Front Line: Looking for finishers

A hot streak by almost any NHL player can last for seven games. Scoring outbursts can and do happen by players of all skill that can last for two weeks. Remember those principles as we get to this week's rankings.

The top 100 forwards are meant to rank the fantasy value of the offensive players "from this point on." That means we are ranking the players for anywhere from five to seven games played depending on which team they play for. Ranking for such a small stretch is wildly difficult because we have to break away from the traditional rankings that require a cool head when players are under- or over-performing. But that also makes it kind of fun. Rookie Alex Chiasson has been lighting the lamp like crazy since his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars less than two weeks ago. Can he keep up the pace for seven more games and be a difference maker? Sure, let's rank him in the top 20!

That would have been a certifiably crazy move if there was still a month left in the regular season. But with seven games, it's a calculated move. After all, in just six NHL games, Chiasson has two multi-goal efforts, six total goals and one helper to go with a plus-4 and more than two shots on goal per game. All that was done while skating with Ray Whitney and Jamie Benn on the top line. In fact, let's put Whitney in the top 20 as well. He has seven points in the past four games as this line has come alive, he has a history as a scorer and the Stars are fighting to the bitter end for a playoff berth.

Another line getting a shot as a top option for the remaining two weeks is the Columbus Blue Jackets' top trio of Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Vinny Prospal. Those are the exact linemates Gaborik enjoyed during his 42-goal campaign in 2009-10 with the New York Rangers. Prospal and Dubinsky both had 20 goals and strong fantasy campaigns that season despite both missing time. But they can all stay healthy to play six more games, right? Dubinsky is the best target for fantasy purposes because he plays with a chip on his shoulder and will pick up some penalty minutes. He is therefore ranked as a top-35 player this week. Has Dubinsky earned his way there with the statistics he has put up this season? Absolutely not. But because of his situation, history and extremely small period to perform, a top-35 ranking makes sense here.

Small injuries also have a much bigger toll when dealing with such a tiny sampling of games to rank for. James Neal might be back this week for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Or he may not play another game in the regular season. With no news about his concussion, we have to err on the side of caution and assume Neal isn't coming back. With Sidney Crosby still not skating with the team and Evgeni Malkin dealing with an upper-body injury, that means Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Pascal Dupuis should have more time to be offensive catalysts for the Pens. The three players have been enjoying the role so far and all three are ranked quite highly in this week's top 100.

There are also the players who are being downgraded significantly due to a cold streak. Cody Hodgson has been a reliable commodity all season and is currently ranked 85th among forwards on the ESPN Player Rater for this season. But he has been ice cold lately and the Buffalo Sabres only have five games remaining this season. You won't see him listed among this week's forwards. Gone, too, are Bobby Ryan, Scott Hartnell and Patrik Elias because there isn't enough hope or time for them to pull out of their current tailspins.

Remember that every point counts and there are plenty of options to help you make that final push toward the top of your league.

Rising and Falling

Top 100 Forwards

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards 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. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Alex Ovechkin, Was (1)
2. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (15)
3. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
4. Corey Perry, Ana (4)
5. John Tavares, NYI (5)
6. Jonathan Toews, Chi (9)
7. Martin St. Louis, TB (14)
8. Eric Staal, Car (6)
9. Patrick Kane, Chi (7)
10. Anze Kopitar, LA (8)
11. Rick Nash, NYR (10)
12. Phil Kessel, Tor (22)
13. Henrik Sedin, Van (18)
14. Daniel Sedin, Van (11)
15. Claude Giroux, Phi (12)
16. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (3)
17. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (13)
18. Ray Whitney, Dal (NR)
19. Mike Richards, LA (53)
20. Alex Chiasson, Dal (NR)
21. Taylor Hall, Edm (16)
22. Zach Parise, Min (17)
23. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (19)
24. Brenden Morrow, Pit (NR)
25. Alexander Semin, Car (21)
26. Ryan Kesler, Van (NR)
27. Jamie Benn, Dal (35)
28. Matt Moulson, NYI (25)
29. Marian Gaborik, Cls (66)
30. Mikko Koivu, Min (26)
31. Dustin Brown, LA (27)
32. Marian Hossa, Chi (28)
33. Jakub Voracek, Phi (29)
34. James van Riemsdyk, Tor (84)
35. Brandon Dubinsky, Cls (NR)
36. Jaromir Jagr, Bos (73)
37. Derek Stepan, NYR (31)
38. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (32)
39. Evander Kane, Wpg (62)
40. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (63)
41. P.A. Parenteau, Col (34)
42. Pascal Dupuis, Pit (NR)
43. Jason Pominville, Min (37)
44. Jussi Jokinen, Pit (NR)
45. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (38)
46. Jeff Carter, LA (40)
47. Shane Doan, Pho (70)
48. Jarome Iginla, Pit (20)
49. Joe Thornton, SJ (43)
50. Matt Duchene, Col (44)
51. Brandon Saad, Chi (45)
52. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (83)
53. Vinny Prospal, Cls (NR)
54. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (NR)
55. Justin Williams, LA (46)
56. Brad Richards, NYR (47)
57. Logan Couture, SJ (48)
58. Marcus Johansson, Was (50)
59. Troy Brouwer, Was (81)
60. Nazem Kadri, Tor (30)
61. Alex Galchenyuk, Mon (NR)
62. Sam Gagner, Edm (51)
63. Michael Ryder, Mon (52)
64. Alex Burrows, Van (54)
65. Jiri Tlusty, Car (55)
66. Gregory Campbell, Bos (NR)
67. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (56)
68. Mike Ribeiro, Was (57)
69. Max Pacioretty, Mon (59)
70. Radim Vrbata, Pho (76)
71. Frans Nielsen, NYI (89)
72. Tyler Seguin, Bos (33)
73. Rene Bourque, Mon (NR)
74. Blake Wheeler, Wpg (82)
75. David Backes, StL (67)
76. Jordan Eberle, Edm (49)
77. Martin Hanzal, Pho (97)
78. Thomas Vanek, Buf (36)
79. Milan Lucic, Bos (72)
80. Brent Burns, SJ (74)
81. Brad Boyes, NYI (75)
82. Shawn Matthias, Fla (77)
83. Loui Eriksson, Dal (79)
84. Derick Brassard, NYR (NR)
85. Josh Bailey, NYI (NR)
86. Simon Gagne, Phi (NR)
87. Ryane Clowe, NYR (94)
88. Teddy Purcell, TB (NR)
89. Chris Kunitz, Pit (24)
90. Devin Setoguchi, Min (86)
91. Sidney Crosby, Pit (87)
92. Benoit Pouliot, TB (88)
93. Kyle Okposo, NYI (NR)
94. Brendan Gallagher, Mon (NR)
95. Jeff Skinner, Car (91)
96. Joe Pavelski, SJ (93)
97. Jonathan Huberdeau, Fla (95)
98. Alexander Steen, StL (96)
99. Mika Zibanejad, Ott (98)
100. Ryan Callahan, NYR (99)

