, Blues (-3)

89 Dustin Brown, Kings (-8)

90 Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (-13)

91 Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (-13)

92 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (same)

93 Blake Wheeler, Jets (-3)

94 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (NR)*

95 Brad Marchand, Bruins (-12)

96 Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+1)

97 Patrik Elias, Devils (+1)

98 Brayden Schenn, Flyers (NR)

99 Dustin Penner, Ducks (NR)

100 Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (-5)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Tomas Fleischmann, Alex Killorn, Carl Hagelin, Mikhail Grabovski, Valtteri Filppula, Marcus Johansson

Injured: Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene, Marian Gaborik, Alexander Semin, Nathan Horton, Jakub Silfverberg, Mikael Granlund

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