Front Line: Post-hype sleepers


Is there a more frustrating player than the post-hype sleeper in fantasy? The guy you picked up late in your draft every year for the past three seasons. The guy you've picked up every time he has a multi-point game, only to drop him when he does nothing for the next 10 games. The guy who after years of mercurial rooting, you finally gave up on.

The guy who now decides he knows how to shoot the puck!

Yeah, you better believe it can be frustrating. It's almost bad enough to the point you don't want to pick up said player because your heart has been broken too many times. It's almost bad enough that you ignore said player to your own peril.

Andrei Kostitsyn, Drew Stafford, T.J. Oshie and Andrew Ladd debut on the rankings this week and all four could be described as post-hype sleepers. Even though they've let you down before, you may live to regret turning a blind eye to their success this season.

Andrei Kostitsyn, Montreal Canadiens: Kostitsyn has always had ridiculous puck skills and the ability to shoot a puck exactly where he wants to. The criticism has often been a lack of effort, and all attempts at kick-starting Kostitsyn have failed. Even lining the Belarusian up on an NHL line with his brother wasn't enough. This season, however, Kostitsyn has a skip in his step. Riding on the top line and top power-play unit with elite playmaker Tomas Plekanec and sniper Mike Cammalleri, Kostitsyn has four goals and six points in seven games. Not to sound too cynical, but Kostitsyn's contract is up for negotiation at season's end, so perhaps he is finally being spurred on to play up to his talent level.

Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres: When he was a prospect, Stafford looked like he would be the perfect winger to complement Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. His development has proven to be slow as molasses, though. Now in his fifth NHL season, Stafford has flirted with fantasy relevance over an entire season once in his career. He's been around so long, it's sometimes difficult to remember he is 24 years old and has plenty of time to develop his game. He was one of the preseason leaders in points, and now on a line with Roy and Vanek, Stafford has seven points in nine games to begin the season.

T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues: Oshie was on everybody's sleeper list last season. His stellar rookie season saw 39 points in 57 games, and everyone was expecting an encore in his sophomore campaign. Oshie disappointed big time with 48 points over a 76-game season. He dropped from a plus-16 to a minus-1. Oshie's popularity as a sleeper this season wasn't as solid, but perhaps it should have been. With eight points in seven games, Oshie is playing the minutes of a No. 1 centerman and scoring the points that go with the role. Skating with power forward David Backes and puck wizard David Perron, Oshie has the right linemates to put his nose down and earn his team -- and your fantasy team -- points.

Andrew Ladd , Atlanta Thrashers: A super-strong power forward, Ladd has had the skills for a long time but was buried on a Chicago Blackhawks depth chart that didn't need his talent. Now with the Thrashers, Ladd is the de facto leader on offense. Like Stafford, Ladd is 24 years old, but he is in his sixth NHL season. He has eight points in eight games to open his sixth season, and with fellow post-hype sleepers Bryan Little and Anthony Stewart as linemates Ladd will be making some noise this year.

