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Fantasy hockey rankings: Penguins, Blues, Hughes reactions

There was much to smile about for Evan Rodrigues (L) and Bryan Rust (R) after each scored a hat trick. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel returned with all the glory one could hope for on Saturday. Back on a familiar line with Sidney Crosby, they picked up four goals together and also helped Evan Rodrigues complete his hat trick on the power play. Guentzel had already shaken off a slow start before he was injured in early December, so he was just picking up where he left off, but for Rust it was his first statement game of the season.

That statement is a firm reminder of the kind of winger he can be for fantasy. Elevated to the role of a top-six winger for the Penguins early in his career, Rust spent three seasons the fringes of fantasy before bursting out in a big way in 2019-20. During the past two seasons, his pace has been that of a star winger -- even if his reputation doesn't quite line up with that. It's a struggle that some forwards have had over the years when they are paired with a superstar and Rust isn't the first to suffer from it as a linemate of Crosby.

But whether correlation equals causation for Rust's success, we can at least accept the fact that he has Crosby as his center for foreseeable future and play into it.

The past two seasons have seen Rust put up astronomical scoring paces that don't seem quite as high due to missed time and shortened campaigns. But his 49 goals in 111 games in 2019-20 and 2020-21 works out to a pace of 36 goals over a traditional 82-game season. That's not quite enough to compete for a Rocket Richard Trophy, but it's in the ballpark.

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Rust adds to Rodrigues' hat trick with one of his own

Bryan Rust lights the lamp vs. Sharks

But Rust doesn't get the respect that should come from that. ESPN.com's preseason rankings (which are not done by yours truly) had Rust at 110. For my part, I ranked him at No. 59 -- but even that was still arguably not giving him the love he deserved. The very slow start to this season can easily be chalked up to injuries, but I still have some trepidation about rocketing Rust up to the top 50. For now, with just one huge game on the books, I fell comfortable with a spot at No. 88. But his fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) actually ranks 57th among all forwards, so a further push up the ranks could be in the cards.

The other standout from Saturday for Pittsburgh was, obviously, Rodrigues and his hat trick. This is a trickier situation though, as Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen missed the game, while Evgeni Malkin is looming for a return. Rodrigues has been the consummate top-six fill-in this season, but unless more longer-term injuries befall the Pens, the sand on his fantasy contribution hourglass has almost all fallen.


Forwards on the move

Jordan Kyrou, C/W, St. Louis Blues (up 32 spots to No. 120): One of our stars of the week is certainly worthy of a bump here. Kyrou has consistently earned a scoring-line role, but it hasn't always been the one we want him to have. He's easily done his best work with Vladimir Tarasenko this season, but has only played about 70 of about 400 even-strength minutes with him. In those 71 minutes, he's assisted Tarasenko three times, been assisted by him once and assisted with him once. They are together for the time being and Kyrou should be locked into lineups. If you are in one of the 63 percent of leagues where Kyrou is spoken for, consider third wheel Robert Thomas, who is available in 88 percent of leagues.

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils (up 25 spots to No. 78): I promise I'm not just reacting the the NHL's stars of the week. That said, I think this week was the first week we got to see the Hughes I expected this season. Taking on the role of offensive leader to drive the Devils scoring, the fantasy production is following suit. Hughes has elevated himself to 2.0 fantasy points per game this season, which is even better than the 1.8 my optimistic projection had for him. He's still only rostered in 56 percent of leagues thanks to his long absence from a shoulder injury, so there is even a chance you can just scoop him up.

Nikita Kucherov, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 37 spots to No. 23): Now considered basically day-to-day, Kucherov should be back in action for the Lightning before we know it. Obviously it's been a while since we've had some regular season Kucherov, but his four points in three games before getting hurt and his performance in last season's playoffs are a pretty good indication that he's the same old superstar we know and love. He won't be available on the wire anymore (though even right after the injury, he wasn't dropped much), but you can look to some others to try to draft off his return. Ondrej Palat is the big one. Though only available in 10 percent of leagues, his trade value should be low enough thanks to 1.7 fantasy points per game. Palat, Kucherov and Brayden Point will likely be back together doing their thing before the end of the week.

Defensemen on the move

Matt Roy, D, Los Angeles Kings (enters ranks at No. 208): I'll admit to sleeping too much on Roy already. Call me distracted by Drew Doughty being Drew Doughty and a little by Sean Druzi's impressive small sample, but Roy has been quietly putting up the fantasy points. And then getting a little louder at putting each times the Kings lost a stalwart to injury (Sean Walker, Alexander Edler). Roy does a lot of his fantasy scoring through hits and blocked shots, but don't sleep on his shooting. I will admit to being shocked to see him in the top 50 for shots on goal in the NHL this season.

