When talking about power forwards, the first thing that needs to be done is make sure everyone’s on the same page. From a fantasy perspective, a power forward is no more or less than a player who gets plenty of penalty minutes and points. How big he is irrelevant to this discussion. For now it doesn’t necessarily even matter how physical the player actually is as there are plenty of forwards out there who throw their body around quite a bit without actually ending up in the sin bin. We’ll look at those players later in this article, but for now, we just want to focus on what’s most relevant to fantasy owners in standard leagues.
To keep things as clear as possible, the top-10 list below will showcase the best fantasy options among those who are both a decent bet to record at least 40 points and a safe bet to accumulate a minimum of 60 penalty minutes. Safe being the key word there, because while some leeway is given when it comes to a player reaching the points minimum, the same isn’t true of the PIM floor. That weeds out guys like Chris Kunitz, who is about a 50-50 bet to reach the 60-penalty minute mark, from being included in the list.
Also note that we’re going to count Dustin Byfuglien as a defenseman even though it’s not clear if he’ll be used in that capacity. The reason for that is his value will be heavily tied into his eligibility as a defenseman and we’ll consequently list him in the companion power defenseman article instead.
1) Corey Perry – Perry saw his PIM dip below 100 for the first time since 2006-07 – not including the shortened campaign – but he’s still the best option out there because he excels in all the main categories. He can provide you with 40 goals, 80 points, and a great plus/minus rating given the strength of the Ducks. I think he’ll also end up with 80-100 penalty minutes, up from 65 last season, but even if he falls below that mark, he’s an incredibly valuable asset.
2) Evgeni Malkin – He led this list last season while Corey Perry was number two. Why did I flip them this year? Malkin’s injury history. It’s a chronic problem at this point because while he could challenge for the Art Ross Trophy and accumulate 80-100 penalty minutes if he played a full 82 games, he can’t be counted on to do that. He’s only even exceeded the 70-game mark in one of his last four 82-game seasons (and he missed 17 contests in the shortened campaign too, so really it should be one of the last five campaigns). In the end, Malkin has a higher ceiling than Perry, but Perry is by far the safer bet and at this point, that’s enough to give him the edge.
3) Jamie Benn – Benn meshed nicely with Tyler Seguin last season, which is great because they’re going to be playing together for a very long time. Benn had 34 goals and 79 points in 81 games last season and he’s a decent bet to put up similar numbers in 2014-15. His penalty minutes are secondary by comparison, but he should still spend 60-70 minutes in the sin bin.
4) Milan Lucic – While the first three players on this list fall more in the vein of skill forwards who aren’t afraid to throw their body around, Lucic is more of a tough guy first and an offensive threat second. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that Lucic is great in both respects. He should provide you with over 100 penalty minutes, but he’ll also find the back of the net at least 20 times and flirt with the 60-point mark.
5) Eric Staal – Staal is usually one of the safest bets in the league to get 70 points, but he fell just below that last season with 21 goals and 61 points in 79 contests. The Hurricanes were particularly unlucky last season and while I wouldn’t count on them being good in 2014-15, they should be at least a bit better and the same is true for Staal. I’m penciling him in to bounce back with 70-80 points and about that many penalty minutes.
6) Wayne Simmonds – Starting with Wayne Simmonds, the next three players on this list are all likely to put up similar numbers. Between them, Simmonds is the least likely to breach the 100-PIM mark, but he has the most offensive upside. He had 29 goals, 31 assists, and 106 penalty minutes in 82 games last season and will be just 26 when the 2014-15 campaign starts. If he just duplicates those numbers, he’ll be a great fantasy asset, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he actually does a bit better.
7) Scott Hartnell – We don’t see the move from Philadelphia to Columbus having a profound impact on Hartnell’s fantasy value, which is fine because it’s already pretty high. Hartnell is another one of those complete players from a fantasy perspective. When he’s at his best, he can provide you with 30 goals, 60 points, and over 100 penalty minutes. He might end up falling below those milestones, but if he does, it should only be by a marginal amount.
8) David Backes – Backes is fairly similar to Hartnell in terms of what he brings to the table. They both are a good bet to get you 50-60 points in 2014-15 and are capable of scoring about as many goals and assists. Hartnell typically gets more penalty minutes than Backes – even if that wasn’t the case last season – and that’s why Hartnell edged him on this list. Both however should breach the 100-PIM mark.
