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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Tavares on an Island

by Pete Jensen

Every Tuesday during the season, fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen provides in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top-100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen is your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

The New York Islanders are 19-12-5 and currently in Stanley Cup Playoff position with the third-most points in the Metropolitan Division. Their goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, are each among the League leaders in goals-against average and save percentage. Their point percentage (0.5972) is tied for eighth in the NHL. Their penalty kill (87.3 percent) ranks second in the League.

But they have a growing problem: Their best player has his hands full and isn't producing anywhere near his capability.

As we approach the midway point of the 2015-16 season, John Tavares has been a huge fantasy disappointment considering what was expected of him. John Tavares, drafted fifth on average in Yahoo leagues, had 86 points in 82 games last season, one behind Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars (87) for the NHL scoring title. Since 2011-12, he's tied with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fifth-most points League-wide.

Tavares has 25 points in 33 games, exactly one half of Patrick Kane's NHL-best total of 50 in 37 games. Forwards like Mikkel Boedker, Lee Stempniak and Kyle Palmieri are currently higher than Tavares on the NHL leaderboard. If it wasn't for Crosby struggling to a similar degree with the Penguins sitting outside of the postseason picture, there would be much more attention paid to Tavares' struggles.

The 25-year-old has points in only two of his past 10 games (one goal, two assists) and the second-most giveaways among forwards this season (35). That stat doesn't tell the whole story, considering Benn, who plays in a high-event, up-tempo system in Dallas, leads the League with 43 and has been arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the NHL. But Tavares' dip in production boils down to his home-road split stats. He's been up to snuff at Barclays Center in Brooklyn with 18 points in as many games. His road splits are much more concerning, with six goals, one assist and a 47.73 road faceoff win percentage (nearly 10 percent worse than his home mark).

Part of the problem is his shot attempts percentage has dipped from 54.92 in 2014-15 to 48.82 in 2015-16, as has the Islanders' rate (49.71, 16th, compared to last season, 52.79, 7th). He's not getting consistent help around him and his team isn't maintaining puck possession. Kyle Okposo, who leads the Islanders in points with 26 in 34 games, has had five multipoint games and three three-point games. All in all, Okposo has at least a point in 18 of his 34 games, putting him outside the top 50 League-wide in most such games. Frans Nielsen, New York's next most reliable forward, has at least a point in only 16 of his 36 games.

John Tavares
John Tavares
Center - NYI
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 25
SOG: 96 | +/-: -4
In an effort to spark his slumping forward group, Islanders coach Jack Capuano elevated Anders Lee and Josh Bailey to Tavares' wings at practice Monday. Tavares' most frequent linemates this season have been Okposo and Brock Nelson, but Lee, who scored most of his 25 goals last season playing alongside Tavares, gets a much-needed opportunity to latch on with his former linemate; and vice versa for Tavares, who needs a spark. Tavares' power-play production is down (seven power-play points), and New York (18.2 percent; 19th) has struggled to bounce back after not scoring a power-play goal in its first-round playoff series last spring.

Speaking of slumps, Lee has four goals and 15 points this season in 36 games, but does have 80 SOG and net-front savvy, so be mindful of his dual eligibility (C/LW) and low ownership in Yahoo leagues (26 percent). Tavares, meanwhile, is a prime buy-low candidate considering his stock is the lowest it has been since he reached the point-per-game realm. He's currently on pace for 59 points in 79 games, but could still feasibly eclipse 70 if the Islanders address this issue sooner than later via line changes, a trade to acquire a top-flight wing and/or a coaching change.

But fantasy owners can't help but be concerned with yet another shuffle of Tavares' linemates and the Islanders' inability to maximize production of their promising young forwards (i.e. Nelson, Lee, Ryan Strome). Whether Tavares' dip in production is injury-related, systemic or simply a matter of him trying to do too much with limited resources, it has severely impacted his fantasy value. If it's not fixed, it will deter the Islanders in their quest to win their first playoff series since 1993 and contend for the Stanley Cup.


