Open Ice: High-upside youngsters

Schwartz, Bonino among young players worthy of consideration

Updated: December 3, 2013, 4:05 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Jaden Schwartz and Nick BoninoGetty ImagesJaden Schwartz and Nick Bonino have proved to be good sources of production.

Fantasy owners are usually hoping for the high-upside breakouts. We want to see the Valeri Nichushkins, Jonathan Huberdeaus and Ryan Stromes of the world come into the NHL and dominate right away. Sometimes we get what we want, but more often than not we end up not getting the "world on fire" arrival that makes it more enjoyable to rub in your fellow fantasy owners' faces.

That said, sometimes we can overlook the arrival of young players because they bring a slow and steady approach to the game. There are some prime examples of players this season -- some surprises and some post-hype breakouts -- that have had a slow build of contributions that include an overall package worthy of most fantasy rosters. Four of them, in particular, jump off the page as having continued upside and the potential to increase their production even more.

The Top 200

Note: Sean Allen's top 200 players 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 for skaters and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Alex Ovechkin, F, Was (1)
2. Sidney Crosby, F, Pit (2)
3. John Tavares, F, NYI (3)
4. Tuukka Rask, G, Bos (4)
5. Henrik Zetterberg, F, Det (5)
6. P.K. Subban, D, Mon (7)
7. Corey Perry, F, Ana (6)
8. Evgeni Malkin, F, Pit (10)
9. Erik Karlsson, D, Ott (9)
10. Pavel Datsyuk, F, Det (17)
11. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (8)
12. Daniel Sedin, F, Van (12)
13. Henrik Sedin, F, Van (13)
14. Patrick Kane, F, Chi (14)
15. Chris Kunitz, F, Pit (19)
16. Jonathan Toews, F, Chi (15)
17. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Wpg (16)
18. Phil Kessel, F, Tor (11)
19. Carey Price, G, Mon (18)
20. Josh Harding, G, Min (23)
21. Ryan Getzlaf, F, Ana (21)
22. David Backes, F, StL (25)
23. Logan Couture, F, SJ (26)
24. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pit (20)
25. Zach Parise, F, Min (24)
26. Alexander Steen, F, StL (27)
27. Patrick Sharp, F, Chi (32)
28. James Neal, F, Pit (34)
29. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Was (28)
30. Tyler Seguin, F, Dal (22)
31. Corey Crawford, G, Chi (33)
32. Antti Niemi, G, SJ (31)
33. Patrick Marleau, F, SJ (40)
34. Kris Letang, D, Pit (29)
35. Semyon Varlamov, G, Col (36)
36. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Pho (35)
37. Bobby Ryan, F, Ott (41)
38. Joe Pavelski, F, SJ (49)
39. Eric Staal, F, Car (42)
40. James van Riemsdyk, F, Tor (44)
41. Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR (30)
42. Drew Doughty, D, LA (37)
43. Claude Giroux, F, Phi (50)
44. Ryan Suter, D, Min (38)
45. Martin St. Louis, F, TB (39)
46. Taylor Hall, F, Edm (43)
47. Niklas Kronwall, D, Det (60)
48. Jamie Benn, F, Dal (48)
49. Joe Thornton, F, SJ (52)
50. Alex Pietrangelo, D, StL (47)
51. Rick Nash, F, NYR (54)
52. Duncan Keith, D, Chi (64)
53. Shea Weber, D, Nsh (45)
54. Mikko Koivu, F, Min (55)
55. Ryan Kesler, F, Van (65)
56. Marian Hossa, F, Chi (56)
57. Johan Franzen, F, Det (67)
58. Roberto Luongo, G, Van (46)
59. Thomas Vanek, F, NYI (57)
60. Jaroslav Halak, G, StL (58)
61. Matt Duchene, F, Col (53)
62. Evander Kane, F, Wpg (51)
63. Andrei Markov, D, Mon (62)
64. Gabriel Landeskog, F, Col (71)
65. Jason Spezza, F, Ott (59)
66. David Krejci, F, Bos (73)
67. Justin Williams, F, LA (75)
68. Kari Lehtonen, G, Dal (68)
69. Max Pacioretty, F, Mon (74)
70. Matt Moulson, F, Buf (63)
71. Radim Vrbata, F, Pho (81)
72. James Wisniewski, D, Cls (76)
73. Jimmy Howard, G, Det (77)
74. Keith Yandle, D, Pho (72)
75. Brad Richards, F, NYR (78)
76. Jordan Eberle, F, Edm (79)
77. Nazem Kadri, F, Tor (69)
78. T.J. Oshie, F, StL (92)
79. Braden Holtby, G, Was (83)
80. Jay Bouwmeester, D, StL (95)
81. Dion Phaneuf, D, Tor (85)
82. Jeff Carter, F, LA (86)
83. Steve Mason, G, Phi (143)
84. Dustin Brown, F, LA (66)
