Front Line: Staal, Yakupov in top 100

Updated: June 27, 2012, 8:55 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

The Los Angeles Kings' playoff run was a spectacle to behold, but ultimately, the stingy goaltending on display throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs has left us with little fallout impact to the fantasy hockey forward rankings ahead of the 2012-13 season.

So it's a good thing the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and some important trades have taken place.

In a postseason where the leading scorers were exactly who you would guess they might be, there were no enormous revelations to take away for the forwards. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown led the Kings offense, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise had the most points for the New Jersey Devils and Claude Giroux had an obscene amount of points in 10 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. It was encouraging to see Jeff Carter and Mike Richards find some offense for the Kings ahead of next season, but it wasn't enough to drastically push them up the top-100 rankings. Seeing Dustin Penner score points on a line with Carter and Richards was about as close as we got to being surprised by a player's offense. Adam Henrique's play for the Devils makes you wonder if Gabriel Landeskog would still have the Calder Trophy if the voting occurred after the playoffs, but we already got glimpses of how good Henrique could be in the regular season. Now, we just know how clutch he is.

The bottom line is that very little from the playoffs should have changed your opinion about how the forwards stack up in fantasy hockey for the 2012-13 season. That is not to say the playoffs didn't change things, just not for the forwards (I don't envy Tim Kavanagh's task in assessing the goaltenders field after that postseason). What could change your opinion is a whirlwind of events from this past weekend at the draft. Though it was the year for defensemen to shine at the draft, the forward selections are more likely to have an impact in the coming season. That is not to mention a flurry of trading activity to reunite brothers.

Top 100 Forwards

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in 2012-2013 ESPN standard leagues, which count goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Previous ranking (April) is indicated in parentheses.

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

Rising and Falling

Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (enters list at No. 42): Staal's jump from a No. 3 center on the Pittsburgh Penguins to a No. 2 center on the Hurricanes is more than enough to have us excited about his fantasy future. He enters the top-100 rankings in a tier with players such as Ryan Kesler and Milan Lucic because he has the potential to have a similar impact in the role he is sure to land with the 'Canes. Not only will Staal be counted on for offense consistently for the first time in his career, but playing on the same team (and sometimes same ice) as his older brother Eric Staal has to be a benefit. With Sidney Crosby injured and still getting his game legs back last season, Staal stepped up and scored 50 points in only 62 games. It's not the only time we have glimpsed his ability on offense either. Staal scored 22 points in 28 games as the Penguins' No. 1 center when both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were injured to finish the 2010-11 season. Staal will push Jeff Skinner to the wing on a permanent basis, but that should be no problem for Skinner and will even give Skinner the opportunity to play on a line with the older Staal. Jordan won't be short on options for linemates either, as Chad LaRose has shown an ability to keep up with offensive duties, Tuomo Ruutu could step up his game or Zac Dalpe may be ready for a full-time promotion from the AHL.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers (enters list at No. 53): Ending up on the roster of the Oilers makes all the difference in the world for how we view Yakupov for the coming season. When the Columbus Blue Jackets looked like the most likely candidate for the top pick, there was reason to be bearish on the young Russian sniper. But now in the fold with the talented forwards on the up-and-coming Oilers, the sky is the limit for Yakupov. While with the Sarnia Sting (OHL), he broke all Steven Stamkos' franchise rookie scoring records, and analysts often invoke Pavel Bure's game when describing his skill set. Suffice it to say, Yakupov has speed to burn and a killer shot. He now completes a triumvirate of first-overall draft selections for the Oilers that includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Taylor Hall (2010). They join fellow first-round picks Magnus Paajarvi (2009), Jordan Eberle (2008) and Sam Gagner (2007) for an offense has been built from the ground up during the team's stretch of losing seasons. But the payoff for the Oilers is getting close as Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Hall and Gagner all showed signs of things to come last season. Add a player with Yakupov's skill set anywhere into this mix, and he is going to succeed.

Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals (down two spots to No. 81): The Capitals snagged one of the most underrated playmakers in the NHL when they traded for Ribeiro during the draft this past weekend. The question now is whether they have assets to play with him. One thing that became very clear to the Capitals last season was that when Nicklas Backstrom was injured, the team has no center capable of stepping up to play with Alex Ovechkin on the top line. Ribeiro could fill that role with aplomb after posting at least 50 assists in three of his six seasons with the Dallas Stars. Ribeiro put up the gaudy assist totals, mostly playing from the Stars second line. Now, will he have someone to pass the puck to with the Capitals if he's not paired with Ovechkin? When free agency opens next week, Alexander Semin is not a very good candidate to return to the Caps (and maybe not even to the NHL), which leaves cavernous holes on the team's wings after Ovechkin and (possibly) prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils (up 10 spots to No. 17): Parise is still technically a Devil, but when free agency opens up, it's hard to imagine someone won't make the 27-year-old star forward an offer he can't refuse to leave New Jersey. Easily the biggest offensive catch of the free-agent class, Parise will have the suitors lined up around the block. While his overall numbers were down, the decrease in output can easily be attributed to a slow start after missing most of the previous year with a knee injury. After finding his groove to start December, Parise had 56 points in the final 59 games of the season. Wherever he decides to call home, Parise will be a top offensive talent and should begin climbing his way back to the top-20 fantasy stars, and in the right situation, could even make a run at the top 10.

Scoring Lines

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: He's big, he's got talent and he has a desire to suit up for the Canadiens next season. That doesn't guarantee Galchenyuk a role with the club, let alone the No. 1 center role required for fantasy relevance, but it doesn't mean we should bet against him. Galchenyuk missed much of last season with a knee injury, but much ballyhoo was made at the draft over how healthy he was after rehabbing. A teammate and oft-linemate of Yakupov's with the Sarnia Sting, Galchenyuk might not be getting as much credit as he deserves because Yakupov's numbers didn't drop off this season while Galchenyuk was sidelined. But don't doubt that Galchenyuk's passing skills played a big role in Yakupov's 101 points as an OHL rookie in 2010-11. Galchenyuk had 83 points of his own that season before missing all but two games of 2011-12 with his knee injury. Galchenyuk's desire to make the Canadiens roster this season isn't enough to earn him a spot in the top-100 yet, but it was enough to knock out current Habs No. 1 center David Desharnais.

James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs: It's hard to get overly excited about van Riemsdyk's potential with the Maple Leafs any more than we could when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Leafs still have Tyler Bozak covering as the No. 1 center and are pretty thin after that. Does the team bump Joffrey Lupul from the top line to allow JVR to play with Phil Kessel? Pretty doubtful, after the season Lupul just put up. So what does that mean for van Riemsdyk? He gets to play with Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur? Nothing against the pair of players that have turned out to be phenomenal second-line anchors for the Maple Leafs, but as linemate skills go, van Riemsdyk is no better off on the Leafs second line than he was the Flyers fourth line. We will have to wait and see how coach Randy Carlyle deploys his assets, but you have to think Lupul has an inside track on keeping his top spot in the lineup having been coached by Carlyle in the past. This move appears to be lateral for van Riemsdyk until we have a better idea of the Leafs' final roster. Also remember that van Riemsdyk is a hip surgery waiting to happen and is trying to rehab his hip without surgery for the coming season.

Quick Hits

• Not only do we need to watch where free agents like Parise, Semin, Olli Jokinen and Ray Whitney end up signing, but the trade rumors surrounding forwards like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan are getting louder by the day. Next week should be a whirlwind of more activity.

Benoit Pouliot has shown top-six skills in the past when given the opportunity to play extra minutes. Now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, there is room on the Bolts' roster for him to earn a permanent spot on a scoring line. Pay attention to where he plays in training camp because he could become a sleeper.

• The Ribeiro trade opens up a potential top-six role with the Stars for prospect Scott Glennie. The WHLer has skills to score at the NHL level, if given the right linemates.

• With it looking more and more like P.A. Parenteau won't resign with the New York Islanders, there will be an opening on the top line next season next to superstar John Tavares. While Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey might get the first look, consider that Ryan Strome might make his NHL debut next season after another strong year of juniors.

• If there was one fantasy relevant storyline from the playoffs, it is probably that we got a small taste of Chris Kreider with the New York Rangers. The prospect made his debut with the club and played second-line minutes for much of the postseason. Kreider finished with five goals and seven points in 18 games. Not bad for debuting during the playoffs. He will surely be with the big club next season.

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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