Open Ice: Top 200 Rankings

After a solid 2013 campaign, Antti Niemi has won five straight games to start 2013-14. Don Smith/NHLI/Getty Images

The next few weeks are the most difficult time of the fantasy hockey season. On one hand, there have not been enough games played to completely write off any player. On the other hand, there have been enough games to clearly identify some players who are going to emerge.

Do you drop your proven commodity who is slumping for an off-the-radar player who is red hot? It's a difficult decision, and one that could come back to bite you no matter what way you lean. It's an extreme example, but Alex Ovechkin had only three points during the first seven games last season. He wound up as the most valuable fantasy forward by the end of the season.

On the other hand, Vladimir Tarasenko started out really well with nine points in his first seven games, but would only manage another 10 points during the remainder of last season. How about Patrick Marleau last season? He scored more goals in the first five games than he did during the remaining 43 games.

Forwards and defensemen can have more unpredictable swings in their value, though. Line assignments, coaching philosophies, and linemates or defensive pairings can all have a quick impact on production. We can also better judge how a skater will fare coming into a season.

When it comes to goaltenders, value changes take more time. We also don't have as good an idea of how a goaltender will fare coming into a season because almost every personnel decision has a ripple effect on the goaltender. He is the the last line of defense.

That is why the biggest swings in the ranks this week are among the goaltenders. While we haven't seen enough to write off many players, we have seen enough to know there will be some new goaltenders in the hunt for your fantasy love this season. There are four goaltenders, specifically, who make the jump from being ranked as fantasy No. 2 goaltenders to being in consideration as a fantasy No. 1.

