Last week, we compared the projections of Puck Prospectus’ VUKOTA system
against the actual performances of defensemen, over the first
dozen or so games. With a handful of additional games under their belts,
let’s take a look at how forwards have bettered, or fallen short of, VUKOTA’s
Top forwards in Points (Projected)
Rank Name Team Age GP P P/GP GP P P/GP
1 Evgeni Malkin* PIT 23 80 119 1.49 12 14 1.17
2 Alexander Ovechkin WSH 24 82 118 1.44 14 23 1.64
3 Sidney Crosby PIT 22 74 108 1.45 17 16 0.94
4 Ryan Getzlaf ANA 24 80 91 1.14 15 15 1.00
5 Nicklas Backstrom WSH 22 78 87 1.11 17 21 1.24
6 Ilya Kovalchuk* ATL 26 79 87 1.09 8 10 1.25
7 Zach Parise NJD 25 82 84 1.03 15 17 1.13
8 Pavel Datsyuk DET 31 79 82 1.03 13 12 0.92
9 Jarome Iginla CGY 32 77 80 1.04 15 14 0.93
10 Mike Richards PHI 24 76 79 1.04 14 15 1.07
11 Henrik Zetterberg DET 29 75 79 1.05 15 13 0.87
12 Eric Staal* CAR 25 81 79 0.97 13 5 0.38
13 Joe Thornton SJS 30 79 78 0.98 18 22 1.22
14 Patrick Kane CHI 21 74 78 1.04 15 15 1.00
15 Rick Nash CLB 25 82 76 0.93 16 22 1.38
16 Jeff Carter PHI 24 79 76 0.96 14 15 1.07
17 Marc Savard BOS 32 74 75 1.02 7 7 1.00
18 Anze Kopitar LA 22 82 74 0.90 17 27 1.59
19 Jason Spezza OTT 26 80 74 0.92 12 11 0.92
20 Daniel Sedin* VAN 29 78 74 0.95 4 4 1.00
Stats through 11/7/2009
In comparison to VUKOTA’s top 20 defensemen, you will notice that––Eric
Staal excepted––none of the forwards are producing at less than half the rate
expected – versus Lidstrom, Wideman, Souray, Gilbert. This makes intuitive
sense, as a top forward is going to be more of a captain of his own destiny
regarding his production as opposed to being a subject of his team's
circumstances, as a top defenseman would be. Only 6 of VUKOTA's top 20 forwards
fall more than 0.20 P/GP from their projection.
How should you view the preseason top 20 going forward?
- Neck-and-neck in last season's point race, Alexander Ovechkin has so
far had the best of his countryman, Evgeni Malkin, both in terms of point per
game production as well as better health. If you thought that VUKOTA was
aggressive with its 1.44 P/GP forecast, Ovie has actually outdone it so far,
with a spectacular 1.64 P/GP. Then again, he's already fallen short of his 82
GP projection, so the overall points may be a wash.
- NHL poster boy Sidney Crosby has "underachieved" well below 1.45 P/GP, as
has Malkin. It’s a testament to a well-constructed team that the Penguins have
started as hot as they have. You can expect an upswing from both
superstars once the Pens have more healthy bodies.
- The biggest point producer for the struggling Ducks has not been Ryan
Getzlaf-––or Teemu Selanne––but Corey Perry, whom you hopefully valued highly
in your fantasy draft. The duo is clicking as expected, with Getzlaf providing
the assists and Perry providing the goals. Now, if Bobby Ryan can join the
- Alexander Semin's cautious 67 GP projection left him off the top 20 Points
list, but young Nicklas Backstrom has actually exceeded expectations at 1.24
P/GP to date.
- Tops in Goals per Games Played at 1.13 before suffering a broken foot, Ilya
Kovalchuk should continue producing at a high level upon his return, with a
potential $100 million contract as the carrot.
- Zach Parise turned into a superstar in 2008-09. With solid teammates
surrounding him, it’s not surprising that Parise is consolidating his gains and
surpassing VUKOTA’s 1.03 P/GP.
