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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Brassard most undervalued

by Pete Jensen / NHL.com

Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

UPDATED TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS

How much more will it take for fantasy hockey owners to realize that New York Rangers center Derick Brassard has reached must-own territory?

News flash: arguably the most undervalued fantasy forward in the game right now is there for the taking in over half of Yahoo leagues.

He's averaging more than .89 points per game (33 points in 37 games this season) for a team that has won 13 of its past 14 games. Among the 25 forwards with an equal or greater rate of point production with a minimum of 27 games played this season, Brassard has the lowest Yahoo ownership (46 percent). Only Mike Ribeiro of the Nashville Predators (50 percent, .88 points per game) has been underappreciated in fantasy to a similar degree as Brassard.

Further helping his cause, Brassard is playing alongside NHL.com's fantasy midseason left wing most valuable player pick Rick Nash, who pulled into a tie for the NHL lead in goals (26) Saturday with an empty-netter against the San Jose Sharks. Nash has taken the foundation built by Brassard and Mats Zuccarello (LW/RW, 45 percent) last season on the Rangers' third line and elevated it to even greater heights on the Rangers' top unit.

But the icing on the cake has been Brassard's efforts with the man advantage. Brassard (Yahoo average draft position: 161.6) is tied with Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and others for 18th among forwards in power-play points (14). On average, Seguin was drafted nearly 150 spots higher than Brassard this year. Brassard, 27, had two power-play assists Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings on a big stage, so fantasy owners in shallow leagues need to wake up.

The heightened power-play role for Brassard was anticipated when he was listed as one of my preseason fantasy sleepers. New York used a compliance buyout of Brad Richards last summer, leaving a top-six void as well as 3:40 of power-play ice time per game that the veteran logged in 2013-14.

The Rangers had no guarantees Brassard would carry the torch in a more effective manner than Richards over an 82-game regular season. They didn't have the room to sign coveted free agent center Paul Stastny, so instead chose an in-house replacement for Richards.

Derick Brassard
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 13 GAMES
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 33
SOG: 69 | +/-: 6
Boy has that decision paid off. Brassard is seeing nearly 30 seconds more per game on the power-play than he did last season and the transition could not have been more seamless.

Outside of his relatively low shots on goal category (1.86 per game), Brassard is doing it all for fantasy owners in standard leagues. The one knock is that he's only center eligible, which hurts his value when compared to dual-eligible assets around the League. But he's still a borderline top-50 forward with the chance to move even higher up the board if he sustains such consistent point production.

He has three career seasons of 40-plus points, but is on a 70-plus point pace at the moment if he suits up for 80 games this season (has played 37 of a possible 39 so far). The Rangers' power-play unit is operating at a 20.7 percent clip (ninth in NHL) and is the League's hottest unit over the past month.

To expect Brassard to crack 70 this season may be a bit far-reaching, but he certainly has what it takes to exceed 60, making it absolutely insane that he's still on the waiver wire in so many formats.


Alexander Steen
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 13 GAMES
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 34
SOG: 133 | +/-: 3
TRENDING UP

Alexander Steen, LW/C, St. Louis Blues

No line has been hotter over the past two weeks than Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Backes and Oshie have turned their underwhelming seasons around, and Steen has reaped the benefits with four goals and eight assists over his six-game point streak. Four of those points have come with the man advantage and his dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues provides added roster flexibility. With each passing day, Steen is proving that his fast start last season was no fluke and that he is the Blues' most valuable fantasy forward.

TRENDING DOWN

Patrick Marleau, LW/C, San Jose Sharks

Marleau has no goals and one assist since Dec. 11, his worst 13-game stretch since March 2002, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He has been one of the most durable, consistent point producers since the turn of the century, but could age finally be catching up to the 35-year-old? In the short-term, Joe Thornton is back from injury, so fantasy owners can only hope he comes to the rescue on Marleau's line. Marleau hasn't had fewer than 20 goals in a season (excluding the shortened 2012-13 season) since 2007-08 (19), but his current rate (seven goals in 43 games) indicates that streak could come to an end.

Mikael Backlund
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 13 GAMES
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 9
SOG: 29 | +/-: 3
KEEP AN EYE ON

Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames

Backlund (five percent owned) missed more than two months because of an abdominal injury, but has goals in each of his first three games back in the lineup. Over that span, he has five points, a plus-3 and 11 shots on goal. His return comes at an opportune time for the Flames, who placed center Josh Jooris on injured reserve last week. If Backlund can maintain a top-six spot alongside rookie standout Johnny Gaudreau, we could see the 25-year-old channel his production from the tail-end of last season (20 points in his final 26 games).


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Upward and downward trends are based on games since Jan. 6, 2015. Value is quantified by line combinations, overall upside and past performance in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal).

