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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Pacioretty rounds out game

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

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty had a career year in 2013-14 with 39 goals, the fourth-highest total in the NHL. But one category is never good enough in fantasy hockey.

As much as fantasy owners covet goal-scorers, it's more desirable when a player nears his full potential in terms of category coverage. Pacioretty performed well in other standard-league categories (power-play points, plus-minus, shots on goal), but his underwhelming showing in assists was a concern.

In fact, Pacioretty's 21 assists in 73 games was the fewest by a 35-goal scorer in a single season since Bill Guerin in 2006-07 (36 goals, 20 assists). Naturally, Pacioretty's lopsided production created the perception he was not a complete offensive player but rather a pure goal-scorer.

As a result, Pacioretty, 26, was the 11th left wing off the board in Yahoo drafts entering this season. This was under the assumption he would continue to play with longtime linemate David Desharnais, a distributor who had 60 points in 2011-12 but has never scored more than 16 goals in a season. Right wing on that line was a revolving door. Under those circumstances, Pacioretty's ceiling was capped.

This season, until recently, was a continuation of Pacioretty's goal-scoring concentration alongside Desharnais. The only differences: Compared to last season, Pacioretty's shooting percentage has regressed (14.4 to 11.2) and the Canadiens are converting at a lesser rate on the power play (17.2 to 15.6 percent).

So Montreal coach Michel Therrien reconfigured his top line on Dec. 9. He kept Pacioretty on the left side but swapped out Desharnais in favor of 20-year-old playmaker Alex Galchenyuk, who has played mostly wing at the NHL level. On the ride side was Brendan Gallagher, who has bounced around the lineup over his first three seasons but exceeded 200 shots on goal last season.

In the five games since, Pacioretty has rediscovered what was a hidden element of his game.

He has three multiassist outings in that span after three all of last season. Galchenyuk has four goals, two assists and a plus-5 in his past three games.

Gallagher (27 percent) has chipped in two goals, one assist and 17 SOG in five games alongside Pacioretty and Galchenyuk.

Max Pacioretty
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 23 GAMES
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 27
SOG: 116 | +/-: 16
All this offense has come without Pacioretty doing what he does best: scoring goals. All of a sudden, Pacioretty has more assists (14) than goals (13). Factor in his room for improvement on the power play and his ceiling becomes much higher than it was at any point last season. As fantasy owners, this is why we study line combinations religiously. They can reveal untapped potential.

Pacioretty ranks among the League's top 10 in rating (plus-16, T-6th) and shots on goal (116, 7th). He cracked the top 30 forward rankings this week and could be poised for even greater things if he puts all these categories together.

Will the Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Gallagher line last? Time will tell, but indications are that Pacioretty has a chance to maximize his offensive ability when alongside two players who are inclined to shoot just as often, if not more often, than they pass -- or than he shoots.

With all due respect to Desharnais, that's just not his game.

If the right pieces fall into place in the coming weeks and months, this could be the line of the future for Montreal that impacts fantasy teams for years to come. Swinging a trade for Pacioretty, adding dual-eligible Galchenyuk (LW/C, 51 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) in a shallow league, or picking up Gallagher (RW, 27 percent) in a deeper format would be a low-risk move with potential for high reward.


Marian Gaborik
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 23 GAMES
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 17
SOG: 55 | +/-: 2
TRENDING UP

Marian Gaborik, LW/RW, Los Angeles Kings

Hopefully you took my advice to either buy low or stay patient regarding Gaborik and Anze Kopitar. Kings coach Darryl Sutter recently added slumping Jeff Carter to the top line and the results have been remarkable. What started as a power-play trio turned into an even-strength monster in Los Angeles' win against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 18. Gaborik, Kopitar and Carter had a hand in five of the Kings' six goals in the game (12 combined points), and each followed that with a multipoint game Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. Gaborik, who has seven goals and two assists in his past five games, is looking more like the finisher who dominated the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

TRENDING DOWN

Jaromir Jagr, RW, New Jersey Devils

Only the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres average fewer goals per game than the Devils this season (2.14), and with Mike Cammalleri out of the lineup, New Jersey's offense has gotten worse. Cammalleri has missed four straight games, and the Devils have been shut out in two of those. Jagr has been playing mostly alongside Scott Gomez in Cammalleri's absence, which isn't going to cut it for fantasy owners of the 42-year-old. He has an illustrious NHL résumé and put up 60-plus points as recently as last season, but he's gone pointless eight times in his past 11 games and is a combined minus-9 in those eight. Monitor this situation as Cammalleri nears a return, because Jagr (on pace for 46 points) is barely worth holding on to in shallow leagues.

Mark Scheifele
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 23 GAMES
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 18
SOG: 63 | +/-: 2
KEEP AN EYE ON

Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele was fantasy relevant last season before an MCL sprain ended his campaign in early March. The 21-year-old has stayed healthy through 34 games in 2014-15 but has been streaky to say the least. However, his two recent three-point games (Dec. 11 and Dec. 16) and points in four of five have made him an attractive fantasy option again in deep formats. He's centering Mathieu Perreault and Michael Frolik at even strength and sees second-unit power-play action for the Jets (2:26 power-play ice time per game; six power-play points), yet is owned in 13 percent of Yahoo leagues. He may be only center eligible, but he's quietly moving up the ladder.


