Commentary

Front Line: The 'production' statistic

Updated: December 5, 2011, 4:09 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

There is no exact formula that can quantify additional success for increased playing time, but it goes without saying that more minutes on the ice often means more points. A player must take a shot in order to have a chance to score … and a player obviously must be on the ice to even have that opportunity.

The production statistic is a measurement of how often a player earns a point. Calculated by dividing time on ice by points, production shows how many average minutes of ice time have elapsed between points for a player. Generally speaking, those at the top of the list in production are your high-scoring forwards who also tend to populate the top of the Art Ross Trophy race as well. But that's not always the case. Mixed in with the top scorers, you will find some guys that have a lot of points compared to the limited minutes they are playing. That is where you can possibly find opportunities for expanded fantasy value.

As mentioned, there is no exact formula, but it's fairly safe to expect a player who is scoring a lot with 12 minutes of ice time to score even more with 18 minutes of ice time if there were a change in the depth chart. Here are a few of those "gems" that rank well for production so far this season.

Zack Kassian, Buffalo Sabres: Sidney Crosby currently leads the league with an 11:05 production statistic through seven games. A few players with only a couple games played and expected Art Ross Trophy race candidates follow Crosby in the ranks. But when we get to No. 31, we find Kassian. With only five games played for the Sabres, it's hardly a sample size, but this power forward prospect was expected to have an impact when he finally made the jump to the NHL, and a production of 19:04 so far this season means Kassian is scoring quite regularly (three points in five games). Considering his ice time per game has averaged 11:26, the Sabres might start working him into the mix more if he can keep scoring. The clock is ticking on his chance to make an impression, as Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe are working their way back to the lineup. But we have now seen that Kassian has the mettle for the NHL game, and it's only a matter of time before he starts putting up fantasy numbers like David Backes or Milan Lucic.

[+] EnlargeCraig Smith
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesCraig Smith is available in more than 53 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

Craig Smith, Nashville Predators: Something must give with Smith real soon. I cautioned against getting too excited about him when he was hot in early November because there was a good chance some players returning from injury would push Smith out of the top six (despite the fact that he leads the team in points). Well, it happened; Smith was pushed to the third line and scored just three points in nine games … until another injury happened. When Sergei Kostitsyn's upper-body injury opened up a spot on the top line, Smith jumped in and scored four points in two games. His production is currently 34th in the league at 19:21, and this latest hot streak is going to force the Predators' hand. This guy needs to be kept in the team's top six, and that means he's going to be worth a pickup this time around.

One thing you should keep in mind when using the production statistic to scan for players is why the ice time has been limited for some players. Evander Kane and James van Riemsdyk are in the top 40 for production so far this season. You might see their 16 minutes of ice time as an opportunity for increased ice time and, therefore, increased scoring. However, it's worth noting that both Kane and van Riemsdyk are already top-six forwards, and the only increase in ice time would be as a result of them improving their defensive awareness and earning penalty kill time. Currently Kane and van Riemsdyk don't even sniff the penalty kill.

Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs: Production can also be used to reassure yourself about certain players. Since it's a per-game statistic, production doesn't discriminate against oft-injured players. Connolly is 49th in the league in production at 20:17. This news should help quell fears about Connolly not doing what he was supposed to do. The fact is, his season has been one of the easiest to predict in the NHL. When he is on the ice and healthy, he is scoring at a good clip. Connolly would be on pace for 70 points if he hadn't missed a bunch of time already. As it stands, he is projected for another 48 points in the final 56 games. Of course, that is where the other half of the equation comes in. Connolly has missed 12 games already this season due to injury. That might be good news, though. If you take out the seasons Connolly missed large amounts of time because of concussion problems, 12 missed games is close to average. He very well could be healthy from here out.

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

Rising and Falling

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning (down eight spots): St. Louis is still chipping in points at a pace not significantly below what we have come to expect, but his numbers are still down this season. His current pace of 66 points would see St. Louis finish with his worst season since he notched 61 points in the post-lockout season of 2005-06. But that might be only secondary to the painful fantasy nights St. Louis has on occasion. In three of the past six games, St. Louis' totals are two goals, two assists and a plus-2. But in the other three of the past six games, St. Louis has zero points and a minus-8. Just where the Jekyll-and-Hyde performances are coming from is not clear since there are no obvious splits showing up. One thing is clear, though: St. Louis might not have his top-20 fantasy touch when he isn't on a line with Steven Stamkos, and so far this season, that has been the case more often than not.

Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers (up 15 spots): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is taking the league by storm, and Eberle is his main wingman. This pair each has 15 points over the past 10 games. Whether they're lining up with Taylor Hall before he was hurt, Shawn Horcoff and finally Ryan Smyth, RNH and Eberle just keep scoring. It looks like these two players together are the catalyst that drives the production. The fact that Nugent-Hopkins is tied for fifth in league scoring is getting a lot of attention, but don't lose sight of that fact that Eberle is tied for seventh and is a big part of RNH's production.

Brandon Dubinsky, New York Rangers (down eight spots): The Rangers are beginning to find themselves on offense, and Dubinsky has had absolutely no role in that discovery. Playing on what is supposed to be the third line with Sean Avery and Brandon Prust, the trio has been outperformed (significantly) by what is supposed to be the Rangers' fourth line. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik are each finding success on the first and second line, leaving little opening for Dubinsky to climb back up the depth chart. In fact, Dubinsky is getting quite the reprieve here by being allowed to linger in the top 100 for another week. Expect to see him depart this ranking shortly, as only an injury in the top six can save him now.

Scoring Lines

Mason Raymond, Vancouver Canucks: Raymond is back in action following a back injury in last season's Stanley Cup final; the injury took him months to recover from. He's playing on the third line with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen, and registered a point in his last game. There is no guarantee he will climb any further up the depth chart, especially given the play of the second line lately, but this third line for the Canucks is better than a lot of teams' second line. Raymond might be able to produce some stretches of fantasy value. For now, simply monitor him for hot streaks and watch for potential power-play time once his rust wears off.

Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado Avalanche: If there is one thing we can count on with the Avalanche this season, it's to not count on the depth chart. Another change and it's O'Reilly, Milan Hejduk and Gabriel Landeskog scoring the points. O'Reilly is available in 63 percent of ESPN leagues and has four goals and three assists in his past three games with this line.

David Perron, St. Louis Blues: Perron returned from a concussion this past weekend following an absence of nearly 100 games. It's been so long you might not recall that this guy is a puck wizard just waiting to have a breakout fantasy season. He played more than 19 minutes in his debut on a line with Patrik Berglund and Matt D'Agostini. And did we mention he scored a goal? Perron is worth a speculative pickup in any fantasy league if you have a questionable roster spot on offense.

Power Plays

Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers: He'll have to fight James van Riemsdyk to keep his spot, but Read has been scoring a lot (though it has come in streaks) as the Flyers have battled a series of injuries to their top six forwards. The Flyers' power play had a big night against the Phoenix Coyotes on the weekend, and Read chipped in with two points. He's streaky and he'll have some depth-chart challenges, but realize that overall Read trails only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Craig Smith and Luke Adam in rookie scoring.

Quick Hits

• What to make of Eric Nystrom? He has shown no flashes of offense during his three seasons with the Calgary Flames and one with the Minnesota Wild, yet he has 10 goals for the Dallas Stars this season, including five in five games. His centerman, Vernon Fiddler, has shown an ability in the past to pivot lines that are stronger on offense than a lot of third lines, but this kind of output is unsustainable. Nystrom's shooting percentage is 25.6. Enough said.

• Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau appears to be a Matt Beleskey fan. Even though Andrew Cogliano was scoring on the second line with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, Boudreau swapped Beleskey in for Cogliano. To his credit, Beleskey has two points in two games under Boudreau.

Eric Staal has three assists in three games since Kirk Muller took over behind the bench. He's not on the top line, but Staal owners likely will take anything as a good sign at this point.

Alexander Semin is battling a shoulder injury that shouldn't cost him too many games. The question is whether fantasy owners care anymore. That's too crass; once Semin is healthy, he gets five games to wake up under new coach Dale Hunter before we can declare him dead to us for fantasy purposes.

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.

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