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Breaking down our updated top-50 fantasy rankings

by Matt Cubeta
Having released our midseason updated top-175 overall fantasy hockey rankings, it's time to provide you with some explanations for our top-50 picks. Why was Evgeni Malkin chosen over the Sedin brothers, or over the League's top goal-scorer in Steven Stamkos? Why was the struggling Alex Ovechkin ranked one spot higher than the surprising superstar-like Phil Kessel? Why did Brian Elliott not crack our top 50 despite being second in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage?

These are just a few questions many of you are probably wondering, but this is our reasoning for our top-50 overall rankings at the midpoint of the 2011-12 season:

The overall ranking order is based on Matt Cubeta's updated rankings at the midpoint of the 2011-12 season.

Rankings are based on a standard fantasy hockey league that includes a 6x4 scoring system: goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal, penalty minutes, goalie wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Cubeta's Updated Top-175 Overall Fantasy Hockey Rankings

1. Evgeni Malkin
With 45 points in 35 games, outstanding power-play numbers, solid penalty minutes and among the top-three in shots, he's clearly deserving of the top spot; as long as he avoids injury, we believe he keeps it up.

2. Daniel Sedin
No one's been more valuable in fantasy hockey to this point, thanks largely because of his outstanding peripherals, but don't be surprised if he reaches 40-goal or 100-point marks this season.

3. Steven Stamkos
His 29 goals are five more than any other player and he is on pace to surpass his 45-goal, 91-point season from last season; only stat that's slumping is his 11 power-play points (he had 36 last season).

4. Claude Giroux
He's emerged as one of the most talented players in the NHL centering one of the most lethal lines (Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell on his wings) and his 1.30 point-per-game clip is League's best. What's not to love?

5. Henrik Lundqvist
Our top-ranked goalie could be in the discussion as the No. 1 overall player. He's third in the NHL in GAA and save percentage, he's fourth in wins and has four shutouts while playing on the League's best team.

6. Henrik Sedin
His 50 points lead the NHL, but his lack of goals (11) and shots (64) have him outside our top five. His absurd December (22 points in 15 games) shows he could push for the century mark yet again.

7. Pavel Datsyuk
He's really shown his true self with 33 points in 25 games since struggling for a month-plus at the start of the season; expect him to be over a point-per-game by season's end with a great plus/minus.

8. Jonathan Toews
With exception to his lack of penalty minutes, he's been everything his owners expected with 22 goals and 42 points in 43 contests; surrounded by talent, Toews is our highest-ranked Hawk.

9. Tim Thomas
Continues to display resilience with a 1.99 GAA and .938 save percentage while backstopping one of the League's best teams; the continued stellar play of Tuukka Rask could cut into his playing time in second half.

10.  Alex Ovechkin
Our No. 1 overall player at preseason is considered one of the biggest disappointments, but he's just a year removed from a 50-goal season and he'll heat up in the second half as his Caps make their playoff push.

11.  Phil Kessel
His 24 goals and 48 points in 42 games have taken plenty of us by surprise, but his track record suggests a gradual decline in production -- over his career he's averaged .76 points-per-game pre-All-Star and .61 after.

12.  Corey Perry
He won't reach the 50-goal mark again and may struggle to hit 40, but his 59 PIMs, 146 SOG and 16 PPP still make him one of the most valuable RWs; expect him and his teammates to improve going forward.

13.  Marian Hossa
Extremely underrated, he is currently the fourth-highest rated forward in Yahoo! with a flawless stat line: 17 G, 28 A, plus-23, 16 PIMs, 11 PPP, 145 SOG in 42 games; if healthy, he's as good as it gets.

14.  Patrick Kane
He hasn't quite produced as much as his forward teammates (Toews, Hossa, Sharp), but 38 points in 43 games ain't too bad; his goal output will increase in the second half and an 80-point season is still in reach.

15.  Jimmy Howard
He has three more wins than anyone else and an outstanding 2.05 GAA and .924 save percentage to go along with four shutouts; playing for an elite team in Detroit should result in similar stats for second half.

16.  Erik Karlsson
Our top defenseman on the list has been a great surprise to many -- his 41 points and 152 shots on goal are first among d-men and his 17 PPP are second; expect similar production while being Ottawa's top weapon.

17.  Nicklas Backstrom (injured)
Currently out with a head injury, he had been posting numbers close to his 101-point season two years ago (13 G, 42 points in 38 games); hope for a quick return and that his game remains sharp.

18.  Jonathan Quick
Currently rated as Yahoo's top fantasy goalie, he has been extremely valuable because of his NHL-leading six shutouts; with the Kings improving, his value could still somehow increase.

19.  Joffrey Lupul
Always known to be talented, his 19 goals and 47 points in 42 games have still been the biggest surprise this year; his past injury record and having never put up more than 50 points in one season has us a little worried.

20.  James Neal
With 21 goals, 36 points and leading the NHL with 171 shots on goal, he has quickly made Pens fans forget about his struggles after being last season's deadline acquisition; playing on Malkin's wing doesn't hurt either.

21.  Shea Weber
Our top fantasy d-man at preseason now cracks the ranks as the No. 2 blueliner behind Karlsson; look for him to lead all d-men in goals by season's end with a great plus/minus and tons of PPP and SOG.

22.  Zdeno Chara
He rounds out the elite defensemen and we can't see anyone else breaking up the trio; his plus-27 leads all blueliners and his ability to help in every category makes him a fantasy stud on the back row.

23.  Thomas Vanek
While he might be on the shelf for a few more games with an upper-body injury, he could still be looking at a 40-goal season with nearly 80 points by season's end.

