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.
When St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen went down with a concussion on Dec. 21, he had 24 goals, which ranked second in the NHL. His 38 points were ninth best. He had a plus-15 rating, 20 penalty minutes and 117 shots on goal.
At that time he was the ninth-ranked player in Yahoo fantasy leagues. He was considered the biggest surprise in fantasy pools and was having the breakout season the Blues needed. And if you were fortunate enough to have him on your team, odds are your team was finding success in the first three months of the fantasy season.
The concussion kept him out of action for 11 games, but he's healthy again and fantasy owners should have already activated him by now.
Steen returned to the lineup against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday and despite finishing without a point, he skated on the top unit with usual linemates, David Backes and T.J. Oshie, and received nearly 21 minutes of ice time. In his second game Monday, Steen posted two assists, a plus-1, two penalty minutes and a season-high seven shots on goal.
Despite the missed time, Steen still ranks 32nd among all players in Yahoo leagues. His 24 goals have already tied his career-high set in 2009-10 and while regression was likely expected (his current 18.8 shooting percentage is significantly higher than his career mark of 9.9 percent), if he can find anything close to his pre-injury touch, there's a good chance he'll rise among the ranks.
With 34 games remaining on the Blues schedule, Steen owners should be hoping for close to 15 goals and 25-30 points the rest of the way with outstanding numbers in the categories of plus/minus, power-play points and shots on goal.
The return of Steen is tremendous news for his owners, but there also are a few other players that have just returned from injury, are nearing a return from injury or have suffered an injury:
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild -- Parise has been a top-20 forward in my ranks all season long and is amping up his rehab process. He was also given clearance to participate in contact drills at practice, which is clearly a good sign. There's an outside chance he returns to the Wild lineup this weekend, but even if he doesn't his owners should get a huge boost when he returns in the very near future.
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- The Canucks center left the game Saturday in the second period due to an undisclosed injury. Sedin had been in a cold streak with no points in the past four games and no goals in the past 15 contests. Perhaps some time off will help the struggling playmaker.
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets -- One of the most diversified players in fantasy hockey, Kane has been out of the lineup for two-plus weeks thanks to a hand injury. Fortunately, he will be back in the Jets lineup on Tuesday and his fantasy owners should activate him immediately.
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins -- After missing over a month, Eriksson returned to the Bruins lineup on Jan. 11. In five games since his activation, Eriksson has just one assist and five shots on goal while skating on the third line and has yet to see over 16 minutes of ice time in any of those games. Eriksson's first season in Boston hasn't gone as expected (five goals, 10 assists in 29 games) and you might be wise to bench him until he gets moved back up to the team's top-six forward group -- if that happens at all.
PA Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche -- Parenteau has missed the Avalanche’s past 10 games but like Kane, he’ll be back in the lineup on Tuesday. He hasn’t been nearly as valuable as he was last season, but he’s still worth activating in deeper leagues.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Turns out St. Louis doesn't need Steven Stamkos to keep up his fantasy value. Currently ranked 16th among all players in Yahoo, St. Louis has been red-hot with eight goals (four coming on Saturday against the Sharks) and four assists during his current eight-game point-scoring streak. During that time he hasn't posted a minus-rating once. Oh, and don't forget, his buddy Stamkos is getting closer and closer to returning to the lineup.
Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs -- No trio has been hotter over the past 11 games. Kessel has 15 points during that time while Bozak has 12 and JVR has nine. The key to this success has been the return of the under-owned Bozak (available in 65 percent of leagues), who coincidentally came back to the lineup 11 games ago after dealing with an oblique injury. Bozak has 23 points in 27 games this season and should be owned in far more leagues.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks -- I suppose it was bound to happen -- Kane has finally hit a rough patch this season. Still ranked sixth among all players in Yahoo, the Blackhawks forward hasn't found the back of the net in the past 10 games. He has just three points during that time. He scored his first shootout goal in 10 attempts this season on Sunday, so perhaps that will get him going again. It's only a matter of time.
