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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Ranks entering offseason

by Pete Jensen / NHL.com

After six months of setting lineups, swinging trades and scouring the waiver wire, we're reaching the finish line of another thrilling fantasy season. Whether you've won your fantasy championship or fallen short of the ultimate goal, most would agree that 2014-15 has been defined by its surprises.

This season has proven how valuable under-the-radar forwards can be. Preseason standouts Filip Forsberg and Nikita Kucherov have been mainstays among the top 30, Rick Nash has bounced back with 40-plus goals, and Jakub Voracek has been among the League's top point-scorers all season. The Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators have become unlikely sources of fantasy power, while traditional regular-season juggernauts (Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks) have left much to be desired. Some forwards have taken the next step in their careers (Vladimir Tarasenko, Max Pacioretty), while others have seen their value plummet (Phil Kessel, Patrick Sharp).

With the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the horizon, let's reflect on the storylines that have defined the fantasy forward landscape and look ahead to the offseason.

STARTING AT THE TOP

Sidney Crosby entered the season as the top-ranked fantasy forward and is in line for another scoring title, but Alex Ovechkin's transition to Barry Trotz's system has resulted in the best category coverage of any skater in the League, and ultimately the No. 1 distinction.

Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals, power-play goals, shots on goal and is tied for second in points, and second in power-play points. He has nearly doubled the League's second-highest total in multigoal games, eclipsed 50 penalty minutes and bounced back from a minus-35 in 2013-14 with a plus-11 in 2014-15. The 29-year-old scored 10-plus goals in three consecutive months, reaffirming his status as a generational talent with record-breaking potential.

Alex Ovechkin
STATS PRIOR TO APR. 7 GAMES
GOALS: 52 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 80
SOG: 389 | +/-: 11
After Ovechkin and Crosby, there have been many players jockeying for position. John Tavares and Steven Stamkos, ranked in my preseason top five, have been League leaders in multiple categories. Tarasenko has been a breakout star, and the duo of Claude Giroux and Voracek has formed the League's best power-play point pair. Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane and Evgeni Malkin, who have dual position eligibility in Yahoo, have been as valuable as anyone when healthy, but injuries capped their production.

MOVING ON UP

Jakub Voracek - Voracek's most prolific season prior to 2014-15 was 2012-13, when he shot 17 percent in 48 games. He's shooting 10.3 percent this season and has been a point-per-game player through 79 games alongside Giroux. He's also posted a career-best 78 penalty minutes to go along with 200-plus SOG, making him the third-ranked player in Yahoo behind only Ovechkin and Carey Price.

Vladimir Tarasenko - Tarasenko ranks sixth in goals per 60 minutes (1.61) behind only the heavyweights. He was ranked fifth in Yahoo's overall rankings prior to his injury in March and is still among the League's top 10 in goals, points, plus-minus and SOG. The 23-year-old wing has provided the most value for any player drafted on average outside the top 150 in Yahoo, and will be a first-round target for years to come.

Nikita Kucherov
STATS PRIOR TO APR. 7 GAMES
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 33 | PTS: 61
SOG: 186 | +/-: 37
The Triplets Line - This sophomore trio combined for 190 points. Kucherov, drafted in three percent of Yahoo leagues, ranks second in plus-minus (plus-37), with Tyler Johnson (plus-33, 3rd) and Ondrej Palat (plus-30, T-5th) close behind. The Tampa Bay Lightning shuffled their lines for much of the season, but this unit has stuck together and thrived at even strength. Each was drafted outside the top 140 in Yahoo.

Jiri Hudler - Hudler leads all skaters in even-strength points (56). He has been one of the League's most consistent players all season, and rising stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau have fed off their veteran linemate. Hudler is among the top 10 in scoring after being drafted on average with the 165th pick in Yahoo, and is also nearing a career-high in SOG. His shooting percentage (19.3, second in NHL) is a big reason for his spike, but he'll remain a commodity if he sticks with these youngsters next season.

Nick Foligno - Foligno's shooting rate is also high (17.5, T-6th), but only slightly better than his 2013-14 percentage (16.2). He has busted out for 70 points on the season (26 on power play), shattering his previous career-high (47). He stepped in alongside Ryan Johansen for much of the first half and then sustained his production on another line once his team recuperated. He has the third-highest percentage by a forward on Yahoo's most valuable player list (frequency among top 500 Yahoo public league teams), making him a gigantic steal after only being drafted in five percent of leagues (ADP: 139).