1 Sidney Crosby, C (SAME) 51 Jiri Hudler, LW/RW (-8)
2 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (+1) 52 David Perron, LW/RW (SAME)
3 Tyler Seguin, C/RW (-1) 53 Derick Brassard, C (+24)
4 Claude Giroux, C/RW (SAME) 54 Jeff Carter, C/RW (-4)
5 Patrick Kane, C/RW (+1) 55 Marian Gaborik, LW/RW (+3)
6 Steven Stamkos, C/RW (-1) 56 Derek Stepan, C (SAME)
7 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW (+1) 57 Johnny Gaudreau, LW (-11)
8 Jakub Voracek, RW (+1) 58 Blake Wheeler, RW (+2)
9 Rick Nash, LW/RW (+2) 59 Ryan Callahan, RW (-8)
10 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (SAME) 60 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW (+2)
11 Ryan Getzlaf, C (-4) 61 Steve Downie, LW/RW (-8)
12 John Tavares, C (+1) 62 David Krejci, C (-3)
13 Tyler Johnson, C/RW - DTD 63 Eric Staal, C (+8)
14 Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW (-2) 64 Milan Lucic, LW (+12)
15 Phil Kessel, RW (SAME) 65 T.J. Oshie, C/RW (+22)
16 Corey Perry, RW (-2) 66 Jori Lehtera, C (-9)
17 Jonathan Toews, C (+3) 67 Patrick Marleau, LW/C (-12)
18 Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW (-1) 68 Gabriel Landeskog, LW (-4)
19 Nicklas Backstrom, C (+2) 69 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW (-4)
20 Max Pacioretty, LW (+2) 70 Matt Duchene, LW/C (-4)
21 Ryan Johansen, C/RW (+3) 71 Brandon Saad, LW/RW (-2)
22 Jamie Benn, LW/C (-3) 72 Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C (-5)
23 Zach Parise, LW (-5) 73 Ondrej Palat, LW (-3)
24 Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW (+2) 74 Jarome Iginla, RW (-2)
25 Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C (SAME) 75 Brad Richards, LW/C (+4)
26 Patrick Sharp, LW/C (-3) 76 Colin Wilson, LW/C (+9)
27 Logan Couture, LW/C (+1) 77 Evander Kane, LW (NR - IR)
28 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C (+1) 78 Scott Hartnell, LW (+2)
29 Anze Kopitar, C (+2) 79 Jason Pominville, RW (-6)
30 Nick Foligno, LW (+14) 80 Bryan Little, C/RW (+3)
31 James van Riemsdyk, LW (+2) 81 Ryan Strome, C/RW (+5)
32 Kyle Okposo, RW (+4) 82 Brock Nelson, C (-14)
33 Taylor Hall, LW/C (+2) 83 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C (-9)
34 Daniel Sedin, LW (-7) 84 Tomas Tatar, LW (-6)
35 Martin St. Louis, C/RW (+2) 85 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW (-3)
36 Patrice Bergeron, C (+5) 86 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C (-2)
37 Joe Thornton, C (NR - IR) 87 Antoine Roussel, LW (+4)
38 Alexander Steen, LW/C (+23) 88 Brad Marchand, LW (-7)
39 Marian Hossa, RW (+6) 89 Paul Stastny, C (NEW)
40 David Backes, C/RW (+14) 90 Tyler Bozak, C (SAME)
41 Ryan Kesler, C/RW (-3) 91 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C (+3)
42 Jaden Schwartz, LW (+5) 92 Jaromir Jagr, RW - DTD
43 Wayne Simmonds, RW (-3) 93 Justin Williams, RW (NEW)
44 Henrik Sedin, C (-14) 94 Carl Soderberg, LW/C (-1)
45 Chris Kunitz, LW (-11) 95 Brayden Schenn, LW/C (SAME)
46 Radim Vrbata, RW (-14) 96 Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW (NEW)
47 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW (+1) 97 Chris Kreider, LW (NEW)
48 Mike Ribeiro, C (-6) 98 Matt Beleskey, LW (-6)
49 Jason Spezza, C (SAME) 99 Brendan Gallagher, RW (-2)
50 Andrew Ladd, LW (+13) 100 Nick Bjugstad, C (-4)

Just Missed: Antoine Vermette, Mathieu Perreault, Kyle Turris, Jordan Eberle, Tomas Plekanec, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Tanguay, Sean Monahan, Craig Smith, Jonathan Huberdeau

Dropped out: Plekanec, Monahan, Curtis Glencross

Key injuries: Patric Hornqvist, James Neal, Tyler Toffoli, Kris Versteeg, Johan Franzen, Blake Comeau, Valeri Nichushkin, Pascal Dupuis

*DTD: Day-to-day; NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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