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 Brock Nelson, C (+6)
2 Tyler Seguin, C/RW (SAME) 52 Marian Hossa, RW (-6)
3 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (SAME) 53 Gabriel Landeskog, LW (-3)
4 Claude Giroux, C/RW (+1) 54 Mike Ribeiro, C (+2)
5 Steven Stamkos, C/RW (-1) 55 Marian Gaborik, LW/RW (+22)
6 Ryan Getzlaf, C (SAME) 56 Johnny Gaudreau, LW (+7)
7 Patrick Kane, C/RW (SAME) 57 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW (-8)
8 Jakub Voracek, RW (SAME) 58 David Backes, C/RW (-3)
9 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW (SAME) 59 David Krejci, C (NR - IR)
10 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (+4) 60 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C (SAME)
11 Phil Kessel, RW (SAME) 61 Nick Foligno, LW (SAME)
12 Rick Nash, LW/RW (SAME) 62 Blake Wheeler, RW (-4)
13 Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW (SAME) 63 Milan Lucic, LW (-4)
14 John Tavares, C (-4) 64 Derek Stepan, C (+3)
15 Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW (SAME) 65 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW (-1)
16 Zach Parise, LW (SAME) 66 Brandon Saad, LW/RW (-13)
17 Jamie Benn, LW/C (SAME) 67 Jason Pominville, RW (-1)
18 Jonathan Toews, C (SAME) 68 Jarome Iginla, RW (+1)
19 Nicklas Backstrom, C (+3) 69 Steve Downie, LW/RW - DTD
20 Patric Hornqvist, RW (SAME) 70 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C (+17)
21 Tyler Johnson, C/RW  (+3) 71 Kris Versteeg, LW/RW (+2)
22 Logan Couture, LW/C (-1) 72 Tyler Bozak, C (-7)
23 Ryan Johansen, C/RW (SAME) 73 Eric Staal, C (-3)
24 Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C (-5) 74 Tyler Toffoli, RW (-12)
25 Chris Kunitz, LW (NR - IR) 75 Andrew Ladd, LW (-7)
26 Patrick Sharp, LW/C (+1) 76 Johan Franzen, LW/RW (-5)
27 Daniel Sedin, LW (-2) 77 Alexander Steen, LW/C (-3)
28 Max Pacioretty, LW (+5) 78 Evander Kane, LW (+7)
29 Taylor Hall, LW/C (-1) 79 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C (-4)
30 Ryan Kesler, C/RW (+4) 80 Ondrej Palat, LW (-8)
31 Henrik Sedin, C (-5) 81 Brad Marchand, LW (+2)
32 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C (-1) 82 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW (+15)
33 Radim Vrbata, RW (-3) 83 Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C (-7)
34 Anze Kopitar, C (+18) 84 Tomas Tatar, LW (-4)
35 Wayne Simmonds, RW (-6) 85 Derick Brassard, C (-4)
36 Joe Thornton, C (SAME) 86 Brayden Schenn, LW/C (-8)
37 Kyle Okposo, RW (-5) 87 Carl Soderberg, LW/C (+3)
38 James van Riemsdyk, LW (+2) 88 Tommy Wingels, RW (-4)
39 James Neal, LW/RW (SAME) 89 Jaromir Jagr, RW (-10)
40 Martin St. Louis, C/RW (-5) 90 Brad Richards, LW/C - DTD
41 Patrice Bergeron, C (SAME) 91 Antoine Roussel, LW (+7)
42 Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW (+1) 92 Bryan Little, C/RW (-3)
43 Jason Spezza, C (-5) 93 Ryan Strome, C/RW (-5)
44 Jeff Carter, C/RW (+10) 94 Tomas Plekanec, C (-3)
45 Jori Lehtera, C (-3) 95 Blake Comeau, LW (NEW)
46 Matt Duchene, LW/C (-9) 96 Sean Monahan, C (-3)
47 Jiri Hudler, LW/RW (SAME) 97 Tyler Ennis, LW/C (-1)
48 Ryan Callahan, RW (SAME) 98 Matt Beleskey, LW (+2)
49 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW (-4) 99 Mika Zibanejad, C/RW (NEW)
50 Patrick Marleau, LW/C (-6) 100 Brendan Gallagher, RW (NEW)

Just Missed: Antoine Vermette, Jonathan Drouin, Craig Smith, Thomas Vanek, Mark Scheifele, Alex Tanguay, Nick Bjugstad, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Troy Brouwer, Kyle Turris

Dropped out: Vermette, Bjugstad, Nazem Kadri, Mike Santorelli

Key injuries: Corey Perry, Jaden Schwartz, Scott Hartnell, Pascal Dupuis, Valeri Nichushkin

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

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