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Fantasy Five: The questionable right wing position

Wednesday, 02.09.2011 / 3:43 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Fantasy Five: The questionable right wing position
NHL.com's Fantasy Five gives you the right wings most likely to rise and fall as the season hits the home stretch.
With the All-Star break behind us and the fantasy hockey final stretch approaching, today's Fantasy Five takes an in-depth look at our right wings. Right wing has been arguably the hardest position to predict this season, and it also seems to possess the least amount of superstars among any of the offensive positions. However, there are still a few studs in the group and definitely some up-and-coming talent to keep your eye on for the future.

1. The ups and downs of right wing

Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis each find themselves within the top-10 overall players and 25 total right wings crack the top-100 overall in standard Yahoo! Leagues. With disappointing seasons so far from Ilya Kovalchuk (LW and RW eligible), Patrick Kane, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson, the right wings have certainly taken a bit of a fall. While these players might come alive in the latter half of the season -- as Kovalchuk seems to be doing -- they definitely haven't lived up to expectations so far.

On the plus side, there are plenty of players that are young and rising among the right wings. If it wasn't for a broken hand, 23-year-old Chris Stewart probably would have been within the top-30 overall rankings; 25-year-old Loui Eriksson has improved after his 71-point season from last campaign; and 26-year-old David Backes has provided complete fantasy value in all categories. Also, not to be forgotten are 2011 NHL All-Stars Claude Giroux and rookie Jeff Skinner, who have both been outstanding this year. All-in-all, there have certainly been some disappointments at right wing this season, but we've also seen some solid breakout performances.

2. Updated right wing rankings

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is based on our last set of rankings from Jan. 27. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.) These rankings include players that possess dual position eligibility.

Rank
 Team
Player
1
Corey Perry (same)
2
3
4
5
6
Rick Nash (same)
7
8
Danny Briere (same)
9
10
11
12
13
    
Rank
 Team
Player
14
15
16
17
18
Dustin Brown (same)
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
* was previously ranked with left wings only

Right wings that dropped out of last segment's top-25: Shane Doan

3. Trending Upward

Jarome Iginla -- With the Flames surging in the Western Conference standings, it's likely a safe bet that the team's captain will remain with the squad for the remainder of the season. Regardless of what team Iginla plays on, one thing is certain: he is a tremendous player. Despite getting off to a slow start, he has 50 points in 55 games overall and has been a figure of consistency since December: 15 points in 14 December games; 12 points in 13 January games; and 3 points in four games so far in February.

 
Ilya Kovalchuk -- Heading into the season Kovalchuk was the top ranked right wing. We all know he has let us down to this point, but he may have actually turned a corner recently. Over the last 30 days Kovy is the seventh-ranked right wing and has 4 goals and 5 helpers in his previous seven games -- now that's the Ilya Kovalchuk we've known for the last nine years! With the Devils doing their best to make a late playoff push, Kovalchuk will have to be the go-to guy for a team that lacks scoring depth. We're buying it (not the Devils making the playoffs part, but the part where Kovalchuk performs like the old Kovalchuk).

David Backes -- On the perimeter Backes doesn't seem like the greatest fantasy player with just 39 points in 52 contests. However, it's his outstanding plus/minus (plus-14) and penalty minutes (64) that set him apart from several other right wings. He's the poor-man's Corey Perry -- talented enough to put up points and gritty enough to record tons of penalty minutes. It's a wonder Backes is only owned in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues -- what are you waiting for?

4. Trending Downward

Marian Hossa -- Hossa has confused his fantasy owners more than a geometry proof would confuse a 3-year-old. He started the season with a seven-game point streak; then he went on a seven-game pointless streak; then he notched 7 points in seven games before going down with an injury that cost him a month. Since his return on Dec. 26, Hossa has recorded points in consecutive games just once. He might have 29 points in 37 games overall for the Hawks this season, but he is just too inconsistent and must be driving his owners crazy.

Chris Stewart -- Unfortunately for owners that showed patience and held onto Stewart while he was sidelined with a broken hand, he has just not been the same since returning. In nine games since his return, Stewart has just 4 points and a minus-5 rating. Not only that, but Stewie also has just 2 penalty minutes during that span. He said he wouldn't be engaging in too many fights, considering that's how he broke his hand, but we were still hoping he'd play with that edge and grit we're used to. For now, expectations must be limited for Stewart, but hopefully he'll snap out of this funk at some point.

Phil Kessel -- Sure, Kessel is third in the NHL with 229 shots on goal, but is that worth having at the expense of just 35 points, a minus-19 rating and only 16 PIMs? A back-to-back 30-goal scorer, Kessel is turning into a one-dimensional fantasy player being valuable solely for his ability to shoot the puck on net. With no goals in his last 12 contests, Kessel is on the verge of dropping out of the top-25 next time around.

5. Player to keep an eye on

Edmonton Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky (who we originally ranked 83rd overall and 15th among right wings in our preseason rankings) has definitely not lived up to expectations quite yet. But his opportunity might be coming if he finds himself on another team come the trade deadline. Hemsky has been rumored to be available and is one of the few gifted offensive players on the block at this time.

The 27-year-old forward has 9 goals and 31 points in 36 games for the Oilers this season, and since his 77-point breakout season in 2005-06, he has averaged nearly a point per game (0.92 to be exact -- 320 points in 349 games), despite finding himself on injured reserve quite a bit. There's no questioning his talent; it's just his health that's an issue. If you don't have Hemsky on your squad, now might be a great time to buy-low on the shifty playmaker, as a trade seems very possible.


Contact Matt Cubeta at mcubeta@nhl.com

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