85. Kyle Turris, F, Ott (89)
86. Milan Lucic, F, Bos (97)
87. Jason Pominville, F, Min (87)
88. Andrew Ladd, F, Wpg (88)
89. Torey Krug, D, Bos (90)
90. Jarome Iginla, F, Bos (91)
91. Derek Stepan, F, NYR (110)
92. Kyle Okposo, F, NYI (82)
93. Brent Burns, F, SJ (102)
94. Bryan Little, F, Wpg (104)
95. Jaromir Jagr, F, NJ (105)
96. Shane Doan, F, Pho (101)
97. Zdeno Chara, D, Bos (98)
98. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Cls (70)
99. Cory Schneider, G, NJ (137)
100. Steve Downie, F, Phi (115)
101. Dustin Penner, F, Ana (174)
102. David Perron, F, Edm (103)
103. Ben Bishop, G, TB (152)
104. Tobias Enstrom, D, Wpg (106)
105. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, Edm (96)
106. Jonathan Bernier, G, Tor (61)
107. Patrice Bergeron, F, Bos (94)
108. Martin Hanzal, F, Pho (132)
109. Mike Green, D, Was (100)
110. Daniel Alfredsson, F, Det (133)
111. Pascal Dupuis, F, Pit (114)
112. Ryan O'Reilly, F, Col (99)
113. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, StL (126)
114. Dan Boyle, D, SJ (107)
115. Brandon Dubinsky, F, Cls (118)
116. Cody Franson, D, Tor (108)
117. Frans Nielsen, F, NYI (113)
118. Paul Stastny, F, Col (122)
119. Robin Lehner, G, Ott (119)
120. Cam Fowler, D, Ana (129)
121. Craig Anderson, G, Ott (84)
122. Mike Smith, G, Pho (93)
123. Tomas Plekanec, F, Mon (134)
124. Clarke MacArthur, F, Ott (140)
125. Joffrey Lupul, F, Tor (80)
126. Mike Richards, F, LA (121)
127. Mike Ribeiro, F, Pho (109)
128. Brian Campbell, D, Fla (112)
129. Cam Ward, G, Car (111)
130. Brent Seabrook, D, Chi (144)
131. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (130)
132. Ryan Callahan, F, NYR (127)
133. Blake Wheeler, F, Wpg (117)
134. Kevin Bieksa, D, Van (123)
135. Pekka Rinne, G, Nsh (150)
136. Jakub Voracek, F, Phi (120)
137. Brendan Gallagher, F, Mon (151)
138. John Carlson, D, Was (139)
139. Jiri Hudler, F, Cgy (136)
140. Scott Hartnell, F, Phi (138)
141. Justin Schultz, D, Edm (125)
142. Radko Gudas, D, TB (131)
143. Erik Johnson, D, Col (142)
144. Jonas Hiller, G, Ana (128)
145. Jeff Skinner, F, Car (148)
146. Loui Eriksson, F, Bos (135)
147. Ben Scrivens, G, LA (162)
148. Ondrej Pavelec, G, Wpg (189)
149. Sam Gagner, F, Edm (146)
150. Jason Garrison, D, Van (164)
151. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (153)
152. Patrik Elias, F, NJ (154)
153. P.A. Parenteau, F, Col (145)
154. James Reimer, G, Tor (172)
155. Slava Voynov, D, LA (156)
156. Mikhail Grabovski, F, Was (161)
157. Brandon Saad, F, Chi (166)
158. Marek Zidlicky, D, NJ (147)
159. Lars Eller, F, Mon (158)
160. Ryan Johansen, F, Cls (188)
161. Jussi Jokinen, F, Pit (168)
162. Martin Brodeur, G, NJ (141)
163. Cody Hodgson, F, Buf (163)
164. Kris Russell, D, Cgy (165)
165. Nathan MacKinnon, F, Col (169)
166. Alex Galchenyuk, F, Mon (157)
167. Justin Braun, D, SJ (NA)
168. Mike Cammalleri, F, Cgy (159)
169. Marcus Johansson, F, Was (177)
170. Alexander Semin, F, Car (171)
171. Teddy Purcell, F, TB (167)
172. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (NA)
173. Gustav Nyquist, F, Det (173)
174. Brad Marchand, F, Bos (149)
175. Patric Hornqvist, F, Nsh (175)
176. Mason Raymond, F, Tor (196)
177. Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Edm (180)
178. Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR (200)
179. Vincent Lecavalier, F, Phi (181)
180. Niklas Backstrom, G, Min (182)
181. Frederik Andersen, G, Ana (NA)
182. Justin Faulk, D, Car (183)
183. Nino Niederreiter, F, Min (NA)
184. Alexander Edler, D, Van (155)
185. Valtteri Filppula, F, TB (190)
186. Chris Stewart, F, StL (195)
187. Mats Zuccarello, F, NYR (NA)
188. Tomas Fleischmann, F, Fla (124)
189. Andy Greene, D, NJ (NA)
190. Tyler Bozak, F, Tor (192)
191. Antoine Vermette, F, Pho (193)
192. Andrew Shaw, F, Chi (NA)
193. Tommy Wingels, F, SJ (NA)
194. Anton Khudobin, G, Car (NA)
195. Brayden Schenn, F, Phi (198)
196. Nail Yakupov, F, Edm (199)
197. Jaden Schwartz, F, StL (NA)
198. Alex Chiasson, F, Dal (191)
199. Sheldon Souray, D, Ana (NA)
200. Victor Hedman, D, TB (NA)

