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Monday, January 23, 2012
Front Line: Fantasy All-Star team

By Sean Allen
Special to

The All-Star Game can serve as a reminder that not all things are created equal between the NHL and fantasy hockey. While there aren't many serious objections about the players named to this week's All-Star rosters, there is certainly a few differences to be found if you consider who would make the team in fantasy leagues.

We were clear in the midseason awards that draft position had a lot to do with selecting the first-half fantasy MVP, so the same logic would apply to the fantasy All-Star team. In the spirit of a celebratory week for the NHL, here are some of the top selections fantasy owners would likely make for the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa.

Just like the NHL names its teams after key players now, this All-Star team will be called "Team Lupul." If you recall, Joffrey Lupul was the fantasy MVP we named in last week's column for his incredible value versus draft position.

Team Lupul

Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin continues to amaze, and he doesn't turn 20 until next week.

Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins: Currently No. 20 overall on the ESPN Player Rater, Seguin was expected to have an uphill climb in his sophomore season -- and he had an average draft position of 182.3. After a couple weeks of fighting with Rich Peverley over the final spot in the top six, Seguin won out and was on fire from there. Playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Seguin has 42 points in 45 games and an incredible plus-34. In fact, Seguin has passed Lupul on the Player Rater and makes an argument to be the team captain. No doubt, Seguin has the better upside for the remainder of this season and beyond. Even when Seguin experiences a slump in the points department, his plus/minus keeps his fantasy value afloat.

Kris Versteeg, Florida Panthers: He's No. 31 on the ESPN Player Rater and was one of the hottest starters this season. However, it may be difficult to remember that Versteeg wasn't drafted in a lot of leagues, with an average draft position of 203.5. After such a blazing start, Versteeg has cooled off considerably. In eight January games, he has points in only two contests (four points total). While Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss have been slumping together, they may have to pull out the funk separately. Versteeg had three points on Saturday, and Fleischmann wasn't on the ice with him for any of them. Weiss was only on the ice with Versteeg for one of the three points. The bottom line right now is that Versteeg appears to be the only one of the three able to get himself going, with both Fleischmann and Weiss having a lot riding on Versteeg getting hot again. If there were one Panther worth investing in, it would be Versteeg.

Matt Moulson, New York Islanders: We've discussed Moulson a lot in recent weeks, but 15 points in his past 11 games can cause that. Moulson is No. 35 on the ESPN Player Rater but had an average draft position of 187.6. He is on pace for 39 goals and 77 points. That makes him a fantasy All-Star by any account. He and John Tavares should continue to pot points for the remainder of the season. Don't surprised if he comes close to that on-pace projection.

Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres: It's been four years since Pominville had flashed us his point-per-game potential, so fantasy owners selecting him with an average draft position of 198.2 can be forgiven. Currently No. 50 on the ESPN Player Rater, Pominville has enjoyed a resurgent season alongside his old cohort Thomas Vanek. The problem is that the pace has been slipping as the season wears on for this pair, but especially for Vanek. While Pominville has maintained some credibility with eight points in 10 January games, Vanek has disappeared since the new year. Pominville can only keep up the charade for so long before he starts to spiral as well. In lieu of the Sabres beginning to look like a winning team, it is time to jettison this pair while Pominville still shows up on the first page of the Player Rater rankings. See if you can get a top-75 forward on the rise in trade.

Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers: Somehow, some way, Callahan manages to maintain his fantasy value. Despite being yanked around on the depth chart, separated from and reunited with Brandon Dubinsky and being asked to be defensively responsible, Callahan has managed to stay on pace for a 60-point season with above average shots on goal and penalty minutes. Toss in the 20 minutes of ice time he gets per game, and we begin to understand it isn't all about the points with the Rangers captain. Currently on a line with Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko (would that be the third line?), there is no sense in worrying about where Callahan falls on the depth chart, as he has the talent and tenacity to earn his fantasy stripes. He is No. 51 on the ESPN Player Rater despite an average draft position of 183.8.

