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NHL Fantasy Top 100: Rise of Nick Foligno

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets


Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

This fantasy season has been a big surprise party. Late-round draft picks and waiver-wire pickups have run rampant and turned out to be elite-level forwards.

No exaggeration.

In my top 20 fantasy forward rankings alone, three players (Vladimir Tarasenko, Tyler Johnson, Filip Forsberg) were drafted on average in the 10th round or later in Yahoo leagues.

But one player who has especially mystified fantasy owners (in a good way, if he's on your team) is Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets. All of a sudden, he's one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the game.

He was a valuable deep-league fantasy asset last season, but for mostly different reasons than he is now. Drafted on average with the 140th pick in Yahoo leagues, Foligno has shocked the fantasy world with the second-highest shooting percentage (21.5) among qualifying leaders. Entering Tuesday, he's tied for ninth in the NHL in goals (17), leads the Blue Jackets in scoring (35 points in 36 games) and is tied with Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers for the League lead among forwards with 18 power-play points.

That's right. Foligno has more power-play points than Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin, among others.

Before you try to make sense of what you just read, let's dive into five reasons for Foligno's incredible first half of the 2014-15 season.

1. Selective shooting:

Foligno has been a star in terms of true shooting percentage, an advanced metric measuring goals to total attempts (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots). According to sportingcharts.com, Foligno has the best rate League-wide this season at 14.78%. The next best percentage is Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets (11.81%). Foligno hasn't wasted many opportunities in the offensive zone with shots that missed the cage. He's taking more shots on goal per game (2.2) than he did last season (1.6) while being more effective than any other player in the NHL in terms of quality attempts. He also led the team in shooting percentage last season (16.2), meaning he's been able to sustain a high conversion rate.

2. Staying out of the box:

Last season, Foligno was in elite fantasy company for category coverage of points and penalty minutes. Only Wayne Simmonds (60), David Backes (57), Scott Hartnell (52) and Brandon Dubinsky (50) had more points than Foligno (39) among forwards with at least 96 PIMs. This season, Foligno is on pace for 45 PIMs. Despite the dip, fantasy owners are reaping the benefits of him logging over three minutes more of ice time per game with his heightened production in a number of categories. The tradeoff heavily outweighs his previous value.

3. Power-play role:

Of those three-plus minutes of added ice time per game, Foligno is seeing 2:55 per game with the man advantage compared to 1:44 of such minutes on average last season. The result has been a significant boost in total points. Per sportingcharts.com, only Simmonds (14 PPP/25 points, 56 percent) has earned a higher percentage of his points with the man advantage than Foligno (18 PPP/35 points, 51.4 percent) among players with double-digit power-play points this season. Translation: Foligno's owners are having a field day as he doubles up in the points and PPP categories regularly.

4. Right place at right time

Entering 2014-15, Boone Jenner was coming off an impressive postseason and Hartnell was in the picture after being traded to the Blue Jackets. Therefore, Foligno was projected to play third-line left wing – as he did for a chunk of last season. But the team's early-season injuries opened up an opportunity for Foligno to play top-line minutes, and he hasn’t looked back. After a rough start, Columbus (17-17-3) has inched back into contention – largely due in part to Foligno's offensive prowess and current four-game point streak (one goal, four assists).

5. Ryan Johansen

Last but not least, Johansen has centered Foligno's line for most of the season and has had a profound impact on his improvement in multiple categories, especially his strides with the man advantage. Foligno and Johansen have formed the League's sixth-best point pair (21 team goals with each recording a point) and are tied for the top power-play point pair (11 team power-play goals with each recording a point).

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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Upward and downward trends are based on games since Dec. 23, 2014. Value is quantified by line combinations, overall upside and past performance in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal).

