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Turn Left Here: Lupul joins group of elite fantasy LWs

Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 3:36 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Turn Left Here: Lupul joins group of elite fantasy LWs
We're into our third month of the NHL season and some surprising early-season hot starts have carried their way into December -- none more valuable than Joffrey Lupul.
Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy left wings in our weekly segment: "Turn Left Here." From updated left wing rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy left wing expert all season long.

Welcome to December. We're into our third month of the NHL season and some surprising early-season hot starts have carried their way all the way into December. Players like Jamie Benn, Kris Versteeg, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sheldon Souray, Brian Campbell, Brian Elliott and Nikolai Khabibulin have all exceeded fantasy expectations and have provided great value for their fantasy owners to this point. Even at a higher level, players have done more than we could have hoped for -- guys like Phil Kessel, Erik Karlsson and Kari Lehtonen.

But when we discuss true surprises this season, we're specifically looking at you, Joffrey Lupul. No one has been more valuable or more productive in all of fantasy hockey than Lupul. He might not continue at this 39-goal, 98-point pace all season long, but it's time to give the Toronto forward his due.

Lupul was given a fresh opportunity in Toronto to play on the left wing of the Leafs' top line with Phil Kessel on the right side. His season started quite nicely, as we all know, with 4 goals and 3 assists in his first five contests. Kessel got off to an even hotter start, making fantasy owners believe that Lupul could ride the wave and be a fantasy asset going forward. His Yahoo! ownership increased quickly.

Joffrey Lupul
Right Wing - TOR
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 30
SOG: 73 | +/-: 4
Then, despite a four-game point-scoring streak, Lupul only found the back of the net once in his next six games following his early hot streak. Owners began to worry and his ownership seemed to cap off at around 65 percent. However, on Nov. 2 against the Devils, Lupul erupted for a hat trick and then followed that with a two-assist performance the next night in Columbus.

Not only that, but Lupul is hotter than ever right now. He is in the middle of a seven-game point-scoring streak with 3 goals and 8 assists. He's current season stat-line is extremely well-rounded with 12 goals and 30 points in just 25 games to go along with an extremely valuable 30 penalty minutes, a plus-4 rating, 11 power-play points and 73 shots on goal. Is there anything he can't do?

Lupul is the No. 1 overall rated fantasy player in Yahoo! Leagues and is now owned in 88 percent of leagues. The only thing that could scare his owners moving forward is the potential for injury. If he can avoid the injury bug, the bottom line with Lupul is this: He is going to be an extremely valuable fantasy piece all season long. Enjoy the ride if you're one of the lucky ones that grabbed him early on.

After a two-week hiatus, let's find out where Lupul ranks and who's moving up and down in the world of left wings.

TRENDING UPWARD

TOP 40 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 dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Brandon Dubinsky

Players on IR: Taylor Hall, Brenden Morrow
The Penguins forwards -- Thanks to the return of Sidney Crosby, several Penguins forwards should see a spike in fantasy value going forward. James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Steve Sullivan are the four guys that should end up on Pittsburgh's top two lines in some sort of combination with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins shake up their lines quite frequently, and while Jordan Staal is likely the team's third line center, he'll also get a boost in value because he could still line up with Crosby or Malkin at times. Regardless of the line combos, one thing is certain: Crosby's playmaking ability helps all of these guys in some fashion.

Evander Kane -- Kane may finally be coming into his own for the Jets. The 2009 fourth overall draft pick has been red-hot with 7 goals and 2 assists in his last 7 games while skating on the team's top line with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. With 12 goals, 23 penalty minutes and 89 shots on goal, Kane is providing really good overall value and is well on pace to shatter his previous career-highs (currently on pace for 42 goals and 63 points). Kane definitely has the ability to score 30-plus goals and we may be fortunate enough to see it happen this year.

Ryan Smyth -- Smyth has been held pointless in his last three contests, but over the course of the season, he has been one of the brightest surprises in fantasy hockey. Prior to the three-game drought, Smyth had been as hot and reliable as anyone in the game, recording at least one point in 12 of 13 games with a total of 10 goals and 19 points during that span. At 35, we shouldn't expect him to keep up at this near point-per-game pace, but Smyth seems to be loving the fact that he's back in Edmonton -- and you should too if you've got him on your squad.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Zach Parise -- Sure Parise has a point in each of his last two games, but is this all we can expect from him going forward? With just 6 goals and 7 helpers in 23 games, he just seems too talented to produce at such a low clip. He's currently skating on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and rookie Adam Henrique, but they don't seem to be clicking at all -- expect another shakeup soon if they continue to struggle. Parise still has 78 shots on goal, but between his minus-6 rating and quiet 2 power-play points, Parise simply cannot be looked at to carry a fantasy team right now.

Alexander Semin --  We do believe the new coaching change in Washington will spark the Caps' core forwards (we're looking at you, Ovechkin), however, we're a bit more skeptical about Semin. Semin seems to be lacking motivation this season and he isn't getting the opportunities on the power play like he's used to. Semin is usually a dominant power-play threat, but he currently has just 2 PP points -- he finished last season with 18 power-play points and had 27 the season before. Semin has just 5 goals and 5 assists in 22 games and should be benched immediately in all leagues until he shows any sign of coming to life.

James van Riemsdyk -- With 8 goals and 8 assists in 20 games, van Riemsdyk was off to a solid sophomore season with the Flyers. Unfortunately he suffered an upper-body injury against the Islanders on Nov. 23 and is expected to miss another week or two of action. JVR was spending most of his ice time on a line with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds and producing solid overall numbers, so look for him to jump back up in the ranks once he's healthy again.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Andrew Ladd -- After putting together a career-year last season (29 goals and 59 points), Ladd has really struggled in the transition from Atlanta to Winnipeg -- he posted just 3 goals and 1 assist in his first 14 games. However, perhaps he's starting to revert back to his old self -- Ladd has been held pointless in his last two games, but prior to the mini slump, he had 4 goals and 3 assists in a five-game span. The Jets captain is a decent contributor for some penalty minutes and he's still receiving solid playing time (3:03 of power play ice time per game), so he's definitely a player worth keeping your eye on.
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