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals (down eight spots to No. 58): This is the second week in a row Johansson gets top billing. The slight downgrade in the rankings this week is not what you should be focusing on. You should be focusing on the fact that Johansson is still available in way too many (63 percent) of ESPN leagues and is sharing the ice with the two hottest hockey players on the planet. Coach Adam Oates finally figured out how to get the old Alex Ovechkin back and he came back in spades. He went from not even being in the conversation as an Art Ross Trophy contender to having an outside shot at winning the scoring race. Ovie already has the lead for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Nicklas Backstrom has been right there with Ovechkin every step of the way and Johansson is the lucky guy playing with them.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils (enters ranks at No. 54): Kovalchuk is edging close to a return from his shoulder injury and though he will miss Monday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kovalchuk could still play in six more games this season. The Devils have been a train wreck without him, but Kovy doesn't need to have linemates helping him get points. He is available in 27 percent of ESPN leagues and will be a mean surprise for your opponents if you can pick him up for the stretch run.

Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings (up 34 spots to No. 19): While it's a look that has had a few chances this season, the Kings have been split on what the team's top power-play unit would be most nights. Sometimes it is simply Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown staying together as the top line and top power-play unit. But more recently the combination of Richards, Kopitar, Brown and Jeff Carter up front, with Drew Doughty on the point has been gaining some momentum. Richards has been the biggest beneficiary with three power-play points in the past three games. Overall, Richards has a six-game point streak with seven points. We know Richards still has elite talent hiding in his game, so here is betting it shows itself as the Kings press for a strong finish in the Western Conference.

Scoring Lines

Vernon Fiddler, Dallas Stars: You won't find Fiddler tossed into the top-100 ranks because his outburst is inexplicable. The veteran forward has had similar bursts of production in the past and they usually come crashing to a halt at some point. That said, 10 points in six games is nothing to scoff at from any player. Fiddler has relished increased ice time since the trade deadline exodus from the Stars roster. Though Erik Cole and Eric Nystrom share the ice with Fiddler, neither is producing so many points. Fiddler is making crisp passes and winning loose pucks for his teammates. Sometimes that, plus a determined team, is all it takes to produce points. Fiddler might stop scoring at any moment. Or, he may have a few more games in him yet. As a free pickup, it might be worth a chance.

Kyle Wellwood, Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Wellwood have clicked as a line recently and the result is a five-game point streak for Wellwood. The Jets have been getting offense from both scoring lines lately, which means there is a stronger possibility that both units continue to score as the team scrambles to win a playoff spot. Wellwood is normally just a defensive boon on the ice for his team, but he possesses enough offensive instincts to play alongside a Kane or a Jokinen.

Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins: With the injuries to Sidney Crosby, James Neal and now Evgeni Malkin, Bennett is back up with the Pens and being leaned on for a role in the top six. Though he never got the chance to play with the superstars the Penguins have on offensive, Bennett is still proving himself. He assisted on two goals on Saturday, while playing on a line with Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow. If Malkin misses more time with his upper-body injury, Bennett is good to go to provide more assistance for fantasy owners. But the second Malkin (or Neal or Crosby) is back, the bubble is once again burst for Bennett.

T.J. Galiardi, San Jose Sharks: It's not as if it's a huge outpouring of points to date from this role-playing winger, but Galiardi does have six points in the past 10 games while playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Burns has been a revelation as a forward and Thornton is still an elite playmaker. Galiardi is also getting some power play time with the second unit that includes Scott Gomez, Burns, Matt Irwin and Martin Havlat. That unit was responsible for the team's only goal in a loss on Saturday. In deeper leagues with few options for help, Galiardi might have something left in the tank for the final couple weeks.