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Fantasy forwards: Second line fueling Predators

Forsberg-Ribeiro-Smith line finds groove; top 100 rankings

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

The Ryan Johansen trade was expected to boost the Nashville Predators offense. It has certainly done so, indirectly.

Playing with James Neal on a full-time basis, Johansen has taken the pressure off Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro in their secondary role. In 26 games with Johansen on board, Nashville's leading scorers are Forsberg (25 points) and Ribeiro (21), with Craig Smith (16, T-5th on team in span) along for the ride.

Johansen's points-per-game average in 26 games with Nashville (.69) is nearly identical to his rate in 38 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season (.68). But the trade has allowed Predators coach Peter Laviolette to split up his top players to form two cohesive lines.

Ribeiro, 36, continues to be one of the most underrated fantasy performers in the League. Since 2012-13, he has 153 assists (13th in NHL) and 68 power-play points (T-31st). This season has been no different, as Ribeiro has the lowest ownership (21 percent) of any player ranked among Yahoo's top 110 (107th) based on standard-category performance.

As for Forsberg, he continues to climb the fantasy rankings as his season trends in the opposite fashion compared to his rookie campaign. Last season, he led the rookie scoring race by a wide margin before losing the distinction with 13 points in his final 27 games. This season, Forsberg started slow with line changes aplenty, before shaking it off with 40 points in 45 games since Nov. 27 (T-11th in NHL).

Video: NSH@COL: Forsberg buries loose puck to tie the game

Forsberg has been the most valuable standard-league fantasy asset League-wide in the past 14 days (six games) with eight goals, four assists, a plus-6, four PPP and 29 SOG in that stretch. And considering his top-notch production comes with tri-eligibility in Yahoo leagues, he's been the complete package, rising to 30th in Yahoo for the season.

Ribeiro, Forsberg and Smith (C/RW, 41 percent owned) are playing together at even strength and often on Nashville's top power-play unit with scoring defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi. Since Feb. 23, Forsberg (four PPP), Ribeiro (three) and Smith (two) have excelled in man-advantage situations. The Predators have converted on five of their 18 power-play chances in that span (27.8 percent; fourth in NHL).

From Smith's standpoint, continuity has been the difference. His linemates through 45 games were just as inconsistent as his performance (14 points). But in the 21 games since Jan. 19, he has exceeded the earlier total with 16 points as Nashville's third leading scorer behind Forsberg (22) and Ribeiro (18).

When Nashville pulled the trigger on the trade for Johansen, its Stanley Cup Playoff standing was in jeopardy. Now, whether you credit Johansen's presence or the emergence of the second line behind him, the Predators are much more dangerous and fantasy relevant as the postseason looms.

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TRENDING UP

Patric Hornqvist, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Video: NYR@PIT: Hornqvist deflects Kessel's shot for PPG

The high-volume shooter had six goals and six assists on 101 SOG in his first 35 games of 2015-16, but has since seen his fortunes turn drastically. Hornqvist has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) on 100 SOG in 29 games since Dec. 31, with most of his minutes coming alongside second-half stud Sidney Crosby at even strength and on the power play. Hornqvist has eight multipoint outings in those 29 games after managing two in his prior 35. Including his hat trick Feb. 29, Hornqvist has five goals, four assists, a plus-7, and 17 SOG in his past six games. In the past 14 days, he is the 13th-best standard-league fantasy performer. For the season, he's on the cusp of the top 50 (62nd in Yahoo).

TRENDING DOWN

Carl Soderberg, C/LW, Colorado Avalanche

From Nov. 21 to Feb. 4, Soderberg led the Avalanche in scoring and was tied for 14th in the NHL in points (27 in 34 games) -- thanks largely to a top-six, first-PP role alongside Gabriel Landeskog. But his spot in the lineup changed, and his production in the past month has left much to be desired. He's in the midst of a 14-game goal drought with six assists, one power-play point and 26 SOG in that span. He's been on the third line of late, with Mikhail Grigorenko sticking alongside Matt Duchene and trade acquisition Mikkel Boedker playing well on a line with Nathan MacKinnon. At this point, Soderberg (29 percent owned, 140th in Yahoo) can be dropped in many formats because his usage is contrary what it was entering the month of February.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Zack Smith, C, Ottawa Senators

Video: DAL@OTT: Smith scores off of a feed from Stone

With just about one month remaining in the regular season, short-term production is all that matters. Smith is getting the job done for Ottawa on a line with Mark Stone in the absence of injured center Kyle Turris. As many remember, Stone came out of nowhere to lift the Senators to the playoffs last season, finishing tied for the rookie scoring lead (64 points) with Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

Stone had an inconsistent start to the season but actually would eclipse his first-year scoring total if he keeps up his recent pace in Ottawa's final 15 games. Since Feb. 18, Smith has six goals and three assists with a plus-5, three PPP and 21 SOG in nine games, while Stone has three goals and seven assists in the same span. If Stone's performance to close out last season (48 points in final 47 games; fourth in NHL) was any indication, Smith can see a splash and aid fantasy owners down the stretch.

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

Just missed: Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Adam Henrique (C/LW, NJD), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Nazem Kadri (C, TOR), Marcus Johansson (C/LW/RW, WSH), Victor Rask (C, CAR), Tomas Tatar (LW/RW, DET), Gustav Nyquist (C/LW/RW, DET), Cam Atkinson (RW, CBJ), Jason Pominville (RW, MIN)

Dropped out: Abdelkader, Carl Soderberg

Key injuries: Alexander Steen (C/LW, STL), Rick Nash (LW/RW, NYR), Marian Hossa (RW, CHI), Ryan O'Reilly (C/LW/RW, BUF), Mike Cammalleri (C/LW, NJD), Bryan Little (C/RW, WPG), James van Riemsdyk (LW, TOR), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW, MTL), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, EDM), Benoit Pouliot (LW, EDM), Nikolaj Ehlers (LW/RW, WPG), Brandon Pirri (C/LW/RW, ANA)

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