Skip to main content

Fantasy top 100 forwards: Rise of Columbus' Foligno

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

This fantasy season has been a big surprise party. Late-round draft picks and waiver-wire pickups have run rampant and turned out to be elite-level forwards.

No exaggeration.

In my top 20 fantasy forward rankings alone, three players (Vladimir Tarasenko, Tyler Johnson, Filip Forsberg) were drafted on average in the 10th round or later in Yahoo leagues.

But one player who has especially mystified fantasy owners (in a good way, if he's on your team) is Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets. All of a sudden, he's one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the game.

He was a valuable deep-league fantasy asset last season, but for mostly different reasons than he is now. Drafted on average with the 140th pick in Yahoo leagues, Foligno has shocked the fantasy world with the second-highest shooting percentage (21.5) among qualifying leaders. Entering Tuesday, he's tied for ninth in the NHL in goals (17), leads the Blue Jackets in scoring (35 points in 36 games) and is tied with Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers for the League lead among forwards with 18 power-play points.

That's right. Foligno has more power-play points than Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin, among others.

Before you try to make sense of what you just read, let's dive into five reasons for Foligno's incredible first half of the 2014-15 season.

1. Selective shooting:

Foligno has been a star in terms of true shooting percentage, an advanced metric measuring goals to total attempts (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots). According to sportingcharts.com, Foligno has the best rate League-wide this season at 14.78%. The next best percentage is Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets (11.81%). Foligno hasn't wasted many opportunities in the offensive zone with shots that missed the cage. He's taking more shots on goal per game (2.2) than he did last season (1.6) while being more effective than any other player in the NHL in terms of quality attempts. He also led the team in shooting percentage last season (16.2), meaning he's been able to sustain a high conversion rate.

Nick Foligno
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 6 GAMES
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 35
SOG: 79 | PPP: 18 (T-1st)
2. Staying out of the box:

Last season, Foligno was in elite fantasy company for category coverage of points and penalty minutes. Only Wayne Simmonds (60), David Backes (57), Scott Hartnell (52) and Brandon Dubinsky (50) had more points than Foligno (39) among forwards with at least 96 PIMs. This season, Foligno is on pace for 45 PIMs. Despite the dip, fantasy owners are reaping the benefits of him logging over three minutes more of ice time per game with his heightened production in a number of categories. The tradeoff heavily outweighs his previous value.

3. Power-play role:

Of those three-plus minutes of added ice time per game, Foligno is seeing 2:55 per game with the man advantage compared to 1:44 of such minutes on average last season. The result has been a significant boost in total points. Per sportingcharts.com, only Simmonds (14 PPP/25 points, 56 percent) has earned a higher percentage of his points with the man advantage than Foligno (18 PPP/35 points, 51.4 percent) among players with double-digit power-play points this season. Translation: Foligno's owners are having a field day as he doubles up in the points and PPP categories regularly.

4. Right place at right time

Entering 2014-15, Boone Jenner was coming off an impressive postseason and Hartnell was in the picture after being traded to the Blue Jackets. Therefore, Foligno was projected to play third-line left wing – as he did for a chunk of last season. But the team's early-season injuries opened up an opportunity for Foligno to play top-line minutes, and he hasn’t looked back. After a rough start, Columbus (17-17-3) has inched back into contention – largely due in part to Foligno's offensive prowess and current four-game point streak (one goal, four assists).

5. Ryan Johansen

Last but not least, Johansen has centered Foligno's line for most of the season and has had a profound impact on his improvement in multiple categories, especially his strides with the man advantage. Foligno and Johansen have formed the League's sixth-best point pair (21 team goals with each recording a point) and are tied for the top power-play point pair (11 team power-play goals with each recording a point).


Patrick Sharp
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 6 GAMES
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 20
SOG: 116 | +/-: -4
TRENDING UP

Patrick Sharp, LW/C, Chicago Blackhawks

Sharp has missed 14 games because of injury this season, but he's shooting the puck at the second-highest rate League-wide (4.6 per game) behind only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (4.9). In 2013-14, Sharp finished second in shots on goal (313 in 82 games), so this is not an aberration. With Kris Versteeg sidelined, Sharp is back among the Blackhawks' top-six group alongside Brad Richards and Patrick Kane. He navigated through his initial stint in a depth role and has three goals, two assists, two power-play points and 25 shots on goal over his four-game point streak. Consider him a top-25 forward the rest of the way.

TRENDING DOWN

Jason Spezza, C, Dallas Stars

Spezza had his moments alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn earlier in the season, but Dallas' decision to spread out its resources has not helped the veteran's cause. Colton Sceviour (C/RW, one percent owned in Yahoo leagues) is flanking those two frequently at even strength of late, while Spezza has fallen into a dry spell on the second line. Spezza hasn't scored a goal since Dec. 13 (nine-game drought) and has been limited to two assists, no PPP and eight SOG over his past six games.

