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Fantasy forwards: Trying to replace Evgeni Malkin

Injury to Penguins forward alters landscape; top 100 rankings

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Some players are virtually irreplaceable from a fantasy standpoint. Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins falls into that category.

Malkin will miss the remainder of the regular season because of an upper-body injury sustained Friday that will sideline him for the next 6-8 weeks. Nick Bonino (C, 4 percent owned) skated alongside Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin in Malkin's usual spot on the second line Sunday. He did not earn a point but did have three shots on goal.

The Russian forward has 58 points in 57 games (18th in NHL) this season and is tied for third in power-play points (27). If your fantasy league counts penalty minutes, he's one of three players with at least 50 points and at least 60 PIMs; the others are Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

It remains to be seen how far Pittsburgh can go without Malkin, but its past record indicates it should be able to at least qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Penguins' win Sunday at the New York Rangers, they improved to 71-45-9 in games where Malkin was out because of an injury since his career began in 2006-07, a surprisingly strong track record given his elite status.

Video: PIT@CBJ: Malkin's injury forces him from the game

Will Bonino or Matt Cullen's production spike depending on who sticks with Hagelin and Kessel down the stretch? It certainly could, but that doesn't mean either will be worth owning in standard fantasy leagues. Bonino nearly reached the 50-point mark in 2013-14 (49 in 77 games) with the Anaheim Ducks, but has a .43 career points-per-game average. Cullen, who scored a goal Sunday with two SOG, has 11 goals and 11 assists this season but averages .51 points per game through 1,280 career games.

Malkin's career points-per-game average, by comparison, is second among active players (1.18) behind his teammate, Sidney Crosby (1.33).

If you're in a deep league, one of the in-house options could suffice. But shallow-league owners must consider options outside of Pittsburgh. Here are some options in each range of league depth worth considering whether you lost Malkin or are ready to cut ties with other injured forwards around the NHL.  

SHALLOW LEAGUES

-- Aleksander Barkov (C, 49 percent owned) may be the most undervalued player in all of fantasy hockey. He's ranked 110th among all players and plays alongside red-hot linemates in Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau. In 10 games since returning from injury, he has six goals and four assists. If he's already owned, dip further down the Florida Panthers lineup and take a chance on Reilly Smith (LW/RW, 33 percent owned), who has bounced around the lineup but is on a career-best point pace alongside mostly Jussi Jokinen (C/LW/RW, 57 percent owned) and Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, 51 percent owned). Any of Florida's top-six forwards who are available would be viable replacement options for Malkin.

-- It's been a disappointing season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but don't hesitate to tap into their top line down the stretch. Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, 32 percent owned) is centering Cam Atkinson (RW, 38 percent owned) and Boone Jenner (C/RW, 48 percent owned), and any of those three options could make a difference for your team in the late stages of the regular season. If you need a goal scorer, Atkinson is your guy; 16 players to date have at least 20 goals, 20 assists and 200 SOG, and he's close to becoming the 17th (24 goals, 20 assists, 196 SOG). If you have your eyes on PIMs and/or hits, Jenner or Dubinsky will more than suffice. Lines with this degree of skill and physicality are few and far between, especially on the fantasy waiver wire.

MIDDLE RANGE

-- David Pastrnak (LW/RW, 23 percent owned) of the Boston Bruins has untapped offensive potential, some of which is materializing late in the season. He has played with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson on and off this season, but that line has shown flashes of brilliance with Pastrnak on the finishing end of late with four goals, a plus-3 and 10 SOG in his past four games. There's a risk-reward factor with this 19-year-old forward, but he could play a major role in your fantasy team's playoff push.

Video: NYI@BOS: Pastrnak nets 11th and 12th goals of season

-- Paul Stastny (22 percent owned) is healthy, back in the top-six forward group for the St. Louis Blues, and heating up at the right time. He had two goals Monday, giving him three goals, four assists, a plus-3, one PPP and eight SOG in his past four games. He's playing alongside mostly Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer of late, and has four career seasons of at least 60 points. His long-term value can be questioned because of his inconsistency since joining the Blues, but there's no doubt he carries upside at even strength and on the power play as a late-season flier.

-- Make sure you check out my colleague Sean McCullen's fantasy take on Zack Smith (C, 18 percent owned) of the Ottawa Senators. He's thriving on a line with second-half stud Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and his 19 points in 20 games since the beginning of February are tied for 18th in the NHL.

DEEP LEAGUES

-- Jeff Skinner (LW/RW, 61 percent owned) is stealing headlines, but Victor Rask (C, 14 percent) and Elias Lindholm (C, 5 percent) are getting the job done for fantasy owners as well. Rask, who's centering Skinner, has two goals, two assists, two PPP and seven SOG in his past four games in an expanded role since Eric Staal's departure. Lindholm has done his damage on Jordan Staal's line and with the man-advantage, scoring one goal, four assists, four PPP and 18 SOG in his past seven games. The Hurricanes remain in the conversation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and continue to rely heavily on their young point producers.

-- As much as Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews have and will continue to benefit from the Chicago Blackhawks' addition of Andrew Ladd via trade, Teuvo Teravainen (LW, 12 percent owned) is benefiting more from the influx of depth-line talent as well. On top of his second-unit power-play role, he's playing on the third line with Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise -- who were largely responsible for the Montreal Canadiens' early-season success on their third unit. Teravainen has points in five of his past seven games, with two PPP and 16 SOG in the span.

