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Center Stage: Sharks quartet thriving down the stretch

Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:57 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Center Stage: Sharks quartet thriving down the stretch
The San Jose Sharks boast four players that are center eligible that could be a huge boon to your fantasy team's run for a title.
Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy centers in our weekly segment: "Center Stage." From updated center rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy center expert all season long.

Earlier this season we discussed the possibility of Joe Pavelski entering the elite group of fantasy forwards. Recently, we've also talked about Logan Couture rising in our fantasy rankings and turning into a mainstay among some of the better forwards in the National Hockey League. Throw in the fact that the Sharks also have veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and you're staring at four extremely useful fantasy forwards.

Pavelski, Couture and Marleau all possess dual-position eligibility in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues, while Thornton is listed just at center. This Sharks foursome has stepped up their game recently and should be relied on heavily down the stretch for fantasy owners.
Joe Pavelski
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 44
SOG: 176 | +/-: 15

After a four-point night against the Capitals Monday, Pavelski actually has the highest Yahoo! rating, coming in at 32nd among all players -- Marleau is 39th, Couture is 47th and Thornton is 57th. They have become one of fantasy hockey's most dangerous groups of teammates. Only the Sharks, Bruins and Blackhawks have four forwards among the top-60 overall rankings -- and coincidentally, all four of the Sharks players are eligible at center.

All of them have picked up their play lately. In San Jose's past seven games, Pavelski has 5 goals and 5 assists, Marleau has 5 goals and 3 assists, Couture has 2 goals and 8 assists and Thornton has been the most dominant with 4 goals and 8 assists.

They can all be used as a No. 1 center in deep fantasy leagues, and if you've held onto these guys throughout the season, you should be rewarded as you make your run at the title.

TRENDING UPWARD

TOP 40 FANTASY CENTERS

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: David Krejci

Players on IR: Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (DTD), Matt Duchene, Alexander Steen
David Backes -- A few extreme changes among our top-10 center rankings, with none more obvious than Backes jumping up to the seven-spot. With the Blackhawks struggling, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane all dip a bit -- we do expect them to bounce back soon, but for now, Backes has earned the bump up. Backes is currently rated 12th overall in Yahoo! Leagues and has been a dominant fantasy player for most of this season. He has been particularly hot of late with points in each of the last five games (1 G, 4 A) to go along with a plus-3 rating, 6 PIMs, 2 PPP and 19 SOG during that time -- you should rely on him to be a No. 1 center going forward.

Jason Spezza -- Spezza also joins Backes among the top-10 centers, thanks largely in part to one of the best stretches of his season. After posting his first hat trick of the season and adding an assist against the Lightning on Tuesday, Spezza now has 5 goals and 5 assists over his last four games. Spezza's best NHL season came in 2007-08 when he posted a career-high 34 goals and 92 points. If he continues at his current rate he could eclipse the 34 goals and could put up around 80-90 points. Spezza has as much as skill as anyone and if he remains healthy, he'll continue to be one of the game's elite point producers.

Eric Staal -- Staal's game has clearly picked up and it's no coincidence that the Hurricanes have been playing significantly better of late. Staal has 5 goals and 3 assists over his last six games (Carolina has earned points in five of those six games) and has surprisingly been a plus-1 or better in his last five contests. He is the team's clear-cut No. 1 center and still has plenty of skill to show off. We're not saying Staal is back to his old self entirely, but he could be a great buy-low player before your league's trade deadline strikes.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Jonathan Toews -- Toews is still an elite fantasy player, but he has hit his worst rough patch of the season. Toews has been held without a point in his previous five games and with the Blackhawks struggling in all facets of the game, Toews has also been a minus-3 over his last four contests. He still has 27 goals and 52 points on the season to go along with outstanding peripheral stats, but for now, Toews falls outside the top-five center rankings.

Tyler Seguin -- As a second-year player, Seguin has had a very memorable season with 20 goals, 24 assists and an NHL-best plus-29 rating, but recently, the exceptionally talented forward has been struggling. Seguin has no points in his last three games and just one in his previous seven contests -- he has also been a minus-rating in five of those seven games. Despite being held off the scoresheet against the Rangers on Tuesday, he still managed seven shots on goal and proved to be Boston's most lethal scoring threat throughout the game -- this could be a sign that he'll snap out of his slump soon.

Vincent Lecavalier -- Lecavalier dips a few spots in the rankings because of a current three-game pointless streak, but prior to the mini-slump, Lecavalier had been red-hot during the month of January. It's been a while since Lecavalier's heyday when he was scoring 40-plus goals with ease, but the Tampa Bay captain could be in line for his first 30-goal season since 2007-08. Being reunited with Martin St. Louis has helped his game recently, so expect Lecavalier to turn things around in the near future.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Artem Anisimov -- The Rangers forward has been reunited with the team's top line, playing left wing to Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, and if he can stick with this unit, good things should be expected -- he had great success with this group earlier in the season. Anisimov, who has center and left wing eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues and is owned in just seven percent of fantasy leagues, has really stepped up his game of late with 3 goals and 3 assists over his previous six games. He doesn't see a ton of power play ice time (1:38 per game), but he will certainly contribute even-strength points and his plus-13 rating can be a big benefit to fantasy owners.

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OFFSEASON FANTASY RANKINGS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
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CUBETA & JENSEN'S COMPLETE RANKINGS