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Right of Way: Can Toronto's dynamic duo keep it up?

by Matt Cubeta
Every Friday during the season, fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy right wings in our weekly segment: "Right of Way." From updated right wing rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta is your fantasy right wing expert all season long.

When will Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul slow down?

Maybe they'll hit a cold streak when the Leafs embark on a lengthy road trip at the end of the month -- from Nov. 20 to Dec. 5, Toronto plays 6 of 7 games on the road. Maybe opposing teams will start to pay a bit more attention to the dynamic duo. Maybe the return of Tim Connolly will affect the chemistry they've found in the early stages of the season.

Or, perhaps they won't ever slow down. Maybe this is their season to shine and become mega-watt stars in the NHL.

Rated No. 81 coming into the 2011-12 season and drafted on average with the No. 69 pick in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, Kessel is currently the top-rated fantasy player (who knows why he's still available in 3 percent of Leagues). Through 13 games, the 6-foot right wing leads the NHL in goals (10) and points (21), is tied for the League lead in plus/minus (plus-10), is tied for second in assists (11) and is seventh in shots on goal (44). He has been a consistent performer all season, recording at least one point in 11 of his 13 games. He's receiving 19:33 of ice time per game, with 3:48 coming on the power play. There's not a flaw to be found in his game.

In a bigger surprise, his linemate, Lupul (who has LW and RW eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues), has been nearly as good. Rated No. 241 coming into the 2011-12 season and drafted on average with the No. 146 pick in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, Lupul is currently the third-rated overall fantasy player (second among all forwards -- Nikolai Khabibulin is rated second). Through 13 games, the 6-1 winger is tied for third in the NHL in goals (8) and points (16) and is tied for the League lead in plus/minus (plus-10). Lupul's one extra bonus in comparison to Kessel has been his penalty minute production with 18 PIMs. He has been almost equal to Kessel in consistency, recording at least one point in 10 of his 13 games. Lupul is receiving 17:39 of total ice time per game, with 3:43 coming on the power play. So far, there's not a flaw to be found in his game.

But can the Toronto tandem keep it up, especially in regard to fantasy impact?

We're here to say yes. Well, maybe not quite at this ridiculous pace -- Kessel would finish with 63 goals and 132 points, while Lupul would end with 50 goals and 100 points. We can't expect that type of production, but we do believe they can finish as elite fantasy players.

Kessel is obviously more of the sure thing because of his proven track record and his consistency (he's never appeared in less than 70 games in any of his five NHL seasons). Of course, Lupul comes with more risk -- but then again, he also came at a much larger discount on draft day or via the waiver wire.

Kessel's career-high in goals was 36 with the Bruins in 2008-09, while his 64-point season last year was his best for point production. Sure the 100-point pace is a big leap from 64, but Kessel could easily finish as a point-per-game player this season with a good chance at 40-plus goals.

Lupul's career-high in goals and points was 28 and 53 with the Ducks in 2005-06. The Leafs winger was drafted No. 7 in the 2002 Draft, but hasn't quite lived up to his potential, until perhaps now. The big concern with Lupul is his health -- he appeared in just 54 games last season and 23 in 2009-10. But the change of scenery to Toronto seems to be doing wonders for Lupul -- he posted 18 points in 28 games after the Leafs acquired him from Anaheim.

If you've been lucky enough to have either of these skilled forwards on your fantasy team up to this point, you're probably very reluctant to trade them -- and understandably so. But you should expect a cold streak at some point that brings their on-pace stats back down to earth. We believe in both of them and think good things will continue; just know it probably won't stay this good forever.



These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: Positions are dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues

Players on IR: Jeff Carter, Ales Hemsky, Daniel Alfredsson
Marian Gaborik -- He might not be putting up the points you'd want (although 5 goals and 4 assists in 11 games isn't bad at all), but if you watch him play, you know he has his swagger back -- and that's a great thing for his fantasy owners. Gaborik has been skating on a new line combination away from newcomer Brad Richards, but it really doesn't matter because Gabby has been the best forward in nearly every Rangers game, regardless of his linemates. The right wing has recorded 5 points in his past four games and is tied for fourth in the NHL with 46 shots on goal. Start Gaborik with confidence and look for him to return closer to his 2009-10 form when he posted 42 goals and 86 points in his first season in New York.

