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Right of Way: Clowe, Skinner back for fantasy owners

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Right of Way: Clowe, Skinner back for fantasy owners
With Ryane Clowe and Jeff Skinner healthy again, the right wing position -- already the most potent in fantasy hockey this season -- figures to be even more productive for owners.
Every Friday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy right wings in our weekly segment: "Right of Way." From updated right wing rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy right wing expert all season long.

Coming into the season, only five right-wing-eligible players were rated among the top-25 in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues: Corey Perry, Evgeni Malkin, Martin St. Louis, Jarome Iginla and Patrick Kane. Of these five players, only Malkin and Perry remain within the top-25 right now. Here we are, about two-thirds of the way through the 2011-12 season, and there are currently 12 right wings among the top-25 -- proving the position could be considered the deepest in fantasy hockey.

In fact, right wing has turned out to be arguably the most valuable position in fantasy hockey this season. The center position sports 10 players within the top-25 in Yahoo! and the left wing position has just eight players (these numbers obviously include players that are eligible at multiple offensive positions). Only four goalies rank among the top-25 and one defenseman finds himself on that list (Erik Karlsson).
Joffrey Lupul
Right Wing - TOR
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 36 | PTS: 58
SOG: 162 | +/-: 7

Clearly, the right wings have been extremely beneficial for fantasy owners, especially if you've had any of these elite guys. Players like James Neal and Joffrey Lupul have all soared in the rankings from where they started at the start of the season. Underrated players like Teemu Selanne, Phil Kessel, Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen have all thrived and really shown their value by falling within the top-25 overall fantasy players.

Perhaps the right wing position would be even deeper if some of the usual stars hadn't suffered injuries. However, a few of these top-caliber players have recently made their way back to the ice, and all of them are good targets to try to acquire as your fantasy trade deadline approaches:

Patrick Sharp -- Eligible at every offensive position, Sharp has been one of the best all-round fantasy players this season and is rated 24th overall in Yahoo! Leagues. There are no flaws in his stat line: 22 goals, 22 assists, a plus-16, 34 PIMs, 12 power-play points and 177 shots on goal in 46 games.

Jeff Carter -- Between on-ice struggles and injuries, it hasn't been pretty for Carter in his first season in Columbus (he came into the season rated 28th overall), but if a trade ends up happening, Carter's fantasy value will increase significantly.

Ryane Clowe -- Clowe has recorded at least a point in each of the three games since he's returned from injury (1 goal, 4 assists) and could be in line for a big end to the season. He only has 10 goals in 45 games, but he makes up for that with his 21 assists and always valuable 56 penalty minutes.

Jeff Skinner -- The ultra-talented youngster has 3 goals and 2 assists in the nine games since he's returned from injury, but his play will likely pick up with time. Skinner still has 15 goals and 29 points in 39 games overall and will be a perennial 30-goal scorer for years to come.

TRENDING UPWARD

TOP 40 FANTASY RIGHT 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. (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
** was listed on IR in last week's rankings

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Nathan Horton, Dustin Brown, Blake Wheeler, Shane Doan

Players on IR: Martin Havlat
Phil Kessel -- Kessel hops back up into the top-three thanks to yet another hot streak that's seen him record 4 goals and 5 assists over his last four games. Not only is he putting up points at an absurd pace of late, but he's also been a plus-8 and has averaged 3.5 shots per game during that span. Kessel is back to doing it all for his fantasy owners (everything except recording penalty minutes, of course -- he has just 14 this season). The Kessel-Lupul connection has been as good as at any point during this season, and fantasy owners are surely happy about that.

Martin St. Louis -- St. Louis might only be rated 84th among all players in Yahoo! Leagues, but he's picked up his play significantly lately. If you go through and look at St. Louis' game log you'd notice a bunch of zeroes in the early parts of the season. However, starting on Dec. 5, St. Louis has been putting up points at his usual dominant pace -- he has been held without a point just four times since, a span of 23 games. St. Louis has 50 points in 48 games and is finally performing like we expected.

Radim Vrbata -- You probably don't know it, but Vrbata is actually eighth in the NHL with 25 goals. Not only is he scoring at a near 40-goal pace, but he also has 21 assists, a plus-14 rating, 10 power-play points and 158 shots on goal. Vrbata has been a major fantasy find, and has been extremely hot of late with 3 goals and 5 assists during a current six-game point-scoring streak.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Marian Hossa -- Make no mistake, Hossa is still an elite right wing, but he's currently in the middle of his biggest slump of the season. That's right, a four-game pointless streak is the worst of his season -- that's how good Hossa has been. The Hawks forward has been a minus-5 during that span and hasn't had a game with more than two shots on goal in his last seven. He'll snap out of this skid soon enough, just know that all players tend to go through slumps at some point during the season.

Danny Briere -- Briere scored 26 goals in 2009-10 before netting a career-high 34 last season. Unfortunately it appears he probably won't reach either of those numbers. In 45 games, Briere has just 13 goals and 31 points for the Flyers. While his plus-2 and 45 penalty minutes aren't hurting fantasy owners, his point production simply isn't what we were hoping for. Briere hasn't scored a goal since recording a hat trick on Jan. 7 (a span of nine games) and has just 3 assists during that time. If he's on your team, you should consider benching him or trying to deal him before the deadline.

Nathan Horton -- Just when Horton was starting to heat up, the Bruins forward suffered his second concussion in less than a year and is sidelined indefinitely. Horton had scored 8 goals in the month of January before going down with the injury against the Flyers on Jan. 22. He has missed six games so far and on Friday coach Claude Julien said he had suffered a setback in his recovery. He remains out indefinitely. Horton had 17 goals and 32 points in 46 games for the Bruins to go along with a very valuable 54 penalty minutes. This is a blow for his fantasy owners and they'll have to look elsewhere for production out of the right wing slot for the time being.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Wayne Simmonds -- If you're one of the owners that has Horton on your team, Simmonds makes a perfect replacement. He's available in 73 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and has nearly identical numbers to Horton. Both players have exactly 17 goals and 15 assists; Simmonds has 62 PIMs as opposed to Horton's 52; Simmonds actually has more power-play points and shots on goal, with 11 PPP to Horton's 8 and 126 SOG to Horton's 90. Simmonds is a grind-it-out type player and carries plenty of fantasy value going forward.

NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
Breakout candidates: Jensen | Cubeta
Analysis of NHL.com's fantasy mock draft
Video: NHL stars make picks | Draft prep
Top 275 rankings | Top 50 breakdown
Positional rankings: C | LW | RW | D | G
Category hogs | Specialists | Rookie crop
Bounce-back candidates | Injury rebounds
Sleeper picks: Cubeta | Jensen | Sitkoff
Follow fantasy insiders: Cubeta | Jensen

NHL.COM FANTASY PLAYER RANKINGS

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

COMPLETE RANKINGS | MOCK DRAFT ANALYSIS