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. Sidney Crosby, Pit (2)
3. Steven Stamkos, TB (4)
4. Daniel Sedin, Van (6)
5. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (3)
6. Henrik Sedin, Van (5)
7. Dany Heatley, SJ (7)
8. Alexander Semin, Was (8)
9. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (10)
10. Zach Parise, NJ (9)
11. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (11)
12. Brad Richards, Dal (17)
13. Eric Staal, Car (13)
14. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (12)
15. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (22)
16. Mike Richards, Phi (19)
17. Jeff Carter, Phi (14)
18. Nathan Horton, Bos (25)
19. Jonathan Toews, Chi (24)
20. Patrick Kane, Chi (15)
21. Marian Hossa, Chi (31)
22. Joe Thornton, SJ (18)
23. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (16)
24. Corey Perry, Ana (26)
25. Rick Nash, Cls (20)
26. Patrick Marleau, SJ (23)
27. Bobby Ryan, Ana (28)
28. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (29)
29. Johan Franzen, Det (27)
30. Martin St. Louis, TB (30)
31. Anze Kopitar, LA (21)
32. Daniel Alfredsson, Ott (32)
33. Paul Stastny, Col (33)
34. Phil Kessel, Tor (34)
35. Chris Stewart, Col (36)
36. John Tavares, NYI (39)
37. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (35)
38. Ryan Kesler, Van (37)
39. Mikko Koivu, Min (47)
40. Mike Cammalleri, Mon (40)
41. Ryan Smyth, LA (41)
42. Patrick Sharp, Chi (45)
43. Marian Gaborik, NYR (42)
44. Loui Eriksson, Dal (49)
45. Jason Spezza, Ott (44)
46. Travis Zajac, NJ (38)
47. Danny Briere, Phi (46)
48. Alex Tanguay, Cgy (48)
49. Alex Burrows, Van (50)
50. Tim Connolly, Buf (51)
51. Milan Lucic, Bos (56)
52. Patric Hornqvist, Nsh (58)
53. Olli Jokinen, Cgy (61)
54. David Krejci, Bos (55)
55. Jordan Eberle, Edm (54)
56. Derek Roy, Buf (63)
57. Scott Hartnell, Phi (57)
58. Dustin Penner, Edm (52)
59. Matt Duchene, Col (59)
60. Stephen Weiss, Fla (60)
61. Ales Hemsky, Edm (53)
62. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (62)
63. Patrik Elias, NJ (43)
64. Thomas Vanek, Buf (64)
65. David Booth, Fla (65)
66. Brenden Morrow, Dal (66)
67. Steve Downie, TB (91)
68. Scott Gomez, Mon (73)
69. Mikael Samuelsson, Van (77)
70. David Backes, StL (78)
71. Claude Giroux, Phi (75)
72. Shane Doan, Pho (79)
73. James Neal, Dal (87)
74. Jason Arnott, NJ (68)
75. Jamie Langenbrunner, NJ (69)
76. Tomas Holmstrom, Det (71)
77. Steve Sullivan, Nsh (99)
78. Teemu Selanne, Ana (89)
79. Josh Bailey, NYI (84)
80. Matt Cullen, Min (NR)
81. Nik Antropov, Atl (74)
82. Brooks Laich, Was (88)
83. Wojtek Wolski, Pho (81)
84. David Perron, StL (97)
85. Mike Knuble, Was (70)
86. Devin Setoguchi, SJ (90)
87. Andrei Kostitsyn, Mon (NR)
88. Evander Kane, Atl (93)
89. Chris Kunitz, Pit (83)
90. Drew Stafford, Buf (NR)
91. Todd Bertuzzi, Det (NR)
92. Mike Fisher, Ott (95)
93. Shawn Horcoff, Edm (94)
94. Ryane Clowe, SJ (96)
95. Rene Bourque, Cgy (NR)
96. Taylor Hall, Edm (86)
97. Tyler Ennis, Buf (NR)
98. Alexander Frolov, NYR (82)
99. T.J. Oshie, StL (NR)
100. Andrew Ladd, Atl (NR)

Rising and Falling

Steve Downie, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 24 spots): It's always risky to put so much stock in a player who absolutely requires the right linemates to have value, but the upside with Downie outweighs the risk of him being demoted. Alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, Downie gobbles up loose points, thanks to the scoring prowess of his linemates. With six points in seven games, Downie has 25 penalty minutes. It's a combination that only Alex Burrows can rival for points and PIM.

Steve Sullivan, Nashville Predators (up 22 spots): While we are discussing it, pick up Cal O'Reilly in deep leagues. What the Predators lack in depth, they make up for with a solid first line. Sullivan has put memories of his year away from hockey with a back injury on the shelf. He leads the Preds with six points in seven games and has linemates O'Reilly and Patric Hornqvist are trailing right behind him. If we can put some faith in Sullivan to stay healthy, he should come off as a 60-point player with plenty of power-play topping.

Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils (down 20 spots): Elias is one of several Devils to plummet down the rankings this week as we await some explanation as to why they … how to say this nicely? … are a terrible hockey team. Elias has four points but is minus-7. Jason Arnott has five points but is minus-7. Ilya Kovalchuk has five points, a minus-3 and is one of a couple Devils with a power-play point. Let's sum it up this way, Dainius Zurbrus leads all Devils on the ESPN Player Rater and it's not even close. Whether the Devils have too many cooks in the kitchen or haven't found how to use all those cooks to the best of their abilities, something has to give soon.

Matt Cullen, Minnesota Wild (debuts at No. 80): He's been mentioned in this column every week so far, so why break with tradition? Cullen debuts at No. 80 in the rankings as the demon Minnesota Wild power play is officially categorized as possessed. Sitting at a 39 percent conversion rate with the man advantage, the Wild and head coach Todd Richards have finally nailed down the power play they were expected to have when Richards was recruited from the San Jose Sharks, where as an assistant he ran one of the league's best power plays. That is to say, this is no fluke. This power play might be this good. Cullen has more power-play points (eight) than games played (seven). If you aren't too late, pick him up. Do I even need to remind you that he has done this before as a power-play specialist with the Carolina Hurricanes?

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers (down 10 spots): The Oilers are bound to go through some rough patches this season, and 2010's No. 1 draft pick will be dragged down with them. Worse than a rough patch for Hall is a demotion to the third line. Being taken off a trio with Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle for a line with Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano is a measurable downgrade. Through six games, Hall has one assist and is minus-3. Surely the Oilers wouldn't entertain sending him back to juniors before his contract kicks in at nine games played. Surely they wouldn't. Or would they?

Scoring Lines

Jeff Tambellini, Vancouver Canucks: The door next to Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin has been revolving this season as Alex Burrows heals up. I'll keep this short because Burrows might be back next week and this will all be for naught. Tambellini took a turn as the Twins winger, he scored a goal and the second and third line for the Canucks looked terrific with the trickle-down of talent. As always with the spot next to the Sedins, keep an eye open.

Mathieu Perreault, Washington Capitals: Perreault capitalized on the absence of Marcus Johansson on Saturday. Johansson beat Perreault out for the final roster spot in training camp, but a hip flexor injury gave Perreault his chance. He centered Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich and managed a pair of assists in his first game of the season. With anyone who has the potential to play in the Caps top six, watch him. In fact in this week's Forecaster, I noted it was a good week to try out some peripheral Capitals. Perreault fits the bill.

Matt Moulson, New York Islanders: It might be getting annoying trying to keep track of the Islanders depth chart, but it's worthwhile. Moulson is back on a line with John Tavares and Blake Comeau. The key is Tavares because whoever is on his line is worth rostering. Moulson has points in three straight games. Note that Josh Bailey will change things up when he returns to the lineup again this week, and Kyle Okposo and Rob Schremp are expected back in November.

Power Plays

P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders: If you picture Tavares as the sun at the center of a solar system of value, Moulson and Comeau are currently your Mercury and Venus. That means Doug Weight and Parenteau are closer to being a Jupiter and Saturn, but they still orbit him. Alright, ditching my terrible metaphor and getting to the point, Parenteau is playing on the first power-play unit with Tavares, Comeau, Weight and James Wisniewski. He has eight power-play points on the season and is part of the reason the Isles have a top-five power play for the first time in recent memory.

Antti Miettinen, Minnesota Wild: With Cullen graduating to the rankings, I need another member of the power play of doom to promote. Miettinen has four power-play points in seven games. He also has the bonus of playing on the Wild's top line at even strength. Who am I kidding? It's all about the power play in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Brendan Morrison, Calgary Flames: Somebody must be playing an elaborate trick on me. No matter where I go on the internet, it says Morrison is leading all Calgary Flames in points with six in seven games. To whoever is playing this trick, I would like to say that it's not funny. If my math is correct, Morrison is like 60 years old and hasn't been good since he played with Markus Naslund (remember him?). I don't care that he is playing with Olli Jokinen, Rene Bourque and Niklas Hagman on what looks like a sweet power-play unit. He's Brendan Morrison, and the joke is getting old. If you continue to insist on playing this trick, I will have no choice but to pick up Morrison for my fantasy team out of spite.

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