Commentary

Front Line: Beyond the box scores ...

Updated: November 28, 2011, 1:59 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

It's easy to lose oneself in the world of goals, assists, shots and power-play points while ignoring the other three categories that make up the ESPN standard fantasy game. Average ice time, plus/minus and penalty minutes often don't translate directly into goals or winning games, which is all the non-fantasy hockey world cares about. Whether you play in a standard ESPN league with average time on ice, plus/minus and penalty minutes or in a customized league with stats such as hits, blocked shots or short-handed points, the plan this week is to point out some names that can help you in the categories that aren't discussed as much.

Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers (average time on ice): If you have been on the fence about using Horcoff in your fantasy league, consider his ice time as a tipping point. Horcoff has been skating with Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall at even strength and joins the power play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Jordan Eberle. Horcoff has 16 points in 23 games and six points in his past five games. Available in 15 percent of ESPN leagues, Horcoff's role as a leader on the ice for the Oilers has earned him the 22nd-most ice time this season among forwards.

[+] EnlargeChris Kelly
AP Photo/Michael DwyerChris Kelly, left, has gotten a lot of help from his friends, especially in the plus/minus category.

Chris Kelly, Boston Bruins (plus/minus): In all honesty, there isn't a great answer for what's up with Kelly this season. The plus-15 rating is explainable, as he plays on the checking line of one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, but the nine goals and 16 points aren't as easy to explain. Available in 69 percent of ESPN leagues, Kelly should be in your lineup. He has earned the right to start in most leagues with his nine goals, and the strong plus/minus will continue to boost his value even if the scoring drops off.

Derek Dorsett, Columbus Blue Jackets (penalty minutes): Currently third in the league in penalty minutes, Dorsett is no stranger to dropping the gloves. He finished last season with 184 PIMs. What makes Dorsett more attractive for fantasy owners is that while other enforcers trend near five or six minutes of ice time per game, Dorsett currently averages more than 12 minutes. He also has started contributing offensively since being put on a line with Antoine Vermette. Dorsett has three points in the past four games. Available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues, Dorsett should be one of the first choices for PIMs.

Troy Brouwer, Washington Capitals (hits): Those who play in leagues with hits as a featured category are going to think this is too obvious, but Brouwer's physicality does bring a lot to the table. Tied for third in the league in hits, Brouwer becomes even more useful because of the role he plays for the Caps and the periphery statistics that come with it. While no one is going to claim that playing next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom this season is the best spot in the league (as it was in 2009-10), there are still some bonus points that come Brouwer's way based on his line assignment. He has had several streaks of points this season for a total of 13 and has the potential to score many more if Ovechkin and Backstrom ever awake from their offensive slumber.

Boyd Gordon, Phoenix Coyotes (blocked shots): Gordon is the only forward in the NHL about whom you can say blocks shots as if he were a defenseman. Several forwards are good at blocking shots, but Gordon's 37 blocked shots tie him for 55th in the league in that category. The next forward on the list is Vernon Fiddler, who is tied for 90th. Obviously, this category belongs to defensemen. What is interesting is that Gordon's 10 points aren't much for a forward, but only 37 defensemen have more points than him. Gordon has as many points as Dan Boyle and P.K. Subban (and just as many blocked shots), among others. If you are seeking to add an extra shot-blocker to your lineup but lack the defensive roster spots, or if you use a defenseman in a utility spot in your roster sometimes, Gordon may be for you. He's the rare forward who plays like a defenseman.

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. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
2. Sidney Crosby, Pit (3)
3. Daniel Sedin, Van (1)
4. Anze Kopitar, LA (4)
5. Corey Perry, Ana (6)
6. Henrik Sedin, Van (5)
7. Claude Giroux, Phi (8)
8. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (12)
9. Alex Ovechkin, Was (7)
10. Thomas Vanek, Buf (9)
11. Phil Kessel, Tor (11)
12. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (10)
13. Patrick Kane, Chi (13)
14. Jonathan Toews, Chi (15)
15. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (17)
16. Ryan Kesler, Van (14)
17. James Neal, Pit (18)
18. Patrick Marleau, SJ (19)
19. Martin St. Louis, TB (16)
20. Jamie Benn, Dal (20)
21. Rick Nash, Cls (21)
22. Patrick Sharp, Chi (22)
23. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (29)
24. Johan Franzen, Det (27)
25. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (28)
26. Brad Richards, NYR (23)
27. Zach Parise, NJ (24)
28. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (25)
29. Dany Heatley, Min (26)
30. Tyler Seguin, Bos (30)
31. Joe Pavelski, SJ (31)
32. Marian Hossa, Chi (35)
33. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (42)
34. John Tavares, NYI (32)
35. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (33)
36. Jason Spezza, Ott (36)
37. Milan Lucic, Bos (37)
38. Mike Richards, LA (41)
39. Kris Versteeg, Fla (47)
40. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (51)
41. Bobby Ryan, Ana (34)
42. Jeff Carter, Cls (39)
43. Teemu Selanne, Ana (45)
44. Stephen Weiss, Fla (60)
45. Jaromir Jagr, Phi (38)
46. Tomas Fleischmann, Fla (56)
47. Mikko Koivu, Min (44)
48. Danny Briere, Phi (43)
49. Jeff Skinner, Car (46)
50. Joe Thornton, SJ (50)
51. Marian Gaborik, NYR (40)
52. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (49)
53. Jason Pominville, Buf (52)
54. Derek Roy, Buf (48)
55. Alex Burrows, Van (55)
56. Scott Hartnell, Phi (57)
57. Alexander Semin, Was (53)
58. David Backes, StL (58)
59. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (54)
60. Patrice Bergeron, Bos (61)
61. Nathan Horton, Bos (59)
62. Logan Couture, SJ (62)
63. Loui Eriksson, Dal (64)
64. Shane Doan, Pho (66)
65. Brad Marchand, Bos (67)
66. Paul Stastny, Col (63)
67. Patrik Elias, NJ (68)
68. Matt Duchene, Col (69)
69. Ryan Smyth, Edm (72)
70. Eric Staal, Car (65)
71. Radim Vrbata, Pho (80)
72. Vaclav Prospal, Cls (73)
73. Mike Ribeiro, Dal (75)
74. Tim Connolly, Tor (84)
75. Alexander Steen, StL (88)
76. Dustin Brown, LA (77)
77. Ryane Clowe, SJ (78)
78. Max Pacioretty, Mon (79)
79. Martin Havlat, SJ (70)
80. Gabriel Landeskog, Col (71)
81. Brandon Dubinsky, NYR (74)
82. David Krejci, Bos (76)
83. Taylor Hall, Edm (86)
84. Erik Cole, Mon (99)
85. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (98)
86. Evander Kane, Wpg (94)
87. Alex Tanguay, Cgy (82)
88. Chris Kunitz, Pit (83)
89. Brenden Morrow, Dal (85)
90. Milan Michalek, Ott (81)
91. Simon Gagne, LA (91)
92. Justin Williams, LA (93)
93. Devin Setoguchi, Min (87)
94. Ryan Callahan, NYR (NR)
95. Michael Grabner, NYI (NR)
96. Mike Cammalleri, Mon (89)
97. Valtteri Filppula, Det (NR)
98. Jordan Eberle, Edm (NR)
99. Kyle Okposo, NYI (NR)
100. Ray Whitney, Pho (101)

