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Breaking down the top 50 fantasy hockey rankings

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

It seems like it was only yesterday when we were handing out fantasy awards for the 2012-13 NHL season, but now we're just a couple weeks away from the opening of training camps. You know what that means, right? It's time to start preparing for fantasy hockey.

You may or may not have already checked out NHL.com's top-200 overall fantasy hockey rankings, but below is a breakdown of those top 50 players. What was our reason for going with Sidney Crosby over Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin? Why do we believe Erik Karlsson will bounce back from injury to regain the No. 1 fantasy defenseman status? Why are we so high on Taylor Hall? These are just a few of the questions you might have after glancing at our rankings, and now, we provide you with the reasons and explanations.

The overall ranking order is based on NHL.com's composite rankings determined by fantasy experts Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen, Matt Sitkoff and Chris Foster (average of each expert's selections).

RANKINGS: Top 200 Overall Fantasy Hockey Rankings

NOTE: Positional ranking based on combination of last season's Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey position assignments and NHL.com's 30 in 30 lineup projections. Ranking reflects each player's fantasy value, taking into account statistical history, performance in default Yahoo! categories (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG), potential future lineup placement, strength of projected linemates and most importantly, our expectations of how they will perform this coming season.

1. Sidney Crosby, C
Outlook: Our unanimous No. 1 player, health is only question, but he's worth the risk regardless. His 1.61 points-per-game in past 99 games are far-and-away best in NHL and peripherals are all outstanding.
2. Steven Stamkos, C
Outlook: No player has more goals (134), PPG (39) or points (245) over past three seasons -- will also be good for around 300 shots on goal and 60-70 PIMs. Will thrive alongside Martin St. Louis.
3. Alex Ovechkin, RW
Outlook: Bounced back in big way last year to lead NHL in goals and PPP and finished third in points – the move to RW and playing under Adam Oates looks to have helped. A return to 40-plus goals seems likely.
4. Evgeni Malkin, C
Outlook: Missed 17 games last year and finished with just 9 goals, but still managed point-per-game numbers (33) and if healthy, has potential to finish as No. 1 fantasy player, like he did two seasons ago.
5. John Tavares, C
Outlook: Continues to improve each year after averaging just under a point-per-game in past two seasons -- he could reach 40 goals and his plus/minus could be a positive for first time in career.
6. Henrik Lundqvist, G
Outlook: No one is more reliable -- over past three years (of goalies with at least 100 GP): Second in wins (99), best GAA (2.11), second in SV% (.926), most SO (21) -- best year could be coming with contract on line.
7. Jonathan Quick, G
Outlook: Regressed after unreal 2011-12, but showed he can still be dominant with terrific postseason (1.86 GAA, .934 SV%, 3 SO) -- somewhere close to his 2010-11 is most likely (35 W, 2.24 GAA, .918 SV%. 6 SO).
8. Jonathan Toews, C
Outlook: Despite rough postseason (14 points in 23 games), regular seasons are as balanced as any after finishing 9th overall in Yahoo! last year -- expect around 35 G, 75 points, plus-20, 30 PIMs, 15 PPP, 250 SOG.
9. Claude Giroux, C
Outlook: What many considered was a down year was still impressive (13 goals and 48 points) -- he'd be ranked higher if not for needing surgery on his right index finger, meaning he'll likely miss a lot of training camp.
10. Patrick Kane, RW
Outlook: Extrapolate 23 goals and 55 points over an 82-game season (40 G, 96 points) and last year would've been best yet -- you won't get PIMs, but the Conn Smythe winner should perform like last season.
11. Corey Perry, RW
Outlook: Since 2007-08, no player has more seasons of at least 25 G, 50 pts, 75 PIMs, 200 SOG than Perry, who's done it every year (last season would've been 28 G, 67 pts, 134 PIMs, 239 SOG over 82-game season).
12. Erik Karlsson, D
Outlook: Injuries derailed what looked like another huge year, but clean bill of health should see a return to elite. SOG totals set him apart from all d-men -- he had 7-plus SOG in 5 of 17 games last year.