James van Riemsdyk, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

James van Riemsdyk
James van Riemsdyk
Left Wing - TOR
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 25
SOG: 111 | +/-: 4
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has moved JVR back alongside longtime linemate Tyler Bozak after he played most of the season with Nazem Kadri (26 percent owned), and the results have been excellent. Van Riemsdyk has six goals, three assists, a plus-7 and 34 SOG in his torrid seven-game stretch. His shot volume has been high in each of the past three seasons, but his once-dwindling fantasy stock has been revitalized under Babcock. Bozak has 24 points (eight PPP) in 30 games this season and is worth a flier off the waiver wire at 18 percent owned. Kadri, who's among the League's top 15 in SOG (116), has also benefited from the change with a five-game point streak (one goal, six assists).


Andrew Ladd, LW, Winnipeg Jets

With Mark Scheifele sidelined because of a concussion, the Winnipeg Jets shuffled their lines with Drew Stafford moving alongside Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Scheifele's other frequent linemate, Mathieu Perreault, is now centering a line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Chris Thorburn. This doesn't bode well for Ladd, who is in the midst of a slump and now on the third line with Alexander Burmistrov and Adam Lowry. Ladd has been held without a point in six of his past eight games, and is 148th in Yahoo's performance-based rankings after finishing 26th in 2014-15. He's in a contract year and his production has fallen off in a number of fantasy categories at the wrong time. Stafford (LW/RW, 30 percent owned; 11 goals), meanwhile, has a chance to gain consistency with this linemate upgrade.


Florida Panthers' second line

Jussi Jokinen
Jussi Jokinen
Left Wing - FLA
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 23
SOG: 69 | +/-: 6
Who's responsible for the Florida Panthers' ascension near the top of the Atlantic Division? Goaltender Roberto Luongo, defenseman Aaron Ekblad and the first line of Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau lead the list, but Florida's second line has stepped up minus Nick Bjugstad (out since Nov. 29 with injury). Jussi Jokinen (C/LW/RW, 24 percent), Reilly Smith (LW/RW, 15 percent) and Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, 16 percent) have 20 or more points apiece this season and are readily available in Yahoo leagues. That trio has combined for 20 points in the Panthers' past nine games and is becoming more and more fantasy-relevant by the day. Any of those three are worth adding on a short-term basis, especially tri-eligible Jokinen. But Bjugstad (30 percent) should also be considered if he has been dropped in your league, as he's nearing a return and could assume the center spot on that line.


— With David Krejci injured on a week-to-week basis, Ryan Spooner should see added ice time and a heightened role for the Boston Bruins. Spooner, who normally plays on Boston's third line and first power-play unit, is one of five Bruins with 20-plus points on the season (22) and one of four to hit double digits in points with the man-advantage (10). He has cooled off of late with no points in his past four games, but is worth monitoring at 22 percent owned.

— With the New Jersey Devils being held to one goal in four of the past five games, the top line of Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak has been broken up. Cammalleri skated with fellow fantasy steal Kyle Palmieri at practice Monday. Travis Zajac (10 percent owned), who has 15 points (six on power play) and a plus-4 in 28 games, is the center on that line and should see a value spike if he stays healthy and sticks with those two.

— The Colorado Avalanche separated Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene following the NHL's Christmas break, and the move paid dividends Monday. MacKinnon skated with veterans Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay (five percent owned) for the second straight game and had a hat trick against the San Jose Sharks, snapping a 14-game goal drought. Duchene also scored a goal, which was assisted by John Mitchell and Andreas Martinsen. It remains to be seen how long this experiment of having MacKinnon, Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog (who's with Blake Comeau and Carl Soderberg) on different lines will last, but Colorado is suddenly back in the thick of the Western Conference wild card picture.


These rankings are based on expectations for this season. Value is quantified by line combinations, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal).