- With the Red Wings as a whole imploding around them, it’s not surprising to
see the production of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg having dropped off
slightly. As prospects for the depleted Wings are unusually poor, more of the
same is likely in store for the veterans.
- With the talent assembled on the Calgary Flames, Jarome Iginla has no lack
of a supporting cast this season, but at 32 years old, a slight decline is not
- The two forwards spearheading the Flyers resurgence in 2008-09 were Mike
Richards and Jeff Carter. This season, whlile they have not disappointed, they
are not leading their team in production. Can you guess who is? Keep
- By far the biggest disappointment in VUKOTA’s top 20 forwards is Carolina’s
Eric Staal. Always a streaky fantasy choice to begin with, it’s been reported
that the elder Staal may have been nursing an injury in the early going. With
an aging roster around him that’s about to be sold for parts, the future is
gloomy for the second overall pick in 2003. That said, wait for an upsurge down
the road before trying to trade Staal off yourself. On the other hand, buy low
if you’ve got the roster space.
- While due criticism for a mindless incident in the offseason, Patrick Kane
has shown that he has remained focused on the ice. VUKOTA saw enough in two
solid seasons to be bullish; it’s been right on with the young Hawk.
- Next to Kopitar, the biggest overachiever has been Columbus captain Rick
Nash. An improving cast of youngsters seems to be helping the highly talented
winger reach new heights.
- Marc Savard has been limited by injury, but the return of his production to
the Boston lineup was greatly needed by the stumbling Bruins and should help to
right their ship to some extent. Putting stock in Bruins’ players has hurt all
around the fantasy world; it looks like Boston has significantly regressed to
the mean and the value of all of their players––particularly in plus/minus
rating––has taken a big hit.
- The struggles of Senators Jason Spezza and Dany Healtey––hampered by the
loss of talented puck movers on the blue line––were a fantasy storyline of 2008-
09, Spezza is performing as expected by VUKOTA, but not as well as their
veteran captain, who we’ll cover below.
- Daniel Sedin was on track for a good start before suffering an injury.
Expect him to return to established levels upon return. Twin brother Henrik
Sedin hasn’t been slowed a lick, posting 1.06 P/GP versus a 0.94 P/GP
Top forwards in Points Per Game (Actual)
Rank Name Team Age GP P P/GP GP P P/GP
1 Alexander Ovechkin WSH 24 82 118 1.44 14 23 1.64
2 Anze Kopitar LA 22 82 74 0.90 17 27 1.59
T-3 Marian Gaborik NYR 27 52 44.9 0.86 16 22 1.38
T-3 Rick Nash CLB 25 82 76 0.93 16 22 1.38
5 Brad Richards DAL 29 65.5 51.0 0.78 15 20 1.33
6 Rich Peverley ATL 27 62.5 38.8 0.62 13 17 1.31
7 Daniel Alfredsson OTT 37 76.2 62.6 0.82 14 18 1.29
8 Corey Perry ANA 24 76.4 71.8 0.94 15 19 1.27
9 Ilya Kovalchuk* ATL 26 79 87 1.09 8 10 1.25
10 Nicklas Backstrom WSH 22 78 87 1.11 17 21 1.24
T-11 Patrick Marleau SJS 30 78 59.8 0.77 18 22 1.22
T-11 Joe Thornton SJS 30 79 78 0.98 18 22 1.22
13 J.P. Dumont NSH 31 76 57.9 0.76 9 11 1.22
14 Dustin Penner EDM 27 71.9 38.2 0.53 16 19 1.19
15 Ryan Smyth LAK 33 72.4 48.7 0.67 17 20 1.18
T-16 James van Riemsdyk PHI 20 N/A N/A N/A 12 14 1.17
T-16 Evgeni Malkin* PIT 23 80 119 1.49 12 14 1.17
T-16 Tomas Fleischmann WSH 25 63.9 34.8 0.54 6 7 1.17
T-19 Steven Stamkos TBL 28 69.4 42.6 0.61 15 17 1.13
T-19 James Neal DAL 22 71.2 39.0 0.55 15 17 1.13
T-19 Zach Parise NJD 25 82 84 1.03 15 17 1.13
T-19 Rene Bourque CGY 28 61.6 35.3 0.57 15 17 1.13
T-19 Martin St. Louis TBL 34 79.6 68.6 0.86 15 17 1.13
**Rookie - No projection
Stats through 11/9/2009
- The NHL’s current point leader is Anze Kopitar of the “LA Kids.”
