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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Get lucky

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
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.

Buying low at the right time and price is an art that all fantasy owners try to master.

Looking at low shooting percentages and the chances they can improve over time can be an indication of strong options to target. There are always exceptions, but for the most part if a proven player is creating chances consistently with a track record of shooting a high percentage in the past, it's can simply be a matter of time before the flood gates open.

Take forward Rick Nash of the New York Rangers. He's tied for the NHL lead in goals (33) after he couldn't buy the back of the net during the Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup Final (3.6 percent shooting). He did have a strong regular-season track record of even-strength goal scoring prior to this season, but it would've still been tough to envision a 17.1 shooting rate and top 10 standing among forwards.

The advanced analytics movement continues to dive into the concept of scoring chances in the hope of shedding light on the quality of scoring opportunities a player generates. This season, five forwards are averaging at least 17 minutes of total ice time with three or more shots on goal per game and a conversion rate of fewer than eight percent. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the League average shooting rate among forwards with 50-plus attempts this season is 10.9 percent, and these proven fantasy assets are well below that mark.

Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets (7.9 percent), one of the five, is having shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. He was a popular fantasy target with trade rumors swirling prior to injury, but that window of opportunity is closed unless you're in a keeper league. The other four in his company are not expected to be involved in any 2015 NHL Trade Deadline movement, but there are still reasons to buy low.

The perfect example is Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks, who was on that list prior to ending a five-game goalless drought with back-to-back multi-goal outings. Entering Sunday, he was shooting 6.5 percent on the season. The veteran is up to 8.9 percent and commanding fantasy attention. But this development is not too surprising considering Hossa is among the League's top 20 forwards in 5-on-5 Scoring Chances For, according to war-on-ice.com.

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau (6.7 percent) is on pace to shoot a single-digit percentage for the first time in 17 NHL seasons. Patrick Sharp of the Blackhawks continues to turn in a wide shooting percentage variation (11.7 in 2011-12; 6.8 in 2012-13; 10.9 in 2013-14; 6.5 in 2014-15).

Rounding out the group, Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche may be the most intriguing of these options. According to war-on-ice.com, Pominville and MacKinnon rank eighth (15.9) and 11th (14.1) among forwards in Scoring Chances For percentage relative to their team's rate when each is not on the ice (minimum 900 minutes of ice time).

Pominville is averaging 3.2 SOG per game and shooting 6.0 percent on the season; MacKinnon is averaging 3.1 SOG per game and shooting 5.4 percent. These two are generating many more goal-scoring opportunities for their teams than they're allowing while on the ice, yet are not getting much luck at all on the conversion side. Their teams are also among the bottom five in power-play success rate, so their ice time in those situations (Pominville: 3:43 per game; MacKinnon: 2:23) has also left much to be desired.

MacKinnon, who plays mostly alongside Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly at even strength, has nine goals on 167 SOG through 54 games compared to his 24 on 241 SOG (10 percent) in 82 games as a rookie. MacKinnon did most of his damage in the second half en route to winning the Calder Trophy, but is having a much more difficult time getting results as a sophomore. He is missing Paul Stastny, who departed via free agency, but he has also experienced some tough luck. That said, if MacKinnon was to meet in the middle and shoot 7.7 percent over the Avalanche's final 28 games, he'd score seven goals. If he was to shoot 10 percent, he'd double his current total.

And if the Avs make a deal at the deadline to shore up their defense, that could also have a positive impact on MacKinnon's fortunes.

As for Pominville, he scored a power-play goal against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, his 10th goal on 168 SOG. He played earlier in the season with Zach Parise but has been mostly alongside Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker on the Wild's second line of late. His assist total (29) is tied for 25th in the League, but his goal scoring has been alarmingly low given the high volume of shots. Pominville has shot 10 percent or better in each of his past four seasons, and it'll only take a few bounces to correct his shooting percentage.

Targeting Pominville and/or MacKinnon right now on the cheap in fantasy trades can pay sizable dividends, especially considering each has been generating chances in droves all season long. If you already own either of these two, you're likely disappointed and have considered cutting ties. But, things could change with a little bit of luck.

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TRENDING UP

Bryan Little, C/RW, Winnipeg Jets

When Little was mired in a stretch of two points in 12 games from Oct. 30 to Nov. 20, fantasy owners were worried his 64-point outburst in 2013-14 was a flash in the pan. But Little has since regained consistency and is on a 65-point pace after producing three multipoint games in his past four. The 27-year-old hasn't missed a game since 2011-12 and is one of three players League-wide with 20-plus goals, 20-plus assists, a plus-10 or better and 15-plus power-play points -- the others being Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As underrated as ever, Little has the Jets on track for their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since relocating from Atlanta.

TRENDING DOWN

James van Riemsdyk, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

Peaking at No. 31 in these forward rankings in early January, van Riemsdyk has tumbled significantly over his past few weeks with three points (two goals, one assist) and a minus-10 in 12 games. The 25-year-old ranks 12th in the NHL with 172 shots on goal and remains a viable keeper-league asset, but a rebuild is imminent for Toronto as the deadline nears. The offensive lull that has plagued Phil Kessel since the Maple Leafs' coaching change has dampened van Riemsdyk's fantasy value in similar fashion. Fantasy owners should refrain from selling low in case he turns it around, but this is a disappointing turn of events for JVR.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Kris Versteeg, LW/RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Versteeg (hand) hasn't played since the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, but could be back this week. How this development impacts the Blackhawks' top-six forward mix is anyone's guess, but it's worth noting how well Versteeg played on a line with Kane and Brad Richards prior to his injury. Kane is currently tied atop the NHL scoring race with 59 points, and Versteeg could see the splash effect again if he finds himself back in that spot. He's 25 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, dual eligible (LW/RW) and worth adding in standard formats ahead of his return to the lineup.

