Front Line: Avalanche offense on a tear
Avs have four of the top 10 risers in this week's rankings
Developing the rankings for this piece has become a more challenging task with the return on investment for these players at just shy of three weeks, and you'll see some pretty wild swings this week. As such, I'll spend more time discussing the rising and falling rather than leading into it. Let's get down to business.
Top 100 Skaters 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 goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (2)
2. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (3)
3. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (1)
4. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (9)
5. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (11)
6. Paul Stastny, C, Col (31)
7. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (6)
8. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (7)
9. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (8)
10. Chris Stewart, RW, Col (43)
11. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (15)
12. Eric Staal, C, Car (18)
13. Mike Richards, C, Phi (12)
14. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (16)
15. Phil Kessel, RW, Tor (36)
16. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (14)
17. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (17)
18. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, NJ (10)
19. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (4)
20. Alex Burrows, C, Van (23)
21. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (5)
22. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (33)
23. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (20)
24. Brad Richards, C, Dal (46)
25. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (19)
26. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (32)
27. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (13)
28. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (21)
29. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (25)
30. Steve Downie, RW, TB (26)
31. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (27)
32. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (34)
33. Brooks Laich, C, Was (30)
34. Tim Connolly, C, Buf (41)
35. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (28)
36. Lee Stempniak, RW, Pho (NR)
37. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (37)
38. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (38)
39. Guillaume Latendresse, RW, Min (39)
40. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (71)
41. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (45)
42. Patric Hornqvist, RW, Nsh (60)
43. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (80)
44. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (50)
45. Derek Roy, C, Buf (95)
46. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (47)
47. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (66)
48. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (48)
49. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (67)
50. Peter Mueller, RW, Col (97)
51. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (49)
52. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (40)
53. Matt Duchene, C, Col (90)
54. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bos (NR)
55. Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ (55)
56. David Booth, LW, Fla (44)
57. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (24)
58. Stephen Weiss, C, Fla (58)
59. Paul Kariya, LW, StL (54)
60. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (59)
61. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (68)
62. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (69)
63. Olli Jokinen, C, NYR (42)
64. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (77)
65. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (56)
66. Jason Pominville, RW, Buf (79)
67. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (62)
68. Bill Guerin, RW, Pit (52)
69. Alexander Steen, LW, StL (73)
70. Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Tor (87)
71. Scott Gomez, C, Mon (64)
72. Chris Kunitz, LW, Pit (35)
73. Mike Ribeiro, C, Dal (94)
74. Nik Antropov, RW, Atl (84)
75. Mason Raymond, LW, Van (51)
76. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (70)
77. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Pho (61)
78. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (53)
79. Maxim Afinogenov, RW, Atl (NR)
80. Steve Sullivan, C, Nsh (NR)
81. Martin Erat, LW, Nsh (NR)
82. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (57)
83. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Mon (81)
84. Dustin Penner, LW, Edm (86)
86. Johan Franzen, C, Det (85)
87. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (63)
88. Ray Whitney, LW, Car (88)
89. Tyler Bozak, C, Tor (NR)
90. Colin Wilson, C, Nsh (NR)
91. David Backes, C, StL (74)
92. Niclas Bergfors, RW, NJ (93)
93. Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi (78)
94. Sean Avery, C, NYR (NR)
96. Danny Briere, C, Phi (99)
97. Jakub Voracek, RW, Cls (NR)
98. R.J. Umberger, C, Cls (NR)
99. John Tavares, C, NYI (NR)
100. Jochen Hecht, C, Buf (NR)
Rising and Falling
Top three: With his suspension served, Alex Ovechkin is a no-brainer to jump back into the No. 1 spot, but Sidney Crosby slips from No. 1 to No. 3 after a terrible week by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team could snap out of it easily, but with Evgeni Malkin questionable because of a foot injury, it's easy to foresee another week of struggles for this team. Steven Stamkos has been a rock and is more than deserving of the No. 2 spot. Despite the losses piling up for his Tampa Bay Lightning, Stamkos has topped the ESPN Player Rater over the past 30 days.
Colorado Avalanche: Four of the top 10 biggest risers this week are members of the suddenly dominant Avalanche offense. Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller and Matt Duchene have been a force to be reckoned with since Mueller came over in a trade-deadline deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. All four players have been in the top 30 on the Player Rater going back 30 days, and the points are piling up. If you are looking to pick up some value from the situation, check the availability of Stewart and Mueller, who both are available in a good number of ESPN leagues. If they're not available, dig further and check on T.J. Galiardi, who has 10 points in his past 11 games, or even Kevin Porter, who hasn't found the score sheet with the Avalanche but is getting minutes in the top six.
Nashville Predators' top six: Three more members of the Preds' top six forwards debut on the ranks this week, as the offense is reinvigorated for the remainder of the season. Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and Colin Wilson join Jason Arnott and Patric Hornqvist on the list as Preds who have managed at least eight points over the team's past 12 games. With only Arnott owned in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, there is some value to be had for fantasy owners.
Brad Richards, C, Dallas Stars: Richards jumps 22 spots into the top 25, as he has found a groove in March that had seemed to escape him since the calendar flipped to 2010. Part of the increased production might stem from the fact that Mike Ribeiro has finally started to propel some success to the Stars' second line. Regardless, Richards will be one of the more valuable players going forward. Fantasy owners, especially those seeking some added PIMs, can look to his widely available linemate Steve Ott, who isn't quite to Steve Downie's value but could come close these final few weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs' top line: Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak are all in the top 100 this week, with Kessel and Kulemin making big jumps and Bozak making his debut in the ranks. Whether it's the lack of pressure facing a team that was doomed to the basement or the added ice time from the fire sale at the trade deadline, or a combination of the two, this trio has been ablaze since the beginning of March. All three have paced at least a point per game for the team's 11 March contests, and all three are finding the back of the net. In March, the trio has accounted for 15 goals, while the rest of the Maple Leafs' lineup has accounted for 12.
San Jose Sharks' top line: They will snap out of it soon, but Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are in enough of a funk to lose some ground in this week's rankings. All three players slid a little this week. Nothing serious, but the situation does need to be monitored. Given the kind of production we expect from them, a combined seven points and a minus-6 in the past four games is not going to cut it.
• Nathan Horton still needs to do a bit more before he is back in the top 100, but in three games since returning from a fractured leg, he has four points. Horton is on the top line with Stephen Weiss and David Booth.
• Jeff Carter's leg injury opens up a spot in the Philadelphia Flyers' top two lines. Keep an eye on James van Riemsdyk. His numbers on the season aren't great, but when there has been a hole to fill, he has stepped up.
• Valtteri Filppula has been drafting Henrik Zetterberg's pace of late. While Hank is out front for the Detroit Red Wings with 10 points in the past seven games, Filppula is second with six points while skating on Zetterberg's line.
• As mentioned last week, Andrew Cogliano remains hot atop the Edmonton Oilers' depth chart. Cogs has seven points in the past seven games to match linemate Dustin Penner as the Oilers' scoring leaders over the past 15 days.
• Jarret Stoll is still underrated as a power-play asset for the fantasy world. He is still playing the Los Angeles Kings' top unit with Anze Kopitar, Michal Handzus and Ryan Smyth, and three of his four points in the past two weeks came on the man advantage.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.