Jets ready to take off?

There's reason to believe that Mark Scheifele could blossom under Paul Maurice's tutelage. Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets have a lot more fantasy talent among their forward ranks than some people may realize. Even though there is no denying that a change was needed, and that firing coach Claude Noel was the right decision, it's not like fantasy owners were the ones clamoring for change.

We knew to stay away from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, and we knew plus/minus probably wasn't going to be a strength for the skaters. With that knowledge in mind, it is difficult to be too upset with what the Jets have been doing for their fantasy owners this season.

After all, Dustin Byfuglien is the third-best fantasy defenseman on the ESPN Player Rater, and checks in at No. 22 among all skaters. Bryan Little is a surprise at No. 48 among all forwards, with Evander Kane right behind him at No. 54 (despite missing 10 games). Andrew Ladd checks in at No. 56 on the Player Rater and Blake Wheeler is No. 66 among forwards (No. 71 and 83 overall).

The Top 200

Note: Sean Allen's top 200 players 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 for skaters, and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Sidney Crosby, F, Pit (1)
2. Alex Ovechkin, F, Was (2)
3. John Tavares, F, NYI (7)
4. Corey Perry, F, Ana (4)
5. Evgeni Malkin, F, Pit (5)
6. Patrick Kane, F, Chi (3)
7. Tuukka Rask, G, Bos (9)
8. P.K. Subban, D, Mon (6)
9. Patrick Sharp, F, Chi (15)
10. Henrik Zetterberg, F, Det (8)
11. Pavel Datsyuk, F, Det (10)
12. Ryan Getzlaf, F, Ana (11)
13. Chris Kunitz, F, Pit (13)
14. Daniel Sedin, F, Van (14)
15. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (16)
16. Henrik Sedin, F, Van (17)
17. Jonathan Toews, F, Chi (18)
18. Carey Price, G, Mon (19)
19. Erik Karlsson, D, Ott (12)
20. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pit (20)
21. David Backes, F, StL (21)
22. Duncan Keith, D, Chi (26)
23. James Neal, F, Pit (24)
24. Phil Kessel, F, Tor (23)
25. Claude Giroux, F, Phi (27)
26. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Wpg (28)
27. Ben Bishop, G, TB (31)
28. Patrick Marleau, F, SJ (30)
29. Tyler Seguin, F, Dal (22)
30. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Was (29)
31. Drew Doughty, D, LA (35)
32. Joe Pavelski, F, SJ (32)
33. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (57)
34. Bobby Ryan, F, Ott (34)
35. Semyon Varlamov, G, Col (37)
36. Eric Staal, F, Car (43)
37. Antti Niemi, G, SJ (36)
38. Marian Hossa, F, Chi (40)
39. Corey Crawford, G, Chi (39)
40. Martin St. Louis, F, TB (41)
41. Ryan Kesler, F, Van (42)
42. Jonas Hiller, G, Ana (46)
43. Matt Duchene, F, Col (45)
44. Josh Harding, G, Min (33)
45. Shea Weber, D, Nsh (38)
46. Logan Couture, F, SJ (25)
47. Joe Thornton, F, SJ (51)
48. Roberto Luongo, G, Van (44)
49. Taylor Hall, F, Edm (47)
50. Zach Parise, F, Min (52)
51. Kris Letang, D, Pit (48)
52. Jamie Benn, F, Dal (49)
53. Kyle Turris, F, Ott (55)
54. James van Riemsdyk, F, Tor (53)
55. Alex Pietrangelo, D, StL (60)
56. Thomas Vanek, F, NYI (63)
57. Ryan Suter, D, Min (54)
58. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, StL (65)
59. Craig Anderson, G, Ott (66)
60. Johan Franzen, F, Det (56)
61. Alexander Steen, F, StL (58)
62. Andrei Markov, D, Mon (59)
63. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Cls (102)
64. Niklas Kronwall, D, Det (50)
65. Rick Nash, F, NYR (62)
66. Evander Kane, F, Wpg (72)
67. Max Pacioretty, F, Mon (64)
68. Jeff Skinner, F, Car (75)
69. Cory Schneider, G, NJ (93)
70. David Krejci, F, Bos (67)
71. Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR (85)
72. Brent Seabrook, D, Chi (77)
73. Jarome Iginla, F, Bos (68)
74. Gabriel Landeskog, F, Col (69)
75. Steve Mason, G, Phi (61)
76. Radim Vrbata, F, Pho (73)
77. Kyle Okposo, F, NYI (83)
78. Jeff Carter, F, LA (74)
79. Jakub Voracek, F, Phi (81)
80. T.J. Oshie, F, StL (76)
81. Keith Yandle, D, Pho (71)
82. Jimmy Howard, G, Det (78)
