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.FINAL TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS
We are nearly at the finish line, and yet again it's been an incredible fantasy hockey season. Although NHL teams still are fighting to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs or battling for position, we fantasy owners are at the end of the road. Standard head-to-head leagues are now complete and though some rotisserie leagues might come down to the final game, most of those are likely locked up as well.
Hopefully our NHL.com fantasy hockey staff has helped you earn some bragging rights this season. Sadly, my advice to you comes to a close today. Now it's time to reflect and start looking ahead.
From Sidney Crosby staying healthy all season long to Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin missing lengthy periods of time, we've seen plenty of surprises from the forward position. Patrick Sharp currently is the No. 3 forward in Yahoo leagues; who saw that coming? Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin are all top 10 overall players in Yahoo leagues, while both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are outside the top 100. Jaromir Jagr found the fountain of youth and has been a top-40 forward pretty much all season long, while 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon has had one of the most prolific rookie seasons in recent memory.
It has been a season that overflowed with storylines, excitement and heroics, and while many things may change between now and the first fantasy hockey draft for the 2014-15 season, below is where I believe the forward position stands at this very moment.
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 ...
To no surprise at all, Sidney Crosby comes in at No. 1. He remained in the top spot from the moment of my initial rankings at the start of the season and will be there going into next season. Crosby leads the NHL in assists and points, and is second in power-play points. But the fun doesn't stop there. Crosby has helped in all categories, with an outstanding plus-16 rating and 253 shots on goal, plus a nice bonus of 46 penalty minutes. He'll also likely be the only player to finish with more than 100 points this season.
Like Crosby, coming into the season Steven Stamkos was my No. 2-ranked forward and that's where he finishes up. Despite sustaining a broken leg back in November and missing 45 games, Stamkos has again proven to be one of the most reliable fantasy players when on the ice. In 33 games he has 24 goals and 37 points. His 1.12 points per game rank fourth in the NHL and his 3.4 shots on goal per game are tied for 16th best.
My No. 3 forward might surprise some of you, but make no mistake, Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry deserves this honor. Some folks might think Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin or even John Tavares deserves this rank, but Perry continues to be the best all-round fantasy player in the game and is actually the No. 2 overall player in Yahoo leagues behind only Crosby. His 42 goals are second in the NHL, his 80 points are tied for fourth, his 275 shots are fourth and his plus-31 ranks fifth among forwards. And just for fun, he's tied for second in the League with nine game-winning goals. Outside of his 50-goal, 98-point season that earned him the MVP award in 2010-11, Perry is having the best season of his nine-year career.
MOVIN' ON UP
This season brought about many great surprises at the forward position, but here's a look at three players that outperformed expectations this season that I believe can sustain -- or better -- their production next season.
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues -- Steen wasn't on the radar of many going into draft season back in September -- he was selected on average in the 15th round of drafts -- but if you grabbed him, it has paid off. Prior to sustaining a concussion on Dec. 21, Steen was one of the top fantasy players in the game. He missed just under a month and struggled initially upon his return, but his March production (five goals, nine assists in 15 games) has proven that when healthy, he remains valuable. His 16.6 shooting percentage might not be sustainable (his career mark is 10.0 percent), but Steen plays on St. Louis' top line, gets plenty of ice time (20:17 per game) and plenty of power play time (3:17 per game this season). Another 30-goal and 60-plus point season are certainly within reach next year.Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Johansen, the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, scored 14 goals in his first 107 games. But this season, he really came alive and showed why the Blue Jackets spent such an early pick on him. Johansen has helped in all categories (31 goals, 26 assists, plus-1, 43 penalty minutes, 16 power-play points, 217 shots) and currently ranks as the 59th player in Yahoo leagues. He's 21 years old and will continue to get better and better in the NHL; he's a superstar in the making.
Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers -- After struggling out of the gate (three points in his first 11 games), Zuccarello really displayed great consistency after that, posting 54 points in his next 63 games. He doesn't shoot a ton (161 shots), but he makes up for that with a solid plus-11 rating and 17 power-play points. He's a restricted free agent after this season and the Rangers will likely pick up that option, which means he'll be motivated to play for a long-term deal in 2014-15.
Pretty straight forward -- these guys all had rough seasons in 2013-14, but I believe they could put up big numbers in 2014-15:
Rick Nash, New York Rangers -- Coming into the season I ranked Nash as the 10th overall fantasy player. He hasn't come close to those lofty expectations. However, one thing remained intact for the Rangers power forward: He still scored goals. Nash, who has missed 17 games this season, has 25 goals in 62 games, which equates to 33 goals over a full 82-game season. The big problem is he has just 13 assists. Still only 29, expect a much better season in 2014-15, when he'll likely play on a talented and young line with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes -- Staal was drafted on average with the 13th overall pick in Yahoo leagues. Unfortunately, he currently ranks as the 74th ranked player with 19 goals, 58 points and a minus-12 rating in 75 games. Like Nash, Staal is 29 years old and is certainly capable of bouncing back to put up his usual 70-80 points next season. After all, he did have 53 points in 48 games last season.
Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings -- Things did not work out with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Marian Gaborik. However, a move to the Kings at the NHL Trade Deadline seemed to get the three-time 40-goal scorer back on track after he got comfortable in Los Angeles. Gaborik has three goals and eight assists in his past 13 games, and still just 32 years old, there's a good chance Gaborik bounces back next season. However, he's an unrestricted free agent after this season, so where he ends up will certainly play into how much upside he'll have moving forward.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Whether it's a rookie (Nathan MacKinnon) or just a young player that outperformed our greatest hopes (Jaden Schwartz), 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:
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning -- In my opinion, Drouin should be the top player selected in fantasy drafts next season that has never appeared in an NHL game. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft followed up his 105-point season in 2012-13 with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with a 108-point season in 46 games this year with Halifax. Expect him to make the Lightning roster and be a Calder Trophy finalist next season.Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars -- According to Dobberhockey.com, 48.61 percent of Nichushkin's shifts this season have come on a line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The next most frequent line combination was just 7.37 percent, showing that clearly Benn and Seguin were his primary linemates. In 75 games, Nichushkin has 14 goals, 33 points, a plus-22 and 120 shots on goal. Look for him to improve in his second NHL season, and if he can stick with that line he could end up being a great draft-day selection.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals -- Kuznetsov has as much upside as anyone, and the fact he's played 13 games in the NHL this season and has been relatively productive (three goals and five assists) bodes well for next season. If he ends up on a line with fellow Russian Ovechkin, watch out.
These are the final fantasy forward rankings for the 2013-14 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||Scott Hartnell, Flyers|
|2||Steven Stamkos, Lighting||52||T.J. Oshie, Blues|
|3||Corey Perry, Ducks||53||Marian Gaborik, Kings|
|4||Alex Ovechkin, Capitals||54||Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes|
|5||Evgeni Malkin, Penguins||55||Jakub Voracek, Flyers|
|6||Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks||56||Ryan Kesler, Canucks|
|7||John Tavares, Islanders||57||Derek Stepan, Rangers|
|8||Claude Giroux, Flyers||58||Johan Franzen, Red Wings|
|9||Patrick Kane, Blackhawks||59||Kyle Okposo, Islanders|
|10||Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs||60||Kyle Turris, Senators|
|11||Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks||61||Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets|
|12||Chris Kunitz, Penguins||62||Bryan Little, Jets|
|13||Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks||63||Mikko Koivu, Wild|
|14||Jamie Benn, Stars||64||Andrew Ladd, Jets|
|15||Tyler Seguin, Stars||65||David Perron, Oilers|
|16||Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings||66||Matt Moulson, Wild|
|17||Joe Pavelski, Sharks||67||Jordan Eberle, Oilers|
|18||James Neal, Penguins||68||Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings|
|19||Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings||69||Radim Vrbata, Coyotes|
|20||Logan Couture, Sharks||70||Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets|
|21||Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals||71||Alexander Semin, Hurricanes|
|22||Anze Kopitar, Kings||72||Jason Pominville, Wild|
|23||Matt Duchene, Avalanche||73||Mats Zuccarello, Rangers|
|24||Zach Parise, Wild||74||Jaden Schwartz, Blues|
|25||David Backes, Blues||75||Brent Burns, Sharks|
|26||Martin St. Louis, Rangers||76||Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs|
|27||Patrick Marleau, Sharks||77||Brad Richards, Rangers|
|28||Max Pacioretty, Canadiens||78||Paul Stastny, Avalanche|
|29||Taylor Hall, Oilers||79||Clarke MacArthur, Senators|
|30||Rick Nash, Rangers||80||Chris Kreider, Rangers|
|31||Patrice Bergeron, Bruins||81||Jaromir Jagr, Devils|
|32||Daniel Sedin, Canucks||82||Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs|
|33||Eric Staal, Hurricanes||83||Valtteri Filppula, Lightning|
|34||Jarome Iginla, Bruins||84||Brad Marchand, Bruins|
|35||Thomas Vanek, Canadiens||85||Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche|
|36||Wayne Simmonds, Flyers||86||Tomas Hertl, Sharks|
|37||Marian Hossa, Blackhawks||87||Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens|
|38||Alexander Steen, Blues||88||Ryan Callahan, Lightning|
|39||David Krejci, Bruins||89||Loui Eriksson, Bruins|
|40||Jason Spezza, Senators||90||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers|
|41||Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche||91||Patrik Elias, Devils|
|42||Blake Wheeler, Jets||92||Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals|
|43||Milan Lucic, Bruins||93||Dustin Brown, Kings|
|44||Joe Thornton, Sharks||94||Brandon Saad, Blackhawks|
|45||Henrik Sedin, Canucks||95||Ondrej Palat, Lightning|
|46||Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche||96||Justin Williams, Kings|
|47||Bobby Ryan, Senators||97||Jussi Jokinen, Penguins|
|48||James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs||98||Mike Cammalleri, Flames|
|49||Jeff Carter, Kings||99||Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs|
|50||Evander Kane, Jets||100||Ales Hemsky, Senators|
Just Missed: Nick Bonino, Mike Ribeiro, Reilly Smith, Chris Stewart, Mike Richards, Martin Hanzal, Pascal Dupuis, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patric Hornqvist, Brayden Schenn, Daniel Alfredsson, Nail Yakupov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Derick Brassard, Shane Doan