13. P.K. Subban, D
Outlook: Led all defensemen with 38 points (tied), 26 PPP and 13 multi-point games, his 57 PIMs were 10th, his plus-12 was 19th. There were zero flaws and more should be expected from this 24-year-old star.
14. Eric Staal, C
Outlook: Found immediate chemistry with Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty to put together one of best seasons of illustrious career -- 35 goals, 80 points, 70 PIMs and 250 SOG should be reachable in 2013-14.
15. Tuukka Rask, G
Outlook: Should see close to 70 starts for elite Bruins team and will be in line for best season yet after posting 1.88 GAA, .940 SV% and 3 SO in 22 playoff games -- could finish as No. 1 goalie by season's end.
16. Phil Kessel, RW
Outlook: Has become extremely consistent since joining Leafs in 2009 -- around 35 goals, 80 points and close to 300 SOG should be expected with an improvement in plus/minus as Toronto get better in 2013-14.
17. Henrik Zetterberg, LW
Outlook: Goal production has declined each of last five seasons, but finished 6th overall in Yahoo! last year and is our No. 1 LW this season -- will contribute plenty of shots and PPP on line with Pavel Datsyuk.
18. Pavel Datsyuk, C
Outlook: At 35, won't record PIMs (averages 25/season last three years) and doesn't shoot much (2.36/game last three years), but still has 175 points in last 173 games with good PP production and plus/minus.
19. Ryan Getzlaf, C
Outlook: If healthy (missed just 4 games past 2 years), can be top-5 fantasy center (15 G, 49 points, plus-14, 41 PIMs last year). Won't shoot a lot (2.25 SOG/game last two seasons), but PIMs totals make up for that.
20. Rick Nash, LW
Outlook: Many drafters will point to subpar playoff performance (1 G, 4 A in 12 games), but regular season was extremely productive (finished 15th in Yahoo!) and 40-plus goals is attainable in year two with Rangers.
21. Taylor Hall, LW
Outlook: Notched 50 points in 45 games last season, but has yet to play close to full 82-game season, which could scare drafters -- he's capable of finishing as top-3 LW after ranking 13th overall in Yahoo! last year.
22. Martin St. Louis, RW
Outlook: Led NHL in assists (43), points (60) and multi-point games (18) at 38 years old and has formed one of most lethal duos in NHL with Steven Stamkos -- regression should be expected, but still very productive.
23. Kris Letang, D
Outlook: Has potential to be No. 1 fantasy d-man, just needs to stay healthy (missed 44 games past 2 years). Quarterbacking PP unit with Crosby, Malkin, Neal and co. could put him among league leaders in PPP.
24. Chris Kunitz, LW
Outlook: Finished 2nd among all fantasy players in Yahoo! after best season of career. Might not reach same per-game stats as last year, but playing on line with Sidney Crosby makes him a No. 1 LW on any roster.
25. Nicklas Backstrom, C
Outlook: Recorded 33 points in final 29 games while centering Alex Ovechkin and despite not being a goal-scorer or shooter, should be able to post close to 80 points with dominant power-play totals.
26. James Neal, LW
Outlook: Regressed after monster 2011-12, but a healthy Evgeni Malkin should see Neal put up numbers closer to that breakout year than his 21-goal, 36-point effort last season -- PIMs keep him among elite.
27. Henrik Sedin, C
Outlook: Point production has decreased each of past four seasons -- still very capable of posting 80-plus points, but lack of goals (44 in last 212 games) and SOG (340 in last 212 games) hurts fantasy value.
28. Anze Kopitar, C
Outlook: Has as much potential as anyone at just 25, but lack of PIMs (56 in last 204 games) keeps him out of the elite group -- look for Kopitar to reach the point-per-game numbers he's capable of this season.
29. Daniel Sedin, LW
Outlook: Like Henrik, points-per-game have decreased each of last three seasons (1.26, 0.93, 0.85, respectively) and at 32, things could decline more. Will playing under new coach John Tortorella spark him?
30. Zach Parise, LW
Outlook: First season in Minnesota wasn't eye-popping (18G, 38 points in 48 games), but a full season with Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville could see Parise return to 80-point mark for first time since 2009-10.
31. Jason Spezza, C
Outlook: 80-plus points is realistic if healthy, but it's a big if after missing 43 games. A return to 2011-12 numbers (34 G, 50 A) is possible with Bobby Ryan on wing, but have a backup plan ready in case of injury.
32. Pekka Rinne, G
