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Fantasy forwards: Rankings entering offseason

Positional roundup, top 100 as season winds down

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

As another fantasy hockey season comes to a close, let's reflect on all the hits, misses, surprises and storylines surrounding the forward landscape.

The 2015-16 season has seen Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks become the NHL's first 100-point player since 2013-14 and the top-ranked fantasy asset after being drafted on average with the 14th pick in Yahoo leagues. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has put forth another trademark season with 45 goals, 24 power-play points and 378 shots on goal, while Jamie Benn has followed up his scoring title with the first 40-goal, 40-assist season of his career.

Sidney Crosby, meanwhile, has overcome a slow start, and benefited from the Pittsburgh Penguins' coaching change, with an NHL-best 73 points in his past 60 games and another top-five overall standing.

This season has also featured one of the strongest rookie classes in recent memory, from Artemi Panarin riding Kane's coattails to Connor McDavid producing better than a point per game for the Edmonton Oilers when healthy. Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres has been among the rookie leaders in most categories and has a bright future alongside Sam Reinhart.

Another major trend was underrated veterans producing at elite fantasy levels. Joe Thornton (ADP: 142.2) of the San Jose Sharks went on a tear of consistent point production from mid-December on, finishing right behind linemate Joe Pavelski among the top 10 overall players. Jaromir Jagr (ADP: 168.7) of the Florida Panthers has become the oldest player in NHL history (44) with at least 60 points in a season. And let's not forget Shane Doan, 39, who covered all standard categories for the Arizona Coyotes to finish among the top 70 assets after going undrafted on average.

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MOVING ON UP

Players who emerged as fantasy steals based on Yahoo average draft position:

Evgeny Kuznetsov - Kuznetsov thrived for the Capitals whether he was on Ovechkin's line or one with Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams. He built off a strong Stanley Cup Playoff performance with a breakout season to catapult him into the top 10 in League scoring. In fantasy terms, he was drafted on average with the 168th pick and is among the top 20 players. He has the third-most even-strength points this season behind Kane and Crosby.

Video: PIT@WSH: Kuznetsov puts home rebound to tie game

Brad Marchand - No one expected Marchand to be tied for fifth in the League in goals this season. Usually a category coverage asset who chips in points and collects penalty minutes, Marchand went from a 135.1 ADP to career highs in goals (36) and SOG (237) -- in addition to 90 PIMs. Though some question his sustainability, his 15.2 shooting percentage is in line with his career average (15.1), and his spot is solidified next to top-20 fantasy producer Patrice Bergeron. It's about time we take Marchand more seriously in fantasy drafts, especially in multicategory formats.

Kyle Palmieri - Few expected the New Jersey Devils to contend for as long as they did before injuries to Michael Cammalleri and Cory Schneider ultimately derailed their playoff hopes. But the emergence of Palmieri as a fantasy threat became one of the bigger surprises of the season, especially considering he was doing his damage on mostly the second line with Travis Zajac. He shattered his previous career high in points (31 in 2013-14) with 54 through 79 games, 22 coming on the power play (T-27th in NHL). His ADP was 153.7 and he went undrafted in many formats before breaking out to reach the top 50.

Panthers' second line - Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have been high-end fantasy assets when healthy alongside Jagr, but the line that has carried Florida through thick and thin has been its second unit of Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith. Each went undrafted on average in Yahoo leagues and is on track for a top-100 fantasy finish (Jokinen: 58th; Trocheck: 63rd; Smith: 97th). Jokinen (58 points), Trocheck (53) and Smith (49) have each exceeded our wildest expectations.

Other fantasy steals: Tyler Toffoli (ADP: 124.5), Panarin (ADP: 147.5), Mark Scheifele (ADP: 156.7), Derick Brassard (ADP: 163.9), Brayden Schenn (ADP: 172.9)

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ON THE REBOUND

Disappointing fantasy players who could see much better production next season:

John Tavares - Tavares is in position to finish among the top 40 fantasy assets, but that's nowhere near his high standard. The linemate instability and regression around him led to the preseason top-five pick taking a huge step back from his career-best 86 points in 82 games last season with 64 through 75 games. But if Tavares is available in the second round of fantasy drafts next season, he could be a steal. Whether the Islanders sign or trade for a viable wing for Tavares or elevate one of their touted prospects (i.e. Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang), Tavares could easily rebound next season.

Video: TBL@NYI: Tavares beats Bishop's five-hole for PPG

Zach Parise - Although the Wild are close to clinching a playoff berth, it's been an underachieving season for Parise and the team as a whole. Parise (ADP: 28.8; rank: 71) has salvaged his fantasy standing with a late-season surge, scoring points in six of his past seven games with six goals and five assists in the stretch. That said, his goal-scoring (25 in 69 games) is down compared to last season (33 in 74 games) with a similarly high SOG volume. A November injury, frequent line shakeups, and a midseason coaching change contributed to his dip, but Parise still has the track record and category coverage to be worth prioritizing if he dips into the third or fourth round of standard drafts.

Logan Couture - Couture has been limited to 49 games because of multiple injuries and his point production (33) has been inconsistent as a result of the time missed. Though he plays on the Sharks' top power-play unit, he's been tasked with mostly second or third-line duties this season. His draft stock will dip considerably from this season (ADP: 26.7) to next, but he's absolutely capable of bouncing back for a 30-goal, 70-point, 20-PPP, 250-SOG season in 2016-17.

