Fantasy top 100 forwards: Monitor late line trends

Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

UPDATED TOP 100 FORWARD RANKINGS

Whether early or late in the season, the right line combinations usually lead to results in fantasy hockey.

Some lines have gelled nicely for much of the year, with prime examples being Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers, to the “Triplets” line (Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov) of the Tampa Bay Lightning, to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars.

Even in the month following the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, Jaromir Jagr (with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) of the Florida Panthers and Drew Stafford (with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) of the Winnipeg Jets have emerged as difference-makers. Productivity sometimes supersedes longevity.

Whether a team is closing in on a Stanley Cup Playoff spot or simply building momentum into the offseason, late-season line adjustments are notable to say the least. Catching onto those trends can mean the difference between a second-place fantasy finish and championship hardware.

Daniel Winnik, who managed a plus-15 in a secondary role with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has blossomed with the Pittsburgh Penguins alongside current NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby. Winnik has two goals and two assists with nine shots on goal (SOG) and a plus-4 rating over his past five games playing with Crosby and a combination of either David Perron or Patric Hornqvist in a top-line role. Winnik, two percent owned in Yahoo leagues, was second among Maple Leafs forwards in shots attempts relative percentage (3.0) prior to being traded and has made up for his minus-35 SAT with Toronto by posting a plus-43 in that category through 15 games with Pittsburgh.

– Two points behind Crosby in the League scoring race is John Tavares of the New York Islanders, who clicked into high gear from January to early March alongside Anders Lee, only to post a minus-10 rating with two points over eight games from March 10 to 28 after Kyle Okposo took his spot. But a line swap Sunday saw him operate alongside Ryan Strome and Nikolay Kulemin against the Detroit Red Wings, and the results were spectacular. Tavares posted his fifth game of three-plus points this season, helping the Islanders snap their home losing skid. After a deep slump, Strome (C/RW, 41 percent owned) has points in four of his past five games with high upside heading into the postseason if he sticks on Tavares’ line.

– Staying in the Metropolitan Division, Ryan Johansen is no longer playing with Nick Foligno as the Columbus Blue Jackets near full strength, and is in the midst of a seven-game point streak. Boone Jenner (five percent owned) returned from a lengthy absence on March 21 and has a plus-4 rating, two points, eight SOG and 15 hits in four games on Johansen’s wing. Rounding out that line has been Cam Atkinson (18 percent owned), who’s on an absolute tear with 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his past 10 games. While Columbus doesn’t have much to play for standings-wise, they are building positive vibes down the stretch that fantasy owners should take full advantage of.

Alex Tanguay

– The Colorado Avalanche sustained a major setback in their playoff push Monday with a home loss to the Edmonton Oilers, but the team has turned its season around with an anchor line of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and veteran Alex Tanguay. The Avalanche were trying to roll three lines for much of the season, but when Nathan MacKinnon went down with injury, they were forced to take their chances by stacking their best forwards onto two lines. As a result, Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla are picking up steam on one unit, while Landeskog, O’Reilly and Tanguay have formed one of the hottest lines in the NHL with a combined 30 points over Colorado’s past eight games. Landeskog is approaching top-30 fantasy forward status and is owned in the vast majority of leagues, but O’Reilly (LW/C, 61 percent) or Tanguay (LW/RW, 27 percent) may be available depending on your league size.

– So much of the credit for the Vancouver Canucks‘ revival goes to Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin‘s chemistry with Radim Vrbata for much of the season, but that hasn’t been the winning ingredient of late. Alexandre Burrows is on the top line with the Sedins, while Vrbata has flanked Nick Bonino and Chris Higgins exceptionally over the Canucks’ past six games. Vrbata has racked up SOG (28) and has five multipoint games over that span, with Bonino (C, 17 percent; five points) and Higgins (LW, 4 percent; four points) along for the ride. In deep leagues, Vrbata’s linemates are there for the taking and should not be overlooked.

