Rest-of-season rankings: Finding players on hot streaks

The Penguins' line of Jake Guentzel, left, Conor Sheary, center, and Sidney Crosby, right, has been dominant. Two out of those three remain widely available in ESPN fantasy hockey leagues. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

There are precisely 21 more days of hockey left in the fantasy season. That translates to three weeks of action or 162 NHL games. Seven NHL teams only have 10 games remaining this season. Three have 12 games left to play. The other 20 teams play 11 more times.

The point here is that there is very little hockey left to be played. No asset on your fantasy team will have a chance to contribute more than a dozen times between now and the end of the season.

While the cream of the crop tends to rise to the top over a period as long as three weeks, it's also a short enough timeframe that virtually any NHL player could plausibly find a way to be a major factor in your league. Twenty-one days or a dozen games is a small enough sample size things can get skewed.

To prove a point, let's look at some stats from the past 21 days:

  • Nikita Kucherov leads all players with 10 goals and 17 points despite the general absence of a consistent presence at center. While there is a chance Steven Stamkos makes a triumphant return, there is also a chance he doesn't. That means Brayden Point should be on a lot of radars right now.

  • Sidney Crosby's linemates -- Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel -- have a combined 23 points in 20 games played during that span. Sheary is available in 35 percent of ESPN leagues, while Guentzel is on the wire in 65 percent.

  • Henrik Zetterberg leads all NHL players in assists during the past 21 days, with 12 helpers. The players scoring most of those goals -- Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar -- are both available in about 70 percent of ESPN leagues. While both players had overall disappointing fantasy campaigns, they are certainly closing strong. And the Red Wings are one of those teams with 12 games left.

  • While Erik Karlsson leads all defensemen for the past 21 days, with 11 points, he's tied for the mark with Jaccob Slavin. The Hurricanes youngser's hat trick may have been a one-off result, but the eight assists are no joke. Slavin is available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues, and the Canes also have 12 games remaining.

  • Evander Kane continues to remind us of his early career with the Atlanta Thrashers: A ton of shots, a few goals, some penalty minutes and a minus rating. He trails only Karlsson, Crosby and Max Pacioretty for shots on goal during the past 21 days. He remains available in 27 percent of ESPN leagues.

  • On a shots-per-minute basis, no one can really touch Brendan Gallagher during the past 21 days. Playing only 15:12 per game, he's tied for 12th in the NHL for shot volume. Gallagher is rolling on the Canadiens' second line with Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron, and is available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues.

  • Sean Couturier is on yet another hot streak, another tease of some monstrous upside lurking just under the mantle. He leads the NHL with a plus-10 rating during the past 21 days, and has nine points to go with the positive rating. He's playing with Brayden Schenn and Dale Weise at the moment, and, as mentioned, has shown a propensity for extended streaks before.

  • Zdeno Chara trails Couturier by just one plus/minus point during the past 21 days, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Since coach Bruce Cassidy took over on Feb. 7, Chara has eight points and a plus-17 rating in 15 games. He's back in business as a fantasy asset.

  • Still available in 50 percent of ESPN leagues, Brandon Dubinsky has six points, a plus-7 rating, 24 PIM and 21 shots on goal in the past 21 days.

As you can see, there are a ton of fantasy assets available that have been game changers during the past 21-day span. While we can't precisely predict which players will make that same impact during the next 21 days before the season concludes, this should illustrate the point that your season isn't necessarily over yet. There are still plenty of players available that will change your standings or the outcome of your head-to-head playoffs. Keep working that wire down to the wire.

Forwards rising and falling


Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (down seven spots to No. 15): Though he's going to finish with a magnificent season no matter what happens now, Malkin may not be reliable down the stretch. He's only listed as day-to-day with a shoulder ailment, but the Penguins are getting plenty of scoring from elsewhere, and they can afford to bring him along slowly with a long playoff run ahead of them. Watch his status closely if he's been an anchor on your team. Matt Cullen is filling in on the second scoring line with Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist.


Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames (up 10 spots to No. 27): The sum total at the end of the season is going to be ugly no matter what Gaudreau does with his final 10 games. But he's been the Johnny Hockey we drafted early for some time now. During the past month, Gaudreau is 25th among all skaters on the ESPN Player Rater. While he lost linemate Micheal Ferland to a possible case of the mumps, Gaudreau still managed a three-point night on Sunday with Alex Chiasson on the top line.


Mark Stone, RW, Ottawa Senators (down 65 spots to No. 126): We're not ready to outright drop him in deeper leagues yet, but the comment by coach Guy Boucher that he's "not even close" to skating again from a lower-body injury is enough to justify dropping him in shallower 12-team leagues if you need to. However, we have the opposite advice for deeper leagues where he gets dropped. The Senators have five games during the final week of the season, and if Stone can get back on the ice by April 3, he could still have a huge impact.

Defensemen rising and falling


Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues (up 47 spots to No. 96): Since Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to the Washington Capitals, Pietrangelo's points per game have increased from 0.5 to 0.8, and his shots per game have gone from 2.1 to 2.4. Five of his 16 power-play points have also come in that 10-game span. He wasn't exactly playing in Shattenkirk's shadow, but the added responsibility looks good on him for fantasy purposes.

Goaltenders rising and falling


Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals (down five spots to No. 11): While Holtby probably won't continue to struggle into the playoffs, the Caps have clinched a postseason berth. No, they won't coast from here on out. But the Caps will give him some rest down the stretch. They also have a five-game road trip after this week, and Holtby's splits are much better at home.


Brian Elliott, G, Calgary Flames (up 50 spots to No. 45): Boy was this ever a painful adjustment period, but the rewards for those who stuck with Elliott should be clear. Going back to Feb. 15, Elliott is 12-0-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. Only owners of Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky could claim to have been happier with their goaltending in that time. Elliott started the season on our rankings at No. 58, slipped as low as No. 238, and is now at his highest ranking of the season.


Martin Jones, G, San Jose Sharks (down 27 spots to No. 77): Jones has been just fine between the pipes, but backup Aaron Dell has been equally as adept of late. This slip in the rankings is only a product of the possibility that they continue to split starts and Jones has only half a dozen games left. A lot can happen between now and then, but if the rotation doesn't change, it would mean Jones only has one start in the final week of the season.


John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks (down 47 spots to No. 114): While Gibson is still the incumbent starter, Jonathan Bernier has played well enough with Gibson sidelined that the Ducks are under no pressure to hurry along Gibson's healing process. He came back from his lower-body injury for one game -- only to head right back to the injured list. So, the Ducks will let him heal properly in order to be ready for the playoffs. Even if Gibson does get back on the ice soon, Bernier has earned a larger share of the workload as the season winds down.

Quick Hits

  • With Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza both questionable heading into Monday's action, Tyler Seguin also gets a downgrade until his two linemates are back in action. Benn and Spezza could both play Monday, but there is also a chance they aren't rushed. For all intents and purposes, the Stars are out of the playoff picture, 15 points back of the wild card with 11 games left.

  • Henrik Lundqvist is edging closer to a return and, if he makes it early in an upcoming road trip to California, he could still get six games in for your fantasy team.

  • Alexander Wennberg took a big hit Saturday and missed Sunday's game. If he misses extended time, Sam Gagner played up on a line with Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson during his absence.

  • Even with a healthy Ryan Spooner, Drew Stafford continues to roll on the Boston Bruins' second line with David Pastrnak and David Krejci. He has a respectable five points in seven games as a Bruin.

Top 250 rankings

Here are the updated rest-of-season top-250 rankings of forwards, defensemen and goalies, including position ranks.

Note: Sean Allen's top 250 players are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on. 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.