Other bounce-back candidates: Tyler Johnson, Rick Nash, Henrik Zetterberg, Ondrej Palat, Marian Hossa

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OFFSEASON PREVIEW

We're approaching the summer of Steven Stamkos , but the Tampa Bay Lightning captain and most notable pending unrestricted free agent has been sidelined with a medical condition. Stamkos had surgery to remove a blood clot near his right collarbone on Monday. He's expected to make a full recovery but will miss 1-3 months. Stamkos is tied for fifth in goals (36) this season and is second since 2010-11 in the category behind Ovechkin. Beyond whether he stays with the Lightning or signs with a new team, Stamkos' health is a major concern.

Other fantasy-relevant pending UFAs include Jagr, Andrew Ladd, David Backes, Milan Lucic, Eric Staal, Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo. The restricted free agent crop is even more intriguing, considering the breakout nature and/or sustained success of the assets. Calgary Flames forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are approaching RFA statuses, while the Lightning need to address RFA Nikita Kucherov in addition to the Stamkos situation. Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche are other pending RFAs worth monitoring closely ahead of drafts and keeper-league deadlines.

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KEEP AN EYE ON

Auston Matthews, 2016 NHL Draft prospect

All eyes are on Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick and dynamic forward who could feasibly land with any of the non-playoff Canadian teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Sabres or even his hometown Coyotes depending on how the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery shakes out. Matthews should alter the fantasy scope of whichever team he lands with, considering he has the skill and skating ability to take on a top-six role immediately. He was better than a point per game this season for Zurich of Swiss National League A and is one of the most touted American prospects in recent memory.

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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARD RANKINGS

These are the final fantasy forward rankings for the 2015-16 NHL season, including injured players. Value has been quantified by line combinations, power-play usage, and past performance in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal). IMPORTANT NOTE: These rankings are based on how players performed this season, but also take into account expectations for next season. Use these rankings as a basis for deciding which players you should retain in keeper leagues from this season to next. Other factors taken into account include contract status, injury history, bounce-back or breakout potential, regression, age, etc.

1. Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI
2. Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
3. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH
4. Jamie Benn, LW, DAL
5. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (INJ.)
6. Joe Pavelski, C/LW/RW, SJS
7. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
8. Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (INJ.)
9. Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI
10. Connor McDavid, C, EDM
11. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH
12. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (RFA)
13. Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (INJ., UFA)
14. Anze Kopitar, C, LAK
15. John Tavares, C, NYI
16. Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI
17. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS
18. Corey Perry, RW, ANA
19. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH
20. Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
21. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (RFA)
22. Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG
23. Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (RFA)
24. Joe Thornton, C, SJS
25. Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL
26. Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI
27. Phil Kessel, RW, PIT
28. Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN
29. Ryan Johansen, C/RW, NSH
30. James Neal, LW/RW, NSH
31. Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM
32. Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (INJ., RFA)
33. Jack Eichel, C, BUF
34. Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA
35. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
36. Zach Parise, LW, MIN
37. Jason Spezza, C, DAL
38. Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL
39. Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK
40. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
41. Sean Monahan, C, CGY (RFA)
42. Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK
43. Derick Brassard, C, NYR
44. Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (RFA)
45. Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (UFA)
46. Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET
47. Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, DAL
48. Brayden Schenn, C/LW, PHI (RFA)
49. Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, BUF
50. Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL
51. Logan Couture, C/LW, SJS
52. Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT
53. Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA
54. Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA
55. Tyler Johnson, C, TBL
56. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL
57. Vincent Trocheck, C/RW, FLA (INJ., RFA)
58. Andrew Ladd, LW, CHI (UFA)
59. Jakub Voracek, LW/RW, PHI
60. Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (UFA)
61. Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR
62. Justin Williams, RW, WSH
63. David Krejci, C, BOS
64. T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH
65. Evander Kane, LW, BUF (INJ.)
66. Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ
67. Max Domi, C/LW, ARI
68. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (RFA)
69. Michael Cammalleri, C/LW, NJD (INJ.)
70. Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (UFA)
71. Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL (INJ.)
72. Jussi Jokinen, C/LW/RW, FLA
73. Henrik Sedin, C, VAN
74. David Backes, C/RW, STL (UFA)
75. Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET
76. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (UFA)
77. Shane Doan, LW/RW, ARI (UFA)
78. Jeff Skinner, LW/RW, CAR
79. Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (RFA)
80. Mikko Koivu, C, MIN
81. Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM
82. Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL
83. Marian Hossa, RW, CHI
84. Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJS (RFA)
85. James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR (INJ.)
86. Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (RFA)
87. Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR
88. Boone Jenner, C/RW, CBJ
89. Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT
90. Nazem Kadri, C, TOR (RFA)
91. Dylan Larkin, C/LW, DET
92. Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ
93. Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT
94. Mark Stone, RW, OTT
95. Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH
96. Eric Staal, C/LW, NYR (UFA)
97. Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ
98. Paul Stastny, C, STL
99. Andre Burakovsky, LW, WSH
100. Sam Reinhart, C, BUF

In the mix: Derek Stepan (C, NYR), Bryan Little (C/RW, WPG - INJ.), Reilly Smith (LW/RW, FLA), Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Rickard Rakell (C, ANA - RFA), Adam Henrique (C/LW, NJD), Anthony Duclair (LW/RW, ARI), Victor Rask (C, CAR - RFA), Jakob Silfverberg (LW/RW, ANA), Kyle Turris (C, OTT - INJ.), Leon Draisaitl (C/RW, EDM), Sean Couturier (C, PHI), Teuvo Teravainen (LW, CHI), William Nylander (C/RW, TOR), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW, MTL), Tomas Tatar (LW/RW, DET), Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Mikkel Boedker (LW/RW, COL - UFA), Robby Fabbri (C, STL), David Perron (LW/RW, ANA - INJ., UFA)

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