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The Front Line: Giroux closest to Crosby-like value?

Tuesday, 03.25.2014 / 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.

I'll be the first to admit I was wrong about Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Back on Nov. 5, I said you should trade Giroux and I didn't believe there was "much of a resurgence coming." Here we are 141 days later and Giroux is currently the No. 8 overall player in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Clearly, Giroux has proven me wrong.

Prior to that story on Nov. 5, Giroux had no goals and six assists in his first 13 games of the season. He wasn't coming close to living up to his average draft selection (16th overall). In fact, he didn't score his first goal of the season until his 16th game. But from that 16th game onward, Giroux has pretty much been his usual self; that of an elite fantasy forward.

In his next 55 games, the 26-year-old forward has gone on to score 24 goals and 43 assists, a rate of 1.22 points per game. The only player to average more than that this season is Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby at 1.32 points per game. Of course, Crosby has done that for all 71 games he's played in, but the point is if you wipe away Giroux's first 16 games of the season, he's been the second-best point producer in the NHL behind only Crosby. He's also had 21 of his 22 multi-point games during this 55-game stretch. Only Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel have had more multi-point efforts all season (28 and 23 respectively).

Of players that have appeared in at least 25 games this season, 14 have averaged at least a point per game (Giroux being one of them despite the sluggish start). Last season there were 20 players that averaged at least a point per game (excludes the Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul, who averaged 1.12 but only played 16 of 48 games), which makes Giroux's inclusion on this season's list even more impressive.

2013-14 POINT-PER-GAME PLAYERS - SIDEBAR WIDGET

* at least 25 games played this season

Player -- Team -- Games -- Points -- P/G

Sidney Crosby -- Penguins -- 71 -- 94 -- 1.32

Steven Stamkos -- Lightning -- 27 -- 33 -- 1.22

Evgeni Malkin -- Penguins -- 60 -- 72 -- 1.20

Ryan Getzlaf -- Ducks -- 67 -- 79 -- 1.18

John Tavares -- Islanders -- 59 -- 66 -- 1.12

James Neal -- Penguins -- 48 -- 52 -- 1.08

Tyler Seguin -- Stars -- 69 -- 74 -- 1.07

Henrik Zetterberg -- Red Wings -- 45 -- 48 -- 1.07

Claude Giroux -- Flyers -- 71 -- 74 -- 1.04

Phil Kessel -- Maple Leafs -- 73 -- 76 -- 1.04

Alex Ovechkin -- Capitals -- 68 -- 69 -- 1.01

Corey Perry -- Ducks -- 71 -- 72 -- 1.01

Patrick Kane -- Blackhawks -- 69 -- 69 -- 1.00

Taylor Hall -- Oilers -- 65 -- 65 -- 1.00

If Giroux can continue at his current point-per-game pace, it would mark the third consecutive season in which he's done so. Not only has his goal and assist production been elite, he's also fourth in the NHL in power-play points with 31, trailing only Washington Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, as well as Crosby. Giroux also is on pace for 46 penalty minutes and 220 shots on goal. Both of these marks would be the second highest totals of his career.

By the time this season ends, we'll look back on Giroux's numbers and realize he produced exactly what we hoped for at the start of the season, maybe even better. While I didn't see this resurgence coming, I hope some of you did. And I hope you stuck with him throughout his struggles in October. If you did, you clearly made a wise decision that paid off handsomely.

TRENDING UPWARD

Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers -- Speaking of Flyers players providing immense value, outside of his minus-4 on the season, Simmonds has delivered more than anyone could've expected. He's already set career-highs with 54 points and 22 power-play points and at his current rate, he'd also reach new highs in penalty minutes (120) and shots on goal (198). Simmonds is ranked 18th among all forwards in Yahoo leagues and is approaching top-20 status among my forward ranks.

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets -- Like Simmonds, Wheeler has already set personal bests in goals (24) and penalty minutes (61) and is on pace for new highs in points (on pace for 65), power-play points (16) and shots on goal (223). Wheeler also has been very valuable in the assists category of late with eight in the past eight games (one goal during that time).

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings -- If you were lucky enough to grab Nyquist off waivers when he got called up in November, it has paid off immensely. Nyquist has been especially hot recently (he was named the NHL's No. 1 star last week) with goals in each of his past five games (seven goals, one assist). Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg may be out of the lineup, but Nyquist has been there to carry the Red Wings while skating on a relatively unknown line with fellow youngsters Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators -- While Ryan hasn't hurt his owners in any single category this season (23 goals, 25 assists, plus-7, 45 penalty minutes, 9 power-play points, 190 shots), he hasn't been quite as electric as he was in the first three months of the season. Ryan recorded 36 points in his first 42 games with the Senators, but since then he has just 12 points in 28 games. Ryan always has the potential to go on a hot streak, but he hasn't had a multi-point game since Jan. 30 (a span of 16 games) when he notched two points against the Lightning. Between the on-ice struggles and the fact Ryan is currently day-to-day due to an injury sustained on Saturday, you're best off benching the talented forward.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes -- Skinner had 19 goals and eight assists in 28 games during the months of December and January, but in the 17 games since he has three goals and four assists. Skinner also has really struggled in Hurricanes losses, posting just nine goals and four points with a minus-26 rating in their 33 defeats. If you see an unfavorable matchup for Carolina, you might be best off putting the talented 21-year-old on your bench.

