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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Nashville trio breaking mold

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

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber has been their leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. The Predators haven't had a 60-point producer since J-P Dumont in 2008-09, the longest active drought in the NHL.

But times are changing in the Music City under coach Peter Laviolette, and fantasy owners are cashing in on the Predators' offensive resurgence. Through 17 games, each of Nashville's top-line components, James Neal, Mike Ribeiro and rookie Filip Forsberg, is on pace for more than 60 points.

FANTASY HOCKEY ANALYSIS

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

Things weren't such a bed of roses for those individuals from a fantasy standpoint entering the season.

Neal was traded to Nashville by the Pittsburgh Penguins, sparking perception that his fantasy value would decline without the company of power-play running mates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He also faced a challenging time in his career after multiple suspensions and Stanley Cup Playoff exits during his time with the Penguins.

Ribeiro signed a one-year deal with Nashville after a disappointing season with the Arizona Coyotes that included a major drop-off in points-per-game average, healthy scratches and eventually a buyout.

Forsberg, who had stints at the NHL level and high sleeper upside in each of the past two seasons, never found his groove within the defensive system of longtime Predators coach Barry Trotz. The Swedish forward had six points over a combined 18 games from 2012-13 to 2013-14.

This trio has tuned out the noise and is finding its niche in Nashville, and no team needed this kind of chemistry more than the Predators. The last time Nashville had multiple players over 60 points in a season was 2007-08 (Dumont, Jason Arnott).

Neal may not be the top-20 overall fantasy asset he was with the Penguins, but he's still a premier forward currently tied for seventh in the League in goals (nine) and is 19th in shots on goal (61) with a plus-10 rating through 17 games. Ribeiro won't finish tied for the NHL lead in power-play points like he did with the Washington Capitals in 2012-13, but he's a consistent distributor on pace for 67 points. Forsberg failed to live up to expectations prior to this season, but he's been worth the wait. He has the best rating by far in the NHL (plus-19) and leads all rookies in goals (eight), assists (12), SOG (50) and power-play points (five) so far.

This offensive lift has come after the perfect storm of offseason changes and the implementation of Laviolette's system. Laviolette has had a history of making early impacts at each of his previous NHL coaching stops (New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers), and his arrival in Nashville is following a similar path. The fan base is recharged and the Predators, tied for the third-highest point total in the Western Conference, have their sights set on a return to the postseason.

You're probably not getting a hold of either Neal (LW/RW in Yahoo leagues) or a keeper-league gem like Forsberg (LW/C/RW) if you don't have them already in fantasy, but Ribeiro (33 percent owned) is readily available. But whether you're able to reap the benefits of these three players or not over the course of the season, Nashville's offensive contrast has been a major development that has taken the fantasy world by storm as we near the one-quarter mark of the 2014-15 season.


Jori Lehtera
STATS PRIOR TO NOV. 18 GAMES
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 17
SOG: 30 | +/-: 12
TRENDING UP

Jori Lehtera, C, St. Louis Blues

Vladimir Tarasenko has been one of the biggest steals of the season to this point, but his sidekick Lehtera has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. Lehtera, who entered my top 100 forward rankings last week, has 11 points (five goals, six assists) over his current seven-game point streak alongside Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. His Yahoo ownership has skyrocketed from five to 56 percent since I recommended him on Oct. 21. Don't waste another second before scooping him up in shallow leagues.

TRENDING DOWN

Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, Boston Bruins

The Bruins are tied for the second-most games played (19) to this point and, fortunately for fantasy owners, Eriksson has been healthy for all of them. But the Swede has been held off the score sheet of late with no goals, one assist and five SOG over his past four games. He still plays with Carl Soderberg at even-strength and the Bruins should improve dramatically once Zdeno Chara and David Krejci are healthy, but Eriksson has fallen way short of expectations to this point.

Zemgus Girgensons
STATS PRIOR TO NOV. 18 GAMES
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 10
SOG: 40 | +/-: 3
KEEP AN EYE ON

Zemgus Girgensons, LW/C, Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have a League-worst 1.47 goals-per-game average, but one bright spot has been the emergence of Girgensons as a young, efficient building block. He's one of three Buffalo players with a double-digit point total this season (Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford) but is the lone skater on the team with a plus rating and at least 10 games played. He's dual eligible in Yahoo (5 percent owned) and has sneaky value in daily leagues, so monitor his production as he approaches fantasy relevance.