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils -- In last week's rankings, Elias was listed on the injured list. He returned to the lineup on Jan. 16 and in two games since his activation, he has been held pointless with a minus-3 rating. Elias is ranked 364th among all players with 25 points in 35 games, but at 37, his fantasy value might finally be on the downslide. For now, he remains outside of the top-100 rankings, but after being so valuable last season, there's a chance he'll be back in sometime in the future.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets -- In his past six games, Atkinson has five goals and two assists while posting a plus-4 rating. With 15 goals, 27 points and 135 shots on goal in 48 games this season, the fiery right wing could make for an exceptional addition to a fantasy squad in need of goals and shots for the remainder of the season.
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 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (same)
4 Corey Perry, Ducks (+1)
5 John Tavares, Islanders (+1)
6 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (+1)
7 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (-3)
8 James Neal, Penguins (same)
9 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (same)
10 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (same)
11 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)
12 Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (+2)
13 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (+4)
14 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1)
15 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+4)
16 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (-4)
17 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (-4)
18 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (+2)
19 Claude Giroux, Flyers (-1)
20 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+8)
21 David Backes, Blues (same)
22 Alexander Steen, Blues (NR)*
23 Anze Kopitar, Kings (-1)
24 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)
25 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (-1)
26 Rick Nash, Rangers (+3)
27 Joe Thornton, Sharks (same)
28 Taylor Hall, Oilers (-2)
29 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+1)
30 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-7) DTD
31 Jamie Benn, Stars (+1)
32 Tyler Seguin, Stars (+1)
33 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (-2)
34 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+1)
35 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+3)
36 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+4)
37 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (-3)
38 Bobby Ryan, Senators (-2)
39 Evander Kane, Jets (+3)
40 Jeff Carter, Kings (+4)
41 Jason Spezza, Senators (-2)
42 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-1)
43 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (+5)
44 Kyle Turris, Senators (+1)
45 Milan Lucic, Bruins (-1)
46 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (-9)
47 David Krejci, Bruins (+2)
48 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (+2)
49 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+5)
50 T.J. Oshie, Blues (+5)
51 David Perron, Oilers (-5)
52 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-1)
53 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (same)
54 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-7)
55 Brent Burns, Sharks (-3)
56 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (same) DTD
57 Derek Stepan, Rangers (+3)
58 Bryan Little, Jets (same)
59 Clarke MacArthur, Senators (same)
60 Blake Wheeler, Jets (+2)
61 Brad Richards, Rangers (+3)
62 Chris Kreider, Rangers (-1)
63 Justin Williams, Kings (-6)
64 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (+6)
65 Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+7)
66 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (-1)
67 Jason Pominville, Wild (-3)
68 Chris Stewart, Blues (+1)
69 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (+7)
70 Andrew Ladd, Jets (-4)
71 Shane Doan, Coyotes (-4)
72 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-4)
73 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (-2)
74 Jaden Schwartz, Blues (-1)
75 Matt Moulson, Sabres (-1)
76 Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (+2)
77 Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (same)
78 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (+3)
79 Nick Bonino, Ducks (+6)
80 Brad Marchand, Bruins (+6)
81 Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (-1)
82 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (-3)
83 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+1)
84 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (+8)
85 Nathan Horton, Blue Jackets (+2)
86 Loui Eriksson, Bruins (-11)
87 Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-5)
88 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (+2)
89 Ryan Callahan, Rangers (-1)
90 Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs (NR)
91 Dustin Brown, Kings (same)
92 Mike Richards, Kings (+1)
93 PA Parenteau, Avalanche (NR)*
94 Vincent Lecavalier, Flyers (-5)
95 Ryane Clowe, Devils (NR)
96 Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues (-1)
97 Reilly Smith, Bruins (+1)
98 Brayden Schenn, Flyers (-4)
99 Teddy Purcell, Lightning (NR)
100 Frans Nielsen, Islanders (NR)
* Appeared on injured list last week
Injured: Steven Stamkos, Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parise, Logan Couture, Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Johan Franzen, Tomas Hertl, Daniel Alfredsson, Pascal Dupuis, David Clarkson, Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk
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