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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Line combinations crucial

by Pete Jensen

Every Tuesday during the season, 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.


When it comes to fantasy forwards at this time of year, it starts and ends with line combinations.

Early-season formations may or may not stick for the full 82-game schedule, but these trials lay the groundwork for the games ahead.

Let's kick things off with lineup developments that could impact the fantasy forward landscape:


The 2014-15 NHL season is underway, so has you covered with weekly fantasy hockey positional rankings, real-time spin updates and waiver wire advice.

STARTING AT THE TOP: The Pittsburgh Penguins' line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist has been dynamite under first-year coach Mike Johnston. Crosby,'s consensus top-ranked asset, is tied for second in the League in points (six) and power-play points (four). Hornqvist has been on the ice for seven goals and none against through two games, the best differential NHL-wide.

LINES IN FLUX: The Colorado Avalanche have mixed and matched lines through three games to incorporate veterans while playing to strengths of Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene. Early results haven't been pretty, but their top-six group should eventually find rhythm. ... The Philadelphia Flyers have not looked good defensively, and they've juggled the left side of its top line between Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl. It could be a game of musical chairs for that spot all season. ... The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to maximize Steven Stamkos's production while Jonathan Drouin recovers from injury, so Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn have seen time with him. He played alongside Palat and Callahan for most of the game when he notched a hat trick Monday. ... It's been a rough start for Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic, but David Krejci's return should make up for lost production. ... Evander Kane's injury means Winnipeg Jets forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will play with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Byfuglien's production in that role could impact Kane's long-term value.

PLAYOFF LINES STICK: Alongside Jason Pominville and sleeper candidate Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise has scorched the opposition with two goals, two assists, a plus-5 rating and 19 shots on goal in two games for the Minnesota Wild. Add Granlund (32 percent owned in Yahoo) if he's available in your league. ... The "That '70s Line" moniker is getting tired, but the production of the Los Angeles Kings' second unit (Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli) isn't getting old. Carter is paying dividends for owners who drafted him, while Toffoli (24 percent) and Pearson (6 percent) are there for the taking. The three have combined for five of the Kings' six goals. ... Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec (51 percent) has been the pickup of the season so far with four goals in four games. His frequent playoff linemate, Alex Galchenyuk, has assisted on two of those.

Henrik Sedin
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 4 | +/-: 2
HIGH CEILING: Derek Stepan's injury didn't bode well for Rick Nash, but the New York Rangers have shifted Martin St. Louis to center. Nash has already surpassed his 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs goal total (three on 83 SOG in 25 games) with four goals on nine SOG in three games. ... Vancouver Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin look like their old selves without John Tortorella. Their success hasn't come against stiff competition, but their chemistry with Radim Vrbata puts them back on the map as a top-tier point pair. ... Through two games, New York Islanders center John Tavares looks like a dark horse candidate to win the scoring title alongside Kyle Okposo, so deep-league owners should take a flyer on Cory Conacher (8 percent), who could see the splash effect. ... Mike Cammalleri has three goals in two games for the New Jersey Devils alongside Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac and is seeing three-plus minutes of power-play time per game. He warrants more ownership than he holds (53 percent).

Brock Nelson
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 4 | +/-: 2

Brock Nelson (C) - Nelson, one of the most added players in fantasy leagues since the season started (35 percent), is playing on the Islanders' second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome and is seeing power-play time with Tavares. The 22-year-old's net-front positioning has led to two of his three goals, and he's tied for second in the NHL in points with Crosby after back-to-back multipoint outings against the Carolina Hurricanes. It remains to be seen if he can carry over that production against tougher teams (Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Penguins this week), but it's realistic to expect 50-plus points.


Evgeny Kuznetsov (C/LW) and Brad Richards (C/LW) - We're only talking about a sample size of two to four games, so it's tough to harp on the Avalanche's forwards for their slow start or Dallas Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for being pointless with a combined minus-6 rating. That said, it's worth noting that Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals and Richards of the Chicago Blackhawks have started the season in depth roles. Their chances of being viable fantasy assets hinge on their emergence as secondary scoring options.



