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The Front Line: Benn, Nash among bold predictions

by Matt Cubeta

Every Tuesday during the season, fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy forwards in his weekly segment: "The Front Line." From updated rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy forwards insider all season long.


Being that today is Jan. 14, 2014, it seemed like a good day for some sort of fantasy hockey list surrounding the number 14. So I decided this list could include 14 fantasy predictions for the rest of the season.

At the start of the season I released team-by-team bold predictions. Some still have a shot at happening -- see the St. Louis Blues about Alexander Steen and David Backes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets about Brandon Dubinsky. While others I have been far off on -- see the Florida Panthers about Jonathan Huberdeau, and the Edmonton Oilers about Nail Yakupov. Again, these are predictions so it's not easy to be spot-on with these.

However, the point of all of this is to give you an idea of which players I feel really strongly about or which I think might end up disappointing for the remainder of the season. Use them as you wish. You can make trade offers for the players you agree with me on or you can dump someone to waivers if I'm down on them. These predictions only are for forwards.

Here goes:


Back in September, Matt Cubeta released his bold preseason fantasy hockey predictions for the 2013-14 season, which included a breakout year for Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty has been solid this year, but find out how Cubeta has been with the rest of his predictions. READ MORE ›

1. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp remains hot for the rest of the season and finishes with 50-plus goals. Only Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will have more.

2. Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, who enters play Tuesday tied for 30th in the NHL in points with 37, will finish among the top 15 point-getters.

3. Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes has 11 goals in 43 games. He'll score 20 over his remaining 37 games and eclipse the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career.

4. On the other hand, Valtteri Filppula of the Tampa Bay Lightning has 18 goals in 46 games. He won't score more than 10 the rest of the way and will finish with less than 30.

5. Despite missing 17 games, the New York Rangers' Rick Nash, who enters play Tuesday with 11 goals, will reach the 30-goal plateau.

6. Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets will end up as a top-40 overall fantasy players (he's currently ranked 74th in Yahoo leagues).

7. Dubinsky will edge Backes and the Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds for most points among players with at least 100 penalty minutes by season's end.

8. Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks will score the most power-play goals from this point on.

9. Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris of the Ottawa Senators prove the first half of the season wasn't a fluke. MacArthur finishes with 29 goals and 66 points while Turris goes for 24 goals and 67 points.

10. Going into the season I said Yakupov would score 38 goals for the Oilers. I'll modify that a bit and say he finishes with 26, meaning 17 goals in his final 34 games. I'm still a believer in his fantasy value.

11. Among forwards, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz and the Blues' Jaden Schwartz enter Tuesday tied for the best plus/minus at plus-24. Jarome Iginla is at plus-16. I say Iginla will hold this honor by season's end at plus-28.

12. Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter's 147 shots on goal are tied for 17th in the NHL. Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty's 141 shots are 21st. Both players will be among the top 10 in shots on goal by the end of the season.

13. Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks won't finish as a top-50 fantasy player in Yahoo leagues.

14. Nathan Mackinnon of the Colorado Avalanche will finish the season with 30-plus goals and 60-plus points en route to winning the Calder Trophy, edging the Rangers' Chris Kreider.


Brandon Dubinsky
Brandon Dubinsky
Center - CBJ
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 20 | PTS: 29
PIMS: 78 | SOG: 101 | +/-: 8
Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Welcome to the top-50, Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky has 29 points, a plus-8 rating and 78 penalty minutes in 40 games. He is shooting more than he has in the last three seasons (2.5 shots on goal per game). He has five power-play points but averages 2:39 of man-advantage time per game, third on the team. He is ranked 49th among all players in Yahoo. What more can you want?

Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning -- With Steven Stamkos sidelined, Filppula has stepped up as the team's top center. In the past 14 games he has eight goals, eight assists and a plus-10 rating. While I stated above that he won't reach the 30-goal mark, for the time being Filppula still deserves a bump in the rankings.


Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings -- Richards hasn't scored a goal in the past 22 games and has three assists in his past 15. Ouch. Don't go dropping him because he's still got a little value and I expect the Kings and Richards to turn things around sooner rather than later, but you certainly should be benching him during this miserable cold streak.

