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Fantasy forwards: Sharks' Thornton underappreciated

Veteran among best of generation; updated top 100 rankings

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton has never won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean we should lose sight of one of the best players of this generation.

The 36-year-old is in the midst of a trademark stretch of consistent point production; since Dec. 15, he has at least a point in 20 of 22 games. Only Sidney Crosby (34 points in 22 games) of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Patrick Kane (30 points in 25 games) of the Chicago Blackhawks have more points than Thornton (28 points in 22 games) in that nearly two-month span.

Thornton, who entered the NHL way back in 1997-98 with the Boston Bruins, has 60-plus points in each of his past 14 full seasons. But, in early December, it looked as if "Jumbo Joe" was beginning to slow down with two points in an 11-game span. Then, he quieted the doubters with point streaks of eight and 10 games separated by only one without a point.

Historically speaking, Thornton is second among active players in points (1303 in 1336 games) behind soon-to-be 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr (1839 points in 1600 games), who's fourth on the all-time scoring list. Thornton was not a 2016 NHL All-Star, but his linemate Joe Pavelski, another underappreciated, elite forward, made the cut.

Make no mistake; Thornton has something to do with Pavelski having the second-most goals in the NHL since 2013-14 (103) and the best shooting percentage (16.5) among those with at least 200 games played -- just like he had something to do with Jonathan Cheechoo's League-leading 56 goals in 2005-06.

Speaking of that season, only Alex Ovechkin (369) and Crosby (344) have more power-play points than Thornton (339) since 2005-06. Thornton became the 33rd player in NHL history to amass 1,300 career points against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 26, and is on an 82-game pace of 70 points.

From a fantasy standpoint, Thornton was one of my preseason draft bargains for similar reasons as listed above. He was drafted on average with the 142nd pick in Yahoo leagues and is currently ranked 30th based on standard-category performance through 51 games.

Regardless of whether Thornton ever leads the Sharks to the Stanley Cup, his production has stood the test of time in the regular season with respectable Stanley Cup Playoff totals (100 points in 132 postseason games). It's easy to forget that John Stockton has the most assists in NBA history yet never won an NBA championship. Thornton may not be the best distributor in NHL history, but he's certainly up there. Thus, there's no shame if he never wins that elusive Cup.

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TRENDING UP

Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins

Marchand, a 5-foot-9 grinder, is shooting (and scoring) at the highest rate of his NHL career -- while maintaining strong category coverage and a shooting percentage (15.3) on par with his career rate (15.1). He has 24 goals on 157 shots on goal (15.3), meaning he's on pace for 39 goals, 58 points, 108 PIMs and 257 SOG if he plays 77 games. When comparing those projections to his career-highs in goals (28 goals) and SOG (180), he has a chance to shatter those totals and finish in rare category coverage air. The most recent 40-goal, 100-PIM season came from Corey Perry in 2010-11 (50 goals, 104 PIMs).

TRENDING DOWN

Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise has taken a ton of heat for the Wild only winning three of 16 games since the turn of the calendar year, but he's not the only one who has fallen flat offensively. Koivu, Minnesota's captain, hasn't scored since Dec. 28 (17-game drought), and only has four assists in that slump. While he should turn things around over time based on his Shot Attempts Relative percentage (4th in NHL among those with minimum 40 games played), he's droppable in many formats if the clock is ticking on your season.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Patrick Eaves, LW/RW, Dallas Stars

Stars center Jason Spezza (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Friday. In Dallas' first game without their No. 2 center, they were routed by the Chicago Blackhawks on home ice. Patrick Eaves played with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, while Patrick Sharp was moved down to the second line with Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin. Eaves is owned in fewer than one percent of Yahoo leagues but has points in back-to-back games with four PIMs and seven SOG. He even saw 5:26 of power-play ice time Saturday. There's no way of knowing how long Spezza will be sidelined until we get the next update, but Eaves is a player to watch in the meantime considering he's playing with two of the League's top-five fantasy forwards to date.

Video: ANA@PIT: Crosby lights the lamp on a breakaway

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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings indicate fantasy expectations for the rest of the season. Value is quantified by line combinations, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal.

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

Just missed: Jussi Jokinen (C/LW/RW, FLA), Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, FLA), Artem Anisimov (C/LW, CHI), Adam Henrique (C/LW, NJD), Mark Scheifele (C, WPG), Marcus Johansson (C/LW/RW, WSH), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Leo Komarov (C/LW, TOR), Mike Ribeiro (C, NSH), Jeff Skinner (LW/RW, CAR), Cam Atkinson (RW, CBJ)

Dropped out: Mikkel Boedker, Patrick Marleau, Mika Zibanejad

Key injuries: Jason Spezza (C, DAL), Mike Cammalleri (C/LW, NJD), James van Riemsdyk (LW, TOR), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, EDM), Jaden Schwartz (LW, STL), Sean Couturier (C, PHI)

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