Goaltenders on the move

Igor Shesterkin, G, New York Rangers (up two spots to No. 12): It's a small boost and it comes from a place of feeling like Shesterkin is ... preserved? I'm not sure that's the right word, but when it comes to the top goaltenders in fantasy hockey for total points we see a list of goalies all playing well over 70 percent of their team's total crease share and, well, Shesterkin. At 58.7 percent crease share so far this season, Shesterkin -- on paper -- has more in the tank for later this season, when we usually see some of the workhorses start to slip just a little. As you may have also guessed, Shesterkin's fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) are ridiculous. His 5.30 FPP60 only trails Jack Campbell (5.37).

New to rankings

Matt Roy, Lawson Crouse, Joel Farabee.

Just missed

Bowen Byram (back from injury), Robert Thomas (as mentioned, third member of Blues best line), Jeff Skinner (skating with Alex Tuch), Adam Boqvist, Nino Niederreiter (getting top-line minutes of late), Tim Stutzle, Tyler Myers, Yegor Sharangovich, Henrik Borgstrom (showing some signs of life with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat), David Savard, Logan O'Connor, Phil Kessel, Jakub Vrana, Ilya Mikheyev, Warren Foegele (another shot in the top six with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hurt).

Dropped out

Keith Yandle, Alex Nedeljkovic, Ryan McDonagh.