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. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (1)
2. Sidney Crosby, F, Pit (2)
3. Alex Ovechkin, F, Was (3)
4. Tuukka Rask, G, Bos (9)
5. John Tavares, F, NYI (6)
6. Evgeni Malkin, F, Pit (5)
7. Phil Kessel, F, Tor (8)
8. Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR (4)
9. Henrik Zetterberg, F, Det (12)
10. Corey Perry, F, Ana (10)
11. P.K. Subban, D, Mon (14)
12. Patrick Kane, F, Chi (13)
13. Erik Karlsson, D, Ott (7)
14. Claude Giroux, F, Phi (11)
15. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (15)
16. Pavel Datsyuk, F, Det (17)
17. Henrik Sedin, F, Van (18)
18. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Win (21)
19. Jonathan Toews, F, Chi (20)
20. Craig Anderson, G, Ott (16)
21. Daniel Sedin, F, Van (25)
22. Eric Staal, F, Car (22)
23. Chris Kunitz, F, Pit (23)
24. Pekka Rinne, G, Nsh (19)
25. Tyler Seguin, F, Dal (29)
26. Ryan Suter, D, Min (27)
27. Ryan Getzlaf, F, Ana (32)
28. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Was (30)
29. Martin St. Louis, F, TB (38)
30. James Neal, F, Pit (26)
31. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (33)
32. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Cls (31)
33. Antti Niemi, G, SJ (104)
34. Taylor Hall, F, Edm (34)
35. Rick Nash, F, NYR (28)
36. Carey Price, G, Mon (35)
37. Zach Parise, F, Min (41)
38. Roberto Luongo, G, Van (24)
39. Alexander Semin, F, Car (37)
40. Mike Green, D, Was (40)
41. Shea Weber, D, Nsh (36)
42. Corey Crawford, G, Chi (43)
43. Patrick Sharp, F, Chi (42)
44. Jamie Benn, F, Dal (44)
45. Jason Spezza, F, Ott (45)
46. Marian Hossa, F, Chi (39)
47. Evander Kane, F, Wpg (50)
48. Derek Stepan, F, NYR (46)
49. Andrei Markov, D, Mon (47)
50. Joe Thornton, F, SJ (48)
51. Jimmy Howard, G, Det (53)
52. Matt Duchene, F, Col (55)
53. Niklas Kronwall, D, Det (63)
54. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pit (60)
55. Joffrey Lupul, F, Tor (64)
56. Marian Gaborik, F, Cls (54)
57. Max Pacioretty, F, Mon (49)
58. Zdeno Chara, D, Bos (52)
59. Logan Couture, F, SJ (59)
60. Dion Phaneuf, D, Tor (62)
61. Semyon Varlamov, G, Col (193)
62. Patrice Bergeron, F, Bos (57)
63. Jaroslav Halak, G, StL (124)
64. Dustin Brown, F, LA (58)
65. Matt Moulson, F, NYI (61)
66. Tobias Enstrom, D, Win (85)
67. Johan Franzen, F, Det (51)
68. Duncan Keith, D, Chi (65)
69. Patrick Marleau, F, SJ (66)
70. Jonathan Bernier, G, Tor (127)
71. Thomas Vanek, F, Buf (67)
72. Mike Ribeiro, F, Pho (68)
73. Alex Pietrangelo, D, StL (78)
74. Jordan Eberle, F, Edm (71)
75. David Backes, F, StL (74)
76. Jonas Hiller, G, Ana (86)
77. Andrew Ladd, F, Wpg (75)
78. Jakub Voracek, F, Phi (56)
79. Bobby Ryan, F, Ott (88)
80. Nazem Kadri, F, Tor (79)
81. Ryan Kesler, F, Van (73)
82. James van Riemsdyk, F, Tor (96)
83. Drew Doughty, D, LA (77)
84. Kris Letang, D, Pit (83)
85. Jason Pominville, F, Min (80)
86. Jarome Iginla, F, Bos (70)
87. Justin Williams, F, LA (81)
88. Mikko Koivu, F, Min (82)
89. Brad Richards, F, NYR (84)
90. Kimmo Timonen, D, Phi (69)
91. Cory Schneider, G, NJ (72)
92. Brad Marchand, F, Bos (76)
93. P.A. Parenteau, F, Col (87)
94. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, Edm (89)
95. Patrik Elias, F, NJ (90)
96. Ryan Callahan, F, NYR (91)
97. Gabriel Landeskog, F, Col (92)
98. Brian Campbell, D, Fla (93)
99. Radim Vrbata, F, Pho (97)
100. Pascal Dupuis, F, Pit (99)
101. Tomas Fleischmann, F, Fla (114)
102. Joe Pavelski, F, SJ (107)