-- Sam Reinhart (C, 7 percent owned) has had success on the Buffalo Sabres' top line with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel in recent weeks, but his ownership is still extremely low considering his important role. He's fourth among rookies in goals (19) and deserves ownership in some deep formats. Kane (LW, 67 percent owned) is owned in most formats but is possibly the most ideal shallow-league option to replace Malkin if available considering he covers points, PIMs, SOG and hits.

-- Since being traded from the Anaheim Ducks to Edmonton Oilers, Patrick Maroon (LW, 4 percent owned) has covered a bunch of categories; he has two goals, two assists, a plus-3, 21 PIMs, 18 SOG and 19 hits in seven games. Even better, he played alongside Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle on Monday. If you're a deep-league owner desperate for points and PIMs exposure, Maroon offers exposure to the prized point-per-game rookie as well as peripheral category coverage.

-- Devante Smith-Pelly (RW, 1 percent owned) has been the New Jersey Devils' best player since they acquired him in a trade with the Canadiens. He has four goals, two assists, 10 SOG and six hits in six games mostly on the Devils' top line alongside Adam Henrique. The 23-year-old is seeing 1:32 per game on the power play with New Jersey's second unit, but has been on fire at even strength. He should be added in the deepest of formats.

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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 (+1)
5. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (-1)
6. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH (+1)
7. Joe Pavelski, C/LW/RW, SJS (+1)
8. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (+1)
9. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (+1)
10. Joe Thornton, C, SJS (+2)
11. Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI 
12. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (+1)
13. Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (+1)
14. Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (+1)
15. Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (+2)
16. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (+2)
17. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (+3)
18. Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (-2)
19. John Tavares, C, NYI (+2)
20. Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM (-1)
21. Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI (+3)
22. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (DTD)
23. Corey Perry, RW, ANA 
24. Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (+3)
25. Jason Spezza, C, DAL (+4)
26. Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI (+2)
27. Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (-1)
28. James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (+8)
29. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (-4)
30. Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (+5)
31. Ryan Johansen, C/RW, NSH 
32. Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (-2)
33. Connor McDavid, C, EDM (-1)
34. Jakub Voracek, LW/RW, PHI (DTD)
35. Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, DAL (DTD)
36. Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL    
37. Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK 
38. Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (+2)
39. Phil Kessel, RW, PIT 
40. Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+6)
41. Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (+6)
42. Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (+3)
43. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (SUSP.)
44. Zach Parise, LW, MIN (-1)
45. David Krejci, C, BOS (-3)
46. Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (+3)
47. Justin Williams, RW, WSH (+5)
48. Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET (-4)
49. Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (+4)
50. Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA (+6)
51. Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (-3)
52. T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH (+2)
53. Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET (DTD)
54. Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA (-3)
55. Andrew Ladd, LW, CHI 
56. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (+6)
57. Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (+1)
58. Jack Eichel, C, BUF (+7)
59. Logan Couture, C/LW, SJS 
60. Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (+4)
61. Shane Doan, LW/RW, ARI (+5)
62. Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (+7)
63. Dylan Larkin, C/LW, DET (-6)
64. David Perron, LW/RW, ANA (-3)
65. Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (NR - INJ.)
66. Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (-6)
67. Brayden Schenn, C/LW, PHI (+4)
68. Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (+9)
69. Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (-1)
70. Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (-7)
71. Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (-4)
72. Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (NR - INJ.)
73. Eric Staal, C/LW, NYR (-3)
74. Jussi Jokinen, C/LW/RW, FLA (+5)
75. Evander Kane, LW, BUF (+6)
76. Sean Monahan, C, CGY (-4)
77. Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ (-4)
78. Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJS (-3)
79. David Backes, C/RW, STL (+1)
80. Mark Stone, RW, OTT (+7)
81. Vincent Trocheck, C/RW, FLA (+13)
82. Andre Burakovsky, LW, WSH (-4)
83. Jeff Skinner, LW/RW, CAR (+7)
84. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, MTL (NEW)
85. Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL (DTD)
86. Boone Jenner, C/RW, CBJ (-4)
87. Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH (-4)
88. Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (-12)
89. Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, BOS (-5)
90. Max Domi, C/LW, ARI (-5)
91. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (+1)
92. Leon Draisaitl, C/RW, EDM (-6)
93. Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (-5)
94. Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT (-5)
95. Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL (+3)
96. Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (-1)
97. Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (-6)
98. Brandon Dubinsky, C/LW, CBJ (-2)
99. Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ (NEW)
100. Reilly Smith, LW/RW, FLA (NEW)
        
Just missed: Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Adam Henrique (C/LW, NJD), Mikkel Boedker (LW/RW, COL), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Victor Rask (C, CAR), Chris Kreider (LW, NYR), Nazem Kadri (C, TOR), Ryan Spooner (C/LW, BOS), Tomas Tatar (LW/RW, DET), Marcus Johansson (C/LW/RW, WSH)

Dropped out: Boedker, Kreider, Spooner, Rickard Rakell

Key injuries: Evgeni Malkin (C/RW, PIT), Alexander Steen (C/LW, STL), Ryan O'Reilly (C/LW/RW, BUF; could return Wednesday), Mike Cammalleri (C/LW, NJD), Bryan Little (C/RW, WPG), James van Riemsdyk (LW, TOR), Benoit Pouliot (LW, EDM), Nikolaj Ehlers (LW/RW, WPG), Brandon Pirri (C/LW/RW, ANA), Kyle Turris (C, OTT), Marian Gaborik (RW, LAK)

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