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 insider all season long.UPDATED TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS
Before you read this story, go check out this goal scored by Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist on Sunday. Impressive, right?
These are the kind of highlights Nyquist has been creating for the past 20-plus games; basically since the Olympic break. Over the past 30 days in Yahoo leagues, Nyquist is the No. 4 player, behind Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. To put it in layman's terms, Nyquist has been an elite player for more than a month now.
With several superstars suffering injuries during the most critical time of the season for fantasy owners (Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Matt Duchene, Bobby Ryan), Nyquist has elevated his game and has become a major difference-maker.
In 50 games this season, the 24-year-old has 27 goals, 18 assists, a plus-14, eight penalty minutes, eight power-play points and 138 shots on goal. He currently ranks as the 176th player in Yahoo leagues. But most importantly he has 17 goals, 10 assists and a plus-11 rating in his past 21 games.
What surprises me most is that Nyquist has been this productive while averaging 16:44 of ice time per game. During this fantastic 30-day stretch he's exceeded the 20-minute mark once. It does help that 3:12 of his average ice time comes on the power play; however, his strong play shows that when he's on the ice, he's generating quality scoring chances. The center- and right wing-eligible forward primarily has been skating on a line with Johan Franzen and David Legwand and has recorded a minus rating just once in the past eight games; he's a plus-7 in that span.
The one thing to be concerned with about Nyquist is that his shooting percentage is extremely high and probably unsustainable. Nyquist's 19.6 percentage ranks fourth in the NHL among players to skate in at least 50 games, but with seven regular-season games remaining on Detroit's schedule, there's a chance he can carry this hot streak for a little longer. I wouldn't expect his shooting percentage to remain so high next season.
Nyquist has seen his Yahoo ownership skyrocket to 62 percent, but it's actually a bit surprising it's not higher considering how dominant he's been recently. If he's still out there in your league make sure you grab him now. He could be the difference in you winning or losing your league.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning -- In 13 games since returning from injury, Stamkos has been exactly what we've come to expect from him over the past five seasons, with nine goals and four assists. He has returned to his old self and is back where he belongs among my forward ranks: No. 2, behind Crosby.
Thomas Vanek, Montreal Canadiens -- After not scoring in his first five games as a member of the Canadiens, Vanek finally has gotten comfortable and has six goals and four assists in his past seven games. Skating on the team's top line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais is working out flawlessly and Vanek again is right on the bubble of being a top-25 fantasy forward.Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins -- Bergeron's season got off to a bit of a quiet start with eight goals and 13 points in his first 27 games. But if you stuck with him through the season it has paid off as he's been one of the hottest players in the League during the most important time for fantasy owners. Bergeron has at least one goal in seven straight games (eight goals, two assists during that time), and 11 goals and 18 points in 17 March games. Add in Bergeron's plus-36 rating that ranks second in the NHL and you can see why he's such a valuable player to own.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals -- Ovechkin still is an elite fantasy option. He leads the NHL in goals (48), power play goals (22) and shots on goal (366), and is tied for 10th in points (72). Unfortunately, he's last in the NHL in plus/minus (minus-34) and hasn't scored an even-strength goal in the past 15 games. He hasn't had a plus rating in the past 16 games. What's making matters worse is that he's struggling during this crucial fantasy playoff period, with four goals and one assist in the past 12 games. He'll always be a dominant offensive player, but he's no longer a six-category stud.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks, and Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche -- Both players sustained injuries during the weekend. While Toews is listed as day-to-day, Duchene will be out for the next four weeks due to a knee injury. This is rough news at the worst possible time for players of this caliber. If you're in a non-keeper league you can drop Duchene. And if you're looking for a replacement, take a look at what NHL.com Fantasy Insider Pete Jensen has to say. As for Toews, you have to hope for a speedy recovery so he can be of use for the rest of the fantasy season.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks -- After missing three games due to a lower-body injury, Saad has returned to play five straight games. Unfortunately he hasn't recorded a point in any of those games and has been a combined minus-7 during that time. He still is getting shots on goal (15), but without Patrick Kane on his line the point production could be minimal for the second-year forward.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Antoine Roussel, Dallas Stars -- Available in 88 percent of leagues, Roussel's 193 penalty minutes are second in the NHL, trailing Tom Sestito of the Vancouver Canucks, and his six misconduct penalties are tied for the NHL lead. What's great about having a player like Roussel on your fantasy team is that he's not just good for the penalty minutes; he also contributes a little bit offensively. He has 13 goals and 15 assists in 73 games, including a goal and three assists in the past three games.
