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Monday, April 22, 2013
Early 2013-14 forward rankings

By Sean Allen
ESPN.com

There isn't much more we can do at this point in the season to help you, other than wish you the best. Weekly leagues will have set their final lineup for the season and even daily leagues face a diminishing return on what you can do as a last-minute scramble.

That said, there are some recommendations for this final week of the season at the bottom of this article. The majority, however, is to start getting you prepped for next year. That's right. We present our initial 2013-14 fantasy forward rankings.

Obviously there are a lot of question that get asked and answered between now and your fantasy draft next season, but that's why these rankings will get updates as we progress through the NHL playoffs, entry draft and free-agent period.

In the meantime, this list should be a starting point for your plans for next season or, in keeper leagues, some indication of which direction players might be headed.

Top 100 Forwards for 2013-14

Preseason ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pit (3)
2. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (1)
4. Alex Ovechkin, Was (5)
5. John Tavares, NYI (6)
6. Patrick Kane, Chi (42)
7. Eric Staal, Car (20)
8. Daniel Sedin, Van (4)
9. Anze Kopitar, LA (18)
10. Corey Perry, Ana (8)
11. Henrik Sedin, Van (12)
12. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (10)
13. Claude Giroux, Phi (7)
14. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (35)
15. Jonathan Toews, Chi (14)
16. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (24)
17. Phil Kessel, Tor (17)
18. Rick Nash, NYR (19)
19. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (29)
20. Zach Parise, Min (15)
21. Taylor Hall, Edm (38)
22. Alexander Semin, Car (45)
23. Chris Kunitz, Pit (97)
24. Martin St. Louis, TB (31)
25. Marian Hossa, Chi (30)
26. Jakub Voracek, Phi (61)
27. James Neal, Pit (9)
28. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (25)
29. Patrick Sharp, Chi (13)
30. Jamie Benn, Dal (39)
31. Tyler Seguin, Bos (28)
32. Matt Moulson, NYI (48)
33. Jason Spezza, Ott (16)
34. Jarome Iginla, Pit (41)
35. Patrice Bergeron, Bos (49)
36. Max Pacioretty, Mon (67)
37. Derek Stepan, NYR (NR)
38. James van Riemsdyk, Tor (60)
39. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (NR)
40. Jordan Eberle, Edm (21)
41. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (37)
42. Mikko Koivu, Min (27)
43. Thomas Vanek, Buf (58)
44. Ryan Kesler, Van (83)
45. P.A. Parenteau, Col (NR)
46. Evander Kane, Wpg (74)
47. Jason Pominville, Min (73)
48. Joe Thornton, SJ (33)
49. Dustin Brown, LA (76)
50. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (100)
51. Marian Gaborik, Cls (65)
52. Matt Duchene, Col (NR)
53. Nazem Kadri, Tor (NR)
54. Justin Williams, LA (92)
55. Brad Richards, NYR (11)
56. Sam Gagner, Edm (NR)
57. Patrick Marleau, SJ (26)
58. Michael Ryder, Mon (NR)
59. Alex Burrows, Van (66)
60. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (84)
61. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (22)
62. Troy Brouwer, Was (NR)
63. Mike Ribeiro, Was (88)
64. Mike Richards, LA (78)
65. Logan Couture, SJ (47)
66. Jeff Carter, LA (55)
67. David Backes, StL (34)
68. Milan Lucic, Bos (46)
69. Brad Marchand, Bos (NR)
70. Joe Pavelski, SJ (43)
71. Johan Franzen, Det (53)
72. Ryan Callahan, NYR (94)
73. Derick Brassard, NYR (NR)
74. Teddy Purcell, TB (69)
75. T.J. Oshie, StL (50)
76. Jonathan Huberdeau, Fla (86)
77. Blake Wheeler, Wpg (59)
78. Ray Whitney, Dal (51)
79. David Krejci, Bos (NR)
80. Brenden Morrow, Pit (NR)
81. Scott Hartnell, Phi (23)
82. Patrik Elias, NJ (82)
83. Loui Eriksson, Dal (80)
84. Wayne Simmonds, Phi (NR)
85. Brandon Saad, Chi (NR)
86. Alexander Steen, StL (NR)
87. Brent Burns, SJ (NR)
88. Mika Zibanejad, Ott (NR)
89. Alex Galchenyuk, Mon (NR)
90. Jiri Tlusty, Car (NR)
91. Radim Vrbata, Pho (64)
92. Milan Michalek, Ott (NR)
93. Cody Hodgson, Buf (NR)
94. Tomas Fleischmann, Fla (63)
95. David Clarkson, NJ (NR)
96. Kyle Turris, Ott (NR)
97. Sven Baertschi, Cgy (NR)
98. Frans Nielsen, NYI (NR)
99. Jaden Schwartz, StL (NR)
100. Vladimir Tarasenko, StL (NR)

Top of the list

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: There is no denying that Crosby belongs here. There was such a separation between him and the rest of the league that despite missing the final few weeks of the season he will finish as No. 2 on the ESPN Player Rater among forwards. The jaw injury won't be a major concern going forward, unless you are Crosby's dentist. It's difficult to hold the injury against Crosby because it was such a freak accident, but he is becoming just a little too well-known for being out of the lineup. It's something to watch, but shouldn't be any reason to discount him next year.

