Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com 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.
UPDATED TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS
I'll be the first to admit I was wrong about Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Back on Nov. 5, I said you should trade Giroux and I didn't believe there was "much of a resurgence coming." Here we are 141 days later and Giroux is currently the No. 8 overall player in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Clearly, Giroux has proven me wrong.
Prior to that story on Nov. 5, Giroux had no goals and six assists in his first 13 games of the season. He wasn't coming close to living up to his average draft selection (16th overall). In fact, he didn't score his first goal of the season until his 16th game. But from that 16th game onward, Giroux has pretty much been his usual self; that of an elite fantasy forward.
In his next 55 games, the 26-year-old forward has gone on to score 24 goals and 43 assists, a rate of 1.22 points per game. The only player to average more than that this season is Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby at 1.32 points per game. Of course, Crosby has done that for all 71 games he's played in, but the point is if you wipe away Giroux's first 16 games of the season, he's been the second-best point producer in the NHL behind only Crosby. He's also had 21 of his 22 multi-point games during this 55-game stretch. Only Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel have had more multi-point efforts all season (28 and 23 respectively).
Note: Must have appeared in at least 25 games
|2013-14 POINT-PER-GAME PLAYERS
Of players that have appeared in at least 25 games this season, 14 have averaged at least a point per game (Giroux being one of them despite the sluggish start). Last season there were 20 players that averaged at least a point per game (excludes the Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul, who averaged 1.12 but only played 16 of 48 games), which makes Giroux's inclusion on this season's list even more impressive.
If Giroux can continue at his current point-per-game pace, it would mark the third consecutive season in which he's done so. Not only has his goal and assist production been elite, he's also fourth in the NHL in power-play points with 31, trailing only Washington Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, as well as Crosby. Giroux also is on pace for 46 penalty minutes and 220 shots on goal. Both of these marks would be the second highest totals of his career.
By the time this season ends, we'll look back on Giroux's numbers and realize he produced exactly what we hoped for at the start of the season, maybe even better. While I didn't see this resurgence coming, I hope some of you did. And I hope you stuck with him throughout his struggles in October. If you did, you clearly made a wise decision that paid off handsomely.
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers -- Speaking of Flyers players providing immense value, outside of his minus-4 on the season, Simmonds has delivered more than anyone could've expected. He's already set career-highs with 54 points and 22 power-play points and at his current rate, he'd also reach new highs in penalty minutes (120) and shots on goal (198). Simmonds is ranked 18th among all forwards in Yahoo leagues and is approaching top-20 status among my forward ranks.
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets -- Like Simmonds, Wheeler has already set personal bests in goals (24) and penalty minutes (61) and is on pace for new highs in points (on pace for 65), power-play points (16) and shots on goal (223). Wheeler also has been very valuable in the assists category of late with eight in the past eight games (one goal during that time).
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings -- If you were lucky enough to grab Nyquist off waivers when he got called up in November, it has paid off immensely. Nyquist has been especially hot recently (he was named the NHL's No. 1 star last week) with goals in each of his past five games (seven goals, one assist). Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg may be out of the lineup, but Nyquist has been there to carry the Red Wings while skating on a relatively unknown line with fellow youngsters Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan.
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators --
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 48
PIMS: 45 | SOG: 190 | +/-: 7
While Ryan hasn't hurt his owners in any single category this season (23 goals, 25 assists, plus-7, 45 penalty minutes, 9 power-play points, 190 shots), he hasn't been quite as electric as he was in the first three months of the season. Ryan recorded 36 points in his first 42 games with the Senators, but since then he has just 12 points in 28 games. Ryan always has the potential to go on a hot streak, but he hasn't had a multi-point game since Jan. 30 (a span of 16 games) when he notched two points against the Lightning. Between the on-ice struggles and the fact Ryan is currently day-to-day due to an injury sustained on Saturday, you're best off benching the talented forward.
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes -- Skinner had 19 goals and eight assists in 28 games during the months of December and January, but in the 17 games since he has three goals and four assists. Skinner also has really struggled in Hurricanes losses, posting just nine goals and four points with a minus-26 rating in their 33 defeats. If you see an unfavorable matchup for Carolina, you might be best off putting the talented 21-year-old on your bench.