103. Sergei Gonchar, D, Dal (94)
104. Milan Lucic, F, Bos (109)
105. Jeff Carter, F, LA (134)
106. Mark Streit, D, Phi (100)
107. Keith Yandle, D, Pho (102)
108. Blake Wheeler, F, Wpg (103)
109. Teddy Purcell, F, TB (113)
110. Mike Smith, G, Pho (105)
111. Dan Boyle, D, SJ (115)
112. Loui Eriksson, F, Dal (106)
113. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Pho (117)
114. Wayne Simmonds, F, Phi (95)
115. Mike Richards, F, LA (122)
116. Jiri Tlusty, F, Car (98)
117. Alex Burrows, F, Van (123)
118. Sam Gagner, F, Edm (128)
119. Tomas Plekanec, F, Mon (111)
120. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, StL (116)
121. James Wisniewski, D, Cls (118)
122. Justin Schultz, D, Edm (119)
123. Michael Ryder, F, NJ (101)
124. David Clarkson, F, Tor (125)
125. Brandon Dubinsky, F, Cls (121)
126. T.J. Oshie, F, StL (137)
127. Jaromir Jagr, F, NJ (129)
128. Jack Johnson, D, Cls (141)
129. Dennis Wideman, D, Cgy (143)
130. Troy Brouwer, F, Was (112)
131. Alexander Steen, F, StL (147)
132. Jonathan Huberdeau, F, Fla (131)
133. Cam Ward, G, Car (120)
134. Daniel Alfredsson, F, Det (132)
135. Steve Downie, F, Col (142)
136. Cody Franson, D, Tor (144)
137. Braden Holtby, G, Was (110)
138. Brandon Saad, F, Chi (126)
139. Alex Galchenyuk, F, Mon (149)
140. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (174)
141. Matt Carle, D, TB (155)
142. David Perron, F, Edm (138)
143. Alexander Edler, D, Van (139)
144. Kyle Turris, F, Ott (140)
145. Ryan O'Reilly, F, Col (154)
146. Scott Hartnell, F, Phi (108)
147. Brent Burns, F, SJ (179)
148. John Carlson, D, Was (135)
149. Brendan Gallagher, F, Mon (153)
150. Vincent Lecavalier, F, Phi (136)
151. Kari Lehtonen, G, Dal (145)
152. Derick Brassard, F, NYR (130)
153. Marcus Johansson, F, Was (146)
154. David Krejci, F, Bos (148)
155. Bryan Little, F, Wpg (150)
156. Jeff Skinner, F, Car (170)
157. Milan Michalek, F, Ott (151)
158. Cody Hodgson, F, Buf (152)
159. Slava Voynov, D, LA (157)
160. Jaden Schwartz, F, StL (159)
161. Mikhail Grabovski, F, Was (160)
162. Jiri Hudler, F, Cgy (185)
163. Ray Whitney, F, Dal (133)
164. Evgeni Nabokov, G, NYI (161)
165. Shane Doan, F, Pho (162)
166. Michael Del Zotto, D, NYR (158)
167. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, StL (164)
168. Jakob Silfverberg, F, Ana (192)
169. Sean Monahan, F, Cgy (NR)
170. Mikkel Boedker, F, Pho (167)
171. Mark Giordano, D, Cgy (NR)
172. Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buf (156)
173. Andre Benoit, D, Col (187)
174. Ryan Miller, G, Buf (178)
175. Adam Henrique, F, NJ (169)
176. Niklas Backstrom, G, Min (163)
177. Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI (171)
178. Jason Garrison, D, Van (186)
179. Patrick Wiercioch, D, Ott (172)
180. Brent Seabrook, D, Chi (173)
181. Jussi Jokinen, F, Pit (184)
182. Damien Brunner, F, NJ (175)
183. Justin Faulk, D, Car (176)
184. Paul Martin, D, Pit (177)
185. Steve Ott, F, Buf (166)
186. Nathan MacKinnon, F, Col (180)
187. Lars Eller, F, Mon (190)
188. Torey Krug, D, Bos (182)
189. Michael Grabner, F, NYI (183)
190. Marek Zidlicky, D, NJ (188)
191. Dan Hamhuis, D, Van (189)
192. Tyler Ennis, F, Buf (181)
193. Alex Tanguay, F, Col (NR)
194. Kris Versteeg, F, Fla (194)
195. Francois Beauchemin, D, Ana (195)
196. Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (196)
197. Kyle Okposo, F, NYI (NR)
198. Alex Chiasson, F, Dal (NR)
199. Ben Bishop, G, TB (NR)
200. Sven Baertschi, F, Cgy (NR)

