Commentary

Front Line: Major rankings shuffle

Updated: March 26, 2012, 3:04 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

The rankings for the penultimate week of the season are among the most difficult to produce. The rankings of the top 100 fantasy forwards are "from this point on." Well guess what? "This point on" currently equals an average of seven games. Anything can happen in seven games. Kyle Brodziak can look like a superstar for seven games.

There is also the chance that folks will take a quick look at the rankings, see that Daniel Sedin isn't on the list or that Drew Stafford is at No. 20, and wonder what's going on. I am trying to make a list of the top 100 forwards "from this point on." That means Daniel Sedin is probably not going to play because of a concussion and shouldn't be on the list. That also means Drew Stafford will probably continue to pour in points on his current hot streak that includes multi-point efforts in four of the past seven games and a plus-10 rating in that span. You better believe Stafford can be top-20 "from this point on."

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. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (1)
2. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
3. Sidney Crosby, Pit (9)
4. James Neal, Pit (6)
5. Brad Richards, NYR (33)
6. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (3)
7. Alex Ovechkin, Was (28)
8. Marian Hossa, Chi (10)
9. Claude Giroux, Phi (4)
10. Patrick Sharp, Chi (16)
11. Marian Gaborik, NYR (8)
12. John Tavares, NYI (20)
13. Anze Kopitar, LA (19)
14. Patrick Marleau, SJ (18)
15. Scott Hartnell, Phi (7)
16. Eric Staal, Car (37)
17. Joe Thornton, SJ (26)
18. Blake Wheeler, Wpg (15)
19. Jason Spezza, Ott (27)
20. Drew Stafford, Buf (63)
21. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (11)
22. Henrik Sedin, Van (14)
23. Corey Perry, Ana (17)
24. Alexander Radulov, Nsh (29)
25. Jordan Eberle, Edm (32)
26. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (35)
27. Patrick Kane, Chi (24)
28. Martin St. Louis, TB (13)
29. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (36)
30. Matt Moulson, NYI (58)
31. Tyler Ennis, Buf (70)
32. Jamie Benn, Dal (30)
33. Ryan Kesler, Van (22)
34. Teemu Selanne, Ana (34)
35. Jeff Carter, LA (40)
36. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (42)
37. Martin Havlat, SJ (41)
38. Jeff Skinner, Car (56)
39. Logan Couture, SJ (31)
40. Erik Cole, Mon (59)
41. Pascal Dupuis, Pit (86)
42. Jason Pominville, Buf (85)
43. David Backes, StL (43)
44. Milan Michalek, Ott (64)
45. Evander Kane, Wpg (23)
46. Mike Ribeiro, Dal (44)
47. Bobby Ryan, Ana (39)
48. Alexander Semin, Was (47)
49. Gabriel Landeskog, Col (48)
50. Chad LaRose, Car (NR)
51. Paul Stastny, Col (NR)
52. Ray Whitney, Pho (81)
53. Cody Hodgson, Buf (100)
54. Max Pacioretty, Mon (54)
55. Michael Ryder, Dal (55)
56. Jamie McGinn, Col (87)
57. Zach Parise, NJ (12)
58. Marcus Foligno, Buf (NR)
59. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (21)
60. Thomas Vanek, Buf (53)
61. Milan Lucic, Bos (52)
62. Carl Hagelin, NYR (50)
63. Joe Pavelski, SJ (60)
64. Loui Eriksson, Dal (61)
65. Patrik Elias, NJ (49)
66. Jussi Jokinen, Car (98)
67. Phil Kessel, Tor (25)
68. Martin Erat, Nsh (65)
69. Brian Rolston, Bos (NR)
70. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (NR)
71. T.J. Oshie, StL (57)
72. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (NR)
73. Andrew Shaw, Chi (NR)
74. David Clarkson, NJ (90)
75. Chris Kunitz, Pit (72)
76. Stephen Weiss, Fla (84)
77. Brooks Laich, Was (NR)
78. Mikko Koivu, Min (NR)
79. Tyler Seguin, Bos (38)
80. Steve Sullivan, Pit (79)
81. Patric Hornqvist, Nsh (NR)
82. Justin Williams, LA (80)
83. Teddy Purcell, TB (51)
84. David Perron, StL (91)
85. Ryan Malone, TB (83)
86. Dustin Brown, LA (74)
87. Bryan Little, Wpg (77)
88. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (NR)
89. Mike Fisher, Nsh (94)
90. Mikael Samuelsson, Fla (NR)
91. Dany Heatley, Min (NR)
92. P.A. Parenteau, NYI (89)
93. Danny Briere, Phi (NR)
94. Brad Marchand, Bos (75)
95. Mikhail Grabovski, Tor (92)
96. Tomas Fleischmann, Fla (93)
97. Alex Burrows, Van (82)
98. Shane Doan, Pho (73)
99. David Desharnais, Mon (96)
100. Rick Nash, Cls (66)

These rankings require more work than usual because when the sample size for "from this point on" is seven games, "current streakiness" becomes a big factor. Just because a player is normally a top fantasy option doesn't mean he gets a free pass in these rankings. You will see (and not see) a few guys who are household fantasy options ranked where you wouldn't expect them to be. That is because the extra effort is there this week to make these rankings have an impact in the final two weeks of your fantasy season.