Outlook: Successful hip surgery could see this workhorse bounce back and finish among top goalies -- he was tied for NHL lead with 16 games of .950 SV% or better and only three goalies made more starts (42).
33. Tyler Seguin, C
Outlook: Took step back last year (16 G, 16 A, plus-23) and struggled in playoffs (1 G, 7 A) after breakout 2011-12, but now on Dallas and centering Jamie Benn could see Seguin crack top-30 fantasy ranks again.
34. Bobby Ryan, RW
Outlook: Last season was by far worst of young career (11 G, 30 points), but a first-line role alongside Jason Spezza and a giant increase in power play ice time could result in return to 30-35 goal range.
35. Shea Weber, D
Outlook: Last five-year average: 19 G, 49 points, 59 PIMs, 20 PPP, 242 SOG. Plus/minus might not be what it used to be, but still in prime and more than capable of finishing as top-5 fantasy defenseman.
36. Alexander Semin, RW
Outlook: After sluggish finish to Caps career, proved he's still got plenty to offer by posting 44 points, plus-14, 46 PIMs in 44 games in first year with Carolina -- injuries are always a factor, but plenty of upside.
37. Jimmy Howard, G
Outlook: Past two seasons are model of consistency -- 2011-12: 35 wins, 2.13 GAA, .920 SV%, 6 SO; 2012-13: 21 wins, 2.13 GAA, .923 SV%, 5 SO. Improved Wings roster could put Howard among top-5 goalies.
38. Sergei Bobrovsky, G
Outlook: Vezina Trophy winner was tied for NHL lead with 16 games of .950 SV% or better, but can he do it again? Columbus is improved, but all signs point to stats slipping -- expect around 2.30 GAA and .920 SV%.
39. Antti Niemi, G
Outlook: Since joining Sharks three years ago, has been extremely consistent with last year being best yet (24 W, 2.16 GAA, .924 SV%, 4 SO). At 29, he could put up similar numbers while starting close to 70 games.
40. Logan Couture, C
Outlook: Sharks' top forward gets better each year and should be lock for 30-35 goals, 60-70 points, 20-plus PPP with solid plus/minus and tons of SOG -- only flaw is inability to record PIMs (20 in last 128 games).
41. Matt Duchene, C
Outlook: After tough 2011-12, bounced back to put up best goal- and- point-per-game totals of young career (.36 G, .91 points). Plus/minus and PIMs won't help, but 35 goals on Colorado's top line is possible.
42. Jamie Benn, LW
Outlook: Point production continues to improve each year and addition of Tyler Seguin on line could mean great things. Expect big season with around 30 goals, 75 points and 60 PIMs -- sky's the limit.
43. Carey Price, G
Outlook: Consistent performer over past three years, but last season was most disappointing (2.59 GAA, .905 SV%). Price, 26, could bounce back on improved Habs team and climb back into top-five goalie status.
44. Marian Hossa, RW
Outlook: Having played over 1,000 regular season games, decline in production could be in order after posting worst per-game point totals (.78/game) since 1999-2000 season -- still a top-10 fantasy RW.
45. Patrick Sharp, LW
Outlook: Eligibility at all three forward positions was a bonus for owners last year, but injuries were a problem (missed 20 games). Solid playoff performance (10 G, 16 points in 23 games) shows he still has value.
46. Corey Crawford, G
Outlook: With Ray Emery out of Chicago, the No. 1 job is solely Crawford's, and that should mean big things coming off an outstanding regular season and postseason (1.89 GAA, .929 SV%, 4 SO in 51 combined starts).
47. Max Pacioretty, LW
Outlook: Budding superstar finished 29th in Yahoo! leagues last year and minimum expectation should be totals similar to 2011-12 (33 G, 65 points, plus-2, 56 PIMs, 13 PPP, 256 SOG) with room for PP growth.
48. Ryan Suter, D
Outlook: His .66 points-per-game were best of career and 3:46 of PP ice time per game was second most of career -- you should expect similar totals in 2013-14 as he gets even more comfortable in Minnesota.
49. Matt Moulson, LW
Outlook: Goals decreased last year, but point totals went up. Plus/minus is never great and PIMs will be next to nothing (56 PIMs in 322 career games), but playing with John Tavares makes him a fringe top-10 LW.
50. Derek Stepan, C
Outlook: Finished 30th among all players in Yahoo! after breakout year (18 G, 44 points, plus-25) and could better those stats if centering Rick Nash for a full season under new offensive-minded coach Alain Vigneault.
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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

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

CUBETA'S COMPLETE TOP 100 FORWARD RANKS