9) James Neal – Moving from Pittsburgh where Evgeni Malkin often served as his center to Nashville will hurt Neal. He’s still a talented forward, but the 40-goal scorer is more likely to end up with 60-70 points in 2014-15. That’s not much more than Simmonds, Hartnell, and Backes and unlike that trio, Neal will probably end up with well below 100 penalty minutes.
10) Gabriel Landeskog – With three NHL seasons under his belt, Landeskog has firmly established himself as one of the league’s top power forwards. He had 26 goals, 65 points, and 71 penalty minutes last season, which should represent the standard for him going forward.
Those players might be the best options in standard leagues, but not everyone plays by those rules. A lot of leagues use hits as a category and you won’t win that category simply by picking the league’s top PIM guys. After all, Tom Sestito led the league in penalty minutes last season with 213, but recorded just 121 hits. Matt Martin topped hits list with 359, but had just 90 penalty minutes.
That’s a small sample obviously, but it’s not an aberration. With that in mind, we’re going to do a second top-10 list that factors hits into the equation. To qualify to be on this list, you still have to be a decent bet to reach the 40-point mark, but you must also be a safe bet to record 60 penalty minutes AND 100 hits. So right off the bat, the leader of our previous list, Perry (65 hits) has been disqualified.
A player can also make the list if he’s a safe bet to record at least 150 hits, regardless of how many penalty minutes they’re likely to get. That 150-hit clause puts a couple noteworthy players into the mix…
1) Alex Ovechkin – Like Alex Ovechkin for example. We don’t feel safe projecting Ovechkin will reach the 60-penalty minute mark, but he’s a great bet to accumulate over 200 hits. On top of that, he’s well, Ovechkin. He’s won the Rocket Richard Trophy four times now. Only Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, and Charlie Conacher ever led the league in scoring five or more times and we wouldn’t be surprised if Ovechkin joined that exclusive list before his career finished.
2) Jamie Benn – With Perry and Malkin unable to reach the hits threshold to appear on this list, Benn has moved up. I’ve already gone over what he brings to the table, but it’s worth adding that he’s a candidate to record 100-125 hits in 2014-15. That’s not great by that categories standard, but given how much he contributes in other fields, you’ll still want to take him before the players below him on this list.
3) Milan Lucic – Once again, Lucic has fallen one spot below Benn, but the gap has certainly narrowed with the inclusion of hits. Lucic should end up with about 100 hits more than Benn in 2014-15 and is one of the best players of that category on this list.
4) David Backes – Backes has leapfrogged a couple holdovers from the previous list after factoring in hits. He tied for third in the league with 273 hits in 2013-14 and he should easily surpass the 200-hit mark again this season.
5) Gabriel Landeskog – Landeskog recorded 176 hits in 2013-14 and he’s unlikely to fall below that mark next season. The physical forward is a legitimate contender to reach the 200-hit mark in 2014-15.
6) Chris Kunitz – Kunitz just barely missed the cut for the previous list, but he’s a safe bet to get at least 150 hits. He’ll probably provide you with a bit over 50 penalty minutes, but obviously his main charm is his offensive contributions. He gets plenty of playing time with Sidney Crosby and that makes him a good bet to surpass the 30-goal and 60-point marks for the second consecutive season.
7) Scott Hartnell – Hartnell’s charm is that he’s capable of contributing in a lot of different fantasy categories and adding hits to the equation enhances that. Granted, he’ll finish below Landeskog and Ovechkin in that category while Lucic and Backes will completely overshadow him, but Hartnell should still provide you with at least 150 hits in 2014-15.
8) Wayne Simmonds – After finishing ahead of Hartnell and Backes in the previous list, Simmonds slips behind them both here because he’s more of a penalty minutes guy than a physical force. Simmonds was credited with 132 hits in 2013-14 and he’s not likely to do much better in that regard this season.
9) Evander Kane – Kane is a bit different than the other players on this list. He could conceivably get more goals and points than everyone that’s been ranked ahead of him, with the exception of Benn and Ovechkin. Kane’s also a good bet to record 70-90 penalty minutes and 175-200 hits, so it’s not like he was ranked this low because he’s less of a physical force. Instead, the problem with Kane is just that he’s not reliable offensively. Yes, he has a ton of potential, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot if he doesn’t live up to it. He might turn into another Alexander Semin in the sense that in any given season he’ll have an equal chance of being a stud or dud.
10) Brandon Dubinsky – The closest to a pure enforcer that this list will see, Dubinsky can only be counted on to provide fantasy owners with about 50 points. He will chip in over 100 penalty minutes and 200 hits though, so Dubinsky has plenty of use in leagues that include both categories.