Should I trade Player A for Player B? Which forwards should I target for my roster? Who is moving up and who is moving down when it comes to the main scorers in fantasy hockey? Those answers and more will be found here every week in Front Line.
Not only will I update the top 100 forwards from now until the end of the season, but we'll have a look at top-six assignments and power-play units around the league to identify some deeper value.
A few key things to remember for the top 100: The rankings are for ESPN.com's standard fantasy hockey game, which probably uses different scoring categories than you are used to. And I will stress that ranks are also for "from here on out." Accumulated stats so far don't count.
Without further ado, we have some big movers in this first re-ranking of the season, since several training-camp and line-assignment questions have been answered.
Rising and Falling
Top 100 Forwards
Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance from this point on, not based on the statistics that have already been accrued. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (1)
2. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (2)
3. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (3)
4. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (4)
5. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (5)
6. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (6)
7. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (8)
8. Olli Jokinen, C, Cgy (7)
9. Marc Savard, C, Bos (9)
10. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (10)
11. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (12)
12. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (13)
13. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (14)
14. Eric Staal, C, Car (11)
15. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (15)
16. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (16)
17. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (17)
18. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (19)
19. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (26)
20. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (18)
21. Mike Richards, C, Phi (20)
22. Alexandre Burrows, C, Van (21)
23. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (22)
24. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (23)
25. Johan Franzen, C, Det (25)
26. David Booth, LW, Fla (27)
27. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (24)
28. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (28)
29. T.J. Oshie, C, StL (29)
30. Milan Lucic, LW, Bos (30)
31. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atl (31)
32. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (32)
33. John Tavares, C, NYI (34)
34. Michael Ryder, RW, Bos (33)
35. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (35)
36. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (46)
37. Tuomo Ruutu, C, Car (38)
38. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (39)
39. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (40)
40. Dave Bolland, C, Chi (44)
41. Derick Brassard, C, Cls (41)
42. Devin Setoguchi, RW, SJ (42)
43. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (43)
44. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (45)
45. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (55)
46. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (47)
47. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (48)
48. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (49)
49. Patrik Berglund, C, StL (50)
50. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (52)
51. Scott Gomez, C, Mon (53)
52. Brad Boyes, C, StL (54)
53. Chris Kunitz, LW, Pit (56)
54. Daniel Carcillo, LW, Phi (51)
55. David Backes, C, StL (59)
56. Sean Avery, C, NYR (37)
57. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (60)
58. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (61)
59. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (36)
60. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (62)
61. Blake Wheeler, RW, Bos (57)
62. David Krejci, C, Bos (63)
63. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (64)
64. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (65)
65. Brian Rolston, LW, NJ (66)
66. David Perron, LW, StL (67)
67. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (71)
68. Joe Pavelski, C, SJ (68)
69. Paul Stastny, C, Col (84)
70. Brooks Laich, C, Was (75)
71. Danny Briere, C, Phi (72)
72. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (58)
73. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (73)
74. Mark Recchi, RW, Bos (74)
75. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (69)
76. David Clarkson, C, NJ (70)
77. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (76)
78. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (77)
79. Mike Ribeiro, C, Dal (78)
80. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (nr)
81. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (81)
82. Claude Giroux, RW, Phi (82)
83. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (83)
84. Michael Frolik, C, Fla (86)
85. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (88)
86. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Van (80)
87. Derek Roy, C, Buf (89)
88. Stephen Weiss, C, Fla (90)
89. Brad Richards, C, Dal (91)
90. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (92)
91. Ray Whitney, LW, Car (93)
92. Slava Kozlov, LW, Atl (95)
93. Alex Tanguay, LW, TB (96)
94. Bryan Little, C, Atl (nr)
95. Milan Michalek, RW, Ott (97)
96. Paul Kariya, LW, StL (nr)
97. Andrei Kostitsyn, RW, Mon (98)
98. Marco Sturm, LW, Bos (99)
99. Jakub Voracek, RW, Cls (85)
100. Andrew Ladd, LW, Chi (87)
Alexander Semin, LW, Capitals (up 10 spots): Coach Bruce Boudreau surprised most onlookers by going top heavy with his scoring lines. Semin is skating with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- as potent a unit as there is in the NHL. Mike Knuble, who was expected to play on the top line with Backstrom and Ovechkin, is skating on the second unit with Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich. As long as that second line continues to score, Boudreau will have no reason to break up the new top line, which means Semin is in for even more production than expected.
Patrik Elias, LW, Devils (down 23 spots): Being out for 3-6 weeks with a groin injury is more than enough to slide Elias down from our preseason rankings. He still projects as top 60, though, even with a month and a half taken off his schedule. See if you can trade for him at a discount by offering a forward outside the top 100.
