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Fantasy forward bargains based on draft position

by Pete Jensen / NHL.com

Perception impacts when players are drafted in fantasy, usually to the point where proven commodities remain on the board much later than they should.

Whether it's because of age, single-position eligibility, lineup instability or recent production, it's always worth referencing Yahoo average draft position to pinpoint how late you could land a proven player. If you compare ADP to rankings, you'll see discrepancies to capitalize on.

Forwards being drafted outside the top 75 on average and 15-30 spots lower than they are in my rankings offer serious value on draft day. Jumping on players going much later than they deserve sets your team up for success if they exceed expectations.

There are plenty of undervalued defensemen (i.e. Jake Muzzin, Nick Leddy, Jack Johnson) and goalies (i.e. Craig Anderson, Antti Niemi) out there as well, but those positions fly off the shelves in middle and late rounds. You can't always bank on ADPs at these positions because you never know when defensemen and goalie binges will come. Elite forwards are prioritized early, but many quality ones tend to float around for way too long as fantasy owners round out their rosters.

Here are 10 forwards who are undervalued based on ADP but could prove to be fantasy difference-makers this season. For more value picks at each position, be sure to check out NHL.com's sleeper (Jensen / Cubeta), bounce-back, injury rebound and breakout (Jensen / Cubeta) lists.

1. Patrick Sharp, C/LW, Dallas Stars

Jensen's rank: 55

Yahoo ADP: 82.7

Sharp has high upside playing with Jason Spezza (rank: 79; ADP: 127.8) or on the top line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. He was a top-10 fantasy finisher two seasons ago, ranks sixth in the NHL in shots on goal since 2010-11 and is due for a shooting percentage correction. The Stars have improved defensively and were second in goals per game last season. All things considered, Sharp has a shot at a 30-goal, 30-assist, 300-SOG season.

2. Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, Philadelphia Flyers

Rank: 56

Yahoo ADP: 89.3

Simmonds went 86th in NHL.com's mock draft, 30 spots lower than my rankings. He covers points, power-play points, penalty minutes and SOG like few others. He had 28 goals in 75 games, so he still has a chance to hit 30 for the first time. It's realistic to expect 50-plus points, 25-plus PPP, 200 SOG and 75-100 PIMs and a top-50 finish. A breakout season from Brayden Schenn would do wonders for Simmonds' even-strength production.

3. Sean Monahan, C, Calgary Flames

Rank: 73

Fantasy owners know how valuable Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Monahan can be, so it's appropriate to reach for them a round or two earlier than their Yahoo ADP. (Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI, Dave Reginek/NHLI, Gerry Thomas/NHLI)

Yahoo ADP: 103.4

Monahan was one of 10 players with 30-plus goals and 30-plus assists last season despite a much heavier faceoff workload than his rookie season. The 20-year-old broke out to an extent but still has a higher ceiling and Johnny Gaudreau as a linemate for years to come. Considering he was one of 22 players with 10-plus power-play goals in '14-15, the foundation is already there. You can justify taking Monahan in the sixth round, but he'll probably be available a few rounds later.

4. Gustav Nyquist, C/LW/RW, Detroit Red Wings

Rank: 78

Yahoo ADP: 101.2

It's always worth noting when a top-100 player is granted three-position eligibility in Yahoo leagues. Nyquist, who finished tied for third in PPG last season, is a top-six fixture for the Red Wings, with or without Pavel Datsyuk (ankle). Nyquist reunites with his former American Hockey League coach, Jeff Blashill, after Mike Babcock's departure. It's realistic to expect 30 goals, 60 points and 200 SOG with as much roster flexibility as you can get.

5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks

Rank: 68

Yahoo ADP: 122.7

Vrbata was underrated entering last season and scored 30-plus goals for the second time in his career. His shooting percentage was far from an outlier in his career scope, so it's fair to expect more success in 2015-16 playing top-six minutes and first-unit power play with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. Many overlook Vrbata because he has struggled to string together back-to-back strong seasons, but it's shocking to see the 28th fantasy finisher available so late. Grab him in the 10th or 11th round.

6. Marian Gaborik, RW, Los Angeles Kings

Rank: 104

Yahoo ADP: 149.5

Gaborik, 33, is past his prime but remains a 30-goal threat after scoring 27 in 69 games last season. Gaborik's linemates, Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic, are in contract years, so the production should be there for all three if healthy; Gaborik played 157 of a possible 212 games since 2012-13. The average owner doesn't trust Gaborik inside the top 100, but I'll take a chance on him in the 12th round or later any day. Upside is still there.

7. Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks

Rank: 89

Yahoo ADP: 139.7

Thornton finished tied for seventh in assists last season and is tied for eighth in PPP since 2010-11. His coverage may be incomplete, but he's an underappreciated possession player who has 60-plus points in each of his past 14 full seasons -- stability that's tough to find in middle rounds. The 36-year-old is playing next to Joe Pavelski again and gets a fresh start under coach Peter DeBoer. He's attainable after the ninth round and should finish in the top 75.

8. Derick Brassard, C, New York Rangers

Rank: 110

Yahoo ADP: 163.6

Brassard is coming off the best season of his career; he finished 67th in fantasy and led the Rangers in assists (41) and PPP (18) in 2014-15. He's eligible only at center but is a top-line player who should continue to skate between Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. He has a chance to finally score 20 goals if he stays there and on the first power-play unit, and should finish with 55-60 points and a positive rating. It's worth saving a center or bench spot for Brassard in the 13th or 14th round.

9. Jaromir Jagr, RW, Florida Panthers

Rank: 140

Yahoo ADP: 170.6

Jagr is the ultimate draft bargain alongside young guns Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov in Florida, going in the 15th round in NHL.com's mock draft and even later on average. The 43-year-old is worth reaching for a round or two earlier than his ADP after averaging nearly a point per game after being traded to the Panthers in 2014-15. I'd be surprised if he had fewer than 60 points and 20 PPP if he avoids injury for a full season.

10. Tyler Ennis, C/LW, Buffalo Sabres

Rank: 167

Yahoo ADP: 175.6

Buffalo's offense hit rock bottom in the past two seasons, but Ennis led the Sabres in points (89), PPP (33) and SOG (395) in 158 games in that span. Now, with either Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel centering him on the top line and Evander Kane likely on his opposite wing, the Sabres offense should be much stronger. If reinforcements on each end lead to a much-improved team goal differential, Ennis could benefit by association and reach 60 points for the first time.

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