Steve Downie, Philadelphia Flyers -- Things got off to a solid start for Downie after being traded from the Avalanche to the Flyers. However, things have not been smooth recently and he now finds himself outside my top 100 forward rankings. Downie has been held without a point in the past nine games and was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Rangers. No one likes owning a player that's getting scratched so it's understandable if you drop him, but you should monitor Downie's status over the next couple of weeks just in case.


Ryane Clowe, New Jersey Devils -- By this time next week there's a very good chance Clowe will be among my top 100 forwards. That is if he doesn't get hurt before then. The problem with Clowe over the past two seasons is that he's constantly dealing with injury problems. If he can avoid them he carries decent fantasy value. He's in the middle of a four-game point-scoring streak (one goal, four assists) and has 15 penalty minutes in 15 games this season.


These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.

1 Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same) 51 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-4)
2 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same) 52 Brent Burns, Sharks (-1)
3 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (same) 53 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (same)
4 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (same) 54 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (-2)
5 Corey Perry, Ducks (same) 55 T.J. Oshie, Blues (-5)
6 John Tavares, Islanders (+1) 56 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+4)
7 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (-1) DTD 57 Justin Williams, Kings (same)
8 James Neal, Penguins (same) 58 Bryan Little, Jets (+1)
9 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (same) 59 Clarke MacArthur, Senators (+6)
10 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (same) 60 Derek Stepan, Rangers (-4)
11 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same) 61 Chris Kreider, Rangers (+5)
12 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+3) 62 Blake Wheeler, Jets (-1)
13 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (-1) 63 Brad Richards, Rangers (+1)
14 Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (-1) 64 Jason Pominville, Wild (-9)
15 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1) 65 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (-2)
16 Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-2) DTD 66 Andrew Ladd, Jets (-4)
17 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (same) 67 Shane Doan, Coyotes (+2)
18 Claude Giroux, Flyers (same) 68 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-1)
19 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+3) 69 Chris Stewart, Blues (+1)
20 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (+3) 70 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (+1)
21 David Backes, Blues (-1) 71 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (+3)
22 Anze Kopitar, Kings (-1) 72 Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+1)
23 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-4) 73 Jaden Schwartz, Blues (-1)
24 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+1) 74 Matt Moulson, Sabres (-6)
25 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1) 75 Loui Eriksson, Bruins (NR)*
26 Taylor Hall, Oilers (+1) 76 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (+7)
27 Joe Thornton, Sharks (+3) 77 Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (+11)
28 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+4) 78 Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (+6)
29 Rick Nash, Rangers (+2) 79 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (-3)
30 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+6) 80 Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (-3)
31 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (+4) 81 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (-6)
32 Jamie Benn, Stars (-3) 82 Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-3)
33 Tyler Seguin, Stars (-5) 83 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (-5) DTD
34 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (-1) 84 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (-4)
35 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+3) 85 Nick Bonino, Ducks (+7)
36 Bobby Ryan, Senators (-2) 86 Brad Marchand, Bruins (-5)
37 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (same) 87 Nathan Horton, Blue Jackets (same)
38 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+3) 88 Ryan Callahan, Rangers (+3)
39 Jason Spezza, Senators (NR)* 89 Vincent Lecavalier, Flyers (-4)
40 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+8) 90 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (NR)*
41 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (+2) 91 Dustin Brown, Kings (-5)
42 Evander Kane, Jets (-2) DTD 92 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (+1)
43 Milan Lucic, Bruins (-4) 93 Mike Richards, Kings (-11)
44 Jeff Carter, Kings (+5) 94 Brayden Schenn, Flyers (+1)
45 Kyle Turris, Senators (+1) 95 Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues (NR)
46 David Perron, Oilers (-4) 96 Derek Roy, Blues (same)
47 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-3) 97 Dustin Penner, Ducks (same)
48 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (+6) 98 Reilly Smith, Bruins (-5)
49 David Krejci, Bruins (-4) 99 Jussi Jokinen, Penguins (NR)
50 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (+8) 100 Andrew Shaw, Blackhawks (same)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Steve Downie, Jiri Hudler, Patric Hornqvist

Injured: Steven Stamkos, Zach Parise, Logan Couture, Alexander Steen, Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Johan Franzen, Tomas Hertl, Patrik Elias, PA Parenteau, Pascal Dupuis, Alex Galchenyuk, Alexandre Burrows

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