1 Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI (SAME) 51 Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET (+2)
2 Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (SAME) 52 Dylan Larkin, C/LW, DET (DTD)
3 Jamie Benn, LW, DAL (+1) 53 Sean Monahan, C, CGY (SAME)
4 Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (-1) 54 Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (NR - INJ.)
5 Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (SAME) 55 Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (SAME)
6 Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (SAME) 56 David Backes, C/RW, STL (SAME)
7 Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (SAME) 57 Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (+1)
8 Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (SAME) 58 Max Domi, C/LW, ARI (+1)
9 Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM (SAME) 59 Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (-5)
10 Joe Pavelski, C/LW/RW, SJS (SAME) 60 Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (+1)
11 Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (SAME) 61 Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI (-1)
12 Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (SAME) 62 Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (-5)
13 Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (+2) 63 Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (-1)
14 John Tavares, C, NYI (-1) 64 Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (+1)
15 Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (+3) 65 Mark Stone, RW, OTT (+2)
16 Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (SAME) 66 Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (SAME)
17 Zach Parise, LW, MIN (SAME) 67 Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (+2)
18 Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (-4) 68 Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+3)
19 Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (SAME) 69 James van Riemsdyk, LW, TOR (+9)
20 Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH (SAME) 70 Evander Kane, LW, BUF (-2)
21 Corey Perry, RW, ANA (SAME) 71 Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (+6)
22 Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (+4) 72 Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (-8)
23 Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, DAL (+6) 73 Gustav Nyquist, C/LW/RW, DET (-3)
24 Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL (SAME) 74 Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, DET (-2)
25 Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (-2) 75 Jack Eichel, C, BUF (+1)
26 Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET (-1) 76 Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (-3)
27 Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (SAME) 77 Eric Staal, C/LW, CAR (-3)
28 Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (DTD) 78 Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (+2)
29 Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (+2) 79 Victor Rask, C, CAR (SAME)
30 Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL (SAME) 80 Joe Thornton, C, SJS (+5)
31 Phil Kessel, RW, PIT (-3) 81 Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (-6)
32 Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (+8) 82 Justin Williams, RW, WSH (SAME)
33 Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (+1) 83 Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (SAME)
34 Mike Cammalleri, C/LW, NJD (-1) 84 Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (SAME)
35 Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI (-3) 85 Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT (-4)
36 Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, BUF (+1) 86 Patrick Marleau, C/LW, SJS (SAME)
37 Kyle Turris, C, OTT (-1) 87 Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (SAME)
38 Jason Spezza, C, DAL (-3) 88 Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, NJD (SAME)
39 Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (+5) 89 Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, MIN (SAME)
40 Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (+2) 90 Boone Jenner, C/RW, CBJ (+1)
41 Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (-2) 91 Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI (+7)
42 Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (-4) 92 Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (+2)
43 Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (-2) 93 Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA (+4)
44 James Neal, LW/RW, NSH (+2) 94 Mikael Granlund, C, MIN (-2)
45 Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ (SAME) 95 Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, MTL (SAME)
46 Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (-3) 96 Jeff Skinner, LW/RW, CAR (SAME)
47 Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (+2) 97 Ryan Spooner, C/LW, BOS (NEW)
48 Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK (+3) 98 Derek Stepan, C, NYR (+2)
49 Leon Draisaitl, C/RW, EDM (-2) 99 Jason Pominville, RW, MIN (SAME)
50 T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH (-2) 100 Tyler Bozak, C, TOR (NEW)

Just missed: Adam Henrique (C/LW, NJD), Justin Abdelkader (LW/RW, DET), Leo Komarov (C/LW, TOR), Jussi Jokinen (C/LW/RW, FLA), Cam Atkinson (RW, CBJ), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, EDM), Nick Foligno (C/LW, CBJ), Joel Ward (RW, SJS), Brandon Dubinsky (C/LW, CBJ), Artem Anisimov (C/LW, CHI), Marian Gaborik (RW, LAK), Nazem Kadri (C, TOR), Jannik Hansen (RW, VAN), Mika Zibanejad (C/RW, OTT), Sam Reinhart (C, BUF)

Dropped out: Henrique, Valeri Nichushkin

Key injuries: David Krejci (C, BOS), Brendan Gallagher (RW, MTL), Connor McDavid (C, EDM), Logan Couture (C/LW, SJS), Mark Scheifele (C, WPG), Ondrej Palat (LW, TBL), Nick Bjugstad (C, FLA), Martin Hanzal (C, ARI), Jaden Schwartz (LW, STL)


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