Top 10 Under the Radar Forwards

Hello and Bonjour (to any French-Canadian readers),

As a once former roster update contributer for 2K Sports’ NHL series, I have had to judge every player’s variables and skillsets to the most accurately acceptable rating possible. In regards to fantasy hockey, it is kind of similar in analyzing all those crazy niche stat categories and compiling them into what makes a NHLer relevant or irrelevant in fantasy.

For my first ever fantasy subject on Puck Propaganda, I wanted to shine the light on the background forwards that could make a big difference in particularly deep leagues with either high roster sizes or high numbers of competitors playing in it. Every forward has a distinct role both on the real ice and on the fantasy ice and it’s in this specific case that these unsung bench starters will extend some additional scoring punch alongside your standard draft players in this exciting yet short 2013 NHL season.

I hope this list succeeds in assisting readers down the line when playoff situations get wary and I also look forward to contributing with more fantasy advice in the future. For now, I present you with the top 10 under the radar forwards for the 2013 NHL season.

1. Benoit Pouliot (LW) – Tampa Bay Lightning

Pouliot will be entering his 7th NHL season on his 4th team after failing to live up to high expectations in Minnesota and to a similar degree in Montreal and Boston as well. During each of his last 3 seasons he has compiled on average 15 goals and 30 points, which is rather decent for a scorer on minimal ice time. One major reason as to why he deserves to be at the top of this list is the fact that Pouliot had been blessed with GM Steve Yzerman’s acknowledgement that he would be able to compete for a 2nd line spot alongside captain/fellow Quebec native Vincent Lecavalier. With this confirmation (and the situation at training camp as of now), it’s more than likely Pouliot could increase his scoring and shooting rate, thereby raising his fantasy stock to the highest it has ever been. In the end, it’s simply a low risk, high reward fantasy addition that anyone should take advantage of.

2. Steve Downie (LW/RW) – Colorado Avalanche

Downie is a top level agitator with a good knack for scoring so his overall value transcends further thanks to his penchant of racking up heavy PIMs in addition to points and hits. At this point he looks to be lining up alongside Ryan O’Reilly (assuming his contract gets done), but he could end up on either of Colorado’s three scoring lines when all is said and done. If he continues to produce at the clip he did since being acquired by the Avalanche, he’ll put up the best points per game ratio of his career. Definitely a forward you’ll want to consider owning if David Clarkson or Steve Ott are unavailable.

3. Andrew Shaw (C) – Chicago Blackhawks

Shaw’s rookie performance last season, though short, could easily be described in fantasy circles as something akin to “sensational”. Now that Marian Hossa has been cleared to play again, and with Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickel alternating between lines, it’s rather certain that Shaw will be positioned as a 3rd line checking winger this season alongside Dave Bolland or Marcus Kruger. While this may lead you to believe that his production will take a hit, keep in mind that his reputation presents him as a triple threat in the fantasy world due to his agitating qualities, two-way abilities, and overall scoring skill. Do not hesitate to pick him up if there are ever any significant line shifts, injuries, or incoming trades regarding the Blackhawks this season.

4. Curtis Glencross (LW) – Calgary Flames

Although he was pretty much Calgary’s second best forward last season next to franchise leader Jarome Iginla, he’ll be expected to slide down to the checking line now that the team has signed Czech forwards Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka in an attempt to breathe new life into the team’s poor offense. As a top six forward he was typically good for 20 goals and 40 points, yet because he is also very adept on the forecheck, Glencross would serve his team better on the back lines. Despite all of this, there are a number of reasons why he could move back up the depth chart. If Cervenka fails to transition well from European to North American hockey, the usual injury risks associated with Michael Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay materialize, or less than anticipated production from Sven Baertschi occurs, Glencross could be back on the 1st or 2nd line in no time.

5. Brad Boyes (C/RW) – New York Islanders

He’s projected to play on the 2nd line and should see a lot of time on one of the power play units, so that alone should make him more valuable than he was during a disappointing tour with the Buffalo Sabres. However, his value increases dramatically if Michael Grabner or Kyle Okposo fail to gel with lead centerman John Tavares and he’s instead called upon to slide in on the first line. He hasn’t put up double digit goal totals since his days with the Blues, but given the right situation it’s possible he’ll hit that with the Islanders in a shortened season.

6. Daniel Winnik (LW) – Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim’s offense last season was, to say the least, mediocre. With Jason Blake gone, the team is certain to undergo a search for a suitable LW to join Finnish veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne on the 2nd line. In the past, Winnik has been known to fill in when necessary because of his ability to create offense even when he isn’t directly responsible. He has never had a linemate with such spectacular offensive skill as Selanne so always keep him on your watch list. 20 points in a shortened season may be a reach, but logically possible.

7. Clarke MacArthur (LW) – Toronto Maple Leafs

Due to the offseason acquisition of James van Riemsdyk, and with Nazem Kadri awarded a better chance at making any of the scoring lines during training camp, the revolving door on Toronto’s 2nd line has gotten a lot more crowded. However, MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin have some previous chemistry with Mikhail Grabovski, who once again is a guaranteed lock to center the 2nd line, so there is a chance new coach Randy Carlyle will not bother attempting to split them apart. While MacArthur’s point production is notoriously streaky, this kind of inconsistency may not be as detrimental during a shortened 48 game season. Just one or two hot streaks could prove to be enough to validate MacArthur’s production and earn him a fantasy roster spot.

8. Brian Boyle (C) – New York Rangers

Boyle is a power forward/checking center so you know what to expect from him on the ice. What goes unnoticed from time to time is that he also possesses an underrated wrist shot, which pays off greatly, and as seen in last year’s playoffs he’s not afraid to shoot the puck. When the opportunity arises, Boyle can be relatively useful in fantasy because of his goal streaks, shots, hits, PIMs, and +/-. However, this all rests on the health of the Rangers’ top six as his relevance is almost completely dependent on it.

9. Sean Bergenheim (LW) – Florida Panthers

When it comes to the regular season, he’s as inconsistent and invisible as it gets. But when the playoffs arrive he instantly transforms into a goal scoring Energizer bunny. He doesn’t provide much in fantasy aside from goals and shots, but if he gets hot at a time when you desperately need either, pick him up immediately.

10. Nino Niederreiter (RW) – New York Islanders

Greater minutes are in store for this young power forward in training. Expect him to post around 10 goals, 20 points, though even that may be cautious if he plays up to the level he has in the AHL this season with Bridgeport. If he is really allowed to roam free there could be additional value in the PIMs and hits categories.

Honorable Mentions

Chad LaRose (LW/RW) – Carolina Hurricanes
2011-12 Totals : 19 goals(5 GW), 13 assists, 199 shots, 131 hits

Cal Clutterbuck (RW) – Minnesota Wild
2011-12 Totals : 15 goals, 161 shots, 103 PIMs, 288 hits

Ryan Jones (LW) – Edmonton Oilers
2011-12 Totals : 17 goals, 16 assists, 137 shots, 119 hits