Alex Ovechkin, the NHL leader in goals and shots on goal over the past two seasons, was separated from usual sidekick Nicklas Backstrom at even strength Sunday against the New York Rangers. The Washington Capitals captain played alongside Joel Ward and fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov (LW/C, 38 percent). It’s tough to tell if this was merely an experiment by coach Barry Trotz or a sign of things to come, but this situation is worth monitoring over the final two weeks of the regular season. Kuznetsov was buried in the lineup over the course of the season, but has made a case for better usage with three goals, one assist and 20 SOG over his past six games.


TRENDING UP

Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota Wild

Mikko Koivu

Koivu, who missed 27 games in 2011-12 and another 17 last season, has stayed healthy for all 76 of Minnesota’s games this season. Though Koivu (43 percent owned) has seen a dip in points-per-game average and six stretches of three or more games without a point, Minnesota’s acquisition of Chris Stewart has helped the veteran center salvage his season. Koivu, alongside mostly Stewart and Nino Niederreiter, has points in seven of his past 10 games, including a three-point, plus-3 outburst Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. Minnesota has the third-worst conversion rate with the man advantage League-wide (15.7 percent), but Koivu has been a bright spot with 15 power-play points (second on the Wild). Regression to the mean has worked to Koivu’s favor in recent weeks and months, with the 32-year-old on track to clear the 50-point mark for the sixth time of his career.

TRENDING DOWN

Anders Lee, LW/C, New York Islanders

It was fun while it lasted, but Lee’s short-term fantasy value took a sizable hit when he was demoted to the Islanders’ second line after Okposo’s return. Lee is tied for second among rookies in goals (23), but has gone pointless in seven of nine games with two points and a minus-5 over that span since being moved off John Tavares‘ line. Islanders coach Jack Capuano bumped Josh Bailey and Okposo off the top unit Sunday, but Strome and Kulemin were moved next to Tavares instead of Lee. The Notre Dame product will have to rely on his power-play opportunities (2:08 per game) to stay fantasy-relevant over the Islanders’ five remaining regular-season games. Don’t hesitate to drop Lee if there’s a more productive asset out there in a better spot with more games remaining.

David Desharnais

KEEP AN EYE ON

Category specialists

Atkinson has back-to-back seasons with 20-plus goals and 2.7-plus shots on goal per game, while Michael Frolik (C/RW, 13 percent) of the Winnipeg Jets has found his niche alongside Andrew Ladd and is closing in on 200 SOG for the season. If you need points and PIMs, Patrick Maroon (LW, 6 percent) of the Anaheim Ducks and Stewart (RW, 14 percent) are getting the job done in top-six capacities of late. Just be mindful that the Ducks have four games left (fewest in the League), compared to the Wild’s six. There are also power-play point specialists in Frans Nielsen (C, 20 percent) of the Islanders and Marcus Johansson (LW/C, 16 percent) of the Washington Capitals. For a boost in plus-minus, David Desharnais (C, 18 percent) of the Montreal Canadiens and Winnik should continue their efficient ways alongside Max Pacioretty and Crosby, respectively.


TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Upward and downward trends are based on games since March 24, 2015. Value is quantified by line combinations, overall upside and past performance in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal). Games remaining, as of March 31, 2015, are also factored in.

