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Monday, March 21, 2011
Front Line: A Blue of note

By Sean Allen
Special to

Ranking these forwards based on what they are going to do during the next couple weeks is becoming increasingly difficult as the remaining season shrinks. The top-40 or so forwards are fairly set in stone as they retain value that is a step above others, but after that, anything can happen. That's why these will be our final forward-looking ranks of the season. Next week, we'll be taking a look back at this season before taking a look forward at the 2011-12 season in the first week of April. Don't worry, if you still need an edge during the final two weeks, the Fantasy Forecaster will still be around to help you decide whom you should be playing and whom you shouldn't trust in the stretch run.

Meanwhile, with three weeks left in this season, Matt D'Agostini of the St. Louis Blues appears out of nowhere at No. 68 on the list, and I was tempted to put him even higher. How can a player not be ranked in the top 100 one week appear as high as No. 68 the next week? With about 10 games left in the season for most teams, it's actually not that difficult. All a player has to do at this point is show up at the right place at the right time, and for D'Agostini, that means waltzing into a top-line assignment with the Blues' Andy McDonald and David Backes, which has been one of the hottest duos in the league of late. Since stepping into the role, D'Agostini has nine points in five games. While that kind of a spike is normally only enough to get him onto the radar for the top-100, it's an all-access pass this late in the season. It is much easier to sustain a quick streak of scoring for two or three weeks than for a whole season.

My point this week is to remind you to trust in the hot streak this late in the season. If someone is showing signs of heating up, jump at them much quicker than you normally would. You don't need the player to find a way to retain his value over the course of a season, you now need a free-agent pickup to be able to retain his value over the course of three weeks. Don't be too judgemental when making moves at this point. If you think about a player too long, someone else is going to snatch him up.

Top 100 Forwards

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Alex Ovechkin, Was (1)
2. Daniel Sedin, Van (2)
3. Steven Stamkos, TB (3)
4. Henrik Sedin, Van (4)
5. Jonathan Toews, Chi (5)
6. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (6)
7. Anze Kopitar, LA (9)
8. Corey Perry, Ana (7)
9. Martin St. Louis, TB (8)
10. Alexander Semin, Was (10)
11. Patrick Kane, Chi (11)
12. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (12)
13. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (13)
14. Rick Nash, Cls (14)
15. Jeff Carter, Phi (15)
16. John Tavares, NYI (20)
17. Andy McDonald, StL (25)
18. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (16)
19. Dany Heatley, SJ (17)
20. Eric Staal, Car (18)
21. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (19)
22. Claude Giroux, Phi (21)
23. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (22)
24. Brad Richards, Dal (24)
25. Joe Thornton, SJ (26)
26. Bobby Ryan, Ana (27)
27. Alex Burrows, Van (28)
28. David Backes, StL (29)
29. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (35)
30. Milan Lucic, Bos (31)
31. Phil Kessel, Tor (32)
32. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (23)
33. Patrick Marleau, SJ (51)
34. Ryan Kesler, Van (34)
35. Teemu Selanne, Ana (30)
36. Marian Gaborik, NYR (37)
37. Danny Briere, Phi (38)
38. Mikko Koivu, Min (99)
39. Marian Hossa, Chi (41)
40. Shane Doan, Pho (53)
41. Mike Richards, Phi (42)
42. Johan Franzen, Det (36)
43. Logan Couture, SJ (43)
44. David Krejci, Bos (44)
45. Thomas Vanek, Buf (54)
46. Andrew Ladd, Atl (45)
47. Scott Hartnell, Phi (39)
48. Jason Spezza, Ott (56)
49. Drew Stafford, Buf (47)
50. Nathan Horton, Bos (49)
51. Michael Grabner, NYI (50)
52. Ryan Callahan, NYR (62)
53. Martin Havlat, Min (52)
54. R.J. Umberger, Cls (55)
55. Blake Wheeler, Atl (57)
56. Brad Boyes, StL (58)
57. Loui Eriksson, Dal (46)
58. Justin Williams, LA (59)
59. Devin Setoguchi, SJ (60)
60. Joe Pavelski, SJ (69)
61. Jamie Benn, Dal (74)
62. Frans Nielsen, NYI (84)
63. Brenden Morrow, Dal (68)
64. Dustin Penner, Edm (61)
65. Tim Connolly, Buf (95)
66. Ryane Clowe, SJ (83)
67. Chris Stewart, StL (40)
68. Matt D'Agostini, StL (NR)
69. Patrik Elias, NJ (70)
70. Jordan Staal, Pit (75)
71. Mikael Samuelsson, Van (71)
72. Brian Rolston, NJ (72)
73. Patrick Sharp, Chi (33)
74. Vaclav Prospal, NYR (77)
75. Matt Moulson, NYI (85)
76. Mike Knuble, Was (NR)
77. Dustin Brown, LA (67)
78. Stephen Weiss, Fla (87)
79. Mike Ribeiro, Dal (78)
80. Tyler Kennedy, Pit (NR)
81. Radim Vrbata, Pho (98)
82. Martin Erat, Nsh (81)
83. Rene Bourque, Cgy (92)
84. Erik Christensen, NYR (NR)
85. Brian Gionta, Mon (94)
86. Mikhail Grabovski, Tor (66)
87. Mike Cammalleri, Mon (88)
88. Tyler Ennis, Buf (NR)
89. Alex Tanguay, Cgy (48)
90. Jakub Voracek, Cls (89)
91. Ray Whitney, Pho (90)
92. Patrik Berglund, StL (63)
93. Antoine Vermette, Cls (93)
94. T.J. Oshie, StL (96)
95. Teddy Purcell, TB (100)
96. Chris Kunitz, Pit (NR)
97. Jeff Skinner, Car (NR)
98. Matt Duchene, Col (NR)
99. Niclas Bergfors, Atl (NR)
100. P.A. Parenteau, NYI (NR)
101. Sergei Kostitsyn, Nsh (101)