Antti Niemi, G, San Jose Sharks (up 71 spots to No. 33): This move was a no-brainer. Last season, Niemi finished tied in the NHL for the league-lead in wins, was 10th in goals-against average and seventh in save percentage. His overall numbers were just a shade behind the elite fantasy goaltenders. The Sharks look as solid as they ever have up front, with plenty of offense to give Niemi support even if he hiccups to allow three or four goals some nights. But thus far, it's been five straight wins to begin the campaign. Really, Niemi is an easy choice as a No. 1 goaltender, and definitely deserves this correction to his ranking. He is now hot on the heels of Jonathan Quick and Sergei Bobrovsky for a shot at being a top-five fantasy goaltender.

Semyon Varlamov, G, Colorado Avalanche (up 132 spots to No. 61): Maybe there is a closely guarded secret to being an elite NHL goaltender, and all coach Patrick Roy had to do was lean over and whisper it to Varlamov before the season. On the other hand, maybe we are witnessing a 25-year-old, highly touted prospect begin to make good on his pedigree while he gets some help from one of the NHL's all-time greats at the position. Considering that Jean-Sebastien Giguere notched a shutout against the Boston Bruins while Varlamov got a rest last week, it certainly appears as though the Avalanche have improved defensively. Varlamov has certainly benefited, with the best start to the season of any NHL goaltender, allowing just a single goal in all four of his starts against some formidable opponents. You can watch the highlights of really any Avs game this season, and realize there is something different, but there is still the remote possibility that this is just a hot start. That said, look for Varlamov to climb the ranks even higher if this trend continues.

Jaroslav Halak, G, St. Louis Blues (up 61 spots to No. 63): It would appear that Brian Elliott is no longer a threat. That does seem strange to say just two seasons removed from Elliott looking like one of the elite NHL goaltenders. Now, we haven't even seen Elliott this season. Halak getting the nod for every game thus far is an indication that he has the No. 1 gig until he gives it up through poor performance. And if history is any indication, we should not expect any poor performances (unless Halak gets hurt). The Blues are an elite defensive unit with coach Ken Hitchcock at the helm, and Halak's numbers should easily be that of a No. 1 fantasy goalie now that he will get the requisite workload.

Jonathan Bernier, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (up 57 spots to No. 70): This is a similar call to the one on Halak; we knew the Maple Leafs goalie would yield the stats of a No. 1 fantasy goaltender, we just weren't sure how long it would take Bernier to make it clear he was the No. 1 in reality. Well, Bernier only needed a few days to make it known that he would be the Leafs' primary goaltender for the foreseeable future. James Reimer is still around, and will probably get more starts than the average backup goaltender, but he is definitely the backup. Even when following a shutout with a five-goal allowance to the Oilers on Saturday night, Bernier still picked up the win (and none of those five goals were softies). Count him among the list of goaltenders who can be leaned on as a No. 1 in fantasy.

Forwards Rising and Falling

Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins (down 16 spots to No. 92): Already dealing with a demotion to the third line to try and get him going, Marchand will have to work quickly to get back into offensive form. The Bruins' lines haven't meshed as well as we had hoped with new forwards Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson in the fold. The bad news for Marchand is that since his demotion from the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson, the line has a pair of goals, and Marchand's replacement, Reilly Smith, has an assist on Eriksson's goals in each of the past two games. It's still an easy move to bring Marchand back up the depth chart now, but if Smith keeps clicking with Eriksson, the decision will become more difficult.

Jeff Carter, C/LW, Los Angeles Kings (up 29 spots to No. 105): Carter is quickly reminding us that he is a threat for 40 goals in any given season, and that his down season with the Columbus Blue Jackets was the aberration in a productive shooting and scoring career. Comfortable on the second line with Mike Richards, we actually saw a new power-play formation for the Kings this week. Coach Darryl Sutter rolled a top power-play unit that featured Richards, Carter and Anze Kopitar; a scary trifecta for opponents, to be sure. Carter has also proven that his scoring will continue even with a revolving door at right wing for his line. Dwight King, Daniel Carcillo and Matt Frattin have all had a chance this season, but it doesn't really seem to matter who winds up with the assignment long term.

Jiri Tlusty, LW, Carolina Hurricanes (down 17 spots to No. 115): Still skating with Alexander Semin and Eric Staal for now, the clock is ticking on Tlusty's fantasy fortunes. The Hurricanes can hardly afford for their top line to continue to struggle, and will make a change if they don't start scoring very soon. Tlusty is the easiest member to rotate off the line, and also would face an uphill climb to regain his value if another player finds chemistry with Staal or Semin. Tuomo Ruutu was already skating in Tlusty's place during practice and has the ability (when healthy) to produce as a top-line player.