83. Jaromir Jagr, F, NJ (79)
84. Jonathan Bernier, G, Tor (80)
85. Milan Lucic, F, Bos (82)
86. David Perron, F, Edm (84)
87. Kari Lehtonen, G, Dal (70)
88. Jay Bouwmeester, D, StL (86)
89. Justin Williams, F, LA (87)
90. Jaroslav Halak, G, StL (88)
91. Jordan Eberle, F, Edm (89)
92. Dion Phaneuf, D, Tor (90)
93. Brandon Dubinsky, F, Cls (91)
94. Brent Burns, F, SJ (92)
95. Ryan Miller, G, Buf (111)
96. Bryan Little, F, Wpg (94)
97. Brian Elliott, G, StL (115)
98. Alexander Semin, F, Car (95)
99. Brad Richards, F, NYR (96)
100. Andrew Ladd, F, Wpg (97)
101. Cam Fowler, D, Ana (98)
102. Blake Wheeler, F, Wpg (99)
103. Derek Stepan, F, NYR (100)
104. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (151)
105. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Pho (101)
106. Clarke MacArthur, F, Ott (110)
107. Jason Garrison, D, Van (103)
108. Jason Spezza, F, Ott (104)
109. Jaden Schwartz, F, StL (114)
110. James Wisniewski, D, Cls (105)
111. Patrice Bergeron, F, Bos (106)
112. Zdeno Chara, D, Bos (107)
113. Mike Green, D, Was (108)
114. Paul Stastny, F, Col (125)
115. Ryan Johansen, F, Cls (109)
116. Matt Niskanen, D, Pit (121)
117. Martin Hanzal, F, Pho (120)
118. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (129)
119. Shane Doan, F, Pho (112)
120. Mikko Koivu, F, Min (113)
121. Dustin Penner, F, Ana (116)
122. Brandon Saad, F, Chi (117)
123. Daniel Alfredsson, F, Det (118)
124. Tomas Plekanec, F, Mon (119)
125. Anton Khudobin, G, Car (145)
126. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, Edm (127)
127. Valtteri Filppula, F, TB (138)
128. Nazem Kadri, F, Tor (122)
129. Radko Gudas, D, TB (134)
130. Jiri Hudler, F, Cgy (124)
131. Marek Zidlicky, D, NJ (161)
132. Joffrey Lupul, F, Tor (130)
133. Dustin Brown, F, LA (132)
134. Erik Johnson, D, Col (128)
135. Torey Krug, D, Bos (123)
136. Scott Hartnell, F, Phi (136)
137. Matt Moulson, F, Buf (131)
138. Reilly Smith, F, Bos (133)
139. Dan Boyle, D, SJ (135)
140. Wayne Simmonds, F, Phi (147)
141. Ryan Callahan, F, NYR (137)
142. Victor Hedman, D, TB (152)
143. Mike Smith, G, Pho (126)
144. Jason Pominville, F, Min (139)
145. Mark Giordano, D, Cgy (140)
146. Cam Ward, G, Car (142)
147. Jussi Jokinen, F, Pit (143)
148. Ryan O'Reilly, F, Col (144)
149. Matt Carle, D, TB (195)
150. Niklas Backstrom, G, Min (146)
151. Mikhail Grabovski, F, Was (148)
152. Mike Ribeiro, F, Pho (149)
153. Mark Streit, D, Phi (167)
154. Nathan MacKinnon, F, Col (170)
155. Dennis Wideman, D, Cgy (141)
156. Kevin Bieksa, D, Van (153)
157. John Carlson, D, Was (154)
158. Nick Bonino, F, Ana (157)
159. Brendan Gallagher, F, Mon (158)
160. Tyler Bozak, F, Tor (173)
161. Pekka Rinne, G, Nsh (159)
162. Tyson Barrie, D, Col (NR)
163. Andrej Sekera, D, Car (160)
164. Mike Richards, F, LA (150)
165. Mats Zuccarello, F, NYR (171)
166. James Reimer, G, Tor (155)
167. Brian Campbell, D, Fla (162)
168. Jacob Trouba, D, Wpg (NR)
169. Martin Brodeur, G, NJ (163)
170. Cody Franson, D, Tor (156)
171. Frans Nielsen, F, NYI (165)
172. Francois Beauchemin, D, Ana (166)
173. Hampus Lindholm, D, Ana (168)
174. Philipp Grubauer, G, Was (NR)
175. Patric Hornqvist, F, Nsh (172)
176. Brad Marchand, F, Bos (174)
177. Andy Greene, D, NJ (187)
178. Michal Neuvirth, G, Was (175)
179. Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR (193)
180. Justin Faulk, D, Car (164)
181. Troy Brouwer, F, Was (176)
182. Mike Fisher, F, Nsh (177)
183. David Desharnais, F, Mon (179)
184. Jonas Gustavsson, G, Det (169)
185. Cody Hodgson, F, Buf (200)
186. Tyler Johnson, F, TB (181)
187. Derek Roy, F, StL (182)
188. Chris Stewart, F, StL (184)
189. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, StL (NR)
190. Valeri Nichushkin, F, Dal (180)
191. Adam Henrique, F, NJ (NR)
192. Kimmo Timonen, D, Phi (186)
193. Aleksander Barkov, F, Fla (189)
194. Sergei Gonchar, D, Dal (191)
195. Antoine Vermette, F, Pho (192)
196. Travis Zajac, F, NJ (194)
197. Brayden Schenn, F, Phi (197)
198. Mark Scheifele, F, Wpg (198)
199. Nick Foligno, F, Cls (199)
200. Tim Thomas, G, Fla (NR)