1
Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH (SAME)
51
Gustav Nyquist, C/RW, DET (+7)
2
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (SAME)
52
Sean Monahan, C, CGY (+5)
3
John Tavares, C, NYI (+1)
53
Joe Thornton, C, SJS (-8)
4
Steven Stamkos, C/RW, TBL (-1)
54
David Perron, LW/RW, PIT – DTD
5
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL – DTD
55
Derick Brassard, C, NYR (SAME)
6
Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (SAME)
56
Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (-4)
7
Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (SAME)
57
Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (+2)
8
Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (SAME)
58
Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA (+3)
9
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI (+1)
59
Marian Gaborik, LW/RW, LAK (-5)
10
Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (-1)
60
Mark Stone, RW, OTT (SAME)
11
Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (SAME)
61
Taylor Hall, LW/C, EDM (+8)
12
Jamie Benn, LW/C, DAL (+2)
62
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (SAME)
13
Joe Pavelski, LW/C/RW, SJS (SAME)
63
Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (+3)
14
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (-2)
64
Milan Lucic, LW, BOS (SAME)
15
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (+1)
65
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL (SAME)
16
Zach Parise, LW, MIN (-1)
66
Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (+1)
17
Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (+2)
67
Derek Stepan, C, NYR (+1)
18
Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C, DET (SAME)
68
Eric Staal, LW/C, CAR (+4)
19
Pavel Datsyuk, LW/C, DET (+2)
69
Matt Duchene, LW/C, COL (+5)
20
Tyler Johnson, C/RW, TBL – DTD
70
Mark Scheifele, C, WPG (SAME)
21
Nick Foligno, LW, CBJ (+1)
71
Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET (+12)
22
Ryan Johansen, C/RW, CBJ (+1)
72
Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (+4)
23
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (-3)
73
Jason Pominville, RW, MIN (-2)
24
Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG (+1)
74
Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT (+1)
25
Alexander Steen, LW/C, STL – DTD
75
Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (+5)
26
Filip Forsberg, LW/C/RW, NSH (+2)
76
Patrick Marleau, LW/C, SJS (+2)
27
David Backes, C/RW, STL (-1)
77
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW/C, FLA (+5)
28
Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (+2)
78
Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH (+6)
29
Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW, TBL (-1)
79
Ryan O’Reilly, LW/C, COL (+16)
30
Corey Perry, RW, ANA (-3)
80
Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CHI (+4)
31
Marian Hossa, RW, CHI (SAME)
81
Tyler Toffoli, RW, LAK (SAME)
32
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (+2)
82
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (-3)
33
Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (-1)
83
Craig Smith, C/RW, NSH (-6)
34
Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK (-1)
84
Alex Tanguay, LW/RW, COL (+7)
35
Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN (+1)
85
Drew Stafford, RW, WPG (+12)
36
Tomas Tatar, LW, DET (+2)
86
Kyle Turris, C, OTT (+3)
37
Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (-2)
87
Phil Kessel, RW, TOR (+1)
38
Jiri Hudler, LW/RW, CGY (+2)
88
Ryan Strome, C/RW, NYI (NEW)
39
Logan Couture, LW/C, SJS (+2)
89
Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (NEW)
40
Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (+2)
90
Steve Downie, LW/RW, PIT (+8)
41
Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (+12)
91
Alex Killorn, LW/C, TBL (-4)
42
Jason Spezza, C, DAL (+2)
92
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM (SAME)
43
Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL (+4)
93
Anders Lee, LW/C, NYI (-20)
44
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (-1)
94
Mike Hoffman, LW/C, OTT (-8)
45
Patrick Sharp, LW/C, CHI (+3)
95
Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, MIN (SAME)
46
Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (+4)
96
David Krejci, C, BOS (NR – IR)
47
Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (+4)
97
Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ (NEW)
48
Ryan Callahan, RW, TBL (-2)
98
Kevin Hayes, C/RW, NYR (NEW)
49
T.J. Oshie, C/RW, STL (SAME)
99
Chris Stewart, RW, MIN (NEW)
50
Jarome Iginla, RW, COL (+6)
100
David Desharnais, C, MTL (NEW)

Just Missed: Mika Zibanejad, Paul Stastny, Alex Galchenyuk, Marcus Johansson, Michael Frolik, Valtteri Filppula, Troy Brouwer, Loui Eriksson, Frans Nielsen, Evgeny Kuznetsov

Dropped out: Zibanejad, Stastny, Erik Cole

Key injuries: Patrick Kane, Wayne Simmonds, Bryan Little (Editor’s Note: Little returned March 31), Martin St. Louis, Nathan MacKinnon, James Neal, Nick Bjugstad, Brett Connolly, Johan Franzen, Evander Kane, Mikkel Boedker, Zemgus Girgensons, Valeri Nichushkin, Tanner Pearson, Pascal Dupuis

DTD: Day-to-day; NR – IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

Article source: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=760744

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