2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: Keeping Stamkos as No. 2 was not a clear-cut choice. This shortened NHL campaign wasn't his best, but it's impossible to argue with his track record as an elite goal scorer. Stamkos will take another run at 60 goals next season and the Lightning will have some secondary scoring that should be more adjusted to the NHL to help. Additional threats on the team will go a long way to taking pressure of Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: If Malkin and Crosby were ever healthy at the same time, look out! Malkin had his own fair share of ailments this season that kept him out of more games than fantasy owners want to see from a top draft choice. That said, the results are there when Malkin is on the ice. Even if you count on him to miss 10 games next season, he is still the third choice to make in fantasy drafts. The Penguins may even try to retain some of the services they collected at the trade deadline and leave both Crosby and Malkin a better winger selection than they are used to.

4. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: It was later to arrive than we expected, but the bounce-back from Ovechkin was undeniable this season. Since March 17, Ovechkin has scored in all but three of 18 games played, collecting 29 points during that span. His 20 goals during that time vaulted him into the league lead, where -- barring a complete breakdown -- he will finish the season with the Rocket Richard Trophy. Ovechkin is being deployed as he should be by coach Adam Oates, so expect the success to continue as long as Oates is calling the shots.

5. John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares really found his goal-scoring rhythm this season and in just 45 games (with three more to play) is only five goals back of his career-high of 31 goals, set during an 82-game campaign last season. His adaptability means only good things to come as the Isles continue to get better with the graduation of prospects. All he needs is one dynamic linemate to go from a point-per-game player to a 100-point guy.

6. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: The most impressive part of Kane's season is that he largely performed without superstar assistance. In other words, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa rarely played on a line with Kane, while Patrick Sharp was injured for a large chunk of the season. With a healthy Sharp by his side next season, Kane could challenge for a spot even higher up this list.

7. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes: Give Staal an elite-level winger to play with and see what happens? Alexander Semin helped remind us all what a dominant player Staal can be on the ice. It probably didn't hurt to have his brother taking some pressure off on the second line, either. The Hurricanes have some strong offensive pieces in the system, notably defenseman Ryan Murphy, who could further elevate the attack next season.

8. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: If recent games are any indication, the Sedin brothers miss Ryan Kesler most of all. It makes sense that with Kesler leading a second line for the Canucks, that opponents can't simply focus all their attention on Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Kesler is all mended and the Canucks will go into next season with two lines instead of just one. That should make all the difference in the world for the Sedins.

9. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: There is a reason Kopitar continues to get top-10 billing in fantasy circles, despite the fact that his raw numbers are more that of a top-25 player. He is amazing to watch on the ice. When Kopitar decides to do something, he does it. So even though we are seven years into this 25-year-old's career, it still feels like there is untapped potential for fantasy owners.

10. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks: There were a lot of possible choices to include in the top 10 for next season, but Perry beats them all on track record and totality of value. If Perry isn't scoring, he is getting penalty minutes. If he isn't getting penalty minutes or scoring, he's taking a ton of shots or assisting goals. Perry contributes to all the fantasy categories like few elite players can. Now that he and Ryan Getzlaf are locked up, the Ducks just have to develop some of their intriguing prospects to joint them.

Two steps forward

26. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers: For about two weeks this season, Voracek was the best player in the league. That was, finally, a glimpse of the potential he has had coming up through the Columbus Blue Jackets system. The Flyers need some consistency in net and among the forward ranks to be a top team, but Voracek should continue to have a connection with Claude Giroux.

37. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers: Filling roles on scoring lines in the past, Stepan finally emerged from his teammates' shadows late in this season. The defensive awareness aside, Stepan has found an offensive connection with captain Ryan Callahan that has resulted in 17 points in 11 games so far in April. While also providing a presence on the Rangers' top power-play unit, Stepan is just shy of a point-per-game pace.

Three steps back

81. Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers: If it hadn't been for his out-of-the-blue hat trick last week, Hartnell might have been completely overlooked for these rankings because how much he has disappeared. Did he rush back from his foot injury and lose a step? Since returning to the lineup following the early injury, Hartnell has nine points in 26 games. Compare that to the elite stat-stuffer that usually fills all categories for fantasy owners. Hartnell was tough to rank because it seems to be an either/or case with Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds. They are similar players and there is likely only room for one tough-nosed fantasy contributor at the top of the Flyers lineup.

Bouncing back?

33. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators: One thing is certain: The Sens team that Spezza returns to will have some experienced young players with huge upside. If Spezza can connect with some of the young talent like Kyle Turris, Cory Conacher, Mika Zibanejad and/or Jakob Silfverberg, next season should see the Sens playmaker return to the forefront of fantasy production.

43. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres: Was it truly stamina or conditioning issues for Vanek? Or did he have an underlying injury for most of the season? He was a top-10 (maybe top-three) player out of the gate this season, but Vanek dropped off sharply after a couple of weeks of elite scoring. Can he find a pace that works or will Vanek continue to be a boom bust acquisition? There are a lot of questions surrounding him and the Sabres for next season.

61. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: A textbook example of why the meaningless term "sophomore slump" still exists. While there might not be actual evidence of a second-year slump trend, RNH will be a player folks point to when making the argument (actually, all three Calder finalists from last season -- RNH, Adam Henrique and Gabriel Landeskog -- don't help with the fallacy). But considering the supporting cast, Nugent-Hopkins' fall was the most devastating to fantasy owners. The Oilers still boast a ton of young talent and Nugent-Hopkins is having his shoulder surgically repaired, so there is hope for next season.

Looking for work

Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla still has plenty of fantasy value heading into next season, especially if he stays with the Penguins.

34. Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh Penguins: While he is a free agent in principle, he may not be in practice. Iginla is probably going to stay with the Pens and have a chance to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But if Iggy goes out on the market, he remains an elite fantasy player as long as he lands somewhere with quality, experienced linemates.

58. Michael Ryder, Montreal Canadiens: It's also difficult to imagine Ryder seriously testing the free-agent market. He had such success as the Habs' go-to power-play shooter, it would benefit both parties to bring him back next season. If not, his value becomes extremely situational. Ryder needs to play somewhere that affords him ample room and opportunity to shoot the puck.

63. Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals: It's tough to put a gauge on Ribeiro's season. A lot of his success came from stepping up and filling the offensive void for the Capitals when Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were struggling at the start of the season. Once Ovie and Backstrom got going, Ribeiro was not leading as much, but still drafting points off the star players. The bottom line is that Ribeiro is an above-average playmaker and can earn a lot of fantasy value in the right situation.

Future Sophomores

76. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: While he is showing advanced leadership and skills as the season progresses, Huberdeau still needs the Panthers to get better around him to become a serious offensive threat. His minus-16 this season is a serious drag on any fantasy owner that tried to use him.

85. Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks: As hoped, Saad settled in on a line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and started scoring. When you consider that he really didn't start finding chemistry with the line until March, his stats become a little more impressive. He could do big things in a full season.

88. Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: The Sens played the majority of the season without their best forward, defenseman and goaltender. That is not an easy season to debut as a rookie. That said, Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg showed some big-time potential. Zibanejad gets to sneak into the top 100 because he has more overall potential.

89. Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: Getting better and better as the year wore on, Galchenyuk arguably had the better rookie season between himself and former linemate Nail Yakupov. The two are separated by minimal points and Galchenyuk's peripherals look a lot better. The best part about Galchenyuk is that he has inserted himself in the Calder Trophy race, despite playing the least ice time of all the top rookies.

2014 Calder hopefuls

Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres: Likely retaining his rookie eligibility by playing in fewer than 25 games this season, Grigorenko will be a boom-or-bust pick for fantasy next season. The talent is definitely there as a top scoring, visionary on the ice. But can the Sabres roster coax it out next season?

Sven Baertschi, Calgary Flames: The Flames will be looking for a new identity next season and Baertschi could be the ticket. He is ultra-smooth with the puck and could be the next star forward for the team if he can put it all together in the NHL. He needs strength, but that comes with time. Baertschi will be afforded tons of opportunity next season, the only real concern is whether his talent can shine without a great supporting cast.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals: We probably have to wait one more season to see Kuznetsov flanking Alex Ovechkin, but just on the off chance that Kuznetsov appears in North America sooner than expected, you need to be ready. This talented Russian already plays way above his age level. He looks like man among boys in the KHL, even though he is actually a boy among men.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators: Martin Erat has consistently been one of the Predators' scoring leaders. When they traded him to the Washington Capitals for Forsberg, they got back a player who can potentially replace Erat as soon as next season. Already up with the Predators for a cup of coffee in the NHL this season, Forsberg will work to be on the team's top line next season.

Final week of this season

Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are making a final push this week for the postseason, with Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler leading the charge on uber-hot streaks. Little is right up there with them though as the third member of the team's top line. Little is available in 39 percent of ESPN leagues, so he might be available to you.

Nikolai Kulemin, Toronto Maple Leafs: Coach Randy Carlyle gave Kulemin another shot on the second line on Saturday and he finished with a plus-2 and an assist. That grants him a stay on the line with Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul heading into the Leafs' final three games. The Maple Leafs get a double-date with the struggling defenses of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. Kulemin may have a good final week.

Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers: If the Leafs have a good schedule, the Rangers have a dream-come-true schedule as they look to secure a playoff berth. The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers are No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring allowed during the past three weeks and the Rangers get to play both of them before a date with the already-eliminated New Jersey Devils. Brassard and Zuccarello are the best of what is likely available on the free-agent pile in your league. Playing with Ryane Clowe and Rick Nash should make it obvious how Brassard has managed nine points in 10 games as a Ranger. Zuccarello has been re-invigorating the play of Brad Richards on a line. Richards has exploded for seven points in the past three games with Zuccarello at his side for most of the scoring. Zuccarello sports a modest four points in four games compared to Richards, but it could be higher than that with different bounces.