1. Sidney Crosby, C (SAME)

2. Tyler Seguin, C/RW (SAME)

3. Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (SAME)

4. Claude Giroux, C/RW DTD

5. Steven Stamkos, C/RW (SAME)

6. Patrick Kane, C/RW (+1)

7. Ryan Getzlaf, C (-1)

8. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW (+1)

9. Jakub Voracek, RW (-1)

10. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (SAME)

11. Rick Nash, LW/RW (+1)

12. Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW (+1)

13. John Tavares, C (+1)

14. Corey Perry, RW (NR - IR)

15. Phil Kessel, RW (-4)

16. Tyler Johnson, C/RW (+5)

17. Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW (-2)

18. Zach Parise, LW (-2)

19. Jamie Benn, LW/C (-2)

20. Jonathan Toews, C (-2)

21. Nicklas Backstrom, C (-2)

22. Max Pacioretty, LW (+6)

23. Patrick Sharp, LW/C (+3)

24. Ryan Johansen, C/RW (-1)

25. Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C (-1)

26. Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW (+16)

27. Daniel Sedin, LW (SAME)

28. Logan Couture, LW/C (-6)

29. Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C (+3)

30. Henrik Sedin, C (+1)

31. Anze Kopitar, C (+3)

32. Radim Vrbata, RW (+1)

33. James van Riemsdyk, LW (+5)

34. Chris Kunitz, LW (-9)

35. Taylor Hall, LW/C (-6)

36. Kyle Okposo, RW (+1)

37. Martin St. Louis, C/RW (+3)

38. Ryan Kesler, C/RW (-8)

39. James Neal, LW/RW DTD

40. Wayne Simmonds, RW (-5)

41. Patrice Bergeron, C (SAME)

42. Mike Ribeiro, C (+12)

43. Jiri Hudler, LW/RW (+4)

44. Nick Foligno, LW (+17)

45. Marian Hossa, RW (+7)

46. Johnny Gaudreau, LW (+10)

47. Jaden Schwartz, LW (NR - IR)

48. Gustav Nyquist, C/RW (+9)

49. Jason Spezza, C (-6)

50. Jeff Carter, C/RW (-6)

51. Ryan Callahan, RW (-3)

52. David Perron, LW/RW (NEW)

53. Steve Downie, LW/RW (+16)

54. David Backes, C/RW (+4)

55. Patrick Marleau, LW/C (-5)

56. Derek Stepan, C (+8)

57. Jori Lehtera, C (-12)

58. Marian Gaborik, LW/RW (-3)

59. David Krejci, C (SAME)

60. Blake Wheeler, RW (+2)

61. Alexander Steen, LW/C (+16)

62. Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW (-13)

63. Andrew Ladd, LW (+12)

64. Gabriel Landeskog, LW (-11)

65. Bobby Ryan, LW/RW (SAME)

66. Matt Duchene, LW/C (-20)

67. Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C (+16)

68. Brock Nelson, C (-17)

69. Brandon Saad, LW/RW (-3)

70. Ondrej Palat, LW (+10)

71. Eric Staal, C (+2)

72. Jarome Iginla, RW (-4)

73. Jason Pominville, RW (-6)

74. Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C (-4)

75. Tyler Toffoli, RW (-1)

76. Milan Lucic, LW (-13)

77. Derick Brassard, C (+8)

78. Tomas Tatar, LW (+6)

79. Brad Richards, LW/C (+11)

80. Scott Hartnell, LW (NR - IR)

81. Brad Marchand, LW (SAME)

82. Loui Eriksson, LW/RW (SAME)

83. Bryan Little, C/RW (+9)

84. Mike Cammalleri, LW/C (-24)

85. Colin Wilson, LW/C (NEW)

86. Ryan Strome, C/RW (+7)

87. T.J. Oshie, C/RW (NEW)

88. Johan Franzen, LW/RW (-12)

89. Jaromir Jagr, RW (SAME)

90. Tyler Bozak, C (-18)

91. Antoine Roussel, LW (SAME)

92. Matt Beleskey, LW (+6)

93. Carl Soderberg, LW/C (-6)

94. Valtteri Filppula, LW/C (-15)

95. Brayden Schenn, LW/C (-9)

96. Nick Bjugstad, C (NEW)

97. Brendan Gallagher, RW (+3)

98. Curtis Glencross, LW (NEW)

99. Sean Monahan, C (-3)

100. Tomas Plekanec, C (-6)

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