Honorable mentions: Radim Vrbata (ADP: 154), Forsberg (118), Tomas Plekanec (160), Patric Hornqvist (104), Derick Brassard (161), Mark Stone (undrafted on average)

BOUNCE-BACK CANDIDATES

Corey Perry - Perry will be undervalued entering next season after missing 15 games because of injury/illness and finishing outside Yahoo's top 50. He's salvaged the season with 60-plus PIMs, a plus-15 and a high shooting percentage (17.5), enabling him to rank third in goals per 60 (1.68) behind only Ovechkin and Nash. His assists per game are down (.48 in 2013-14; .32 in 2014-15) and he has struggled with consistency since returning, but the Anaheim Ducks forward should still be viewed as an elite fantasy asset alongside Ryan Getzlaf. Target him in the second or third round next fall.

Nathan MacKinnon
STATS PRIOR TO APR. 7 GAMES
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 38
SOG: 192 | +/-: -7
Nathan MacKinnon - Expect the Colorado Avalanche to prioritize defensive needs and find the right combination for MacKinnon this offseason, after he only converted on 7.3 percent of his attempts on net, fourth-worst among forwards with three-plus SOG per game. The silver lining on MacKinnon's disappointing season was his shooting percentage correction (five goals on final 11 SOG) prior to his injury and his strong possession numbers relative to when he wasn't on the ice (eighth League-wide in shot attempts relative among skaters with 50-plus games played).

Taylor Hall - Hall has missed a large chunk of time and was a big disappointment when in the lineup prior to his injury, but has six points in eight games since returning. The Edmonton Oilers need scoring depth, and having Hall maximize a line separate from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle at even strength has worked well down the stretch. He has scored 80 points and taken 250 SOG for Edmonton in 2013-14, so retain this 23-year-old in keeper formats.

Other bounce-back candidates: Patrick Sharp, Matt Duchene, Mikko Koivu, Evander Kane, Phil Kessel, Brandon Dubinsky, James van Riemsdyk, David Krejci

OFFSEASON PREVIEW

Martin St. Louis
STATS PRIOR TO APR. 7 GAMES
GOALS: 21 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 49
SOG: 136 | +/-: 10
Free Agency: Notable pending unrestricted free agents include Martin St. Louis and Jaromir Jagr, each of whom can still be fantasy-relevant despite their age. ... If St. Louis leaves New York, Kevin Hayes could see elevated production after excelling in a depth role. ... If Jagr stays with the Florida Panthers, linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are potential late-round steals. ... Other potential UFAs with fantasy upside include Mike Ribeiro, Justin Williams, Carl Soderberg, Drew Stafford, Michael Frolik, Matt Beleskey and Steve Downie.

Trade watch: The Toronto Maple Leafs have decisions to make after their second-half downfall on whether to keep or deal Kessel and/or van Riemsdyk. ... Eric Staal will be entering the final year of his contract in 2015-16, so the Carolina Hurricanes could resort to moving him during the summer depending on their long-term direction. ... Depending on how the Sharks' organization responds to a rare playoff miss, Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau also could be on the move if they waive their no-trade clauses.

KEEP AN EYE ON

"McEichel" sweepstakes

The upcoming offseason will revolve around highly touted forward prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel ahead of the 2015 NHL Draft on June 26-27. Considering the sizable impact of recent rookies, it's not crazy to begin targeting McDavid and/or Eichel in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next fall. It's also worth monitoring buy-low/sleeper candidates who could operate alongside McDavid or Eichel as early as next season. These could range from Evander Kane or Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres to Mikkel Boedker or Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes.


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These are the final fantasy forward rankings for the 2014-15 NHL season -- including players that are or were injured. These rankings are based on how players performed this season, but also take into account expectations for next season. Use these rankings as a basis for deciding which players you should retain in keeper leagues from this season to next. Factors taken into account include potential changes in scenery (trade or free agency), injury history, breakout potential, regression, age, etc.

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

In the mix: Brayden Schenn (LW/C, PHI), Jonathan Drouin (LW/RW, TBL), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL, LW/C), Thomas Vanek (LW/RW, MIN), David Krejci (C, BOS), Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Cam Atkinson (RW, CBJ), Mike Cammalleri (LW/C, NJD), Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, OTT), Valeri Nichushkin (RW, DAL), Steve Downie (LW/RW, PIT; UFA), Mikael Granlund (C, MIN), Alex Tanguay (LW/RW, COL), Loui Eriksson (LW/RW, BOS), Max Domi (C, ARI)

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