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Fantasy Five: Stamkos pushing for No. 1 center rank

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Fantasy Five: Stamkos pushing for No. 1 center rank
While NHL.com still recognizes Sidney Crosby as the top fantasy center in the game, Steven Stamkos is challenging for the top spot.
With each team having played in 15-20 games this season and about 20 percent of the campaign in the books, we will begin to see a lot of consistency in players going forward. For instance, Steven Stamkos is clearly a legit superstar and he will find himself among the top-10 overall fantasy players for the remainder of the season. On the other hand, a center like Travis Zajac, who was expected to build off an impressive 2009-10 season, might struggle to crack any of our updated rankings.

Having said that, today's Fantasy Five provides you with a look at the center position. From our updated rankings, to the centers that are excelling or struggling, our advice is here for you to shine in your fantasy league.

1. About three weeks ago we provided you with our first re-rankings of the center position; today, we re-arrange again. These modified rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is based on our most recent rankings, NOT our preseason ranks -- however, position eligibility predicated on NHL.com's original preseason rankings.

Rank
 Team
Player
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Anze Kopitar (same)
12
13
    
Rank
 Team
Player
14
15
Paul Stastny (same)
16
Jason Spezza (same)
17
Derek Roy (+4)
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25

Centers that dropped out of last segment's top-25: Vincent Lecavalier, TJ Oshie

2. A look at the top

No surprises among the peak five centers. While Stamkos has outperformed Crosby to this point, we still believe Crosby will be at the top for the rest of the season. Backstrom finds himself back with the elite, and rightfully so -- he has 4 goals and 12 helpers in his last 10 games for the Caps. Ryan Getzlaf just edged Henrik Sedin for the fifth center ranking because of his ability to record PIMs. Both players are playmakers and don't shot the puck a ton, but Getzlaf appears to be scoring at a better rate, while Sedin has dominated in the assists category.

3. Trending Upward

Mike Richards -- The Flyers captain is turning out to be the prototypical fantasy player -- he can score, pass, shoot, record PIMs, has a high plus/minus playing for a Cup-contending team and finds himself on the top power-play unit. After being held goalless in his first six contests, Richards has 8 G, 8 A, a plus-6, 7 PIMs, 7 PPP and 30 SOG in his last 12 games. What more can you ask from him?

Derek Roy -- Despite a sluggish start from the Sabres and most of his teammates, Roy has continued to put up points at a consistent rate. The Buffalo veteran is in the middle of a five-game point-scoring streak to go along with 8 G, 13 A, a plus-6, 10 PIMs, 5 PPP and 46 SOG in 19 games this season. Continue to start him while he looks to improve on his 69 points from last season.

Brandon Dubinsky -- Many people probably questioned him cracking our rankings last time around, but three weeks later, he has certainly proved he belongs. He thrived while Rangers superstar Marian Gaborik was out with an injury and has also produced 3 points in three games since Gabby has returned -- showing he can get it done in any scenario. Dubinsky is turning into a leader on Broadway and is seeing a total of 20:45 of ice time per game, with plenty of it coming on the power play (3:27). Start him with confidence.

4. Trending Downward

Joe Thornton -- Sure the San Jose captain has 16 points in 14 games for the Sharks, but Jumbo Joe has struggled recently with just 1 goal and no assists in his last five games (one of those being the game when Thornton only played in 7:54 because of his ejection). Also, Thornton, who has recorded at least 50 PIMs in four of the last five years, has 17 PIMs this season, which sounds good, but when you look closely you see that all 17 came on that one incident that resulted in Thornton's suspension. Thornton will probably come to close to his usual 90-point season, but with just 20 shots and a fall in penalty minutes, his fantasy value may be on the decline.

Jonathan Toews -- As stated in the preseason, Toews is a better real-life player than a fantasy player. Sure he's still a very solid contributor in all fantasy leagues, but he isn't an elite player. The Hawks captain has 5 G, 9 A, a plus-4, 4 PIMs, 8 PPP and 56 SOG in 20 games this season, but no points in his last four contests. Toews is a tremendous leader and hopefully his statistics will improve once the Blackhawks find their rhythm.

John Tavares -- The Isles youngster has bounced all around on our center rankings this season -- in preseason he started at No. 23, in our first re-rankings he came in at No. 18, and now he's back to No. 24. Tavares has 6 goals, 10 points and 6 PPP in 14 games, which doesn't seem too bad, but his minus-12 rating and just 4 PIMs certainly don't help him out. Johnny T has not scored since Oct. 27 and has just 2 assists in his last eight games. Perhaps Tavares is still battling his early-season head injury, but for now, keep your expectations slightly lower for the gifted forward.

5. Player to Look Out For

Off all the centers excluded from our updated rankings, keep an eye on Sharks forward Logan Couture. The 21-year-old center has 6 G, 4 A, a plus-4, 11 PIMs, 2 PPP and 57 SOG in 16 games for San Jose. He's a former first-round draft choice (No. 9 pick), so the talent is clearly there. He may not have that breakout season in him just yet, but 50 points may not be a stretch either. Couture is averaging 17:15 of ice time per game, with 3:00 of it coming with the man advantage, and has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last five games. If you have the roster space, grab Couture and hope he continues to improve as a player and sees plenty of power play time on an elite special teams unit in San Jose.


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Matt Sitkoff's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
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OFFSEASON FANTASY RANKINGS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Evgeni Malkin
5. alex Ovechkin

CUBETA & JENSEN'S COMPLETE RANKINGS