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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 Feb. 3, 2015. 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. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (SAME)

2. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (SAME)

3. Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (SAME)

4. Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (SAME)

5. Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI (+1)

6. Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (-1)

7. Steven Stamkos, C/RW, TBL (SAME)

8. Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (SAME)

9. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (+3)

10. Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (-1)

11. John Tavares, C, NYI (SAME)

12. Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW, SJS (-2)

13. Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (SAME)

14. Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (SAME)

15. Corey Perry, RW, ANA (+1)

16. Tyler Johnson, C/RW, TBL (+1)

17. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (-2)

18. Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (SAME)

19. Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW, NSH (SAME)

20. Zach Parise, LW, MIN (SAME)

21. Jamie Benn, LW/C, DAL (SAME)

22. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (SAME)

23. Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C, DET (SAME)

24. Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C, DET (SAME)

25. Alexander Steen, LW/C, STL (SAME)

26. David Backes, C/RW, STL (+2)

27. Nick Foligno, LW, CBJ (+4)

28. Logan Couture, LW/C, SJS (+1)

29. Phil Kessel, RW, TOR (-2)

30. David Perron, LW/RW, PIT (+4)

31. Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW, TBL (+1)

32. Patrick Sharp, LW/C, CHI (-6)

33. Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (SAME)

34. Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (+3)

35. Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (+4) - With 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 5 games, Daniel has provided solid support for the Canucks while staying out of the penalty box.

36. Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (-6)

37. Gustav Nyquist, C/RW, DET (-1)

38. Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (+7)

39. Jason Spezza, C, DAL (+4)

40. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (+2)

41. Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA (+8)

42. Joe Thornton, C, SJS (-7)

43. James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (-2)

44. Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT (+2)

45. Tomas Tatar, LW, DET (+7)

46. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (+1)

47. Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI (+1)

48. Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (+3)

49. Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (+6) - Racking up 6 points in the last 5 games and only taking 4 minutes in penalties, Vrbata is a player to keep your eye on.

50. Marian Gaborik, LW/RW, LAK (+3)

51. Ryan Callahan, RW, TBL (+5)

52. Martin St. Louis, C/RW, NYR (-12)

53. Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (+18)

54. T.J. Oshie, C/RW, STL (-4)

55. Milan Lucic, LW, BOS (+2)

56. James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR (-18)

57. Derek Stepan, C, NYR (-3)

58. Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (SAME) - Although he hasn't scored in the last 5 games, Henrik has 4 assists and took just 1 penalty.

59. Eric Staal, LW/C, CAR (+3)

60. Taylor Hall, LW/C, EDM - IR

61. Jiri Hudler, LW/RW, CGY (+2)

62. Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (-3)

63. Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH (+2)

64. Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (-3)

65. Colin Wilson, LW/C, NSH - DTD

66. Patrick Marleau, LW/C, SJS (+3)

67. Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL (+5)

68. Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+5)

69. Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (+1)

70. David Krejci, C, BOS (-10)

71. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (-5)

72. Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (-8)

73. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (-6)

74. Steve Downie, LW/RW, PIT (SAME)

75. Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (+5)

76. Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CHI (SAME)

77. Matt Duchene, LW/C, COL (-2)

78. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (+5)

79. Tyler Toffoli, RW, LAK (+2)

80. Jason Pominville, RW, MIN (-1)

81. Mathieu Perreault, LW/C, WPG (+11)

82. Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C, MTL (-5)

83. Kris Versteeg, LW/RW, CHI (NR - IR)

84. Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C, CBJ (SAME)

85. Ryan Strome, C/RW, NYI (-3)

86. Mike Fisher, C, NSH (+1)

87. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (-1)

88. Mike Cammalleri, LW/C, NJD (+3)

89. Paul Stastny, C, STL (+6)

90. Sean Monahan, C, CGY (-2)

91. Antoine Roussel, LW, DAL (+2)

92. Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (+6)

93. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (-4)

94. Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (SAME)

95. Alex Tanguay, LW/RW, COL (+1)

96. Valtteri Filppula, LW/C, TBL (+1)

97. Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (+2)

98. Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (NEW)

99. Jori Lehtera, C, STL - DTD

100. Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET (SAME)

Just missed: Thomas Vanek, Craig Smith, Brad Richards, Jaromir Jagr, Matt Beleskey, Carl Soderberg, Justin Williams, Brayden Schenn, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mark Scheifele

Dropped out: Smith

Key injuries: Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Johan Franzen, Blake Comeau, Mikkel Boedker, Tanner Pearson, Valeri Nichushkin, Pascal Dupuis

Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen

Author: Pete Jensen | NHL.com Fantasy Insider


Fantasy Hockey Winners - January 2015
Highest Points
RLANG
370.773 pts.

Average Points
EUGENE_CHEN
61.337 pts.

RLANG won both categories, EUGENE_CHEN was runner-up in Average Points

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