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Fantasy top 100 forwards: McDavid, Hall excel apart

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.

Entering the season, fantasy owners were high enough on Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid to risk a third- or fourth-round pick on a player who had never played an NHL game. It was not only because of rave reviews, but also because he'd likely play with proven assets Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

The early combinations under Edmonton coach Todd McLellan have certainly not shaken out the way we anticipated, but the chemistry on the Oilers' top two lines has made more widespread fantasy waves than we could have imagined 12 games into the season. Edmonton has three players with 10 or more points (Hall 13, McDavid 12, Nail Yakupov 10) and one with nine (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) despite Eberle not playing a game yet because of injury.

Going into the season, it would have been crazy to think that McDavid and Hall, if they were apart in most situations, could each produce among the upper echelon of forwards in McDavid's first season. But this proves that the right chemistry, even with players who in the past appeared to have fallen out of favor with a particular team, can lead to magical things in fantasy hockey. Eberle's impending return only sweetens the pot.

It all starts with the revitalized Yakupov and extends to Nugent-Hopkins, who's in a more appropriate role, and Leon Draisaitl, who has burst onto the scene since being recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League. The Oilers' top two lines currently feature Hall flanking Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl; McDavid centers Benoit Pouliot and Yakupov on the second unit. McLellan is spreading the wealth on the first and second power-play units of late; even-strength trios have stuck together in those situations, with Mark Letestu (three power-play points) and Teddy Purcell (two) also getting notable usage.

Hall, currently No. 4 among all players in Yahoo leagues, has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) with 47 shots on goal (5th in NHL). Nugent-Hopkins (21:19 of ice time per game, 2nd among NHL forwards) has been a workhorse and has some of the load taken off his back, rejoining the top 100 forward rankings this week. Also, a team that has been notorious for detrimental plus-minus ratings, suddenly has each member of its top-six forward group between minus-3 and plus-5 nearly one month into the season. And it's not as though the Oilers have gotten off to an unconscious start; they have four wins in their first 12 games, a negative goal differential as a team, and their fair share of highs and lows at home and on the road.

Yakupov and McDavid are tied for the fifth-best point pair in the League with eight team goals where each has recorded a point. After being a combined minus-68 in the past two seasons, Yakupov, 22, is a plus-2 with nearly a point per game and close to three SOG per game. If McDavid was with Hall, there's not a chance Yakupov would be a top-75 fantasy asset. But he has been so far alongside the rookie phenom.

Leon Draisaitl
Center - EDM
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 7 | +/-: 3
Draisaitl, center-eligible and 16 percent owned in Yahoo, is the most attainable of these assets and should be prioritized on the waiver wire, especially considering he should gain additional eligibility in Yahoo if he sticks on the wing. He has three goals, two assists and is a plus-3 in his first two games this season with two PPP and seven SOG. You'd have to think his early AHL stint was worthwhile because he has come out with a purpose alongside Hall and Nugent-Hopkins in home games against the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. Once Eberle returns, I expect Benoit Pouliot (seven percent owned; seven points, 10 penalty minutes, 19 SOG in 2015-16) to move down in the lineup if Draisaitl keeps this up.

Edmonton is still a ways away from contention in the Western Conference, but it has been encouraging to see so many of its top NHL Draft picks finally producing results. This has instantly transformed the Oilers from a team you avoid in fantasy to one you can embrace.


Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, Buffalo Sabres

Ryan O'Reilly
Center - BUF
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 13
SOG: 29 | +/-: -2
Few fantasy assets come with the luxury of tri-eligibility in Yahoo leagues, so it adds icing to the cake when a guy like O'Reilly is in the midst of a torrid stretch. O'Reilly, who was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Sabres this offseason, has more points than any other player League-wide in the past 10 days (nine points in five games) and is tied with David Krejci of the Boston Bruins and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings for the most power-play points (seven) in the NHL this season and has 13 points (T-7th) in 12 games overall. Tyler Ennis, his frequent linemate, returned from injury Sunday and could help O'Reilly sustain his recent production in the coming days and weeks. O'Reilly is one of the League's most underrated two-way players and also leads all forwards in ice time per game (21:29), so he's in an excellent spot for the long haul as the Sabres develop talent around him. The third component of this line is Nicolas Deslauriers, who has two goals and six SOG in his past three games and should be monitored in deeper formats.


Jakub Voracek, RW, Philadelphia Flyers

Jakub Voracek
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 4
SOG: 48 | +/-: -5
Voracek has been bumped off Claude Giroux's line at times during his season-opening slump, and the Flyers have lost four in a row, including two games against the Sabres last week. After signing an eight-year extension this offseason, Voracek has the most SOG (48 in 11 games) among players who have yet to score a goal. The Flyers' power play is converting at an 11.8 percent clip (25th in NHL) after ranking eighth or better in each of the previous four seasons (2011-12 to 2014-15). Voracek's shot volume has been off the charts of late (24 in past five games), so I do expect an eventual turnaround, but he's bound to finish well short of his career-best 81 points from a season ago. You should still value Voracek as a top-50 fantasy forward for the next month or so and be patient after spending a high pick on his services, because he and Giroux should eventually be re-paired and get back on track. But in the short term, this is a glaring concern as Philadelphia continues its road trip with upcoming games against the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.


Joel Ward, RW, San Jose Sharks

Ward is known for his Stanley Cup Playoff heroics (35 points, three game-winning goals in 53 career postseason games) with the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, but has never eclipsed 50 points in a regular season (career-high was 49 in 2013-14). That said, moving to San Jose has taken Ward's production to new heights, especially since Logan Couture went down with injury.

Joel Ward
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 11
SOG: 21 | +/-: 3
Ward (21 percent owned) has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 11 games this season and has been making a living alongside Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau at even strength and in Couture's spot on the Sharks' top power-play unit with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Marleau and Brent Burns. The 34-year-old power forward had a hat trick on Oct. 24 and has followed with goals in two of his next three games, including two PPP Oct. 31 against the Dallas Stars. While he won't sustain his current shooting percentage (33.3), he did convert on nearly 16 percent of his attempts from 2012-13 to 2014-15. He'll be with Couture when he returns as well, which should keep his even-strength numbers going strong.


Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes gained left wing eligibility in Yahoo leagues on Oct. 29, giving his fantasy owners LW/C flexibility. Domi (74 percent owned) was featured in my forward rankings after the first week of the 2015-16 season and has at least a point in eight of his first 11 NHL games. The 20-year-old fantasy stud warrants ownership in all formats.


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

Just Missed: Martin Hanzal (C, ARI - DTD), Brett Connolly (LW/RW, BOS), Anthony Duclair (LW/RW, ARI), Anders Lee (C/LW, NYI), Joel Ward (RW, SJS), Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, FLA), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Mathieu Perreault (C/LW, WPG), Troy Brouwer (RW, STL), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW, MTL), Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Kevin Hayes (RW, NYR), Tyler Ennis (C/LW, BUF), Ryan Callahan (RW, TBL), Kris Versteeg (LW/RW, CAR)

Dropped out: Hanzal, Duclair, Lee, Galchenyuk, Craig Smith, Ryan Kesler

Key injuries: Logan Couture (C/LW, SJS), Pavel Datsyuk (C/LW, DET), Evander Kane (LW, BUF), Jaden Schwartz (LW, STL), Aleksander Barkov (C, FLA), Jordan Eberle (RW, EDM), Paul Stastny (C, STL)

**Fantasy Spin: Edmonton Oilers minus injured Connor McDavid, plus Jordan Eberle


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