Marian Hossa -- Speaking of Marian's, Chicago's Marian Hossa has seemed to have found his game this season. Through 11 games, the 32-year-old has posted 6 goals, 11 points, a plus-5 rating, 6 penalty minutes, 1 power-play point and 46 shots on goal. What's been even more noticeable recently is his connection with Patrick Kane. Hossa has been paired up with Kane most of the season and it is clearly working -- Kane scored two goals against Nashville earlier this week and Hossa assisted on both of them. They are a deadly combination and as long as Hossa can remain in Chicago's lineup, he should be good for 70-plus points.

Jaromir Jagr -- The Philadelphia newcomer was drafted on average with the No. 102 pick coming into the year, and now he currently finds himself as the No. 9 skater player in Yahoo! leagues (fourth among right wings behind the Leafs duo and his teammate, Claude Giroux). In 13 games, he's posted 5 goals and 8 assists, as well as a solid plus-5 rating, 8 penalty minutes, 5 power-play points and 38 shots on goal. To say he's back is an obvious understatement and his dedication on and off the ice is paying dividends for the Flyers and his fantasy owners. Jagr has found some definite chemistry with Giroux and he is still receiving nearly 17 minutes of ice time per game, with 4:20 of that coming with the man advantage. We can't expect the aging veteran to keep at this rate all season, but 60-plus points seems more than attainable.


Rick Nash -- 10 points in 13 games just isn't cutting it for Nash owners. Not only is his points production down a bit, but he's also a minus-5 on the season -- a trend that might continue while suiting up for the struggling Blue Jackets. Nash has been generally quiet this season, with just two multi-point games (both coming in the team's first four games) and has had a tough time finding a rhythm with all the line shuffling in Columbus. Most games, he's found veteran forward Vinny Prospal on his line, but with Jeff Carter out, there just hasn't been a solid replacement, and it's clearly hurting Nash's production. Nash takes a dip in the rankings for now, but when Carter returns to the lineup, his value should get a definite boost.

Alexander Semin -- The Capitals forward has been arguably the biggest disappointment of any right wing in 2011-12 (perhaps the biggest of any player). In 10 contests, the Russian forward has just 2 goals, 4 assists, a minus-2 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 1 power-play point and just 22 shots on goal. Semin has averaged more than 3 shots per game in his career, but this season he's firing the puck just 2.2 times per game, which is a serious concern for a guy with a shot like Semin's. Perhaps the largest concern regarding Semin's fantasy value is his linemates -- while Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are paired up, Semin has found himself skating with Mike Knuble and Marcus Johansson most of the season. The 27-year-old also tends to find himself in Bruce Boudreau's dog house, which could be why he's only seeing 2:45 of power-play ice time per game. Regardless, Semin is definitely not the scoring threat many of us expected him to be so far.

Shane Doan -- The Coyotes captain has bounced around in our right wing rankings, but this week he slips a bit for a couple of reasons. First off, the guys ahead of him -- Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner and Kris Versteeg -- have all been pretty hot lately and possess more potential during the course of the full season. Secondly, Doan has struggled recently with no points in his past three contests. After getting off to a fast start in 2011-12 with 7 points in his first four games, Doan has cooled off as expected. Doan is playing on a line with the "Wizard" Ray Whitney, so scoring opportunities should be there regularly, but you shouldn't expect Doan to surpass the 60-point mark he reached last season.


Martin Erat -- Owned in just 17 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, the Predators forward just recently returned from injury and has posted 2 points in his three games since being back. Erat is a quiet and productive under-the-radar fantasy player and could be a nice addition to squads in deeper leagues.

He's a top-six forward for Nashville that will see plenty of ice time and power-play opportunities while skating on a line with Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn. Erat quietly registered 50 points in 64 games for the Preds last season and has been an extremely consistent performer for years: he's totaled 49 or more points in each of the past seven seasons.

Nashville is clearly not the most offensive team in the NHL, but Erat could be their most lethal weapon, and he's definitely worth a flier if you have room on your roster.
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