Antoine Vermette
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 6 GAMES
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 25
SOG: 57 | +/-: -11
KEEP AN EYE ON

Antoine Vermette (LW/C, Arizona Coyotes) and Jordan Eberle (RW, Edmonton Oilers)

Fantasy owners who missed out on the David Perron sweepstakes should stay ahead of the curve and inquire about Vermette and/or Eberle. Arizona and Edmonton are out of reach in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, so each could shop its assets to contenders with voids on the wing (e.g. Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars). Vermette (24 percent owned) is the Coyotes' most consistent forward, a faceoff workhorse and power-play specialist. Eberle, who has points in three straight games, is a prime buy-low option who isn't far removed from a 65-point, 20-PPP, 200-SOG season in 2013-14.


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Upward and downward trends are based on games since Dec. 23, 2014. 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 Ryan Callahan, RW (-3)
2 Tyler Seguin, C/RW (SAME) 52 David Perron, LW/RW (NEW)
3 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (SAME) 53 Steve Downie, LW/RW (+16)
4 Claude Giroux, C/RW - DTD 54 David Backes, C/RW (+4)
5 Steven Stamkos, C/RW (SAME) 55 Patrick Marleau, LW/C (-5)
6 Patrick Kane, C/RW (+1) 56 Derek Stepan, C (+8)
7 Ryan Getzlaf, C (-1) 57 Jori Lehtera, C (-12)
8 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW (+1) 58 Marian Gaborik, LW/RW (-3)
9 Jakub Voracek, RW (-1) 59 David Krejci, C (SAME)
10 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (SAME) 60 Blake Wheeler, RW (+2)
11 Rick Nash, LW/RW (+1) 61 Alexander Steen, LW/C (+16)
12 Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW (+1) 62 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW (-13)
13 John Tavares, C (+1) 63 Andrew Ladd, LW (+12)
14 Corey Perry, RW (NR - IR) 64 Gabriel Landeskog, LW (-11)
15 Phil Kessel, RW (-4) 65 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW (SAME)
16 Tyler Johnson, C/RW (+5) 66 Matt Duchene, LW/C (-20)
17 Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW (-2) 67 Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C (+16)
18 Zach Parise, LW (-2) 68 Brock Nelson, C (-17)
19 Jamie Benn, LW/C (-2) 69 Brandon Saad, LW/RW (-3)
20 Jonathan Toews, C (-2) 70 Ondrej Palat, LW (+10)
21 Nicklas Backstrom, C (-2) 71 Eric Staal, C (+2)
22 Max Pacioretty, LW (+6) 72 Jarome Iginla, RW (-4)
23 Patrick Sharp, LW/C (+3) 73 Jason Pominville, RW (-6)
24 Ryan Johansen, C/RW (-1) 74 Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C (-4)
25 Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C (-1) 75 Tyler Toffoli, RW (-1)
26 Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW (+16) 76 Milan Lucic, LW (-13)
27 Daniel Sedin, LW (SAME) 77 Derick Brassard, C (+8)
28 Logan Couture, LW/C (-6) 78 Tomas Tatar, LW (+6)
29 Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C (+3) 79 Brad Richards, LW/C (+11)
30 Henrik Sedin, C (+1) 80 Scott Hartnell, LW (NR - IR)
31 Anze Kopitar, C (+3) 81 Brad Marchand, LW (SAME)
32 Radim Vrbata, RW - DTD 82 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW (SAME)
33 James van Riemsdyk, LW (+5) 83 Bryan Little, C/RW (+9)
34 Chris Kunitz, LW (-9) 84 Mike Cammalleri, LW/C (-24)
35 Taylor Hall, LW/C (-6) 85 Colin Wilson, LW/C (NEW)
36 Kyle Okposo, RW (+1) 86 Ryan Strome, C/RW (+7)
37 Martin St. Louis, C/RW (+3) 87 T.J. Oshie, C/RW (NEW)
38 Ryan Kesler, C/RW (-8) 88 Johan Franzen, LW/RW (-12)
39 James Neal, LW/RW - DTD 89 Jaromir Jagr, RW (SAME)
40 Wayne Simmonds, RW (-5) 90 Tyler Bozak, C (-18)
41 Patrice Bergeron, C (SAME) 91 Antoine Roussel, LW (SAME)
42 Mike Ribeiro, C (+12) 92 Matt Beleskey, LW (+6)
43 Jiri Hudler, LW/RW (+4) 93 Carl Soderberg, LW/C (-6)
44 Nick Foligno, LW (+17) 94 Valtteri Filppula, LW/C (-15)
45 Marian Hossa, RW (+7) 95 Brayden Schenn, LW/C (-9)
46 Johnny Gaudreau, LW (+10) 96 Nick Bjugstad, C (NEW)
47 Jaden Schwartz, LW (NR - IR) 97 Brendan Gallagher, RW (+3)
48 Gustav Nyquist, C/RW (+9) 98 Curtis Glencross, LW (NEW)
49 Jason Spezza, C (-6) 99 Sean Monahan, C (-3)
50 Jeff Carter, C/RW (-6) 100 Tomas Plekanec, C (-6)

Just Missed: Kyle Turris, Paul Stastny, Antoine Vermette, Craig Smith, Chris Kreider, Jordan Eberle, Thomas Vanek, Tommy Wingels, Mats Zuccarello, Mathieu Perreault

Dropped out: Wingels, Tyler Ennis, Mika Zibanejad

Key injuries: Patric Hornqvist, Joe Thornton, Kris Versteeg, Evander Kane, Blake Comeau, Valeri Nichushkin, Pascal Dupuis

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

---

View More