Jaden Schwartz, F, St. Louis Blues: On the radar as a potential breakout candidate before the season, Schwartz was drafted by many but dropped a few weeks into the season when it seemed the Blues were all about the top line. The Blues are definitely still all about the top line, but now Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka have developed a rhythm as the second line (or third line; it's debatable). And they are getting stronger and stronger for fantasy contributions. For the season, Schwartz has an impressive 18 points and a plus-11 rating in 26 games. That is definitely a stat line to be worthy of fantasy rosters.

Consider also that in the past six games Schwartz has seven points and a plus-8 rating. Tarasenko is starting to show more poise as a linemate in his sophomore season, and Sobotka is a reliable physical forward with offensive skills. It's a great situation for Schwartz to build on his decent start to the season. He is still available in 38 percent of ESPN leagues, but the window is closing quickly to acquire him off the wire.

Nick Bonino, F, Anaheim Ducks: In the battle to be the top-line winger for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Bonino lost some attention when it became clear that Dustin Penner had won the job outright. But don't be so hasty to toss aside this offensively gifted forward just because he lost the prime role. Bonino has been a mainstay on the Ducks' top power-play unit all season, hanging out low, by the side of the net, with Getzlaf and Perry on the ice. The result is that eight of Bonino's 19 points this season have been with the man advantage, which is a big bonus for fantasy owners.

The Ducks have relied on the top line to carry them, but there is a good chance for a strong second line to emerge and for the power play to improve during the next month. First, Jakob Silfverberg will give the Ducks' second line some depth when he returns from a broken hand in late December or early January. Second, late December is when we are supposed to start watching for the return of power-play quarterback Sheldon Souray. Available in 88 percent of ESPN leagues, Bonino is an underrated option for fantasy owners.

Nino Niederreiter, F, Minnesota Wild: After getting few chances to develop at the NHL level with the New York Islanders, Niederreiter has quickly proved himself to be a top-six forward with the Wild. A consistent member of the team's second line, Niederreiter has occasionally spent some time on the top line this season. It plays to his advantage that the Wild haven't been able to find a line combination that gives them a successful one-two punch this season. It means there are probably more opportunities coming down the line to share the ice with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

Even if Niederreiter still spends most of his time away from them, Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley and (when healthy) Mikael Granlund don't leave him weaponless. The grand totals for Niederreiter include 15 points and a plus-7 rating, but he provides a further bonus for shots on goal as well, with 65 already (third on the team). The Wild will continue to experiment with their lines to find a way to have two strong offensive units. You can be sure Niederreiter will be a part of one of them and -- look at that -- he is available in 97 percent of ESPN leagues.

Tommy Wingels, F, San Jose Sharks: It really did look like the clock was ticking on Wingels with the return to health of Brent Burns. With Joe Pavelski already playing on the Sharks' third line, it didn't seem likely that the return of Burns would allow the Sharks to continue rolling Wingels as a top-six forward. But they found a way. In fact, Wingels might be in one of the best depth chart roles in the NHL, as he rides on the wing with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau.

For the season, Wingels has 17 points in 26 games and a plus-12 rating that puts his value over the top as worthy of fantasy owners. You want to bet against the production continuing from a logical standpoint, but the Sharks are healthy and the top three lines are all contributing offense. Why would anything change? Wingels is still available in 62 percent of ESPN leagues, and while he may not improve his production, it probably won't drop off like one might expect.

Forwards rising and falling

Dustin Penner, F, Anaheim Ducks (up 73 spots to No. 101): This epic rise in the ranks is a way of saying, "Uncle." All right, Penner, we give up. You are a fantasy beast again. After disappearing almost completely with the Los Angeles Kings for several seasons, Penner is not only riding high as a winger for Getzlaf and Perry, but he is also doing it with consistency. Penner has had only one three-game point drought this season and hasn't scored in only eight of 22 games played. On pace for a 72-point season, perhaps even crazier is the plus-17 rating that trails only Justin Braun for the NHL lead. The bottom line: It's time to trust Penner again. He is in a very good place and is still a very good player.

