Similar to Wednesday's "Center Stage" story, today's "Turn Left Here" piece will focus on players that have provided great fantasy value early on in 2011-12. While there isn't the same depth at the left wing position as there is for centers, these five players still deserve ownership in several fantasy leagues, especially the deeper ones.
These players won't be found in our updated top 30 left wing rankings, but they could be in the near future. And while their hot starts may eventually simmer, for now they deserve to be discussed:
Jussi Jokinen, Hurricanes (ranked 29th overall in Yahoo! Leagues -- owned in 33 percent)
Through six games, Jokinen has been a source of consistency, recording at least a point in four of those six contests. He's receiving plenty of power-play ice time and is somehow a plus-1, despite several of his talented teammates having a horrendous rating -- Eric Staal (minus-8), Jeff Skinner (minus-6), Tuomo Ruutu (minus-4).
Key to success: Has been primarily paired with defensive-minded forward Chad LaRose at even strength (which is keeping his plus/minus on the right side) and is still seeing PP ice time with Staal and Skinner.
Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (ranked 37th overall in Yahoo! Leagues -- owned in 11 percent)
Dupuis might come back down to earth in the very near future -- four of his six points have come in two games and his role might decrease when the Pens' offense gets healthy.
Key to success: Great penalty-killer is a threat to score shorthanded (has 1 SHG already), and when Sidney Crosby returns there's an outside chance he skates on his wing -- we wouldn't count on it, though.
Milan Michalek, Senators (ranked 39th overall in Yahoo! Leagues -- owned in 44 percent)
Michalek has cooled off since his hot start (5 points in first four games), but he will still score in bunches as long as he and his linemate Jason Spezza can stay healthy. Michalek is a gifted goal-scorer that's receiving top-line playing time and should be started in most fantasy leagues as long as he's not hurt.
Key to success: Skating on a line with one of the best playmakers in the game in Spezza.
Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (ranked 55th overall in Yahoo! Leagues -- owned in 17 percent)
Pick this guy up immediately! Pacioretty is showing why he was selected by the Habs in the first round of the 2007 draft. In five games, Max-Pac has posted 2 goals and 3 assists to go along with an overwhelming 27 shots on goal -- second most in the NHL behind only James Neal.
Key to success: He loves to shoot! Not to mention he's skating on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.
Alexander Steen, Blues (ranked 59th overall in Yahoo! Leagues -- owned in 57 percent)
With 3 goals and 2 assists in six games, Steen has impressed early on in 2011-12. On Tuesday Steen found himself on a line with David Backes and Jamie Langenbrunner, but for the most part he's been with Jason Arnott and Matt D'Agostini this season. With a point in five of his six games, don't count on Steen keeping that pace -- his 51 points from last season were a career-high.
Key to success: He's averaging over three shots per game and plays a strong defensive game (plus-1).
TOP 30 FANTASY LEFT WINGS
These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: positions are now dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
- 1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same)
- 2. Daniel Sedin, Canucks (same)
- 3. Zach Parise, Devils (same)
- 4. Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings* (same)
- 5. Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils* (+1)
- 6. Bobby Ryan, Ducks (+1)
- 7. Rick Nash, Blue Jackets* (+1)
- 8. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings* (-3)
- 9. Thomas Vanek, Sabres (+1)
- 10. Alexander Semin, Capitals* (+2)
- 11. Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks* (same)
- 12. Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (+2)
- 13. James Neal, Penguins (+8)
- 14. Patrick Marleau, Sharks* (-5)
- 15. Johan Franzen, Red Wings* (+1)
- 16. Jamie Benn, Stars (+3)
- 17. Ryane Clowe, Sharks* (-4)
- 18. Taylor Hall, Oilers (same)
- 19. Loui Eriksson, Stars* (-2)
- 20. Brenden Morrow, Stars (same)
- 21. Shane Doan, Coyotes* (+4)
- 22. Milan Lucic, Bruins (-7)
- 23. James van Riemsdyk, Flyers (+1)
- 24. Simon Gagne, Kings (+4)
- 25. Michael Cammalleri, Canadiens (-3)
- 26. Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs* (NR)
- 27. Dustin Brown, Kings* (-1)
- 28. Jordan Staal, Penguins* (+1)
- 29. Brandon Dubinsky, Rangers* (-6)
- 30. Kris Versteeg, Panthers (NR)
Simon Gagne -- Things seem to be going a little more smoothly for Gagne in L.A. than they did with Tampa Bay a season ago. Everyone is aware of Gagne's talent and people tend to forget that he's still just 31 years old, but his one knock continues to be whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season. So far Gagne has opened fantasy owner eyes everywhere by posting 5 points in his last two contests -- he also has a four-game point-scoring streak. Things have certainly clicked between him and new linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams (then again, who wouldn't click well with Kopitar?), and if Gagne can stay healthy, he just might score 30-plus goals again.