Brandon Sutter, Carolina Hurricanes (short-handed points): Since there are so few points handed out during the season in this category, it takes a lot of luck to get anywhere. Still, it doesn't hurt to try to orchestrate a bit of luck sometimes. While Mikko Koivu and Matt Cooke are the current short-handed points leaders this season (with three each), Sutter is one of seven players who has managed two goals while down a man. The kicker is that Sutter's partner on the penalty kill, Patrick Dwyer, also has managed two short-handed goals this season. That should be an early indicator that the Hurricanes' penalty kill is going to be pretty dangerous this season. Sutter doesn't provide a lot of stats in the other categories, but his ice time and shots on goal are respectable. If you're looking to take a shot at a gambling category such as short-handed points, then Sutter could be a nice addition.

Rising and Falling

Erik Cole, Montreal Canadiens (up 15 spots): The combination of Cole and Max Pacioretty is turning out to be just about as great as Cole and Eric Staal used to be. Between the two of them, Cole and Pacioretty have 15 points in the past eight games, despite a slump in which they didn't score for three straight games. The duo has remained together on the power play, where Cole has four points over the past eight games. Clearly, Cole has found his groove as a member of the Habs. The part that still doesn't make sense is why David Desharnais, who never leaves Cole's side at even strength or on the power play, doesn't have more points.

Michael Grabner, New York Islanders (re-enters at No. 95): Just as Grabner left these Top 100 rankings last week, the Islanders finally reassembled Grabner's line from last season, and the results were instantaneous. Back together with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo for the past three games, Grabner has two goals and two assists. This was the line Grabner stuck with on his march to 34 goals last season. Here's hoping the line can rekindle some of the fire that launched Grabner to such a memorable rookie campaign.

Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers (down 11 spots): The hunt is still on for the right ranking for Gaborik. He got insanely hot after being separated from Brad Richards' line but has cooled off considerably during the past six games (two points). He is still playing with Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan, so clearly coach John Tortorella wants this combination to work through its troubles. And to be completely fair, not many Rangers have been scoring a lot during the past six games, so Gaborik's problems may be more systemic. These kinds of slumps make it difficult to assess because Gaborik really hasn't had slumps in the past. He has either been scoring prolifically or hurt. Still, it's becoming clear he isn't necessarily a top-40 player this season and isn't someone you should be hoping returns to superstar form.

Scoring Lines

Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs: It's probably going to last only as long as Bozak keeps scoring, but even with a healthy Tim Connolly in the lineup, it's Bozak skating with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Bozak currently has 11 points in 10 games while filling out the top line and working the top power-play unit. While he should be picked up and started in most leagues, the first sign of a slump will have Bozak back on the third line and Connolly working with Kessel again.

Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota Wild: An injured Guillaume Latendresse is not being as sorely missed as he might have been thanks to the performance of Clutterbuck in his stead. Normally a body checker on the fourth line, Clutterbuck is embracing the chance to flash some offense beside Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Clutterbuck leads the Wild during the past seven games in goals, penalty minutes and shots on goal (the PIMs prove he hasn't forgotten his roots). There is no recent news on Latendresse's concussion, so Clutterbuck might not be just a short-term option.

Power Plays

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes' second power-play unit has been making some noise and Ponikarovsky appears to be the chief rabble-rouser. With four power-play points in the past five games, Ponikarovsky has as many power-play points as any other member of the Hurricanes has in total points during the past eight games. That makes it fairly easy for Poni to stand out at the moment. But in all seriousness, he is playing on a power-play line with Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose, and the line stays together at even strength. There is a chance for this unit to build some offensive credibility in the coming weeks.

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 send him a note here or tweet him @seanard with the hashtag #FantasyHockey for a timelier response.

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.

ALSO SEE