Already in his fourth season, the 22-year-old is nearly matching Alexander
Ovechkin on a P/GP basis – certainly an impressive feat. The Kings’ prime mover
is currently exceeding VUKOTA’s expectations by a whopping 0.59 P/GP.
- Rangers supporters considered their new top gun Marian Gaborik
underappreciated by VUKOTA, projected to play a mere 52 games due to the
checkered injury history of the past three seasons. What should have been
called into question instead was VUKOTA’s lowish 0.86 P/GP projection, which
Gaborik is far exceeding.
- Barely missing a game in his first six NHL seasons, Brad Richards has had a
rough go of it over the past two seasons. Healthy now, look for the former
Stanley Cup winner to cool off a bit from the torrid 1.33 P/GP pace of the
- No doubt that Rich Peverley was snatched up in your fantasy league weeks
ago, as he has begun to prove that last season was not a fluke; the 27-year-old
has taken a quantum leap since his trade from Nashville.
- The aforementioned Senators’ captain: it’s hard to believe that Daniel
Alfredsson still has some life left in him; at 37 years old, he’s by far the
oldest player in the top 20. Therefore, if someone is willing to give up
quality talent for the veteran Swede, take it before father time catches up to
- Out of their top six forwards, the lone Duck exceeding expectations is
Corey Perry. The former London Knight has also been a worthy choice in leagues
that place additional emphasis on goals: Perry ranks 8th in G/GP at
- Media whipping boy Patrick Marleau is making a case that 2008-09 wasn’t a
flash in the pan, tying teammate––and frequent whipping boy––Joe Thornton for
11th in per game production.
- One of the biggest early season surprises is J.P. Dumont, nearly doubling
his anticipated production, and accomplishing that on a disappointing
Predators’ squad. Does “sell high” ring a bell?
- More than doubling up VUKOTA is surprising Dustin Penner of the Oilers.
While you can expect Penner to come down from his current lofty levels, a team
best +0.93 Even Strength Total rating in 2008-09 indicates that a good portion
of the breakout is real.
- The other half of the Kings’ dynamic duo is veteran free agent pickup Ryan
Smyth. Clicking well with Anze Kopitar, you can’t underestimate Smyth’s
potential for this season.
- The lone rookie on the list is not John Tavares, but James van Riemsdyk of
the Flyers, who is out-producing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the early
going. It’s hard to predict which rookies will make an immediate impact, so
don’t kick yourself if you didn’t pick him up, especially during the draft. No
doubt, he’s not available any longer.
- Tomas Fleischmann has been red hot upon his return from injury. You know it
can’t last, right?
- VUKOTA projected cautiously for sophomores Steven Stamkos and James Neal,
but there’s no reason to think that they can’t continue to contribute near
their current high level.
- The solitary Flame in the top 20 is not Jarome Iginla and it’s certainly
not Olli Jokinen. Another favorite of ESTR, Rene Bourque is for real.
- Martin St. Louis, a 34-year-old, continues to perform well—definitely
better than a certain overpriced teammate of his.
As with the defensemen, it’s wise to scan the league for any owners
desperate enough to dump forwards that are falling well short of expectations.
Where you want to proceed with caution, though, are cases like the Boston
Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, where there is clearly some overall downturn with
the team, inhibiting a full bounce back to last season’s levels. On the flip
side, look to sell high on the likes of small sample set overachievers such as
Daniel Alfredsson, J.P. Dumont and Tomas Fleischmann.
Timo Seppa runs the statistical hockey site Ice Hockey Metrics.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Timo by clicking here or click here to see Timo's other articles.