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Turn Left Here: Parise, Ryan among struggling LW's

by Matt Cubeta
Every Thursday during the season, 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.

In last week's edition of "Turn Left Here" we discussed how the left wing position is quickly becoming extremely deep for fantasy owners. And while that’s true, we've also seen plenty of elite left wingers underachieve in the early parts of the 2011-12 season.

Alex Ovechkin, our No. 1 overall fantasy player coming into the season, is currently rated 34th in Yahoo! Leagues. Hopefully his recent hot streak (7 points in his previous five games) will get him going.

Devils forward Zach Parise, our No. 3 left wing coming into the season, has gotten off to a miserable start with 4 goals and just 1 assist in 10 games. Bobby Ryan has been equally as disappointing with the same amount of goals and points as Parise and no points on the power play.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg continue to struggle, with both players rated below the 159 rank in Yahoo! Leagues.

In fact, of the top-10 left wing-eligible players in Yahoo! Leagues coming into the season (Daniel Sedin, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Ryan, Parise, Zetterberg, Patrick Marleau, Alexander Semin, Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk), only Sedin is currently rated among the top 70 fantasy players -- he's currently fourth overall.

What does all this mean for you if you're one of the unfortunate fantasy GMs that has any of these guys? With a full month in the books, some of these slow starts may turn into a little bit of a reality, so it's certainly a worry. But you should still give these elite-type players a little more time before officially giving up on them -- 20 games is the right amount of trial time for players of this caliber.

Will Zetterberg record his second consecutive 80-plus-point season? It seems doubtful at this point, but who knows, maybe Zetterberg will rattle off a major hot streak that would put him back on track for those exclusive numbers we expected.

A lot of you are probably in panic mode -- and rightfully so, because in all likelihood you probably spent an early draft pick on these left wings -- but you must give them a little bit more time.



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

Note: Dany Heatley recently gained LW eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues
Thomas Vanek -- There isn't a bad thing to say about Vanek. The Sabres forward moves up to our No. 3 rank among right wings, and deservedly so. Through 11 games, Vanek has posted 8 goals, 16 points, a plus-6, 10 penalty minutes, 5 power-play points and 41 shots on goal. He is currently the third-rated overall fantasy player in Yahoo! Leagues and hasn't slowed down since his 3-point performance overseas in Buffalo's season-opener. In fact, Vanek has posted at least 1 point in 10 of his 11 games, showing that he's been very consistent. While Vanek will eventually cool off a bit, it's not out of the question for him to record point-per-game numbers for the remainder of the season -- he did so back in 2006-07 with 84 points in 82 contests, then came close last season with 73 points in 80 games.

Ryane Clowe -- Clowe is on pace for another stellar year after netting 3 goals and 5 assists with 13 penalty minutes through his first 10 games. The Sharks forward is also shooting the puck more now that playmaker Martin Havlat (recently off injured reserve) has joined his line along with Logan Couture. He's fired 34 shots on goal so far, which puts him on pace for 278 shots over the course of the season (that would easily surpass his previous career-high of 189 in 2009-10). Clowe averages 17:09 of ice time per game and 2:28 on one of the best power-play units in the League (where he has notched 2 goals and added an assist) -- this will continue to help him post point-per-game type numbers all season long. Keep rolling this gritty, hard-working player in your lineup on a daily basis and expect solid all-around fantasy numbers by season's end.

Scott Hartnell -- Welcome back to the rankings, Hartnell. After consecutive 44-plus point campaigns, the Flyers' power forward seems to have taken his game to another level in 2011-2012. He's averaging a point per game through 12 games (an astonishing 10 points during a current five-game point-scoring streak) and is in the top 10 in the NHL in plus/minus at plus-6. The main reason for Hartnell's jump to this level is attributed to his new linemates: Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. Although he's only averaging 14:38 of ice time per game and 1:40 on the power play, he will continue to be very productive in all fantasy categories while playing the wing with Giroux and Jagr. The other perk of owning the gritty winger is that he contributes plenty of penalty minutes. He's working on his fourth consecutive year of at least 142 penalty minutes, and while he's only on pace for 95 this season, it should increase based on his previous track record. Even if his scoring slows down a bit, his PIMs will rise, making Hartnell a more than viable option at left wing going forward.


Alexandre Burrows -- The Canucks' agitator has been relatively productive through his first 12 games (4 G, 2 A, plus-4, 10 PIMs, 2 PPP and 38 SOG), but he's also been extremely inconsistent. Burrows has been held pointless in seven of his 12 games, which seems pretty difficult to do while skating on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Burrows is seeing an increased role on the power play (as demonstrated by his 3:16 of PP ice time per game), so that should eventually result in more points, but for now he's simply not getting it done for his fantasy owners. He could end up being streaky for most of the season, but he still should finish as a strong overall fantasy player -- possibly among the top-15 left wings.

Johan Franzen -- The Red Wings winger started the season with a bang, registering 7 points in his first five games, but since then he has been held pointless in his last five. Known for firing the puck on goal at all angles, Franzen has averaged just 2 shots per game after averaging 3.3 last season. "The Mule" has also seen a decline in ice time this season -- down from 17:26 last season to 16:40 while skating on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. While Franzen's 12 penalty minutes are a nice bonus and you can expect him to reach his usual 50-60, he's struggling to put up points at the moment. Look for him -- along with Datsyuk and Zetterberg -- to step up his game, assuming he can avoid the injury bug.

Simon Gagne -- It's not that Gagne's stat line is unproductive this season (3 G, 4 A, plus-4, 8 PIMs, 1 PPP and 20 SOG), but it's his health that continues to scare us. While Gagne is expected to return to the lineup tonight, he did miss two games over the weekend because of an undisclosed middle-body injury, and any injury with the Kings forward is certainly worrisome for his fantasy owners. Gagne drops in the rankings not just because of the injury, but he was also held pointless in the four prior games. Gagne will return to his usual role on the Kings' top line alongside Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, so there is definitely a good chance he'll be productive, but until he proves he's 100 percent healthy, he cannot be relied on as much more than a reserve player.


Ryan Smyth -- The veteran forward is easily outperforming everyone's expectations through his first 11 games back in Edmonton. Owned in just 47 percent of fantasy leagues, Smyth is currently rated 29th overall in Yahoo! Leagues thanks to his solid stat line: 5 G, 5 A, plus-2, 27 PIMs, 2 PPP and 30 SOG.

Ryan Smyth
Left Wing - EDM
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 10
SOG: 30 | +/-: 2
While none of his owners are complaining about the early success, they shouldn't expect him to keep up at this rate -- especially with the penalty minutes. Smyth had just 35 PIMs last season with the Kings and 42 the year before -- so his current pace of 201 is clearly unrealistic. If you look into Smyth's game log, you'll notice on opening night the Oilers forward recorded a five-minute major penalty and 10-minute game misconduct for elbowing -- take that away and he's only had 6 minor penalties.

Smyth has been a valuable addition to a young Oilers team and he has seemed to find some good chemistry with his linemates, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones, but you shouldn't expect him to post more than 50-55 points over the full season. Even that may be a stretch -- the last time Smyth recorded at least 60 points was back in 2006-07. He did start that season playing for these same Oilers, so who knows, maybe the 35-year-old still has something left to prove.
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