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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Most valuable third-liners

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.

In 2013-14, Mats Zuccarello led the New York Rangers in regular-season scoring with 59 points as mostly a third-line player. Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had 10 different forwards score 10-plus goals. The common theme: Each of those teams made the Stanley Cup Final.

It's becoming more and more routine to see such production from depth forwards on contending teams. Secondary scoring isn't always enough to muster a successful regular season and deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tertiary scoring is an important element in the modern-day NHL.

Through 13-16 games for each team this season, we've seen significant offensive contributions from third-liners around the League. While staying power is always a concern when considering depth scorers for your roster, here are some notable performers who have excelled in roles not usually conducive to fantasy relevance.

NOTE: Yahoo rank indicates each player's performance-based ranking (as of Tuesday, Nov. 10) in standard leagues, which count goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal.

Dale Weise (RW), David Desharnais (C), Tomas Fleischmann (LW), Montreal Canadiens

Yahoo ranks: 45th, 52nd, 88th

The only forward point pairs with more team goals where each records a point than Desharnais and Fleischmann (10) are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars (16), Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin (11) of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler (11) of the Winnipeg Jets. The Habs have a League-best nine forwards with 10-plus points this season, and they're led in goals by first-liner Max Pacioretty and Weise (eight apiece). While I don't expect Weise and Fleischmann to keep up their respective torrid paces, this line is intriguing and worth owning at least on a short-term basis in fantasy because of Desharnais' history as a top-line center alongside Pacioretty. At three lines deep, Montreal looks more equipped than ever for a Stanley Cup run and has maintained its historic start despite an injury to top-ranked goalie Carey Price.

Oscar Lindberg (C) and Kevin Hayes (RW), New York Rangers

Yahoo ranks: 61st, 109th

Oscar Lindberg
Center - NYR
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 11
SOG: 25 | +/-: 9
Five rookie forwards have 10-plus points this season, and as surprising as Panarin has been for the Blackhawks, he owes a ton of his early success to Kane (currently No. 1 player in Yahoo leagues). The most surprising player of that group is Lindberg, who's tied for the rookie lead in goals (seven) with Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes and is second in plus-minus (plus-9), doing his damage on the third line with Hayes and J.T. Miller. Hayes is a stud who would be playing top-six for the vast majority of NHL teams, but he's helped produce the second coming of the Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot line from two seasons ago. Lindberg (27 percent owned in Yahoo) leads the NHL in goals per 60 minutes and ranks fifth in points per 60 (minimum 10 games), while Hayes (42 percent) is heating up with points in six of his past seven games. Each is approaching must-own status in all formats.

Troy Brouwer (RW), St. Louis Blues

Yahoo rank: 92nd

Brouwer (44 percent owned) has played with David Backes on St. Louis' second line at times since being acquired from the Washington Capitals this offseason, but has more recently played third-line minutes with Scott Gomez and Magnus Paajarvi. My preseason sleeper has 10 points (two power-play; 2:04 per game on PP), a plus-4 rating, 12 PIMs and 26 SOG in 14 games, and is on pace for nearly 250 hits. His well-rounded profile earns him a spot among Yahoo's top 100 fantasy players at the moment. While it remains to be seen if his offense is sustainable enough to reach 50-plus points, his category coverage should keep him relevant.

Frans Nielsen (C), New York Islanders

Yahoo rank: 108th

The Islanders have had their share of ups and downs in their first season in Brooklyn, but Nielsen has been a key cog for their offense, whether filling in on the top line in John Tavares' absence or controlling his usual third-line, top power-play unit duties. Nielsen (20 percent owned) has 10 points (three power-play; 1:52 per game on PP), with 40 SOG and 18 blocked shots (T-2nd among forwards), and is quietly putting together another sound fantasy season. He has a limited ceiling because he's tasked with a defensive, faceoff-heavy role on a nightly basis, but is still one of the more undervalued players in the entire fantasy realm.