Rising and Falling

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. Daniel Sedin, Van (1)
2. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (4)
4. Henrik Sedin, Van (3)
5. Claude Giroux, Phi (5)
6. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (6)
7. Corey Perry, Ana (8)
8. Alex Ovechkin, Was (9)
9. Marian Hossa, Chi (13)
10. Phil Kessel, Tor (7)
11. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (11)
12. Patrick Sharp, Chi (22)
13. Ryan Kesler, Van (10)
14. Jonathan Toews, Chi (14)
15. James Neal, Pit (15)
16. Anze Kopitar, LA (16)
17. Zach Parise, NJ (12)
18. Jamie Benn, Dal (17)
19. Scott Hartnell, Phi (20)
20. Johan Franzen, Det (18)
21. Patrick Kane, Chi (21)
22. Martin St. Louis, TB (23)
23. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (19)
24. Teemu Selanne, Ana (26)
25. Jason Spezza, Ott (27)
26. Patrick Marleau, SJ (25)
27. John Tavares, NYI (28)
28. Tyler Seguin, Bos (35)
29. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (24)
30. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (30)
31. David Backes, StL (38)
32. Brad Marchand, Bos (40)
33. Joe Pavelski, SJ (33)
34. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (31)
35. Eric Staal, Car (32)
36. Alex Burrows, Van (37)
37. Thomas Vanek, Buf (29)
38. Kris Versteeg, Fla (39)
39. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (34)
40. Jeff Skinner, Car (41)
41. David Krejci, Bos (42)
42. Dany Heatley, Min (43)
43. Jordan Eberle, Edm (56)
44. Brad Richards, NYR (44)
45. Milan Lucic, Bos (46)
46. Marian Gaborik, NYR (55)
47. Joe Thornton, SJ (47)
48. Matt Moulson, NYI (57)
49. Rick Nash, Cls (36)
50. Mike Richards, LA (49)
51. Nathan Horton, Bos (50)
52. Adam Henrique, NJ (51)
53. Bobby Ryan, Ana (53)
54. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (63)
55. Jaromir Jagr, Phi (45)
56. Ryan Callahan, NYR (64)
57. Taylor Hall, Edm (58)
58. Tomas Fleischmann, Fla (48)
59. Patrice Bergeron, Bos (60)
60. Logan Couture, SJ (61)
61. Alexander Semin, Was (62)
62. Stephen Weiss, Fla (54)
63. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (73)
64. Jason Pominville, Buf (65)
65. Radim Vrbata, Pho (66)
66. Loui Eriksson, Dal (67)
67. Chris Kunitz, Pit (68)
68. Danny Briere, Phi (52)
69. Jeff Carter, Cls (70)
70. Erik Cole, Mon (71)
71. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (59)
72. Patrik Elias, NJ (80)
73. Justin Williams, LA (100)
74. T.J. Oshie, StL (78)
75. Olli Jokinen, Cgy (69)
76. Mikko Koivu, Min (76)
77. Gabriel Landeskog, Col (74)
78. Sidney Crosby, Pit (72)
79. Alexander Steen, StL (81)
80. Shane Doan, Pho (77)
81. Valtteri Filppula, Det (79)
82. Dustin Brown, LA (86)
83. Martin Erat, Nsh (93)
84. Daniel Alfredsson, Ott (82)
85. Max Pacioretty, Mon (83)
86. Mike Ribeiro, Dal (88)
87. Kyle Turris, Ott (84)
88. Mikhail Grabovski, Tor (85)
89. Ray Whitney, Pho (87)
90. P.A. Parenteau, NYI (97)
91. Saku Koivu, Ana (98)
92. David Perron, StL (89)
93. Evander Kane, Wpg (75)
94. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (96)
95. Paul Stastny, Col (NR)
96. Brenden Morrow, Dal (92)
97. Steve Downie, TB (94)
98. Brandon Dubinsky, NYR (99)
99. Teddy Purcell, TB (NR)
100. Ryan O'Reilly, Col (NR)

Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings (up 27 spots): There is no reason to get overly excited by Williams' big jump in the rankings, because it is difficult for him to go much higher. Though he has the potential to be a game-changer for fantasy leagues, the next injury or slump is always just around the corner. He's currently streaking on the Kings' top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and a seven-game point streak boosted his ownership to 100 percent of ESPN leagues. Go ahead and see if his owner is willing to try to cash in on his recent pickup. While Williams may not have potential to rise much higher in the rankings, that only means there are 72 players we think have more value from here on out.

Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers (down 10 spots): Another week, another groin injury for Jagr. With the Flyers proving that they can cope without Jagr, one has to wonder when the point comes where the team starts telling the soon-to-be 40-year-old to start taking things easy and get set for the playoffs. Jagr has shown us he still has the moves and vision to contribute to fantasy teams, but he has also reminded us that he was drafted in 1990. He will still be a valuable asset for the games in which he is healthy, but if you need consistency more than points, it is time to start looking for the right trading partner.

Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 10 spots): The last time Vincent Lecavalier was this popular, there were no iPhones yet. We are getting a glimpse of some vintage Lecavalier in recent weeks. Following a four-game scoreless drought in early December, Vinny has 20 points in 19 games. Lecavalier is playing with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos when the team is in desperate need of offense, and playing with Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell when the Bolts are establishing or protecting a lead. This is about the time last season that Simon Gagne and Teddy Purcell started heating up for the Bolts. Perhaps this year it is Lecavalier's turn to take some of the pressure off Stamkos and St. Louis.

Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets (down 13 spots): Though it has been only six games since Scott Arniel was fired as the Jackets' head coach, we were expecting to see more offense out of the team under Todd Richards. The former Minnesota Wild bench boss and San Jose Sharks assistant is known for his run-and-gun offense and good power play. Again, it has only been six games, but we should have seen something out of Nash by now if a new coach was to be a big difference. We can revisit this situation when Jeff Carter returns from his separated shoulder, but for now, Nash has to be considered a little less valuable and lacking his full potential.

Scoring Lines

Peter Mueller, Colorado Avalanche: We gave you plenty of warning about his return, and Mueller looks to have his legs back with six games under his belt following a long absence due to a concussion. He had a three-point night last week against the Florida Panthers and potted another goal on the weekend against the Los Angeles Kings. Mueller is playing with Paul Stastny and T.J. Galiardi and remains available in 88 percent of ESPN leagues.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: Go pick him up now while the getting is good. RNH is available in 21 percent of ESPN leagues and is the final member of the Oilers' young trio of stars to return to the ice. There is no set timetable for his return, but Nugent-Hopkins was expected to miss three to four weeks when he hurt his shoulder three weeks ago. Jordan Eberle (knee) and Taylor Hall (skate to head) have already returned from their injuries and it won't be long after the All-Star break when Nugent-Hopkins returns and helps power the trio on offense again.

Philadelphia Flyers: Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Sean Couturier all deserve some measure of attention in the coming weeks. Between concussions for Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk, and Jaromir Jagr's groin injury, the Flyers need these rookies (and Simmonds) to come through. For starters, Schenn is playing on the top line with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux. He doesn't have the points to show for it yet, but they'll come. By default, the second-line duties have fallen to Simmonds, Read and Couturier. They have not disappointed. Simmonds has 10 points in 10 games; while Read and Couturier have nine points each. The availability of each player ranges from a low of 13 percent of leagues for Read to a high of 93 percent of leagues for Couturier.

Quick Hits

• Keep an eye on the Anaheim Ducks' Jason Blake, Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino. The trio appears to have created a third line that is offensively threatening. That is the deepest the Ducks offense has been all season and the existence of a tertiary threat could reap benefits for the top two lines as well.

Zac Dalpe is back up with the Carolina Hurricanes after a quick stint back in the AHL. The rookie played top-line duty with Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen in the past two games.

• Don't think too much about the Alexei Ponikarovsky deal to the New Jersey Devils. Poni played on the third line for the Devils and would only move up if injuries allowed him the room to do so. If anything, the move was triggered by the Carolina Hurricanes in order to free up some space to keep Dalpe in the big leagues.

• Keep a very close eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs' line adjustments. An extended separation for Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul will wreak havoc with their fantasy values.

David Booth is back and scoring for the Vancouver Canucks' second line. Playing with Ryan Kesler and Christopher Higgins in three games since returning to the ice, Booth has three points. He is available in 84 percent of ESPN leagues.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can send him a note here or tweet him @seanard with the hashtag #FantasyHockey for a timelier response.