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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Buying low before trades

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

The All-Star break has come and gone, so let's officially drop the puck on the stretch run of the fantasy season with some trade talk.

Unless you take initiative on the trade front, your team won't change much the rest of the way as a result of waiver-wire pickups. For the most part breakout stars and hidden gems have been determined, as have the disappointments from whom you expected much more.

Fortunately there's still hope that pieces will fall into place leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2. With the proper strategy you could land players from around the League at discounted prices who could bring elevated value if/when they are dealt.

We've had many examples of real-life trades boosting a player's fantasy value. Last season these instances ranged from high-profile players like Marian Gaborik to under-the-radar assets like Ales Hemsky. Gaborik's fantasy value was at an all-time low due to injuries with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and posted 16 points and nearly three shots on goal per game in 19 regular-season games, playing mostly on a line with Anze Kopitar. Hemsky's value also was revived after he was traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he and Jason Spezza combined for at least a point on 11 Senators goals in 20 games last season.

Even the most recent example, David Perron, joined the top-50 fantasy forwards after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Pittsburgh Penguins; he's playing a top-six role, mostly alongside Sidney Crosby. In the blink of an eye the scope of a player's value can be dictated by in-season moves. And the real value is in anticipating these trades, because once a player joins a new team with added upside, the fantasy trade window has closed as the asking price will be considerably higher.

It's impossible to predict which players will be moved at the deadline, but here are five forwards outside Yahoo's top-100 overall rankings who could change addresses in the coming weeks. If you pursue one or more of them sooner rather than later you could reap the benefits if/when they land in more favorable spots.

Eric Staal, LW/C, Carolina Hurricanes

Eric Staal
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 27 GAMES
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 28
SOG: 129 | +/-: -8
Current Yahoo overall rank: 105

Staal recently gained dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues and puts up penalty minutes and shots on goal at a high rate, but has seen a dip in points per game (0.77 in 2013-14 to 0.68 in 2014-15) and is on track for his fourth minus rating in five seasons. Staal's 5-on-4 shooting percentage has rebounded from an abysmal 2.7 percent in 2013-14 to 21.7 percent in 2014-15, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, but his value remains stagnant with Carolina in the running for the top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has a no-movement clause, but could eventually be on the block with 2015-16 being the final year of his contract. Exploring a deal to land Staal could lead to a seismic fantasy impact if he answers the call from a playoff-caliber team who can make room for his contract.

Evander Kane, LW, Winnipeg Jets

Current Yahoo overall rank: 121

Evander Kane
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 27 GAMES
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 19
SOG: 113 | +/-: 4
Kane, 23, has missed 15 games this season because of injury and a suspension, but is still one of five forwards League-wide with 10-plus goals, 50-plus PIMs and 100-plus SOG (others: Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Scott Hartnell). Though he has developed chemistry with Mark Scheifele, he has been held without a point in 18 games -- more than half of his games played. Kane has untapped talent and has struggled to stay in the lineup since the shortened season of 2012-13, but the Jets are in the midst of a push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so their patience could be tested. If Winnipeg makes a bold move for a more ready-made piece, Kane could be moved to a team with which his production could be maximized. Add more offense to the equation and Kane could finish the season as a top-50 overall fantasy player.

Taylor Hall, LW/C, Edmonton Oilers

Current Yahoo overall rank: 137

Taylor Hall
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 27 GAMES
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 29
SOG: 123 | +/-: -8
One of seven players with 80-plus points in 2013-14, Hall has taken a major step back, in part because of Edmonton’s struggles this season. He's barely on pace for 50-plus points, has a minus-20 turnover ratio (takeaways minus giveaways) and could see his value decrease even further if the Oilers sell pieces (e.g. Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov). However, Hall is dual eligible (LW/C), remains a top-tier keeper asset and should be pursued heavily by those looking for the final piece to their fantasy puzzle. If the Oilers trade Hall, that would be a bonus for his owners and put him in position to generate a point per game down the stretch.

Jaromir Jagr, RW, New Jersey Devils

Current Yahoo overall rank: 187

Jaromir Jagr
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 27 GAMES
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 25
SOG: 99 | +/-: -10
Jagr, fifth on the NHL's career scoring list, has been New Jersey’s best player since he joined the Devils in 2013, but he’s experienced a severe drop-off in point production this season. New Jersey excelled on its recent West Coast trip, which Jagr (53 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) missed because of the flu. Jagr is slated to be a free agent this summer, so he will remain a lucrative asset at the deadline for any team in need of help at right wing. Jagr's string of minuses from late December to early January was the last straw for many fantasy owners, but a deal would immediately revitalize this 42-year-old for the closing months of the season.

Antoine Vermette, LW/C, Arizona Coyotes

Antoine Vermette
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 27 GAMES
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 30
SOG: 63 | +/-: -15
Current Yahoo overall rank: 192

Like Hall and Staal, Vermette is dual eligible in Yahoo leagues, but he’s much more likely to be moved by Arizona than those two because of his expiring contract. He's outside of the top-100 standard-league forwards because of his minus rating and low SOG total, but he’s still a valuable fantasy contributor in terms of assists, power-play points and PIMs. Vermette (23 percent owned) would offer many endearing qualities to a contender, most notably his prowess in the faceoff circle. The Coyotes are in rebuilding mode, making them likely to sell a player like Vermette. Though his power-play production could diminish with a trade, he would become much less of a plus-minus and SOG liability with a stronger supporting cast.

Other buy-low candidates to target before potential trades: Shane Doan, Eberle, Ryan O'Reilly, Jiri Tlusty, Joffrey Lupul, Chris Stewart, Yakupov


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

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

Just Missed: Justin Williams, Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Eberle, Mike Fisher, Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Matt Beleskey, Antoine Vermette, Jaromir Jagr, Mikael Backlund

Dropped out: Williams

Key injuries: Kyle Okposo, Tyler Toffoli, Kris Versteeg, Johan Franzen, Mikkel Boedker, Blake Comeau, Valeri Nichushkin, Pascal Dupuis

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

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