Boone Jenner (C), Columbus Blue Jackets

Yahoo rank: 170th

So many people were so high on Columbus' top three lines entering the season, and quite frankly their depth up front is the only reason they still have a chance to turn their season around after a disastrous start. Jenner bounces around from the top line alongside Ryan Johansen to the third line to one of the Blue Jackets' two power-play units (1:53 per game on PP), yet always brings that opportunistic net-front presence when healthy. His shot volume has been excellent thus far (41 in 15 games), and he's converted on 17.1 percent of those attempts on net for seven goals (T-11th in NHL). Jenner (10 percent owned) doesn’t rely on any single linemate to be productive and is always worth owning in hits leagues (34 in 15 games).

Jeff Carter
Center - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 15
SOG: 40 | +/-: 9
Other notable third liners with fantasy value: Jimmy Hayes (LW/RW, BOS; Yahoo rank: 122nd), Teemu Pulkkinen (LW/RW, DET; 131st), Ryan Spooner (C/LW, BOS; 132nd), Thomas Vanek (LW/RW, MIN; 166th), Brandon Pirri (C/LW/RW, FLA; 190th)


Jeff Carter, C/RW, Los Angeles Kings

Milan Lucic started the year alongside Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter's decision to move Lucic to a line with Carter and Tyler Toffoli sparked Los Angeles' revival. After dropping their first three games (all at home), the Kings have gone 9-2-0 in their past 11 and quietly sit atop the Pacific Division standings thanks largely to their revamped top line. The only player League-wide with more points than Carter since Oct. 22 is Kane (16), and Carter has at least a point in seven of nine games in that span. He's currently riding a three-game point streak and has a plus-9 rating (T-7th in NHL). His balanced scoring mirrors his 2014 playoff performance, and his fantasy stock is higher than Kopitar's based on performance and linemate outlook.


Nick Foligno, C/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

Foligno's abnormally high shooting percentage (16.7 percent in 149 games from 2013-14 to 2014-15) was bound to eventually come back down to earth, but his fall from fantasy grace has been shocking. He was drafted on average with the 44th pick in Yahoo leagues but is ranked 328th based on performance thus far. His penalty minutes and hits totals remain consistent (17 PIMs, 32 hits in 15 games), but he only has one goal and five assists to show for himself with a minus-8 rating. He saw 0:28 of power-play ice time Friday against the Anaheim Ducks and is off Columbus' top man-advantage unit, a cause for concern to those who invested in his services expecting 60-70 points with one-third coming in power-play situations. He has a glimmer of hope as long as he's playing with Ryan Johansen at even strength, but his performance has been substandard since John Tortorella took over: no goals, two assists and 13 SOG in eight games.


Sam Bennett, C, Calgary Flames

My colleague David Satriano mentioned Bennett in his Fantasy All-Access column this week, but I want to reiterate how much promise this 19-year-old has in the short and long-term. He should be rostered in most keeper leagues and has been productive of late whether with Johnny Gaudreau on the first line or with Mikael Backlund and volume-shooter Michael Frolik (43 SOG in 15 games) on the second line. Bennett has at least a point in five of his past six games and is only 14 percent owned in Yahoo. It's still early, but Calgary faces an important road trip beginning Tuesday with stops against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Blackhawks. We'll see what Bennett and the Flames are made of, so definitely monitor the situation.


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

Just Missed: Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Jonathan Drouin (LW, TBL), Anthony Duclair (LW/RW, ARI), Troy Brouwer (RW, STL), Lee Stempniak (LW/RW, NJD), Thomas Vanek (LW/RW, MIN), Artem Anisimov (C/LW, CHI), Justin Williams (RW, WSH), Jason Pominville (RW, MIN), Jonathan Huberdeau (C/LW, FLA), Mathieu Perreault (C/LW, WPG), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW, MTL), Jason Zucker (LW/RW, MIN), Sam Bennett (C, CGY), Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, FLA)

Dropped out: Drouin, Pominville, Huberdeau, Vanek, Ryan Strome (assigned to American Hockey League)

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), Aleksander Barkov (C, FLA), Paul Stastny (C, STL)


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