Kris Versteeg -- Like Gagne, Versteeg is thriving early on with his new club in South Florida. The former Flyer is currently skating on the Panthers' top line with Stephen Weiss in the middle and Tomas Fleischmann on the opposite wing, and so far, so good. Versteeg has notched 3 goals and 7 points in five games, with 5 of those points coming on the power play -- thanks largely in part to 5:28 of PP ice time per game. While none of us expected him to perform this well, his current status as the 12th-ranked overall fantasy player in Yahoo! Leagues is very impressive. Ride him while he's hot, but know his production has to slow at some point.
Patrick Marleau -- After posting three straight 37-plus goal, 71-plus point seasons for San Jose, Marleau has gotten off to a slow start in 2011-12 with just 2 assists in four games. Obviously it's still early and Marleau can quickly turn things around with one big performance, but there is a little panic early on for his fantasy owners. Things got off to a hot start in the team's first game, with Marleau assisting on two goals in a 6-3 win over Phoenix, but since then the Sharks have slumped, losing to Anaheim twice and St. Louis once. Marleau and his first-line mates, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, are a large reason for the team's slow start -- the trio has combined for just 2 goals (Pavelski has both). The Sharks will snap out of their little skid, and you can expect the same from Marleau, but until then the Sharks veteran takes a dip in the ranks.
Milan Lucic -- This is not how Lucic's fantasy owners drew it up for the start of the season. After breaking out in a big way last season, Lucic has really struggled out of the gate in 2011-12 with just 1 assist in six games. This is basically the exact opposite to last year's start when Lucic started the season with a five-game point-scoring streak and points in nine of his first 10 contests. Another sign of concern for Lucic owners is that while he has 14 PIMs on the season, 12 of them came in his last game against the Hurricanes -- prior to that he had recorded just one minor penalty. Lucic is a very well-rounded fantasy player and we need him to produce consistently, but he and his linemates (Nathan Horton and David Krejci -- when the latter is healthy) simply have to step up their games for us to have confidence in him.
Brandon Dubinsky -- The Rangers have only played four games, but coach John Tortorella has already shook up his lines, with Dubinsky taking the biggest fantasy hit of anyone. The Alaska native originally started the season on a line with superstars Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, but after only producing one goal in each of the first two games, Torts decided that was enough. Dubinsky slid down to the second line with last year's unit of Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov -- this isn't necessarily a bad thing because they did click well last year. In total, Dubinsky has registered 2 assists in four games, but he has been a big fantasy asset in one way: he currently leads the NHL with 37 PIMs (two misconducts have helped that cause). He's still averaging 19:20 of ice time per game, with just over 3 minutes of that coming on the power play, and should eventually start scoring -- expect a turnaround to happen sooner rather than later.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Matt Moulson -- The Islanders forward was initially ranked 23rd among left wings in our preseason fantasy hockey rankings, but with the addition of all the players that possess dual-position eligibility, Moulson found himself outside the top 30 once the season began. However, that doesn't mean he hasn't been performing well, especially of late. Just like his partner in crime, John Tavares, Moulson was held pointless in his first two games, but then erupted in the following two -- he posted a goal and an assist in each contest. The bottom line here is that Moulson should stick with Tavares on the Islanders' top line, and if Tavares performs the way he's capable of, that could mean big things for Moulson as well. He's currently owned in 66 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, and for those of you in leagues where he's still available, grab him and hold on.