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

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 (SAME) 51 Blake Wheeler, RW (+3)
2 Steven Stamkos, C/RW (SAME) 52 Marian Hossa, RW (-3)
3 Corey Perry, RW (SAME) 53 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C (+5)
4 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (SAME) 54 Marian Gaborik, RW (-9)
5 Claude Giroux, C/RW (+1) - DTD 55 Brandon Saad, LW/RW (+1)
6 John Tavares, C (-1) 56 Jaromir Jagr, RW (-4)
7 Phil Kessel, RW (+3) 57 Milan Lucic, LW (-9)
8 Tyler Seguin, C/RW (-1) 58 Jordan Eberle, RW (+3)
9 Ryan Getzlaf, C (-1) 59 Radim Vrbata, RW (-8)
10 Jakub Voracek, RW (+8) 60 Eric Staal, C (-13)
11 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW (-2) 61 Brayden Schenn, LW/C (+6)
12 Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW (SAME) 62 Jori Lehtera, C (+31)
13 Jonathan Toews, C (+1) 63 Ryan Callahan, RW (+16)
14 Patric Hornqvist, RW (-3) 64 Jarome Iginla, RW (-11)
15 Patrick Kane, C/RW (+1) 65 Evander Kane, LW (SAME)
16 Jamie Benn, LW/C (-3) 66 Jason Pominville, RW (+5)
17 Ryan Johansen, C/RW (SAME) 67 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW (-8)
18 Zach Parise, LW (NR - IR) 68 Nick Foligno, LW (+20)
19 Chris Kunitz, LW (-4) 69 Pascal Dupuis, LW/RW - IR
20 Rick Nash, LW/RW (+1) 70 Scott Hartnell, LW (-6)
21 Taylor Hall, LW/C (NR - IR) 71 Gabriel Landeskog, LW (-16)
22 Anze Kopitar, C (+1) 72 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW (-3)
23 Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW (+15) 73 Brock Nelson, C (+1)
24 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (+12) 74 Mike Ribeiro, C (+8)
25 Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C (-6)- DTD 75 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C (+6)
26 Joe Thornton, C (+3) 76 Carl Soderberg, LW/C (-8)
27 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW (-2) 77 Ondrej Palat, LW (+6)
28 Nicklas Backstrom, C (-4) 78 Alexander Steen, LW/C (-5)
29 Matt Duchene, LW/C (+2) 79 Ryan O'Reilly, LW/C (-16)
30 Logan Couture, LW/C (-10) 80 Jonathan Drouin, LW (-23)
31 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C (-9) 81 Andrew Ladd, LW (-6)
32 James Neal, LW/RW (+1) 82 Johan Franzen, LW/RW (-6)
33 Daniel Sedin, LW (-7) 83 Derek Stepan, C (+6)
34 Henrik Sedin, C (-7) 84 Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW (+10)
35 Wayne Simmonds, RW (-7) 85 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (+2)
36 Max Pacioretty, LW (+4) 86 Paul Stastny, C (-14)
37 Martin St. Louis, C/RW (+2) 87 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW (-17)
38 Jason Spezza, C (-3) 88 Brad Marchand, LW (-10)- DTD
39 Patrice Bergeron, C (-9) 89 Johnny Gaudreau, LW (-9)
40 Kyle Okposo, RW (-6) 90 Nick Bonino, C (-4)
41 David Backes, C/RW (SAME) 91 Kyle Turris, C (-1)
42 Ryan Kesler, C/RW (+1) 92 Shane Doan, LW/RW (+3)
43 Tyler Johnson, C/RW (+1) 93 Chris Kreider, LW (-16)
44 Patrick Marleau, LW/C (-12) 94 T.J. Oshie, C/RW (NR - IR)
45 Tyler Toffoli, RW (-8) 95 Sean Monahan, C (-3)
46 Jeff Carter, C/RW (-4) 96 Thomas Vanek, LW/RW (-5)
47 David Krejci, C (-1) 97 Clarke MacArthur, LW (SAME)
48 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C (+14) 98 Derick Brassard, C (NEW)
49 Jaden Schwartz, LW (+17) 99 Tomas Plekanec, C (+1)
50 James van Riemsdyk, LW (SAME) 100 Antoine Roussel, LW (NEW)

Just Missed: Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, Elias Lindholm, Mikkel Boedker, Jiri Hudler, Tyler Bozak, Nino Niederreiter, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Tanner Pearson, Bryan Little

Dropped out: Vermette, Hudler, Pearson, Little, Steve Downie

Key injuries: Patrick Sharp, Brandon Dubinsky, Valeri Nichushkin, Michael Raffl, Joffrey Lupul, Mark Scheifele

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

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