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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Pavelski, Steen avoid dip

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

Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks and Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues were two of the fantasy crown jewels of the 2013-14 NHL season. Each posted career-best shooting percentages of 18.2 and 15.6, respectively.

Entering 2014-15, the law of averages indicated each would come back to Earth. But while their high shooting rates have regressed (Pavelski: 16.1; Steen: 10.9), their fantasy value has hardly dipped.

The common denominator is quantity of shifts and first-rate scoring chances each generates (and converts on) for his respective team.

Steen leads all forwards in shifts per game over the past two seasons. Pavelski has joined him in each of those among the top 10. Each has put forth a high shots on goal per game average, managing over three apiece per game this season. A bulk of their shots and goals come in net-front situations or from the doorstep.

Just take a quick look at their ice tracking data comparison on sportingcharts.com. These are opportunistic shooters who have mastered the knack of creating high-percentage opportunities for themselves.

Each has multi-position eligibility in Yahoo leagues (Pavelski: LW/C/RW; Steen: LW/C) and is averaging upwards of 0.9 points per game over the past two seasons combined.

Pavelski, a mainstay among the top 15 fantasy forwards this season, has jumped to No. 10 this week because, frankly, he deserves the recognition. He scored another two goals Monday, with his power-play marker drawing him even with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead (14). Pavelski finished second in that category with 16 last season behind Ovechkin (24).

Steen, meanwhile, has the most points (20) League-wide since the calendar turned to 2015. He has seven multi-point efforts in a 12-game span since Jan. 2 and has enabled his linemates David Backes and T.J. Oshie to get back on the fantasy grid after forgettable starts. Steen missed time last season because of injury but has played in 47 of St. Louis' 49 games this season and has finally found his way back into the top 25 this week. Like Pavelski, he has done a ton of his damage with the man-advantage (3:33 of power play ice time per game; 18 PPP).

As hockey analytics continues to evolve, the needle will move away from shooting percentage being a standalone reason to avoid reaching for a forward fresh off a breakout season. Pavelski and Steen are examples of how sudden success can be sustainable if players stick to their hot spots and instincts.


TRENDING UP

Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 3 GAMES
GOALS: 31 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 48
SOG: 248 | +/-: 11
I've given reigning scoring champ Sidney Crosby the benefit of the doubt to this point in light of injuries and line changes throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, but the combination of Sid's offensive struggles (one point in his past five games; two eight-game goalless droughts) and Ovechkin's surge have led to a rare changing of the guard. Ovechkin had his fourth two-goal game in seven games, cementing himself as one of five in League history with at least 30 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons. He leads the League in goals (31), multigoal games (nine), shots on goal (248) and is on pace for his best plus-minus rating since 2010-11. Over 60 percent of his points this season have come at even strength, a significant improvement after relying on power-play situations for nearly half of his points from 2012-13 to 2013-14 (66 of 135 points on the power play over span). Ovi, whose dual eligibility gives him an edge over Crosby, still hasn't missed a beat with the man advantage (14 PPG, T-1st in NHL; 19 PPP, T-13th) and has diversified his game for the better under Capitals coach Barry Trotz.

TRENDING DOWN

Brandon Saad, LW/RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Saad has racked up 24 shots on goal in his past five games, but none have found the back of the net. Playing the vast majority of his even-strength minutes alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa this season, Saad has gone pointless in 25 of his 50 games and has three power-play points despite 2:02 per game in those situations. Although Saad's stock has plummeted this week, fantasy owners should jump on any impatient owners looking to unload him on the cheap. It's tough to consider him a top-75 forward at this juncture, but it's important to not lose sight of his long-term upside.

Cedric Paquette
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 3 GAMES
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 16
SOG: 65 | +/-: 5
KEEP AN EYE ON

Cedric Paquette, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

We've been raving about Tampa Bay's forward arsenal all season long, and the trend continues with Paquette's emergence in a third-line role alongside Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn. Paquette, 21, has five goals, one assist and is a plus-5 during his current four-game point streak, highlighted by his hat trick in a big-time win against the Detroit Red Wings last week. The Bolts now have nine players with 10 or more goals, which leads the League. While his staying power remains up in the air given the team's frequent line fluctuations, Paquette (56.2 Corsi-for percentage, according to puckalytics.com) is a strong possession player for his age and only three percent owned. Don't sleep on his upside down the stretch.