Top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, F, EDM (F1)
2. Leon Draisaitl, F, EDM (F2)
3. Alex Ovechkin, F, WSH (F3)
4. Auston Matthews, F, TOR (F4)
5. Nathan MacKinnon, F, COL (F5)
6. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G1)
7. Roman Josi, D, NSH (D1)
8. Mikko Rantanen, F, COL (F6)
9. Brad Marchand, F, BOS (F7)
10. Jack Campbell, G, TOR (G2)
11. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D2)
12. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G3)
13. Cale Makar, D, COL (D3)
14. Frederik Andersen, G, CAR (G4)
15. Timo Meier, F, SJ (F8)
16. Sebastian Aho, F, CAR (F9)
17. Elias Lindholm, F, CGY (F10)
18. Mika Zibanejad, F, NYR (F11)
19. Kyle Connor, F, WPG (F12)
20. Gabriel Landeskog, F, COL (F13)
21. Jake Guentzel, F, PIT (F14)
22. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (F15)
23. Nikita Kucherov, F, TB (F16)
24. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D4)
25. David Pastrnak, F, BOS (F17)
26. Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (G5)
27. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (D5)
28. Aleksander Barkov, F, FLA (F18)
29. Tristan Jarry, G, PIT (G6)
30. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (F19)
31. Juuse Saros, G, NSH (G7)
32. John Carlson, D, WSH (D6)
33. Alex Pietrangelo, D, VGS (D7)
34. Artemi Panarin, F, NYR (F20)
35. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D8)
36. Drake Batherson, F, OTT (F21)
37. Patrice Bergeron, F, BOS (F22)
38. Kirill Kaprizov, F, MIN (F23)
39. Seth Jones, D, CHI (D9)
40. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G8)
41. Filip Forsberg, F, NSH (F24)
42. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, STL (F25)
43. Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA (D10)
44. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D11)
45. Sidney Crosby, F, PIT (F26)
46. Brady Tkachuk, F, OTT (F27)
47. Kris Letang, D, PIT (D12)
48. Nazem Kadri, F, COL (F28)
49. Mitch Marner, F, TOR (F29)
50. Roope Hintz, F, DAL (F30)
51. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, FLA (G9)
52. Patrik Laine, F, CLS (F31)
53. Mark Stone, F, VGS (F32)
54. Mark Scheifele, F, WPG (F33)
55. Devon Toews, D, COL (D13)
56. Darnell Nurse, D, EDM (D14)
57. Jonathan Huberdeau, F, FLA (F34)
58. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (F35)
59. John Tavares, F, TOR (F36)
60. Brayden Point, F, TB (F37)
61. Zach Werenski, D, CLS (D15)
62. Andrei Svechnikov, F, CAR (F38)
63. Josh Norris, F, OTT (F39)
64. J.T. Miller, F, VAN (F40)
65. Matthew Tkachuk, F, CGY (F41)
66. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G10)
67. Patrick Kane, F, CHI (F42)
68. Cam Talbot, G, MIN (G11)
69. Mario Ferraro, D, SJ (D16)
70. Tyler Bertuzzi, F, DET (F43)
71. William Nylander, F, TOR (F44)
72. Darcy Kuemper, G, COL (G12)
73. Dylan Larkin, F, DET (F45)
74. Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, WSH (F46)
75. Alex DeBrincat, F, CHI (F47)
76. Joe Pavelski, F, DAL (F48)
77. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL (D17)
78. Jack Hughes, F, NJ (F49)
79. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D18)
80. Elvis Merzlikins, G, CLS (G13)
81. Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, WPG (F50)
82. Jason Robertson, F, DAL (F51)
83. Neal Pionk, D, WPG (D19)
84. Brock Nelson, F, NYI (F52)
85. Nicklas Backstrom, F, WSH (F53)
86. Logan Couture, F, SJ (F54)
87. Matt Duchene, F, NSH (F55)
88. Bryan Rust, F, PIT (F56)
89. Zach Hyman, F, EDM (F57)
90. MacKenzie Weegar, D, FLA (D20)
91. Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH (G14)
92. Boone Jenner, F, CLS (F58)
93. Mats Zuccarello, F, MIN (F59)
94. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, EDM (F60)
95. Elias Pettersson, F, VAN (F61)
96. Johnny Gaudreau, F, CGY (F62)
97. Tony DeAngelo, D, CAR (D21)
98. Tom Wilson, F, WSH (F63)
99. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D22)
100. Brent Burns, D, SJ (D23)
101. Ryan Hartman, F, MIN (F64)
102. Robin Lehner, G, VGS (G15)
103. John Gibson, G, ANA (G16)
104. Sean Couturier, F, PHI (F65)
105. Moritz Seider, D, DET (D24)
106. Thomas Chabot, D, OTT (D25)
107. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (G17)
108. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR (D26)
109. Carter Hart, G, PHI (G18)
110. Jordan Binnington, G, STL (G19)
111. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI (D27)
112. Mathew Dumba, D, MIN (D28)
113. Troy Terry, F, ANA (F66)
114. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D29)
115. Jordan Eberle, F, SEA (F67)
116. Nikolaj Ehlers, F, WPG (F68)
117. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (G20)
118. Sam Bennett, F, FLA (F69)
119. T.J. Oshie, F, WSH (F70)
120. Jordan Kyrou, F, STL (F71)