Chris Kreider, F, New York Rangers (enters at No. 172): He was a surprising cut from training camp as a rookie with more playoff experience than some players who can be considered veterans, but Kreider is making up for lost time quickly. After catching on with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello with offensive catalyst Rick Nash on the mend, Kreider has found a new niche on a line with Stepan and Nash himself. This represents a trio that could easily stay together long-term, much to the benefit of Stepan and Kreider. In fact, Kreider had a hat trick in their first game together before the trio was shut out by the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. The Rangers now have some options for their top scoring lines, so there is risk that Kreider could be moved down the depth chart, but he definitely has a leg up on other competition.

Defensemen rising and falling

Marek Zidlicky, D, New Jersey Devils (down 11 spots to No. 158): This is the fault of Andy Greene and Eric Gelinas more than it is Zidlicky's. The Devils' younger duo are turning out to be more formidable than Zidlicky on the power play. While there are too many cooks in the kitchen for any one of the three D-men to emerge as a true fantasy asset, it's better to bet against Zidlicky emerging as the one true option. As Greene and Gelinas improve their numbers, Zidlicky's continue to fall. Despite having 13 points on the season, he has only two in his past 11 games.

Goaltenders rising and falling

Steve Mason, G, Philadelphia Flyers (up 60 spots to No. 83): A big jump in the goaltender ranks like this can mean one of two things: 1) A goaltender is about to make a move to be a fantasy No. 1 goaltender, or 2) A goaltender has been a fantasy No. 1 for a while, but we couldn't trust him to keep it up and he had to prove himself. The latter is the case with Mason. After stinking up the Columbus Blue Jackets' crease following his amazing rookie season in 2008-09, this 25-year-old goaltender has found his form with the Flyers. We just needed time to believe. We mentioned last week in this space that Mason was on his way to being considered a No. 1 fantasy goaltender. Well, the time is now. We now have him ranked as the No. 14 goalie, and Mason has been a rock this season. The wins were lacking early in the season but have been coming on strong lately as Claude Giroux and the Flyers' offense finds a groove. It's an impressive development for Mason, who was considered a coin-flip choice against Ray Emery before the season began.

Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils (up 38 spots to No. 99): Mason illustrated case No. 2 for a big jump in the goaltender ranks, but Schneider exemplifies the first: a goaltender about to make a move to be a fantasy No. 1 goaltender. The camel's back has to break soon, and Schneider's continued hot play is giving the Devils a list of straws from which to choose. Martin Brodeur has been just as good as Schneider at times this season, but the consistency just isn't there. Schneider has been nothing but great and needs to be the team's starter sooner than later. Save percentage? Brodeur's is .906 and Schneider's is .927. Goals-against average? Brodeur's is a decent 2.25, but Schneider is third in the NHL at 1.72. At some point in the near future, coach Peter DeBoer has to realize the correct option and roll with Schneider more often than not. He still won't get all of the starts, but a 3:2 ratio in favor of Schneider has to be on the immediate horizon.

Quick Hits

Alex Burrows' injury is going to open the door for somebody on the Vancouver Canucks to make some serious noise. Jannik Hansen, David Booth, Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson and Mike Santorelli are all candidates to get bumped up to the Sedin line. Jump on whoever gets the nod, as he could be there for a while. Burrows reportedly had surgery for a broken jaw.

• From the "you never know" department, John Tavares' power-play quarterback from when he played junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals -- Calvin de Haan -- is up with the Islanders for a chance to prove himself. The 22-year-old has struggled to develop after being drafted thanks to some major injuries. But, hey, you never know.

• Always be on the lookout for the third wheel on a line that is getting hot. David Desharnais has been drafting off Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to the tune of eight points in seven games. Even Dainius Zubrus has seven points in nine games thanks to Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac.

• It's hard to say if they will stick, but some new lines have emerged for the Kings. Specifically, they are skating three potential scoring lines (rare for the Kings in recent seasons). Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar should still be OK with each other on the top line with fantasy afterthought Dwight King. Mike Richards and Tyler Toffoli are looking quite good on a line with Jordan Nolan. The concern should be for Justin Williams and Dustin Brown on a line with Jarret Stoll. Brown needs a kick-start more than any of them, and it's doubtful he will get it by playing away from the top talents.

• Keep an eye on Tim Kennedy of the Phoenix Coyotes. After a strong return from the AHL last week, he has already played himself onto the top line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. The stats aren't there yet, but they could come.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.

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