Defensemen Rising and Falling

Tobias Enstrom, D, Winnipeg Jets (up 19 spots to No. 66): One thing is absolutely clear when it comes to the combined value of Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien for fantasy purposes: they are much better together. Last season, Byfuglien struggled to a lowly (for him) 28 points as Enstrom missed much of the season. Playing together through six games this season, both players have six points. They rarely leave each other's side during a game, playing both at even strength and on the power play as a pair. Enstrom's deftness with the puck complements Byfuglien's blistering shot perfectly. As long as Enstrom is over his shoulder and back issues from last season, he can once again be considered among the elite defensemen.

Mark Streit, D, Philadelphia Flyers (down six spots to No. 106): While Streit is falling in value, he isn't falling as much as teammate Kimmo Timonen. The theory for Streit's fantasy value coming into this season is that there would be plenty of points to go around for the Flyers, both on and off the power play. But the opposite is true after six games of the campaign have been played. Timonen has zero points as the Flyers are just 2-for-27 on the man advantage. Streit has two assists and is getting secondary power-play time at the moment. But both his assists have come on the team's only two power-play goals. Look for Streit to start getting a little more work on the power play, but the overall outlook for the Flyers' offense continues to diminish.

Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames (enters ranks at No. 171): The new Flames captain is playing the part well, leading his team with six points from the blue line, three of them on the power play. The Flames have looked to be an upstart offense this season, with Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan leading the way up front. They have been complemented very well by the defensive core of Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell. Giordano gets lead ice time on the power play with Wideman on the point. The Flames will need to be an up-tempo offense to compete this season, so look for continued production from Giordano.

Goaltenders Rising and Falling

Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes (down 13 spots to No. 133): Ward finally played a good game last Friday in a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings, but more importantly for his continued use as a No. 1 goaltender is that Anton Khudobin has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. That buys Ward some reprieve and a chance to earn his status back as a No. 1 goalie. He hasn't looked the part this season, with Khudobin putting up better numbers. Even after Ward played a stellar game against the Kings, coach Kirk Muller went right back to Khudobin two days later against the Phoenix Coyotes. Khudobin was injured part-way through that game, and Ward spelled him for the final period and a half to yield three goals on 12 shots. It sounds like Khudobin is out for a while, so Ward has to quickly re-establish his game to close the door on the timeshare before the young upstart returns. Unless Khudobin is out for an extended period of time, though, things don't look good for Ward.

Quick Hits

• The top line for the Vancouver Canucks has been the only one producing for the team this season. Look for some changes as coach John Tortorella attempts to get secondary production. Zack Kassian is the prime fantasy target for improved performance. He returned from his five-game suspension to play on the third line, but was working in the preseason with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. Alex Burrows is still out for another week, at least.

Kari Lehtonen has hit the injured reserve with a lower-body injury. We know Dan Ellis is unlikely to help any fantasy owners in the meantime, but AHL call-up Jack Campbell is at least worth a look if Lehtonen's injury turns out to have an extended timetable for recovery.

• The Flyers' depth chart will be going through changes in the near future. Vincent Lecavalier is out for a week, and Scott Hartnell is gone for up to four weeks, both with lower-body injuries. This may mean a continuation of the slow start for Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, but offers a chance for moderate value for Tye McGinn for a couple weeks. McGinn scored in his first game while playing on a line with Giroux and Voracek.

• With the continued absence of James Neal (who is said to be week-to-week) and Kris Letang (still no contact in practice), it is Jussi Jokinen and Matt Niskanen taking advantage of their absence. The good news is that Jokinen will continue to have value after Neal returns, as there is room on the second line with Evgeni Malkin. The bad news is that Niskanen's value will plummet when Letang is back.