Andrew Ladd, LW, Blackhawks (down 13 spots): Ladd missed out on the Hawks' top six for the first two games of the season, which is not a good sign at all. Not only does he need to be among those top scorers to have value, but his chances will only get worse in December with the return of Marian Hossa. Ladd formed a strong second line for the Blackhawks last season with David Bolland and Kris Versteeg, but Troy Brouwer has passed him on the depth chart, leaving Ladd with reduced minutes and John Madden and Tomas Kopecky as linemates.
Paul Stastny, C, Avalanche (up 15 spots): It was difficult not to be down on the Colorado Avalanche as a whole to begin the season, but Stastny & Co. answered the bell in the first two contests. Combined with linemates Wojtek Wolski and Milan Hejduk, the top unit for the Avs managed four goals and seven assists. Wolski and Hejduk will need more time to move up into the top 100, but Stastny was already in the group and makes a big jump simply based on the amount of confidence we can have now in the top line.
Sean Avery, C, Rangers (down 19 spots): Part of the reason Avery is an attractive fantasy asset is his ability to contribute to penalty minutes, while also putting in statistics in the other categories. Missing time with a knee injury has allowed other forwards for the Rangers to make a strong case for the top six. If Avery is stuck on the third line, it will be a drag on his average ice time, and his points will be muted, as well. Unless he moves up the depth chart, he'll keep sliding.
This section takes a weekly look at changes in line combinations around the NHL. While these week-to-week tweaks by coaches likely will even out for most players as the year progresses, this is the way to stake out a possible breakout from a player or determine who may go on a hot streak in the short term. I am writing with the assumption you are somewhat familiar with the expected line combinations for most teams. If you are not, check out the Division Previews we have posted on the Fantasy Hockey main page or in the Draft Kit.
• The Buffalo Sabres are taking the all-or-nothing approach to their lines and have Tim Connolly centering Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. This could help improve the value of all three players, as the offense should flow through this one line, which will help their plus/minus ratings.
• Tyler Kennedy appears to be cemented with Jordan Staal on the Penguins third line, as coach Dan Bylsma is content to try other wingers for the top six. It means Kennedy and Staal are only valuable in leagues that count shorthanded points for now.
• Erik Cole will miss several weeks with a broken leg, meaning Tuomo Ruutu slides onto Eric Staal's other wing with Ray Whitney. He didn't show much chemistry with the pair last season, but coach Paul Maurice didn't have his system in place then. It's worth monitoring him a bit closer.
• Note that David Moss clearly won the first line role with the Flames, and will play with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla on and off the power play. He could turn in 60 points if he can keep up with the pair.
• Edmonton Oilers coach Pat Quinn has surely lost his mind in his years away from the NHL bench. Jean-Francois Jacques and his one career assist in 61 games have been given the top line assignment with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Sarcasm turned to 11: Clearly his soft hands are being valued as an asset on that scoring line. OK, look, whatever Quinn's strategy is at this point is not discernable by glancing at his line assignments. Avoid the Oilers until some sanity is returned and Jacques is sent to the fourth line (where Sam Gagner dwells right now, by the way).
Here we check in each week with which power plays are clicking and which players are benefiting because of it. Whether your league uses power-play goals, power-play points, or even neither, the forwards who spend time on the man advantage have a leg up, offensively, on the rest of the league. So this should help you keep track of some of the forwards playing those key minutes.
• James vanRiemsdyk has been spending time on the Flyers first unit, with Simon Gagne and Mike Richards. Given that he is not among the Flyers top six forwards, it looks like vanRiemsdyk will have to make a name for himself on the power play and work his way up the depth chart from there.
• Jamie Langenbrunner is sliding back to the blue line for the Devils first power-play unit, opening up a role for David Clarkson to work up front with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. This adds big value to Clarkson, who was already worth your while because of his penalty minutes.
• The Thrashers are using a hybrid first power-play unit between their first two lines, and it looks like an incredibly potent group. Ilya Kovalchuk and Bryan Little from the first line, are playing with Todd White and Slava Kozlov from the second line (Tobias Enstrom on defense). Obviously, you can bump up White and Kozlov in your books.
• Rookie Sergei Shirokov will have until Pavol Demitra returns to prove himself, and he is getting an extra boost by getting some time with the Sedin Twins on the power play. He is not the fastest skater around, but has a finishing touch around the net. He could turn into valuable commodity if he can find his way with the Twins.
• Only Patrick Kane put in more power play minutes in the Blackhawks first two games than David Bolland. The former London Knight was slow to come on in the NHL, but appears to be making a case to be a fantasy asset going forward. I don't know that I'd start him in shallow leagues, but I'd certainly have him on my bench at this point.
• I'm going to mention Ales Kotalik for the second time in two days as he is manning the point with rookie Michael Del Zotto on a much-improved Rangers power play. Kotalik has always been a power-play specialist and is being used perfectly by coach John Tortorella. He definitely has sleeper value in ESPN standard leagues for his wicked point shot.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here