Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy forwards in his weekly segment: "The Front Line." From updated rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy forwards expert all season long.UPDATED TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS
We've made it. It's been a fast few months, but the end is finally here for fantasy hockey owners. In all likelihood, you're either already done with fantasy hockey, battling it out in the championship round of your head-to-head league or hanging on for dear life at the top of your rotisserie league. Either way, it's probably been a treacherous season, as all fantasy hockey seasons seem to be, and through good and bad decisions, tough ones and easy ones, you've made it to the end. While fantasy hockey is just about over, there's never a bad time to reflect on the year that was and start looking ahead to the future.
From Patrick Kane scoring the NHL season's first goal, to Sidney Crosby proving that he's still the most dominant player in the NHL when healthy, to P.K. Subban taking the fantasy world by storm as the new top defenseman, to Alex Ovechkin rediscovering his elite form, this season has been filled with storylines galore. NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff has discussed these storylines and highlights on a daily basis and hopefully we provided you with enough good advice to help you in your leagues.
Today, the advice ends. Instead, I will send you off with a look at my season-ending top-100 fantasy forward rankings and I'll discuss some player values for next season.
Many things will change between now and September (when most fantasy hockey drafts begin to take place), but as of April 23, 2013, this is where I believe the world of fantasy hockey forwards stands.
A LOOK AT THE TOP
Who gets the honor of holding down the No. 1 ranking throughout the offseason? How about who's second and third? Let's have a look ...
As for Ovechkin, there's no arguing what he's done for owners this season, and that's why he's No. 2. After a slow start, Ovechkin returned to his old form and proved he still has plenty left to offer. He is currently the No. 1 fantasy player in Yahoo! leagues and leads the NHL with 30 goals, 16 power-play goals and 208 shots on goal, and is tied for the NHL-lead with 25 power-play points. It has been great to see Ovechkin transform his game under Adam Oates and it makes him a safe pick at No. 2 next year.
The No. 3 forward ranking spot was between Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin, but based on consistency, I have to give it to Stamkos. Malkin was the fantasy MVP last year and the No. 1 forward coming into this season, but injuries and a lack of goal scoring derailed his season -- he still averages over a point-per-game, so we're not worried going forward. However, Stamkos has proven once again that he is one of the best pure goal-scorers in the NHL, and being that goals are harder to come by than assists, Stamkos' fantasy value is always sky-high. His 28 goals trail only Ovechkin and while his minus-9 didn't help owners this year, Stamkos still contributed plenty in the other categories (26 A, 32 PIMs, 18 PPP, 147 SOG). But here's what I like best: his consistency. Over the last three NHL seasons, no one has more points than Stamkos' 242 (Martin St. Louis is next at 228) and no one has more goals than Stamkos' 133 (Corey Perry is next at 102). How can you argue that?
MOVIN' ON UP
This season brought about many great surprises at the forward position (Pascal Dupuis, Nazem Kadri and Jiri Tlusty among many others), but here's a look at three players that outperformed expectations this season that I believe can sustain -- or better -- their production next season.
Chris Kunitz, Penguins -- Over the course of his career, Kunitz has been a consistent secondary forward for two star-filled lines. Back in Anaheim he played the grind-it role on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He was successful there and his name began to emerge in fantasy hockey. In Pittsburgh, things started quietly but eventually he found his way on the wing of whatever line Crosby was centering. He was successful then, too. But in 2012-13, Kunitz took his game to a new level. He delivered fantasy dominance in just about every category (21 G, 28 A, plus-29, 39 PIMs, 16 PPP, 102 SOG) and I believe playing alongside Crosby in 2013-14 will mean he can continue to be a force.Evander Kane, Jets -- By this time next season there's a very good chance we'll be talking about Kane as a top-10 fantasy forward. The Jets power forward has quickly transformed himself into a Perry-like player thanks to his knack for scoring goals, taking tons of shots and recording plenty of penalty minutes. If you project out Kane's current stats over the course of an 82-game season, you'd be looking at this kind of value: 29 goals, 58 points, 330 shots on goal and 139 PIMs. That kind of stat line is fantasy gold and at just 21 years old, Kane should join the fantasy elite by next season.