There is a stress in these rankings to identify and single out players who have the potential to help your fantasy team over the remainder of the season. At the same time, if you don't see a player that you normally would in this space, that is a hint that maybe he shouldn't be automatically relied upon in these final few games.

So when you see a player like Marcus Foligno ranked No. 58 from here on out, it is admittedly overly optimistic. Why? Because the fact that he is available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues plays a role when we have such a small sample size. I will say it once again: A ranking of the top 100 players that were all universally owned in ESPN leagues would be of little use to you at this point. There is a method to the madness of ranking players that can actually help you a little on the high side. Foligno has six goals and 10 points in the past eight games and is deserving of the ranking because he is available and useful. He is ranked higher than Jarome Iginla, not because he is a better overall fantasy player, but because he is hot, available and can maybe do more damage for your team in these final few games.

Let's see who else can help you.

Rising and Falling

Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh Penguins (up 45 spots): The Penguins are shuffling lines like a casino dealer, but Dupuis keeps coming up aces. Just when he seemed like he wasn't getting back together with Sidney Crosby, Dupuis is back alongside Sid and extending his March hot streak. Since March 7, Dupuis has eight goals and five assists for 13 points in a 10-game point streak. He is still available in about 10 percent of ESPN leagues if you act fast.

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils (down 45 spots): Parise has had a slow March and despite producing a goal in his past two games, still has just those two goals in his past seven games. He was separated from Ilya Kovalchuk's side to a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, which does not bode well for superstar production over the remainder of the season. Kovalchuk, by the way, played with Travis Zajac. It was Zajac's first game back since Jan. 2 and he picked up an assist on a Kovalchuk goal. In deeper leagues, Zajac might be worth a look.

Chad LaRose, Carolina Hurricanes (debuts at No. 50): On the power play and at even strength, LaRose is not leaving Eric Staal's side. The assignment has been fruitful for LaRose, as the winger has accrued a team-leading five goals on a team-leading 31 shots in the past nine games. Throw in two assists and a plus-5 rating during that span and you have a legitimate hot streak that should continue. LaRose remains available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues. Jussi Jokinen, who has a similar shadowing assignment with Jeff Skinner, has eight points during the past nine games and is available in 56 percent of ESPN leagues.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (down 42 spots): But Kessel has six points in seven games, why is he dropping so much? Because the periphery statistics are not there to back up his value and you may be better off with someone else in shallow leagues. Kessel is a minus-8 in March, and in the past six games, he has not taken more than two shots on goal. He needs Joffrey Lupul (or a similarly-skilled player) on the ice with him to be the fantasy darling he was earlier this season. Since Lupul is probably done for the year, Kessel probably doesn't have much left to contribute. Certainly not in the upper-echelon of the fantasy forward rankings, anyway.

Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres (up 47 spots): Hodgson has six points in four games in the past week and looks to have found his touch skating with Thomas Vanek. Available in 94 percent of ESPN leagues, Hodgson is also bringing elevated shots on goal to the table with 19 attempts in the past four games. While we are talking Sabres, Stafford and Foligno have been mentioned already in this space, but don't forget Tyler Ennis. Available in 56 percent of ESPN leagues, Ennis has 12 points in the past eight games and a plus-10 rating.

Scoring Lines

Brian Rolston, Boston Bruins: Let's not try to explain it or over analyze it, just don't think about it and pick up Rolston. His reign of terror on the Bruins scoresheets continues with points in six straight games and a total of 11 points and a plus-8 during the streak. He isn't playing in a top-six role, but instead scoring on the third line with Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. While the rest of the Bruins offense is slowing down, Rolston is picking up speed. We tabbed him as a player to watch after the trade deadline move from the New York Islanders, but it was because he was thought to be a fill-in for the injured Nathan Horton on the top line. Instead, Rolston is creating this value, not drafting off the top-line players. He's available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues, remember that anyone can be a superstar for seven more games, especially when they've already been a superstar for the past six games.

Tomas Kopecky, Florida Panthers: While Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann are doing just fine on the top line, Kris Versteeg has not panned out yet, as he still has zero points in five games since returning from an injury. That prompted his demotion from the top line on Sunday and Kopecky's subsequent promotion. Kopecky responded with a pair of assists and with the opportunity to play with Weiss (seven points in seven games) and Fleischmann (six points in seven games), Kopecky could continue to contribute; at least better than Versteeg has.

Quick Hits

Alexander Radulov now has three points in three games since his return. He will continue to score and help keep David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist useful in most leagues.

Alex Ovechkin is playing strong hockey (possibly too little, too late) at the end of the season. Brooks Laich has been the main beneficiary as his linemate with six points in eight games.

Mikko Koivu is back on the ice with the Minnesota Wild now and playing on the top line with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. One has to think this trio can get something going before the season is over. Koivu is still available in 29 percent of ESPN leagues.

Jamie McGinn is still doing enough to warrant consideration in just about any league size. He remains available in 56 percent of ESPN leagues and though he only has six points in his past eight games now, only Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin have taken more shots on goal in that time.

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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