Rising and Falling

Alex Tanguay, Calgary Flames (down 41 spots): Tanguay gets to represent his fellow Flames on this one. While Jarome Iginla and Rene Bourque remain adequately relevant to fantasy owners, Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen have been falling out of favor since early March. All top six forwards for the Flames were coming off of a big February. I don't want to draw too tight a correlation between the two, but about the same time Tanguay, Glencross and Jokinen started to struggle is when Brendan Morrison (the sixth member of the Flames hot February club) went down with an injured knee. Even if Morrison is the glue that binds this group, there have been no indications as to when he may return. Iginla and Bourque are still doing their thing, but the rest of the forward group aren't so hot at the moment.

Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (up 61 spots): Koivu wasted no time rounding back into form after healing a broken finger. In four games he already has five points. Back at the helm of the offense between Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen, Koivu's presence means you can expect some players who stepped up in his absence -- Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard -- to at least somewhat relent their pace. The gap has almost closed on Koivu's ownership, but in 5 percent of ESPN leagues, you can still find him on the waiver wire.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks (up 18 spots): As Tanguay represented his teammates in this space, so does Marleau. The difference is that Marleau will be the bearer of good news. The Sharks seem as determined as anyone to finish the season strong. In the past four games, Marleau has seven points while playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi . Joe Pavelski, meantime, is as hot as anyone in the NHL with 11 points in his past four games, Pavelski has really turned on the afterburners. Despite playing at even strength with Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood, Pavelski generates a lot of his value from power-play time with Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley (when not suspended).

Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers (up nine spots): As hoped, both Sergei Samsonov and Niclas Bergfors have been lined up to finish the season alongside Weiss. The Panthers are definitely looking to next season at this point, and showcasing what they received at the trade deadline has certainly paid dividends so far. While Bergfors has steadily contributed six points during his past eight games, something clicked for Samsonov last week and he managed three straight two-point games. All the while, Weiss has found some level of consistency for his own game and managed eight points in his past eight games. Using Samsonov or Bergfors will come with some natural trepidation, but a team's top line is a team's top line. These three will get plenty of ice time and first dibs on the power plays.

Scoring Lines

Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari, Buffalo Sabres: A nice side effect of the Sabres finally getting two full lines of offense going has been the addition of a third scoring line thanks to Gerbe, Mancari and Paul Gaustad. The trio offers a mix of playing styles, from the diminutive Gerbe to the power-forward Gaustad and AHL call-up Mancari. The trio has managed eight points during the Sabres past two games and Mancari's play has even earned him power-play time with the second unit. They are worth keeping an eye on for a late season need on your roster.

Steve Ott and Jamie Langenbrunner, Dallas Stars: With Loui Eriksson injured and no definitive answer as to which winger is replacing James Neal, the Stars have gone ahead and moved two members of the third line to the first line alongside Brad Richards. In three games since Eriksson was hurt, Ott has three points. Langenbrunner hasn't fared quite as well, but the potential exists with Richards as a centerman.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals: With Jason Arnott hurt, Nicklas Backstrom has not returned to his usual role on the top line when he returned from a broken thumb. In fact, the Caps kept the top trio of Marcus Johansson, Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Knuble intact. Backstrom doesn't get a terrible door prize considering Alexander Semin and Marco Sturm were his linemates, but the real news here is Johansson's continued potential for value. Recently able to string together a four-game five-point streak, Johansson managed a plus-3 rating in Backstrom's return on Friday.

Power Plays

Ryan Shannon and Nick Foligno, Ottawa Senators: Considering the two names you see here, it should be no surprise to learn that the Sens top power play has been Jason Spezza, Shannon and Foligno. Both players have three-game point streaks going and both players have two power-play points during those past three games.

Eric Belanger, Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata are no surprise on the Coyotes top power play, but adding in Belanger as the fourth forward is a bit unexpected. Nevertheless, he has managed nine points and two power-play points in his past seven games.


Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks: Sharp had to be helped off the ice on Sunday after colliding with Rostislav Klesla. It looked like a potential knee injury. The Hawks were mum on the extent of it as of this writing, but it doesn't sound good based on the inferences of the players and Chicago newspapers. Troy Brouwer immediately becomes interesting as the top winger with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Sharp owners can only hope for the best, but picking up Brouwer might be the best way to mitigate at this point.

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Couture suffered a leg injury on Saturday night, but his outlook sounds more positive than Sharp's. There are even suggestions he will be available for Wednesday's game. Ben Eager has been playing up the depth chart with Dany Heatley serving his suspension and would likely continue to do so if Couture misses any length of time. Eager hasn't done much with the opportunity.

Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars: There is no timetable for Eriksson's return from an upper-body injury, but he was skating before Saturday's contest. In the meantime, Steve Ott (as mentioned above) isn't the worst fill-in for fantasy as Eriksson's replacement on the top line for the Stars. Eriksson owners should sit tight as it sounds at this point like you could get a few games out of him yet.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby may be back on the ice skating on occasion, but I would expect a return no earlier than the playoffs. Which means he is dead to fantasy owners at this point. If you haven't already dropped him for a more flexible roster, do so.

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils: It is sounding more like Parise will be back in time for at least six games to finish the season. He is working out on his own and getting close to bringing his surgically repaired knee back to practice with the rest of the Devils. He is available in 50 percent of leagues and even if his knee were only half of what it was before, Parise would still offer top-50 value for the final handful of games.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.