Brandon Sutter (C) - Sutter has made a seamless transition to his elevated role as the Penguins' second-line center alongside Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis. This revamp of the Penguins' top-six group has allowed Malkin to shift to wing and will help Sutter, three percent owned in Yahoo leagues, gain fantasy relevance. The 25-year-old has two goals and a plus-4 rating in two games, and there could be much more where that came from if he sticks with those linemates.


These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. 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 51 Paul Stastny, C
2 Steven Stamkos, C 52 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW
3 Corey Perry, RW 53 Pascal Dupuis, LW/RW
4 John Tavares, C 54 Jaromir Jagr, RW
5 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW 55 Brandon Saad, LW/RW
6 Ryan Getzlaf, C 56 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW
7 Claude Giroux, C/RW 57 Thomas Vanek, LW/RW
8 Alex Ovechkin, RW 58 Ryan O'Reilly, LW/C
9 Patrick Kane, C/RW 59 James Neal, LW/RW
10 Jamie Benn, LW 60 Jordan Eberle, RW
11 Anze Kopitar, C 61 Alexander Steen, LW/C
12 Jonathan Toews, C 62 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW
13 Phil Kessel, RW 63 David Perron, LW/RW
14 Tyler Seguin, C/RW 64 Mikael Granlund, C
15 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW 65 T.J. Oshie, C/RW
16 Joe Pavelski, LW/C 66 Jason Pominville, RW
17 Chris Kunitz, LW 67 Radim Vrbata, RW
18 Patrick Sharp, LW/C 68 Jaden Schwartz, LW
19 Zach Parise, LW 69 Bryan Little, C/RW
20 Taylor Hall, LW/C 70 Kyle Turris, C
21 Patrice Bergeron, C 71 Ondrej Palat, LW
22 Nicklas Backstrom, C 72 Mikko Koivu, C
23 Matt Duchene, LW/C 73 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW
24 Logan Couture, LW/C 74 Brock Nelson, C
25 David Backes, C/RW 75 Tomas Hertl, LW
26 Wayne Simmonds, RW 76 Nazem Kadri, C
27 Ryan Johansen, C/RW 77 Andrew Ladd, LW
28 Daniel Sedin, LW 78 Chris Kreider, LW
29 Joe Thornton, C 79 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C
30 Patric Hornqvist, RW 80 Brayden Schenn, LW/C
31 Ryan Kesler, C/RW 81 Mark Scheifele, C
32 Rick Nash, LW/RW 82 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C
33 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C 83 Scott Hartnell, LW
34 Marian Hossa, RW 84 Brad Marchand, LW
35 Henrik Sedin, C 85 Tyler Toffoli, RW
36 Gabriel Landeskog, LW 86 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C
37 Max Pacioretty, LW 87 Joffrey Lupul, LW/RW
38 Patrick Marleau, LW/C 88 Valeri Nichushkin, RW
39 Marian Gaborik, RW 89 Tomas Plekanec, C
40 Jason Spezza, C 90 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C
41 Milan Lucic, LW 91 Carl Soderberg, LW/C
42 Kyle Okposo, RW 92 Patrik Elias, LW/C
43 Martin St. Louis, RW 93 Ryan Callahan, RW
44 Jeff Carter, C/RW 94 Reilly Smith, RW
45 Jarome Iginla, RW 95 Mikkel Boedker, LW
46 Jakub Voracek, RW 96 Alexander Semin, LW/RW
47 David Krejci, C 97 Matt Moulson, LW
48 James van Riemsdyk, LW 98 Filip Forsberg, C/RW
49 Eric Staal, C 99 Tyler Bozak, C
50 Blake Wheeler, RW 100 Shane Doan, LW/RW

Just Missed: Cam Atkinson, Johan Franzen, Craig Smith, Clarke MacArthur, Antoine Roussel, Mats Zuccarello, Andrew Shaw, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tyler Ennis, Tanner Pearson

Key injuries: Pavel Datsyuk, Evander Kane, Jonathan Drouin, Brandon Dubinsky, Jeff Skinner, Derek Stepan, Nathan Horton


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