That's four forwards and a defenseman in the top 85 skaters. Not every team can claim to have that many fantasy-relevant assets on the ice. For example, the Nashville Predators' top skater on the ESPN Player Rater is Shea Weber, at No. 87. So the Jets have five players on the list before the Preds' top guy.

But this is the real world, and the Jets and Preds are both near the bottom of the standings. The Predators have an excuse because they are missing superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne. The Jets have no excuse, so in comes new head coach Paul Maurice.

Maurice brings a coaching career that dates back to his start with the Hartford Whalers, later the Carolina Hurricanes. He had a couple of turbulent campaigns with the Toronto Maple Leafs between two stints with the Hurricanes, and last coached in the NHL during the 2011-12 season. There are some good tendencies that Maurice will bring to the table for some of the players, but he won't likely be turning the tide for some who have struggled.

Pavelec and the troubled goaltending have a slim chance at change. Three of the past four full NHL seasons Maurice has coached ended with his team sporting a goals-against average worse than 3.00. The special teams for those squads were nothing special, usually ranking in the lower-third of the league for both power-play and penalty-kill percentages. Pavelec has a slight chance for improvement, because the Jets have a deeper and more talented team than the last few teams Maurice has helmed, but the big picture signs don't point to an immediate about-face. Then again, the Jets won their first game under Maurice on Monday, and Pavelec faced fewer than 20 shots in a game for the first time this season.

On the positive side for fantasy owners, Maurice tends to have top-heavy teams. We like these top-heavy teams, because it means the scoring will be concentrated among a few players instead of spread out among many. Look for Kane, Ladd and Wheeler to benefit the most from having Maurice behind the bench. But, watch for the specific line combinations when Kane returns to health.

There is also the issue of Mark Scheifele's potential. His ice time has been improving this season, but his role on scoring lines has too often been limited. The rookie has the talent to start scoring at an above-average pace in the NHL, he just needs the opportunity to do so with a top line. Maurice may well be the coach to give him that chance.

The last time Maurice had a hot-shot young player under his tutelage, Jeff Skinner scored 63 points and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Look for Scheifele to get a lot more leash. On Monday, he was on the first power-play unit with Devin Setoguchi, Wheeler, Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. This could also mean more confidence for fellow youngster Jacob Trouba on defense. The young stalwart defender was a plus-3 and played 20 minutes in Maurice's debut.

Forwards Rising and Falling

Patrick Sharp, F, Chicago Blackhawks (up six spots to No. 9): Should we be surprised to see Sharp getting into such an incredible groove as the season continues? Absolutely not. It's easy to lose sight of him as an elite fantasy target, because he is surrounded by teammates (and linemates) who all possess the same potential on any given night. But one only has go go back two seasons to see that it was Sharp that finished sixth among forwards on the ESPN Player Rater. That's right, over a full 82-game season in 2011-12, only Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, James Neal, Steven Stamkos and Scott Hartnell had better overall fantasy numbers. Being elite is nothing new for Sharp. While there is some evidence to support the theory that either Sharp or Patrick Kane can be contributing at one time, but not both, the bottom line is that Sharp has the better line, and is probably the better target. Playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa beats playing with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. Advantage, Sharp.