Brad Richards, New York Rangers -- Many people believed the acquisition of Martin St. Louis would increase Richards' fantasy value. However, not only has Richards struggled since then, he's not even skating on the same line as the former Tampa Bay Lightning captain. Richards is currently centering the team's third line with Carl Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot, and while he does see plenty of power-play ice time (3:43 per game), the production simply hasn't been there -- Richards has one goal and two assists in his past 11 games.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche -- Currently skating on the team's top line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, McGinn could be a nice addition to a team still in the hunt for the league title. In his six games, McGinn has three goals and four assists, with three of those points coming on the power play. He's available in 94 percent of leagues.
TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
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.
||Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)
||Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+4)
||Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same)
||Marian Gaborik, Kings (same)
||Corey Perry, Ducks (same)
||Johan Franzen, Red Wings (-2)
||Steven Stamkos, Lighting (+1)
||T.J. Oshie, Blues (-1)
||Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (-1)
||Andrew Ladd, Jets (-1)
||Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (same)
||Derek Stepan, Rangers (+2)
||Claude Giroux, Flyers (+2)
||Bryan Little, Jets (same)
||Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (-1)
||Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (-8)
||Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (-1)
||Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (+1)
||Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+2)
||Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (-1)
||Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)
||Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (same)
||Jamie Benn, Stars (+2)
||Kyle Turris, Senators (-6)
||James Neal, Penguins (+3)
||Mikko Koivu, Wild (same)
||Tyler Seguin, Stars (+1)
||Clarke MacArthur, Senators (same)
||Joe Pavelski, Sharks (-2)
||Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+1)
||Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+1)
||David Perron, Oilers (+3)
||Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+1)
||Jaden Schwartz, Blues (same)
||Logan Couture, Sharks (+3)
||Jordan Eberle, Oilers (same)
||Zach Parise, Wild (+1)
||Chris Kreider, Rangers (-4)
||Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+3)
||Matt Moulson, Wild (+4)
||Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (-2)
||Brad Richards, Rangers (-9)
||Anze Kopitar, Kings (+3)
||Jason Pominville, Wild (-2)
||Alexander Steen, Blues (+1)
||Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (+3)
||Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+10)
||Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-3)
||Jarome Iginla, Bruins (+5)
||Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (same)
||Martin St. Louis, Rangers (-4)
||Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (-5)
||David Krejci, Bruins (+2)
||Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (+2)
||David Backes, Blues (-2)
||Brent Burns, Sharks (same)
||Taylor Hall, Oilers (-2)
||Brad Marchand, Bruins (-7)
||Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)
||Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings (+11)
||Rick Nash, Rangers (-3)
||Patrik Elias, Devils (same)
||Milan Lucic, Bruins (same)
||Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (-5)
||Daniel Sedin, Canucks (NR)*
||Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (same)
||James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (-1)
||Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+2)
||Joe Thornton, Sharks (same)
||Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (-5)
||Thomas Vanek, Canadiens (+1)
||Shane Doan, Coyotes (-4)
||Jason Spezza, Senators (+2)
||Jussi Jokinen, Penguins (-2)
||Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (-2)
||Paul Stastny, Avalanche (NR)*
||Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (-1)
||Nick Bonino, Ducks (-5)
||Blake Wheeler, Jets (+8)
||Loui Eriksson, Bruins (-3)
||Jaromir Jagr, Devils (-1)
||Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs (-1)
||Evander Kane, Jets (same)
||Mike Cammalleri, Flames (+5)
||Jeff Carter, Kings (-2)
||Ondrej Palat, Lightning (+6)
||Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+3)
||Ryan Callahan, Lightning (-2)
||Henrik Sedin, Canucks (same)
||Ales Hemsky, Senators (-1)
||Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+3)
||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-3)
||Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (-4)
||Justin Williams, Kings (-8)
||Kyle Okposo, Islanders (-2)
||Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (-2)
||Bobby Ryan, Senators (-5) DTD
||Tyler Johnson, Lightning (NR)
||Ryan Kesler, Canucks (NR)*
||Troy Brouwer, Capitals (-2)
* Appeared on injured list last week
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Mike Ribeiro, Adam Henrique, Dustin Brown
Injured: John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Chris Stewart, Tomas Hertl, Pascal Dupuis, PA Parenteau, Vladimir Tarasenko