Brad Richards, New York Rangers -- Many people believed the acquisition of Martin St. Louis would increase Richards' fantasy value. However, not only has Richards struggled since then, he's not even skating on the same line as the former Tampa Bay Lightning captain. Richards is currently centering the team's third line with Carl Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot, and while he does see plenty of power-play ice time (3:43 per game), the production simply hasn't been there -- Richards has one goal and two assists in his past 11 games.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche -- Currently skating on the team's top line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, McGinn could be a nice addition to a team still in the hunt for the league title. In his six games, McGinn has three goals and four assists, with three of those points coming on the power play. He's available in 94 percent of 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 Corey Perry, Ducks (same)

4 Steven Stamkos, Lighting (+1)

5 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (-1)

6 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (same)

7 Claude Giroux, Flyers (+2)

8 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (-1)

9 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (-1)

10 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+2)

11 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)

12 Jamie Benn, Stars (+2)

13 James Neal, Penguins (+3)

14 Tyler Seguin, Stars (+1)

15 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (-2)

16 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+1)

17 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1)

18 Logan Couture, Sharks (+3)

19 Zach Parise, Wild (+1)

20 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+3)

21 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-2)

22 Anze Kopitar, Kings (+3)

23 Alexander Steen, Blues (+1)

24 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+10)

25 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (+5)

26 Martin St. Louis, Rangers (-4)

27 David Krejci, Bruins (+2)

28 David Backes, Blues (-2)

29 Taylor Hall, Oilers (-2)

30 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)

31 Rick Nash, Rangers (-3)

32 Milan Lucic, Bruins (same)

33 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (NR)*

34 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (-1)

35 Joe Thornton, Sharks (same)

36 Thomas Vanek, Canadiens (+1)

37 Jason Spezza, Senators (+2)

38 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-2)

39 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (-1)

40 Blake Wheeler, Jets (+8)

41 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (-1)

42 Evander Kane, Jets (same)

43 Jeff Carter, Kings (-2)

44 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+3)

45 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (same)

46 Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+3)

47 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (-4)

48 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (-2)

49 Bobby Ryan, Senators (-5) DTD

50 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (NR)*

51 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+4)

52 Marian Gaborik, Kings (same)

53 Johan Franzen, Red Wings (-2)

54 T.J. Oshie, Blues (-1)

55 Andrew Ladd, Jets (-1)

56 Derek Stepan, Rangers (+2)

57 Bryan Little, Jets (same)

58 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (-8)

59 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (+1)

60 Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (-1)

61 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (same)

62 Kyle Turris, Senators (-6)

63 Mikko Koivu, Wild (same)

64 Clarke MacArthur, Senators (same)

65 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+1)

66 David Perron, Oilers (+3)

67 Jaden Schwartz, Blues (same)

68 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (same)

69 Chris Kreider, Rangers (-4)

70 Matt Moulson, Wild (+4)

71 Brad Richards, Rangers (-9)

72 Jason Pominville, Wild (-2)

73 Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (+3)

74 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-3)

75 Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (same)

76 Brent Burns, Sharks (+2)

77 Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (+2)

78 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (-5)

79 Brad Marchand, Bruins (-7)

80 Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings (+11)

81 Patrik Elias, Devils (same)

82 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (-5)

83 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (same)

84 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+2)

85 Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-5)

86 Shane Doan, Coyotes (-4)

87 Jussi Jokinen, Penguins (-2)

88 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (NR)*

89 Nick Bonino, Ducks (-5)

90 Loui Eriksson, Bruins (-3)

91 Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs (-1)

92 Mike Cammalleri, Flames (+5)

93 Ondrej Palat, Lightning (+6)

94 Ryan Callahan, Lightning (-2)

95 Ales Hemsky, Senators (-1)

96 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-3)

97 Justin Williams, Kings (-8)

98 Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (-2)

99 Tyler Johnson, Lightning (NR)

100 Troy Brouwer, Capitals (-2)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Mike Ribeiro, Adam Henrique, Dustin Brown

Injured: John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Chris Stewart, Tomas Hertl, Pascal Dupuis, PA Parenteau, Vladimir Tarasenko

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