Paul Stastny, F, Colorado Avalanche (up 11 spots to No. 114): Don't forget that Stastny has been through a nine-game scoring drought this season, and yet he has still been a great asset overall. His pace remains nowhere close to what would be a career-high for the 28-year-old centerman, but it is still enough to be more than adequate for fantasy owners. January has already been his best month for scoring this season, so there are definite signs of Stastny heating up. While the Avs deal with several players on injured reserve (whom Stastny narrowly escaped joining with a leg injury on Saturday), Stastny is playing with Gabriel Landeskog and John Mitchell, but Mitchell is just a placeholder for Alex Tanguay. The veteran playmaker is back at practice, and is expected back in game action in as little as a week. Now might be a good time to buy low on Stastny as the line gets ready to reunite. Stastny was plus-10, with 10 points in 13 games to start the season with the same trio.

Defensemen Rising and Falling

Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 10 spots to No. 142): If Hedman keeps up his current pace, he will have eclipsed his career-highs for points and shots on goal in the next seven games. He has already nearly doubled his previous career-high for goals. As it always tends to with defensemen, Hedman's development into a fantasy star has taken a little longer, but he is getting there. Don't forget he just turned 23 years old in December. The ceiling is still much higher.

Marek Zidlicky, D, New Jersey Devils (up 30 spots to No. 131): From the 23-year-old Hedman, we turn to the 36-year-old (about to be 37) Zidlicky. On pace for a very decent 44 points and 14 goals, Zidlicky has found a groove simultaneously with the Devils forwards. As Jaromir Jagr is in a groove with a top line, and Adam Henrique is now centering a solid second unit, Zidlicky has become a fantasy force. Ten of his 25 points this season have come in the past 11 games, leaving him with 15 points in the previous 35 games. But with the offense flowing, and Cory Schneider settling in between the pipes, this is going to be the norm going forward for the Devils. It's not too late to jump on board with Zidlicky as his overall value still lags behind his current value.

Goaltenders Rising and Falling

Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings (up 24 spots to No. 33): Quick had a .903 save percentage in October and a .911 save percentage in four November games. Through five starts since returning from injury in January, he has a .942 save percentage. That is the Quick we know and love, and it makes it easy to quickly vault him back into our top five goaltenders. It is probably too late to act on suspicions that Quick is all the way back, but make some soft inquiries to his owner. You never know.

Sergei Bobrovsky G, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 39 spots to No. 63): While it may to late to target Quick on the cheap, Bobrovsky still has a small window in which you may part him from his owner. Although we aren't quite as confident that last season's Vezina Trophy winner will be in the same form, We have jumped Bobrovsky back into No. 1 goaltender range for fantasy hockey. Like Quick, Bobrovsky had pedestrian numbers in October and downright troubling numbers in November, when he posted an .896 save percentage in 12 starts. But three games back from a rest on the injured reserve and Bobrosvky has stopped 102 of the 107 pucks that have been sent at him (.953 save percentage), winning all three starts.

Quick Hits

• We've been watching for Zac Dalpe to get a shot at playing on a scoring line with the Vancouver Canucks, and sure enough, he has been given the chance to play with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin for the past two games. He scored a goal on Friday and had four shots on goal, but was shut out like the rest of the Canucks by Jonathan Quick on Monday. It's worth watching to see if he can continue the connection.

• The walking wounded continue to line up on the wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz in order to get hurt. Brian Gibbons wasn't doing a lot with the assignment, but he is now out with a lower-body injury. Taylor Pyatt is next up in line. As always, he's worth a look.

• Although his ice time is still not where to needs to be, Tyson Barrie is showing positive fantasy signs when he is on the ice for the Colorado Avalanche. He could have a big second half of the season if coach Patrick Roy starts to feel more comfortable with his minutes, especially on the power play.

Alexander Steen is practicing with the St. Louis Blues, and could be returning soon. This will actually cause some headaches for fantasy owners who have been benefiting from the play of Jaden Schwartz on the top line. But it will also have a spin-off impact, as Schwartz moves down to a second line that has featured the heating up Vladimirs, Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka. Watch how coach Ken Hitchcock handles Steen's role upon his return, as it isn't as cut and dry as putting the old lines back together.

Loui Eriksson is back for the Boston Bruins, but he is back on the third line. Lucky for Eriksson, Reilly Smith has slowed his scoring pace a bit lately, and may provide a chance for Eriksson to work his way back onto the second line.