Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy left wings in our weekly segment: "Turn Left Here." From updated left wing rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy left wing expert all season long.
It's been two weeks since our last left wing update, and you'll notice a lot of players have moved around quite a bit in our updated rankings -- none more noticeable than Gabriel Landeskog's rise from No. 36 two weeks ago to No. 23 this week.
Earlier this season, all the talk among rookies was about Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- deservedly so, as he had 35 points in his first 38 games prior to getting injured. However, Landeskog has stolen the show and has been red-hot since the start of February.
The No. 2 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog got off to a solid start with 7 points in 11 October games. He cooled off in November with just 1 goal and 4 points in 14 contests, but during December and January he started to show some consistency. He finished those two months with 9 and 7 points respectively and it appeared that Landeskog was showing what type of player he'd be like for most of the season -- that of a 40-point player.
TOP 40 FANTASY LEFT WINGS
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. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: Positions are dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
But at the end of January, Landeskog started to come alive. He scored a goal against the Kings on Jan. 21 and closed off the month with a four-game point-scoring streak. Once the calendar rolled into February, the 19-year-old started to prove he was more than just a 40-point caliber player. Landeskog recorded at least a point in all but three of 12 games during the month and also had four multi-point efforts. What's equally as impressive is he posted a minus-rating just twice during the month and has been an extremely useful producer of shots on goal, averaging 4.6 per game.
With 3 points in four games so far in March, it looks like Landeskog could be a solid No. 2 left wing for fantasy owners down the stretch. He is currently rated 36th among all players in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues (11th among all eligible left wings), and that's largely because of his solid contributions across all offensive categories. In 68 games, he has 18 goals, 25 assists, a plus-22 rating, 43 penalty minutes, 9 power-play points and 227 shots on goal.
Landeskog is averaging 18:25 of total ice time per game and has been playing the left wing on the team's second line with Ryan O'Reilly and newcomer Steve Downie -- the trio has found immediate chemistry and has been out-producing Colorado's top line of late.
If he goes on to finish the season with around 23 goals and 55 points to go along with his outstanding peripheral stats, there certainly won't be any complaints from his fantasy owners.
Evander Kane -- Kane returned from his injury on Feb. 7 and had just 1 goal in his first four games back. However, he clearly just needed to get into the swing of things, as his current hot streak is among the most impressive of any forward right now. Prior to being held pointless in the Jets' most recent game, Kane had 7 goals and 7 assists during a nine-game point-scoring streak. He now has 26 goals, 46 points and a plus-10 rating in 59 games for Winnipeg, and could be staring at his first 30-goal campaign in no time. For those of you in keeper leagues, make sure you lock him down if you can. Loui Eriksson -- Sure enough, Eriksson could be headed for a near identical amount of goals and points to last season by the time this one ends. Last season, Eriksson finished with 27 goals and 73 points, and if he remains at his current pace, he'd have 28 goals and 74 points this time around. We all know he won't help fantasy owners in the PIMs department (6), but with 11 points in his last 7 games, there is no doubting Eriksson's point production every season.
Jordan Staal -- Staal has 22 goals and 36 points in 46 games for the Pens this season. Had he not missed 20 games due to injury, he would be on pace for 39 goals. We're guessing a lot of fantasy owners have overlooked the underrated Pens forward. Since returning from his injury on Feb. 11, Staal has 7 goals and 8 assists in his past 12 games. With center and left wing eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues, Staal could be one of the more valuable players down the stretch and should be started regularly.
Joffrey Lupul -- The unlikely, heroic season of Lupul appears to be coming to an end, much to the dismay of his fantasy owners. The Leafs' first line left winger suffered a separated shoulder against the Bruins on Tuesday and will be out at least 3-4 weeks -- meaning he will not be of any value to fantasy owners down the stretch. For those of you in keeper leagues, you might have to hold on to Lupul in case you want to go that route, but for those of you in standard leagues, you should be safe to let go of arguably the biggest surprise in fantasy hockey this season. Kris Versteeg -- Like Lupul, Versteeg was another one of the big surprises from this season. And like Lupul, Versteeg is also currently on the sidelines. Versteeg has missed the past four games due to a lower-body injury and did not travel with the Panthers for their next two games (tonight at Philadelphia and Friday at Pittsburgh). He had cooled off of late with just 2 goals and 2 assists in the past 10 games, but this is still a blow to his fantasy owners -- look elsewhere for production for the time being.
Ryane Clowe -- It hasn't been the season Clowe's fantasy owners were hoping for. Through 59 games, the gritty forward has just 12 goals and 36 points and even has a minus-2 rating. If he continues at this rate it would be his lowest output since his first full season in the NHL in 2008-09 when he had 52 points in 71 games. He still remains one of San Jose's top-six forwards and could heat up for the team's playoff push, but at this point we wouldn't rely on him for much production outside of his PIMs (78).
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Jiri Tlusty -- Owned in just 7 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, Tlusty has made himself extremely valuable over the last few weeks. The biggest reason for the spike in his production is because he has been skating on Carolina's top line with the red-hot Eric Staal. If he remains paired with Staal (which looks likely, as he's been there for a while now), he makes for a solid pick-up down the stretch. Tlusty has center and left wing eligibility and has 13 points in his last 15 games (being held pointless just three times during that span).