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Right of Way: Pavelski emerging into fantasy star

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 will be your fantasy right wing expert all season long.

We are officially a week into the 2011-12 NHL season. What does that mean for your fantasy team? We've stated in each position update this week that you must be patient with your players. You've got to give them more than a week before making any impulsive changes.

For a player your drafted late in your fantasy draft, 10 games is usually a good gauge on when to decide whether you want to drop the player or hold onto them. For a player that's struggling early on who you drafted earlier and are counting on for big things this season, you should consider giving them more like 15-20 games as a trial period. Some players are slow starters; some are just unlucky; some might be dealing with injuries. It could be anything, but either way, you have to show patience.

With that said, let's provide a little breakdown of what's happened with our right wings through one week of action. You'll notice not one player actually moved up in our new and updated rankings -- that's not because the players aren't performing well, it's because we've added dual-position eligible players to the rankings. You'll see guys like Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Claude Giroux and many others in the ranks this time around.

However, you'll still notice several of our usual right wing suspects among the top ranks in standard Yahoo! Leagues. Patrick Kane is currently the fourth-ranked right wing, and 18th overall in Yahoo! Leagues; Chris Stewart is right behind him (thanks largely in part to his early 21 penalty minutes); Phil Kessel isn't far behind and cracks the top 25 overall fantasy players.

Regardless of the fact that no player rose in the rankings, here are a few guys you should know are playing well, and a few guys that might struggle in the future:



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 preseason. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: positions are now dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues

- players signified with an NR were previously ranked at other positions to start the season

Players that dropped out of our previous rankings: Alexandre Burrows (LW only in Yahoo! Leagues), Patrik Elias, Daniel Alfredsson, Michael Grabner, Justin Williams, Devin Setoguchi, Tyler Seguin (C only in Yahoo! Leagues), Kyle Okposo, Drew Stafford
Joe Pavelski -- Sure it's only been one game, but Pavelski is quickly turning into a star in the NHL. Now skating on San Jose's top line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Pavelski notched 2 goals, both on the power play, as well as 4 shots in the Sharks' 6-3 opening win against Phoenix. Coming of a 66-point season in 74 games while skating primarily on the second and third line, "Little Joe" could find himself as one of the biggest surprises in fantasy hockey this season. His dual-position eligibility is an added bonus in Yahoo! Leagues and you should be starting the 27-year-old with confidence as a No. 1 right wing and hoping for point-per-game numbers going forward.

Shane Doan -- The Coyotes' captain is coming off a relatively quiet season in Phoenix -- he registered 20 goals and 60 points in 72 games. But make no mistake, Doan seems like a man on a mission. Through three games, the veteran winger has 3 goals, 2 assists, 4 PIMs, 3 PPP and 14 SOG. He's averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game, with almost six minutes of that coming on the power play. As long as he can stay healthy, Doan seems like a sure bet to easily surpass his numbers last year.

Jason Pominville -- The newly appointed Sabres captain got off to a fast start in Buffalo's two Premiere games -- Pominville posted 1 goal and 3 assists to go along with a plus-3 rating and 6 shots on goal. The 28-year-old is currently skating on Buffalo's top line with sniper Thomas Vanek and youngster Luke Adam -- both of whom are off to hot starts as well. Pominville struggled last season with just 52 points -- his lowest total since the 2005-06 season -- but you should expect him to return to his normal 60-70 point range, assuming he stays healthy.


Nathan Horton -- After being a popular sleeper back in last year's fantasy drafts, Horton entered this season with a few question marks -- most notably: How would he be after returning from a concussion? Through four games, things haven't gone as planned for Horton. He has just 1 assist with a minus-1 rating and only 4 shots on goal. Horton is still skating on the team's top line with Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin (currently filling in for the injured David Krejci), so a turnaround should be expected at some point. However, if you were one of the many fans hoping for a 30-goal season, you should probably be more realistic and bank on around 25.

Michael Grabner --A lot of people drafted Grabner with high hopes for a repeat of last season at the very least, but unfortunately he hasn't rewarded his owners quite yet. The Austrian-native winger scored his first goal of the season on Wednesday against the Lightning, but that's been his only point so far this season. What's even more alarming is Grabner's ice time and the line he's on -- he's averaging 17:20 per game, which is actually up from last season, while skating with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo (not exactly fantasy studs), but he's only receiving 1:33 of power play ice time per game. He also notched 6 shorthanded goals last campaign (second in the NHL), which is something hard to repeat. Grabner could still pot 25 goals, but duplicating last season's 34 seems extremely doubtful.

Brian Gionta -- While Gionta doesn't crack our right wing rankings, he's still owned in 52 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues and deserves mentioning for his sluggish start. The Canadiens captain has yet to find the score sheet through their first three games, recording just 3 shots on goal in those contests. After posting consecutive 46-point seasons since joining Montreal in 2009, Gionta should be a player we can cross off our fantasy rankings regularly. If you're one of his owners, you should consider dropping him for a player like Milan Michalek, Joffrey Lupul or Devin Setoguchi -- they possess way more potential and are all far-less owned in Yahoo! Leagues.


Red Wings forward Danny Cleary might not have the sexiest stats out there, but if he can stick on Detroit's top line we can guarantee you'll like the results by season's end. The Wings have shuffled their lines around a bit through their first three games, but as of now, Cleary is on the right wing of a Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg line. Prior to that new line combination, Cleary was still skating with Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler -- not too bad. As long as he sticks with either Datsyuk or Zetterberg, Cleary should be a good source of fantasy production. In his first three games he has yet to score, but he does have 2 assists, a plus-3 rating, 2 PIMs and 13 SOG. Owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, you shouldn't hesitate to take a flyer on the 32-year-old Cleary.

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