Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen provides in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top-100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen is your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.
The Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals have two of the NHL's most potent power plays. Not many people will be surprised to hear that, with forwards like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom swarming the offensive zone for those teams.
But neither the Stars nor the Capitals own the League's best power-play conversion percentage. Through one quarter of the season, that distinction belongs to the Boston Bruins.
Led by Patrice Bergeron (13 power-play points, 1st) and David Krejci (nine, T-9th), the Bruins have transformed an ordinary man-advantage unit (17.8 in 2014-15, 17th) into a League-leading juggernaut. Boston has converted on 32.4 of its power-play chances, more than five percent better than the next-best team (Dallas, 27.0).
How have they done it? They traded away Dougie Hamilton and have phased out longtime power-play fixture and veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara on the first unit, with Bergeron, Krejci and Torey Krug handling puck-moving duties and setting the table for Loui Eriksson (five PPG) and Ryan Spooner (three PPG). Bergeron, Krejci and Krug have seven or more power-play assists apiece on the season.
But as impressive as this run has been, there are forthcoming issues regarding sustainability. First, their opponents will look to exploit the strong points of Boston's power play. If their power play hits a rough patch, they are not a deep, well-rounded team like the Stars and Capitals. The Bruins have clear flaws allowing 2.91 goals per game (sixth-most in NHL).
They'll have no choice but to switch things up on the top unit to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoff chase if their power play goes flat for any extended period. Even with their early dominance in man-up situations, the Bruins only occupy the second wild card in the Eastern Conference by one point over the New Jersey Devils and two points over the Tampa Bay Lightning entering Tuesday. That doesn't leave much room for error.
Second, recent history is not on the Bruins' side. Bergeron is on pace for 48 power-play points, which hasn't been done since 2006-07 (there was a lot more scoring League-wide back then). Also, per Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to convert at more than a 30 percent clip was the New York Islanders in 1978-79 (31.2). Regression to the mean is coming for the Bruins; it's only natural and a matter of time.
All things considered, Bergeron is one of the best two-way forwards in the game and has been a fantasy beast this season. I'm not going to tell you to ship him out in the first offer you get, but a sell-high deal involving him or Krejci is worth exploring in fantasy leagues for the right price. Each has center-only eligibility in Yahoo leagues and could be used to address and strengthen a void on your roster (wing, defenseman or goalie). If you strike a deal, there are plenty of readily available, center-eligible assets on the waiver wire who could be of assistance.
Paul Stastny of the St. Louis Blues is 35 percent owned in Yahoo and has returned from injury to rejoin elite producers Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. Aleksander Barkov, 27 percent owned with 10 points in 13 games (four PPP), is also back healthy for the Florida Panthers alongside Jaromir Jagr. Mikael Granlund, who has points in six of his past nine games, is 11 percent owned and playing with Zach Parise, who returned from injury last Friday, at even strength and on the Minnesota Wild's top power-play unit. And finally, Victor Rask (eight percent) of the Carolina Hurricanes has 15 points, six on the power play (3:01 per game on PP), with more than two SOG per game (54 in 24). Rask plays with Eric Staal at even strength and on Carolina's top power-play unit, which features defenseman Justin Faulk and his eight power-play goals (T-1st in NHL).
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, Washington Capitals
Kuznetsov may no longer be centering Ovechkin at even strength, but he hasn't lost his elite billing as a fantasy keeper. My preseason breakout pick has multipoint games in three of his past five alongside Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, and is among Yahoo's top 20 overall players based on production to date (26 points, plus-14, seven PPP, 43 SOG in 23 games). Williams (32 percent owned) has goals in five of his past nine and has covered five of the six standard Yahoo categories since joining the Capitals.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW, Winnipeg Jets
After his game Nov. 1, Ehlers had 43 SOG and points in nine of 12 games, both tops among rookies. One month later, he's out of a top-six spot after being held to two points in his next 13 games. Drew Stafford has taken his place alongside Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault, and the Jets are falling behind in the ultra-competitive Central Division. Until Ehlers wins back a spot on one of the Jets' top two lines, he'll be outside the top 100 forward rankings and on standby in fantasy leagues.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres
Reinhart (three percent owned) had a breakthrough game with two goals (one power-play), a plus-1 and five SOG against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The rookie averages 2:19 per game with the man-advantage this season and spent the majority of that road game alongside Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly on Buffalo's top line at even strength. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is trying to maximize the production of Kane and Reinhart by slotting them alongside O'Reilly, Buffalo's best all-around forward, which could bode well for his linemates depending on how long the trio sticks. Now is the time to buy low on Kane via trade and add Reinhart to your watch list.
-- Mikkel Boedker (LW/RW, 18 percent owned) has remained with Antoine Vermette and Max Domi, one of the early-season combinations I said could stick. Boedker had a hat trick Saturday, his second of 2015-16 and third in two seasons, and should be added in most leagues considering he leads all forwards in power-play minutes per game (4:48). Just as the Bruins' power play should come back down to earth, the Coyotes' unit of Boedker, Domi, Martin Hanzal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson should improve (14.9 percent, 28th) with time. Regression to the mean is coming, and Boedker's stock could rise even more as a result.