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
|1||Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)||51||Ryan Kesler, Canucks (-1)|
|2||Steven Stamkos, Lighting (+2)||52||Derek Stepan, Rangers (+4)|
|3||Corey Perry, Ducks (same)||53||Bryan Little, Jets (+4)|
|4||Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (-2)||54||Kyle Turris, Senators (+8)|
|5||Claude Giroux, Flyers (+2)||55||Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (+3)|
|6||Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (same)||56||Andrew Ladd, Jets (-1)|
|7||Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (+1)||57||Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (+3)|
|8||Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+2)||58||Clarke MacArthur, Senators (+6)|
|9||Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (same)||59||Mikko Koivu, Wild (+4)|
|10||Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+5)||60||Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (-1)|
|11||Jamie Benn, Stars (+1)||61||Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (same)|
|12||James Neal, Penguins (+1)||62||David Perron, Oilers (+4)|
|13||Tyler Seguin, Stars (+1)||63||Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+2)|
|14||Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (-3) DTD||64||Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings (+16)|
|15||Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+1)||65||Jaden Schwartz, Blues (+2)|
|16||Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1)||66||Matt Moulson, Wild (+4)|
|17||Zach Parise, Wild (+2)||67||Jordan Eberle, Oilers (+1)|
|18||Anze Kopitar, Kings (+4)||68||Brent Burns, Sharks (+8)|
|19||Logan Couture, Sharks (-1)||69||Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (+6)|
|20||Jarome Iginla, Bruins (+5)||70||Brad Richards, Rangers (+1)|
|21||Alexander Steen, Blues (+2)||71||Jason Pominville, Wild (+1)|
|22||Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+2)||72||Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (+2)|
|23||Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-2)||73||Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (same)|
|24||David Backes, Blues (+4)||74||Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (+3)|
|25||David Krejci, Bruins (+2)||75||Patrik Elias, Devils (+6)|
|26||Thomas Vanek, Canadiens (+10)||76||Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (+2)|
|27||Martin St. Louis, Rangers (-1)||77||Brad Marchand, Bruins (+2)|
|28||Taylor Hall, Oilers (+1)||78||Paul Stastny, Avalanche (+10)|
|29||Rick Nash, Rangers (+2)||79||Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (+4)|
|30||Eric Staal, Hurricanes (same)||80||Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (+2)|
|31||Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+13)||81||Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+3)|
|32||Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+7)||82||Jussi Jokinen, Penguins (+5)|
|33||Daniel Sedin, Canucks (same)||83||Shane Doan, Coyotes (+3)|
|34||Milan Lucic, Bruins (-2)||84||Nick Bonino, Ducks (+5)|
|35||Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (+3)||85||Troy Brouwer, Capitals (+15)|
|36||Joe Thornton, Sharks (-1)||86||Mike Cammalleri, Flames (+6)|
|37||Blake Wheeler, Jets (+3)||87||Ryan Callahan, Lightning (+7)|
|38||James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (-4)||88||Loui Eriksson, Bruins (+2)|
|39||Evander Kane, Jets (+3)||89||Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-4)|
|40||Jason Spezza, Senators (-3) DTD||90||Ondrej Palat, Lightning (+3)|
|41||Jaromir Jagr, Devils (same)||91||Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs (same)|
|42||Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+4)||92||Ales Hemsky, Senators (+3)|
|43||Jeff Carter, Kings (same)||93||Dustin Brown, Kings (NR)|
|44||Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (+3)||94||Patric Hornqvist, Predators (NR)|
|45||Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+6)||95||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (+1)|
|46||T.J. Oshie, Blues (+8)||96||Justin Williams, Kings (+1)|
|47||Marian Gaborik, Kings (+5)||97||Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (+1)|
|48||Kyle Okposo, Islanders (same) DTD||98||Derick Brassard, Rangers (NR)|
|49||Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-4) DTD||99||Frans Nielsen, Islanders (NR)|
|50||Johan Franzen, Red Wings (+3)||100||Ryane Clowe, Devils (NR)|
* Appeared on injured list last week
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Tyler Johnson
Injured: Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Matt Duchene, Bobby Ryan, Chris Kreider, Chris Stewart, Tomas Hertl, Pascal Dupuis, PA Parenteau, Vladimir Tarasenko