Derek Stepan, Rangers -- Stepan came into the year ranked 216th in Yahoo! leagues and is now currently ranked 30th thanks to an outstanding third NHL season. After improving his point production from 45 to 51 in his second season, Stepan has been nearly a point-per-game player this year (40 in 45 games) while becoming the Rangers' No. 1 center -- he also has a plus-22 rating and 10 power-play points. Becoming the team's No. 1 center means great things for the 22-year-old as you can expect him to have Rick Nash on his wing. These two players developed great chemistry over the course of the season and I believe Stepan could post 70 points as early as next year for fantasy owners.
Pretty straight forward -- these guys all had rough seasons in 2012-13, but I believe they could put up big numbers in 2013-14:
Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche -- After winning the Calder Trophy last season, many fantasy folks expected big things out of Landeskog in 2012-13. Unfortunately, the Swedish forward didn't deliver as expected. At just 20 years old and already the face of the Avalanche franchise, there's plenty of reason to believe Landeskog will bounce back in a big way. While his point production was significantly down (16 in 33 games), his peripheral stats show he was still an effective player -- his shots on goal remained high (averaged 3.2 per game this season -- 3.3 last year) and he still recorded penalty minutes at a similar pace to last season (.67 per game this season -- .62 last year) -- meaning Landeskog could easily match or better what he did as a rookie in 2013-14.Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers -- It's not a coincidence both Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins struggled this season -- often times players have difficulties making adjustments in their sophomore season after having a good rookie campaign. But make no mistake, both players are going to be dominant fantasy players for many years. Nugent-Hopkins had an extremely rough January and February (1 G, 6 A in 18 games), but his play picked up in March (1 G, 10 A in 13 games) and has been solid enough in April (2 G, 4 A in nine games) to expect him to return to his rookie-season ways next season. RNH is surrounded by plenty of offensive talent in Edmonton and with his playmaking abilities, there's reason to believe he could record at least 60 points next year.
Milan Lucic, Bruins -- Drafted on average with the 49th overall pick coming into the season, Lucic is currently ranked 138th in Yahoo! leagues. He has certainly been the demise for many fantasy teams this season and I won't be shocked if there's a lot of bitter owners that will pass on him come draft day next season. Don't be one of them. Sure he was a healthy scratch for the Bruins on Saturday, but Lucic is a critical piece of Boston's success, and the same goes for fantasy owners. In the two seasons prior to this year, Lucic averaged 28 goals, 62 points, a plus-18 and 128 penalty minutes. It's not easy to find that kind of versatility and as long as he remains a top-six forward for the Bruins (which he should), I have every reason to believe Lucic will again be a top-50 fantasy player in 2013-14.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Whether it's a rookie (Jonathan Huberdeau) or just a young player that outperformed our greatest hopes (Nazem Kadri), fantasy owners always end up with at least one talented kid on their squad that provides some unexpected value. Here's a look at three players you should keep an eye that could fill this role next season:
Brandon Pirri, Blackhawks -- Pirri, the 59th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, currently leads the AHL with 75 points in 76 games with the Rockford IceHogs, while also chipping in a solid 72 penalty minutes. If he can find a spot on the Blackhawks' roster, he could turn into a valuable fantasy player.
Sven Baertschi, Flames -- Pegged by many as a sleeper coming into this season, Baertschi has just two goals and seven points in 18 games for Calgary. Not exactly what we were hoping for -- perhaps we jumped the gun just a bit. Expect much bigger things next year.
Mikael Granlund, Wild -- Just like Baertschi, Granlund didn't live up to the hype placed upon him by many (2 G, 6 A in 27 games). This kid's skills are for real and in a year or two, he will turn into an elite fantasy forward. Don't forget about him on draft day.
TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
These are the final fantasy forward rankings for the 2012-13 NHL season -- including players that are or were injured. They are based on how they performed during this season and expectations of how they will perform next season.
|1||Sidney Crosby, Penguins||51||Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs|
|2||Alex Ovechkin, Capitals||52||Andrew Ladd, Jets|
|3||Steven Stamkos, Lightning||53||PA Parenteau, Avalanche|
|4||Evgeni Malkin, Penguins||54||Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning|
|5||Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks||55||Dustin Brown, Kings|
|6||Patrick Kane, Blackhawks||56||Wayne Simmonds, Flyers|
|7||Eric Staal, Hurricanes||57||Jeff Carter, Kings|
|8||Rick Nash, Rangers||58||Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens|
|9||John Tavares, Islanders||59||Bobby Ryan, Ducks|
|10||Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks||60||Joe Pavelski, Sharks|
|11||Claude Giroux, Flyers||61||Johan Franzen, Red Wings|
|12||Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs||62||David Backes, Blues|
|13||Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils||63||Pascal Dupuis, Penguins|
|14||Corey Perry, Ducks||64||Brad Richards, Rangers|
|15||Chris Kunitz, Penguins||65||Jason Pominville, Wild|
|16||James Neal, Penguins||66||Jordan Eberle, Oilers|
|17||Anze Kopitar, Kings||67||Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche|
|18||Martin St. Louis, Lightning||68||Milan Lucic, Bruins|
|19||Zach Parise, Wild||69||Scott Hartnell, Flyers|
|20||Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings||70||Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes|
|21||Daniel Sedin, Canucks||71||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers|
|22||Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals||72||Mike Richards, Kings|
|23||Henrik Sedin, Canucks||73||Michael Ryder, Canadiens|
|24||Marian Hossa, Blackhawks||74||Ray Whitney, Stars|
|25||Jason Spezza, Senators||75||Sam Gagner, Oilers|
|26||Alexander Semin, Hurricanes||76||Chris Stewart, Blues|
|27||Evander Kane, Jets||77||Loui Eriksson, Stars|
|28||Taylor Hall, Oilers||78||Radim Vrbata, Coyotes|
|29||Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings||79||Patrik Elias, Devils|
|30||Tyler Seguin, Bruins||80||Justin Williams, Kings|
|31||Max Pacioretty, Canadiens||81||Cody Hodgson, Sabres|
|32||Matt Duchene, Avalanche||82||T.J. Oshie, Blues|
|33||Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks||83||Ryan Callahan, Rangers|
|34||Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets||84||James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs|
|35||Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs||85||Jaromir Jagr, Bruins|
|36||Jamie Benn, Stars||86||David Krejci, Bruins|
|37||Mike Ribeiro, Capitals||87||Blake Wheeler, Jets|
|38||Joe Thornton, Sharks||88||Ryane Clowe, Rangers|
|39||Thomas Vanek, Sabres||89||Nail Yakupov, Oilers|
|40||Matt Moulson, Islanders||90||Teemu Selanne, Ducks|
|41||Ryan Kesler, Canucks||91||Jiri Tlusty, Hurricanes|
|42||Alexandre Burrows, Canucks||92||Troy Brouwer, Capitals|
|43||Jarome Iginla, Penguins||93||Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche|
|44||Jakub Voracek, Flyers||94||Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers|
|45||Patrice Bergeron, Bruins||95||David Clarkson, Devils|
|46||Derek Stepan, Rangers||96||Teddy Purcell, Lightning|
|47||Brad Marchand, Bruins||97||David Perron, Blues|
|48||Mikko Koivu, Wild||98||Derick Brassard, Rangers|
|49||Logan Couture, Sharks||99||Dany Heatley, Wild|
|50||Patrick Marleau, Sharks||100||Kyle Turris, Senators|
Just Missed: Jordan Staal, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Galchenyuk, Tyler Ennis, Steve Ott, Alexander Steen, Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Milan Michalek, Brendan Gallagher, Martin Havlat, Cory Conacher, Brent Burns, Damien Brunner, Brayden Schenn