24.  Marian Gaborik
After a forgettable season last year, he's bounced back in a big way with 23 goals in 40 games, putting him on pace for a career- high 47 goals; he's been the Rangers' best and most consistent forward.

25.  Anze Kopitar
He got off to a great start with 10 points in his first six games, but has really cooled off of late (just 3 points in his last seven contests); elite talent won't help in PIMs (6) and has struggled in plus/minus (-2).

26.  Pekka Rinne
Our top-ranked goalie was No. 1 in preseason and while he's been good, he hasn't been amazing; his 21 wins are second in NHL, but his 2.57 GAA and .919 save percentage don't jump out at us; expect improvements.

27.  Zach Parise
Like many others, he got off to a rough start, but has been unreal lately (8 points in last five games) and could end up having top-15 fantasy value for the rest of the way while playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique.

28.  Jarome Iginla
Veteran forward is known for his big second-half surges (last season he had 18 goals and 10 assists in his final 18 games) and a quiet 17 goals and 36 points in 44 games hasn't exactly hurt his owners this year.

29.  Ryan Kesler
After surprising most with a 41-goal season last year, he was hurt to start this campaign and was slow to get his game going early on, but his well-rounded ability could mean he's a big sleeper in the second half.

30.  Teemu Selanne
At 41 he's been Anaheim's most valuable player with 14 goals and 41 points in 41 games (his plus-4 rating is impressive for a struggling team as well) and could end up with the most points since his 94 in 2006-07.

31.  Jason Spezza
Health is always a question, but his game has been sound this year with 44 points in 44 games while centering the surprising goal-scorer Milan Michalek; he could reach 80 points for first time since 2007-08.

32.  Ilya Kovalchuk
Don't look now, but he's slowly returning to his usual goal-scoring form with 6 goals and 11 points in his last 7 games; he has 38 points in 38 games overall and other than his minus-10, he's proving quite valuable.

33.  Henrik Zetterberg
He probably won't even reach the 24 goals he tallied last year and was considered the biggest disappointment in the early parts of this season, but his recent play has been encouraging (19 points in last 19 games).

34.  Johan Franzen
He is well on his way to surpassing every offensive category from last year and is on pace for his first 30-goal effort since 2008-09; his plus-20 and ability to help in PIMs (34) makes him extremely useful.

35.  Antti Niemi
Our sixth goalie off the board has quietly been one of the League's most valuable fantasy-wise; playing for one of the best teams in the West should result in plenty of wins with a GAA near his current 2.33.

36.  Roberto Luongo
He has done nothing but reassure us of his dominant play during the regular season with 17 wins, a 2.37 GAA, .917 SV% and two shutouts; similar to the situation in Boston, Cory Schneider could cut into his playing time.

37.  Scott Hartnell
He has the most well-rounded stat line in all of fantasy hockey and could end up setting career-highs in every offensive category this season; he is the closest thing to Corey Perry from last year.

38.  Martin St. Louis
He won't help you in PIMs and his plus/minus and power play production isn't what it was last year, but he could still finish with his usual point-per-game numbers by season's end (currently 33 points in 36 games).

39.  Brad Richards
He hasn't put up the point-per-game numbers we're used to, but a quiet 15-goal, 31-point stat line and playing on a line with the improving Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky hints at more success to come.

40.  Marc-Andre Fleury
Performing as we expected, he is currently on pace for 40 wins and his GAA is among the top 10 (2.29); beware of second-half statistical decrease with the amount of injuries on the team playing in front of him.

41.  Nicklas Lidstrom
After first minus season last year, he's right in line for his usual Norris Trophy mention with 23 points and a plus-17 rating through 42 games, while still averaging 23:42 minutes per game and 3:36 on the PP. 

42.  Jamie Benn
In just his third year in the NHL, he has been Dallas' most lethal weapon, averaging more than a point per game (13 G, 42 points in 41 games); he's set to shatter career-highs in every offensive category.

43.  Kris Versteeg
One of the biggest surprises this year, his numbers (17 G, 22 A in 41 games) shouldn't regress too much while being Florida's most valuable forward; his near four minutes of PP ice time helps.

44.  Ryan Getzlaf
Ranked 11th overall coming into the season, he has been one of the biggest disappointments, but goals and points should increase considering 8-percent shot rate is well below career average (12.3-percent).  

45.  Patrick Marleau
The extremely consistent forward should top the 260-shot plateau for the third straight year and is on pace for his fourth consecutive 30-plus goal campaign while contributing solid stats in all categories but PIMs.

46.  Tyler Seguin
Superstar in the making is on pace for 36 goals and 44 assists and his current plus-33 is tops in the NHL. He should continue to rise playing on one of the best lines (Bergeron and Marchand) and teams in the League.

47.  Dion Phaneuf
He rejoins the elite group in fantasy defensemen as he ranks in the top-six in goals (7), assists (21), points (28) and shots on goal (119), and his 47 PIMs are tied for 11th; could finish as top-five d-man this year.

48.  Carey Price
His GAA has dipped to 2.46 (19th in NHL) and save percentage to .913 (23rd in NHL), but he's still on pace for a 30-plus win season, making him a decent option at a position that has become quite thin this season.

49.  Patrick Sharp (IR)
If not for the fact he'll be out for the next three-to-four weeks, he would easily crack the top-20 list. With 20 goals and 40 points in 42 games, Sharp is still rated as the fourth best fantasy player in Yahoo! Leagues.

50.  David Backes
Despite his PIMs dipping a bit to 40, he's still a five-tool fantasy asset and on pace for nearly the same points total as last season, with 14 goals and 17 assists in 42 games; look for him to continue to lead the Blues.

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