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Fantasy top 100 forwards: MacKinnon, Duchene ignite

by Pete Jensen

Every Tuesday during the season, 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 Colorado Avalanche are at the bottom of the Central Division, the toughest in the NHL, and don't exactly have the deepest, most complete roster to fall back on in their quest to get return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Luckily they do have Nathan MacKinnon, a top-15 fantasy forward in Yahoo leagues this season, who continues to prove his sophomore slump was a fluke. He has at least a point in 11 of his 17 games this season with five multipoint outings (T-9th in NHL) and 19 points on the season (seventh in NHL). His shooting percentage woes are no more after an unlucky and underachieving 2014-15 season of 14 goals on 192 shots on goal in 64 games (7.3 percent) prior to his season-ending injury.

This season, MacKinnon ranks tied for 14th or better in goals (eight on 61 SOG; 13.1 percent), points, plus-minus and SOG. But the crafty playmaker has also done his part to revitalize the Avalanche's other franchise cornerstone, Matt Duchene.

MacKinnon was previously playing with Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay prior to Tanguay's knee injury, so Duchene was moved onto that line three games ago, and is beginning to look much more like the 70-point player of 2013-14 than the one who stumbled out of the gate with two points in his first 10 games this season.

This combination was not used much last season when Colorado finished 11th out of 14 teams in the Western Conference, but Avalanche coach Patrick Roy's decision to finally stack MacKinnon and Duchene onto a line last Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers has paid off in a big way. Colorado has responded with three straight road wins, including a 6-1 shocker at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Duchene has exceeded his previous point total (six points in 14 games) in his three consecutive multipoint games totaling eight points (four goals, four assists), a plus-6 and 11 SOG.

The game against the Canadiens was especially astounding because Colorado steamrolled Montreal without power forward Gabriel Landeskog, who was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety and did not play Saturday. Mikhail Grigorenko (two percent owned in Yahoo leagues) took Landeskog's place alongside MacKinnon and Duchene and never looked back. Grigorenko, who came over from the Buffalo Sabres in the trade for Ryan O'Reilly, had three points (one goal, two assists) and was a plus-3 against Montreal. He had three this season entering the game. MacKinnon also scored three points, with two goals in a 13-second span, and racked up his fifth power-play point of the season.

The Avalanche still have their share of shortcomings as a team, especially from a possession standpoint; they rank last in the NHL in Shot Attempts percentage after finishing second-worst in that category last season. Their aggressive, high-flying style helped them turn things around quickly in MacKinnon's rookie season (2013-14), but their lapses on defense reared their ugly head the following year. The addition of Francois Beauchemin on the back end has provided a huge lift this season, with Colorado holding a positive team goal differential (plus-4). Beauchemin, Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson have stayed healthy and contributed positive plus-minuses and team goal for/against ratios, allowing the Avalanche to rediscover their transition game.

If you're in a keeper league and bought low on MacKinnon this offseason, pat yourself on the back. Do the same if you stuck with Duchene through all the rough times. If the Avalanche keep these two together on the top line, MacKinnon and Duchene could have the makings of a top-tier point pair. Make sure to monitor Grigorenko to see if he sticks up top with those two once Landeskog returns. While it may be tough for Colorado to hang around in the playoff race, the team at least has its young core attached at the hip and trending back in the right direction.

Patrick Kane
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 28
SOG: 68 | +/-: 14

Patrick Kane, C/RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Alex Ovechkin was the preseason No. 1 fantasy player for good reason, but he has been outplayed and surpassed by Kane in terms of standard-league value -- and no one can argue against that. The goals will eventually come for Ovi (no goals on 20 SOG in past three games), but his peripheral category coverage is lacking outside of SOG (82, 1st in NHL). Ovechkin has two penalty minutes and (much more shockingly) two power-play points, compared to Kane's eight PIMs and nine PPP (T-3rd in NHL). Kane has made Artemi Panarin one of the biggest fantasy waiver wire steals of the 2015-16 season and leads the League in scoring (28 points) and plus-minus (plus-14). He's in the midst of a 13-game point streak and is on pace for 127 this season. The only player with 125 since the turn of the century is Joe Thornton in 2005-06 (125).


Edmonton Oilers' depth scoring

It's unfortunate to see the injury to Connor McDavid have such a sizable impact on the Oilers' depth, but it's the reality of the situation for fantasy owners. Nail Yakupov hasn't scored a goal since Oct. 18, is on the third line of late and dropped out of my top 100 forward rankings, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed a game with an illness and did not practice Monday. Jordan Eberle, meanwhile, has one goal, no assists, a minus-3 and only nine SOG in five games since returning from injury and has been bumped off the top line in favor of Teddy Purcell (LW/RW, one percent owned), who has points in three of his past four games as a splash alongside top-10 forward Taylor Hall and his sidekick Leon Draisaitl (37 percent owned). Until McDavid returns, it's certainly possible that the short-term fantasy value of players like Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and especially Yakupov will suffer.

Brock Nelson
Center - NYI
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 12
SOG: 38 | +/-: 4

Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders top-nine forward situation has fluctuated all season, but anyone who remembers how well Anders Lee played alongside John Tavares en route to a 25-goal season in 2014-15 continues to monitor Tavares' linemate situation. Tavares is back with longtime running mate Kyle Okposo, who's in a contract year, and was flanked by Nelson on the left side during the Islanders' winning California road trip. Nelson, who's nine percent owned in Yahoo leagues, had two goals, two assists, a plus-2 and 10 SOG in those three games, and is a big body who could stick with Tavares for the long haul. Nelson followed that up with a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. Nelson has been inconsistent at the NHL level, but did finish with 20 goals and 22 assists last season thanks to a fast start of 24 points in his first 28 games. Add him now if you have the roster room, because he'll be owned in more than 30 percent of leagues if he has another game or two at this rate.