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Upward and downward trends are based on games since Jan. 27, 2015. 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 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (+4) 51 Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (+2)
2 Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (+1) 52 Tomas Tatar, LW, DET (-5)
3 Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (-2) 53 Marian Gaborik, LW/RW, LAK (-2)
4 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT - DTD 54 Derek Stepan, C, NYR (-2)
5 Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (-1) 55 Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (SAME)
6 Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI (+1) 56 Ryan Callahan, RW, TBL (-4)
7 Steven Stamkos, C/RW, TBL (-1) 57 Milan Lucic, LW, BOS (+5)
8 Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (SAME) 58 Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (-4)
9 Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (SAME) 59 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (SAME)
10 Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW, SJS (+2) 60 David Krejci, C, BOS (+1)
11 John Tavares, C, NYI (+2) 61 Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (+8)
12 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (-1) 62 Eric Staal, LW/C, CAR (+4)
13 Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (-3) 63 Jiri Hudler, LW/RW, CGY (-3)
14 Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (+2) 64 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (+4)
15 Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (+2) 65 Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH (-8)
16 Corey Perry, RW, ANA (-2) 66 Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (-2)
17 Tyler Johnson, C/RW, TBL (-2) 67 Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (+5)
18 Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (SAME) 68 Colin Wilson, LW/C, NSH (-3)
19 Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW, NSH (SAME) 69 Patrick Marleau, LW/C, SJS (+2)
20 Zach Parise, LW, MIN (+1) 70 Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (+7)
21 Jamie Benn, LW/C, DAL (+1) 71 Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (+2)
22 Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (-2) 72 Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL (-5)
23 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C, DET (+2) 73 Derick Brassard, C, NYR (-15)
24 Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C, DET (SAME) 74 Steve Downie, LW/RW, PIT (SAME)
25 Alexander Steen, LW/C, STL (+3) 75 Matt Duchene, LW/C, COL (+3)
26 Patrick Sharp, LW/C, CHI (+4) 76 Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CHI (-6)
27 Phil Kessel, RW, TOR (-4) 77 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C, MTL (+7)
28 David Backes, C/RW, STL (+3) 78 Evander Kane, LW, WPG (-3)
29 Logan Couture, LW/C, SJS (-2) 79 Jason Pominville, RW, MIN (-3)
30 Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (-4) 80 Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (SAME)
31 Nick Foligno, LW, CBJ (+1) 81 Tyler Toffoli, RW, LAK (NR - IR)
32 Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW, TBL (-3) 82 Ryan Strome, C/RW, NYI (-3)
33 Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (SAME) 83 Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (+5)
34 David Perron, LW/RW, PIT (+1) 84 Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C, CBJ (-2)
35 Joe Thornton, C, SJS (+5) 85 Jori Lehtera, C, STL - DTD
36 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW, DET (SAME) 86 Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (+7)
37 Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (+8) 87 Mike Fisher, C, NSH (NEW)
38 James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR (SAME) 88 Sean Monahan, C, CGY (+11)
39 Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (SAME) 89 Brock Nelson, C, NYI (-4)
40 Martin St. Louis, C/RW, NYR (-6) 90 Craig Smith, C/RW, NSH (SAME)
41 James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (-4) 91 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C, NJD (+1)
42 Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (SAME) 92 Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG (-9)
43 Jason Spezza, C, DAL (+1) 93 Antoine Roussel, LW, DAL (-6)
44 Taylor Hall, LW/C, EDM - DTD 94 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS - DTD
45 Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (-4) 95 Paul Stastny, C, STL (SAME)
46 Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT (SAME) 96 Alex Tanguay, LW/RW, COL (+2)
47 Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (+1) 97 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C, TBL (NEW)
48 Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI (+8) 98 Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (-9)
49 Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA (SAME) 99 Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (NEW)
50 T.J. Oshie, C/RW, STL (+13) 100 Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET (-4)

Just Missed: Thomas Vanek, Brendan Gallagher, Carl Soderberg, Brad Richards, Jaromir Jagr, Mikael Backlund, Brayden Schenn, Reilly Smith, Matt Beleskey, Justin Williams

Dropped out: Gallagher, Soderberg, Richards, Nick Bjugstad

Key injuries: Kyle Okposo, Johan Franzen, Kris Versteeg, Blake Comeau, Mikkel Boedker, Tanner Pearson, Valeri Nichushkin, Pascal Dupuis

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

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