-- Tanner Pearson (LW, five percent owned) has been skating alongside Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik at even strength and is worth monitoring in deep formats. Known for his past chemistry with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, Pearson has 12 points and a plus-5 in 23 games this season with new linemates. The 23-year-old doesn't see much power-play time (0:47 per game, two PPP), but is among the top forwards in the League in terms of shot attempts relative per 60 minutes and could gain value with an expanded role if he sticks with Kopitar and a revitalized Gaborik.
-- Mike Ribeiro's SOG volume (17 in 23 games this season; 96 in 82 games last season) continues to be a fantasy category weakness, but he's back on the top line with Filip Forsberg and James Neal, his frequent linemates when he had 62 points in 82 games last season. Ribeiro (13 percent) is also quietly among the NHL leaders in penalty minutes (40, 7th), with three games of 10-plus PIMs. He's seeing 2:52 per game with the man-advantage this season, and it's not long ago he posted 27 PPP in 48 games alongside Ovechkin with the Capitals in 2012-13. Don't be surprised if he heats up in the near future.
-- Ryan Strome was recalled by the Islanders after a surprising stint in the American Hockey League in November. He has played mostly with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin and has points in each of his three games (two goals, two assists, one PPP) since returning, holding even greater fantasy upside if he’s elevated in the lineup as the season rolls along. Grab him now while he’s 18 percent owned.
TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
These rankings are based on expectations for this 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).
||Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI (SAME)
||Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (-4)
||Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (SAME)
||Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, BUF (SAME)
||Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (SAME)
||Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (-2)
||Jamie Benn, LW, DAL (SAME)
||Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (DTD)
||Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (+1)
||T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH (-11)
||Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (-1)
||Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (+4)
||Joe Pavelski, C/LW/RW, SJS (+1)
||Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (-8)
||Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (+4)
||Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (+3)
||John Tavares, C, NYI (-2)
||David Backes, C/RW, STL (-6)
||Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (SAME)
||Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (-4)
||Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (-1)
||Joe Thornton, C, SJS (-3)
||Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM (-3)
||Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI (+2)
||Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (-2)
||Gustav Nyquist, C/LW/RW, DET (SAME)
||Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (SAME)
||Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (+1)
||Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (SAME)
||Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, DET (+1)
||Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (SAME)
||Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (+1)
||Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (+1)
||Sean Monahan, C, CGY (-8)
||Zach Parise, LW, MIN (NR - INJ.)
||Eric Staal, C/LW, CAR (+1)
||Phil Kessel, RW, PIT (-2)
||Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (+4)
||Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (SAME)
||Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (-8)
||Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (+1)
||Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (SAME)
||Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL (+1)
||Jack Eichel, C, BUF (SAME)
||David Krejci, C, BOS (-2)
||Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (+2)
||Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET (-5)
||Leon Draisaitl, C/RW, EDM (-6)
||Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (SAME)
||Mark Stone, RW, OTT (+1)
||Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, DAL (SAME)
||Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (-6)
||Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (-2)
||Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (SAME)
||Corey Perry, RW, ANA (+1)
||Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+2)
||Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (-1)
||Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (+2)
||Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH (+1)
||Evander Kane, LW, BUF (+3)
||Kyle Turris, C, OTT (-4)
||Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (-7)
||Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (SAME)
||Martin Hanzal, C, ARI (-4)
||Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (-3)
||Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (-4)
||Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI (-1)
||Boone Jenner, C/RW, CBJ (SAME)
||Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK (+6)
||Adam Henrique, C/LW, NJD (+7)
||Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (-2)
||Kevin Hayes, RW, NYR (SAME)
||Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ (-2)
||Patrick Marleau, C/LW, SJS (+2)
||Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (SAME)
||Artem Anisimov, C/LW, CHI (-1)
||Jason Spezza, C, DAL (-2)
||Paul Stastny, C, STL (+9)
||Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (+3)
||Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, MTL (NEW)
||James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (+1)
||Nick Bjugstad, C, FLA (-6)
||Max Domi, C/LW, ARI (+6)
||Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (-4)
||Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (-4)
||Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (SAME)
||Jakub Voracek,, RW, PHI (-8)
||Justin Williams, RW, WSH (NEW)
||Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (SAME)
||Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI (NEW)
||Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET (SAME)
||Brock Nelson, C, NYI (-2)
||Mike Cammalleri, C/LW, NJD (+3)
||Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, NJD (NEW)
||Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (+7)
||Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ (NEW)
||Dylan Larkin, C/LW, DET (+6)
||Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, MIN (NEW)
||Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL (+7)
||Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA (-3)
Just missed: Anthony Duclair (LW/RW, ARI), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Joel Ward (RW, SJS), Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Ryan Kesler (C/RW, ANA), Patric Hornqvist (RW, PIT), Jannik Hansen (RW, VAN), Victor Rask (C, CAR), Mikael Granlund (C, MIN), Jiri Hudler (C/LW/RW, CGY), Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, EDM), Mathieu Perreault (C/LW, WPG), Troy Brouwer (RW, STL), Ryan Strome (C/RW, NYI)
Dropped out: Duclair, Hornqvist, Hudler, Abdelkader, David Desharnais, Jordan Eberle
Key injuries: Connor McDavid (C, EDM), Brendan Gallagher (RW, MTL), Logan Couture (C/LW, SJS), Ondrej Palat (LW, TBL), Derek Stepan (C, NYR), Jaden Schwartz (LW, STL), Jonathan Drouin (LW, TBL)