121. Max Pacioretty, F, VGS (F72)
122. Vincent Trocheck, F, CAR (F73)
123. Mikko Koskinen, G, EDM (G21)
124. Adam Henrique, F, ANA (F74)
125. Oliver Bjorkstrand, F, CLS (F75)
126. Rickard Rakell, F, ANA (F76)
127. Anthony Duclair, F, FLA (F77)
128. Pavel Buchnevich, F, STL (F78)
129. Teuvo Teravainen, F, CAR (F79)
130. Colton Parayko, D, STL (D30)
131. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D31)
132. Andre Burakovsky, F, COL (F80)
133. Claude Giroux, F, PHI (F81)
134. Chandler Stephenson, F, VGS (F82)
135. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (F83)
136. Evan Bouchard, D, EDM (D32)
137. Andrew Copp, F, WPG (F84)
138. David Perron, F, STL (F85)
139. Mikael Granlund, F, NSH (F86)
140. Ondrej Palat, F, TB (F87)
141. Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (D33)
142. Jonathan Marchessault, F, VGS (F88)
143. Samuel Girard, D, COL (D34)
144. Viktor Arvidsson, F, LA (F89)
145. Alec Martinez, D, VGS (D35)
146. Lucas Raymond, F, DET (F90)
147. Artem Zub, D, OTT (D36)
148. J.T. Compher, F, COL (F91)
149. Tyson Barrie, D, EDM (D37)
150. Andrew Mangiapane, F, CGY (F92)
151. James Reimer, G, SJ (G22)
152. Alex Iafallo, F, LA (F93)
153. Brock Boeser, F, VAN (F94)
154. Cam Atkinson, F, PHI (F95)
155. Taylor Hall, F, BOS (F96)
156. Ryan Johansen, F, NSH (F97)
157. Ryan Getzlaf, F, ANA (F98)
158. Jesse Puljujarvi, F, EDM (F99)
159. Anthony Cirelli, F, TB (F100)
160. Erik Johnson, D, COL (D38)
161. Alex Killorn, F, TB (F101)
162. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, ARI (D39)
163. Tyler Seguin, F, DAL (F102)
164. Shea Theodore, D, VGS (D40)
165. Adam Larsson, D, SEA (D41)
166. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, ANA (D42)
167. Ivan Barbashev, F, STL (F103)
168. Joel Eriksson Ek, F, MIN (F104)
169. Esa Lindell, D, DAL (D43)
170. Victor Olofsson, F, BUF (F105)
171. Jake Oettinger, G, DAL (G23)
172. Bo Horvat, F, VAN (F106)
173. Jaden Schwartz, F, SEA (F107)
174. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D44)
175. Valeri Nichushkin, F, COL (F108)
176. Zach Whitecloud, D, VGS (D45)
177. Nick Suzuki, F, MON (F109)
178. Ryan O'Reilly, F, STL (F110)
179. Ryan Graves, D, NJ (D46)
180. Jeremy Swayman, G, BOS (G24)
181. Brayden McNabb, D, VGS (D47)
182. Blake Wheeler, F, WPG (F111)
183. Mike Smith, G, EDM (G25)
184. Alex Tuch, F, BUF (F112)
185. Ryan Strome, F, NYR (F113)
186. Jakob Chychrun, D, ARI (D48)
187. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (D49)
188. Cam Fowler, D, ANA (D50)
189. Max Domi, F, CLS (F114)
190. Nico Hischier, F, NJ (F115)
191. Conor Garland, F, VAN (F116)
192. Jeff Carter, F, PIT (F117)
193. Mathew Barzal, F, NYI (F118)
194. Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN (D51)
195. Jared McCann, F, SEA (F119)
196. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF (D52)
197. Travis Konecny, F, PHI (F120)
198. John Klingberg, D, DAL (D53)
199. Oliver Wahlstrom, F, NYI (F121)
200. Mark Giordano, D, SEA (D54)
201. Nate Schmidt, D, WPG (D55)
202. Sam Reinhart, F, FLA (F122)
203. Clayton Keller, F, ARI (F123)
204. Justin Faulk, D, STL (D56)
205. Jonas Brodin, D, MIN (D57)
206. Brandon Saad, F, STL (F124)
207. Jakub Voracek, F, CLS (F125)
208. Matt Roy, D, LA (D58)
209. Pavel Francouz, G, COL (G26)
210. Rasmus Andersson, D, CGY (D59)
211. Jamie Benn, F, DAL (F126)
212. Joshua Morrissey, D, WPG (D60)
213. Evan Rodrigues, F, PIT (F127)
214. Yanni Gourde, F, SEA (F128)
215. Anders Lee, F, NYI (F129)
216. William Karlsson, F, VGS (F130)
217. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, CLS (D61)
218. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, PHI (D62)
219. Marcus Foligno, F, MIN (F131)
220. Trevor Zegras, F, ANA (F132)
221. Anthony Mantha, F, WSH (F133)
222. Jaccob Slavin, D, CAR (D63)
223. Brayden Schenn, F, STL (F134)
224. Adrian Kempe, F, LA (F135)
225. Filip Hronek, D, DET (D64)
226. Charlie Coyle, F, BOS (F136)
227. Tage Thompson, F, BUF (F137)
228. Braden Holtby, G, DAL (G27)
229. Alexander Radulov, F, DAL (F138)
230. Torey Krug, D, STL (D65)
231. Jack Eichel, F, BUF (F139)
232. Ryan Suter, D, DAL (D66)
233. Reilly Smith, F, VGS (F140)
234. Radko Gudas, D, FLA (D67)
235. Alex Goligoski, D, MIN (D68)
236. Carter Verhaeghe, F, FLA (F141)
237. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, CHI (G28)
238. Vince Dunn, D, SEA (D69)
239. Justin Braun, D, PHI (D70)
240. Anton Lundell, F, FLA (F142)
241. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D71)
242. Ryan Ellis, D, PHI (D72)
243. Linus Ullmark, G, BOS (G29)
244. Jonathan Dahlen, F, SJ (F143)
245. Ben Chiarot, D, MON (D73)
246. Mike Hoffman, F, MON (F144)
247. Lawson Crouse, F, ARI (F145)
248. Jesper Bratt, F, NJ (F146)
249. Joel Farabee, F, PHI (F147)
250. Pavel Zacha, F, NJ (F148)