Marko Dano, who played on the Chicago Blackhawks' top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa this weekend, has gained dual eligibility (C/RW) in Yahoo. At only 23 percent owned, he's a low-risk, high-upside asset worth rostering in the hope that he sticks with that top unit. Given how Draisaitl (C, 37 percent owned) has risen in the fantasy ranks after an early stint in the American Hockey League, a similar fantasy boom could be coming for the recently promoted Dano.


Ovechkin skated with Nicklas Backstrom on Monday, which could impact Evgeny Kuznetsov's value in the coming days and weeks. ... David Backes was between Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen on the St. Louis Blues' top line Monday, which is why the inconsistent Jori Lehtera dropped out of this week's rankings. Backes had three points (two goals, one assist) Monday after only six points in his prior 17 games this season in a second-line role. ... Dylan Larkin was moved to a line with Pavel Datsyuk on Monday against the Ottawa Senators. He scored a goal on two SOG and now has a plus-12 rating on the season (T-3rd in NHL). ... Aleksander Barkov returned to the Florida Panthers lineup and top line with Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau on Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were without Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin because of injuries. Nick Bjugstad and/or Vincent Trocheck could see a dip in value over time as a result.


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).

1 Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI (+2) 51 Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (SAME)
2 Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (SAME) 52 Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (-13)
3 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (-2) 53 Joe Thornton, C, SJS (-6)
4 Jamie Benn, LW, DAL (SAME) 54 Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (-1)
5 Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (SAME) 55 Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (+22)
6 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (SAME) 56 Mike Cammalleri, C/LW, NJD (+15)
7 John Tavares, C, NYI (SAME) 57 Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (+4)
8 Joe Pavelski, C/LW, SJS (SAME) 58 Dylan Larkin, C, DET (+1)
9 Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM (+3) 59 Gustav Nyquist, C/LW/RW, DET (-7)
10 Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (SAME) 60 Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI (-3)
11 Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (+2) 61 Sean Monahan, C, CGY (-3)
12 Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (-3) 62 Mark Stone, RW, OTT (-7)
13 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (-2) 63 Eric Staal, C, CAR (SAME)
14 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (+6) 64 Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (SAME)
15 Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (SAME) 65 Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (SAME)
16 Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (SAME) 66 Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (+4)
17 Phil Kessel, RW, PIT (SAME) 67 Jack Eichel, C, BUF (+1)
18 Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET (-4) 68 Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (+5)
19 Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (+2) 69 Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL (+16)
20 Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL (-2) 70 Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, DET (-4)
21 Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (+1) 71 Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (+3)
22 David Krejci, C, BOS (-3) 72 Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (SAME)
23 Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (SAME) 73 Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (+3)
24 Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (SAME) 74 Jiri Hudler, C/LW/RW, CGY (-14)
25 Corey Perry, RW, ANA (SAME) 75 Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (-8)
26 Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL (SAME) 76 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (+4)
27 Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (+2) 77 Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW, WPG (-8)
28 Patrick Sharp, C/LW, DAL (+2) 78 Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (+14)
29 Kyle Turris, C, OTT (-2) 79 Martin Hanzal, C, ARI (+16)
30 Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (+2) 80 Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+8)
31 Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (+3) 81 Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (NR - INJ.)
32 Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (-1) 82 Nick Bjugstad, C, FLA (-7)
33 Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (DTD) 83 Derek Stepan, C, NYR (-5)
34 Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI (+12) 84 Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (SAME)
35 Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH (+3) 85 Leon Draisaitl, C, EDM (+11)
36 Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (+7) 86 Kevin Hayes, RW, NYR (+8)
37 Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (-2) 87 Adam Henrique, C/LW, NJD (+3)
38 T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH (-5) 88 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (-6)
39 Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (-3) 89 Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (-8)
40 Jason Spezza, C, DAL (+1) 90 Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET (+1)
41 Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (+1) 91 Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (DTD)
42 James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (+6) 92 Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (DTD)
43 Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (+1) 93 Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (SAME)
44 Max Domi, C/LW, ARI (SAME) 94 Patrick Marleau, C/LW, SJS (-7)
45 Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (SUSP.) 95 Brock Nelson, C, NYI (NEW)
46 Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET (-6) 96 Boone Jenner, C, CBJ (NEW)
47 Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ (+3) 97 Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA (NEW)
48 Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK (+6) 98 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM (DTD)
49 Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, BUF (SAME) 99 Artem Anisimov, C/LW, CHI (NEW)
50 David Backes, C/RW, STL (+6) 100 Jason Zucker, LW/RW, MIN (NEW)

Just Missed: David Desharnais (C, MTL), Troy Brouwer (RW, STL), Lee Stempniak (LW/RW, NJD), Travis Zajac (C, NJD), Oscar Lindberg (C, NYR), Thomas Vanek (LW/RW, MIN), Anthony Duclair (LW/RW, ARI), Teuvo Teravainen (LW, CHI), Nick Foligno (C/LW, CBJ), Justin Williams (RW, WSH), Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, OTT), Nail Yakupov (LW/RW, EDM), Sam Bennett (C, CGY), Mikkel Boedker (LW, ARI), Craig Smith (C/RW, NSH)

Dropped out: Desharnais, Lindberg, Teravainen, Foligno, Yakupov, Jori Lehtera (C, STL)

Key injuries: Zach Parise (LW, MIN), Connor McDavid (C, EDM), Logan Couture (C/LW, SJS), Ondrej Palat (LW, TBL), Evander Kane (LW, BUF), Jaden Schwartz (LW, STL), Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Paul Stastny (C, STL)


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