Fantasy hockey: Expectations, returns, and replacements for injured stars

What better way to honor Halloween than acknowledge the NHL’s walking, perhaps hobbling, wounded and gruesomely wonder how each individual injury might affect our own fantasy roster? Okay, if not fully holiday-apropos, at least this info is useful. Here’s a comprehensive look at the fantasy fallout from those hurt horridly and not-so-horridly – plus others happily turnstile-ing it in exit of the infirmary. Everyone knows Vladimir Tarasenko is shelved indefinitely; how to coldly manage that reality to fantasy advantage is what we’re all about.


Badly banged-up

Colorado Avalanche: With Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog sidelined, have you sought out Joonas Donskoi yet? Only those in the shallowest of fantasy leagues should bypass the widely available winger, at least in the short-term. One game into serving as substitute alongside elite center Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri – himself shifted to the wing – Donskoi is a goal to the good, scoring in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Panthers. Unlike Kadri, who also stands to benefit from such top-line assignment, Donskoi is available in nearly 95% of ESPN.com leagues. Providing added attraction, the former Shark could stick on that No. 1 unit even once Rantanen returns from injury, is three or so weeks, as then Landeskog’s replacement. Coach Jared Bednar won’t be long for shuffling Kadri back to second-line center, particularly if Tyson Jost doesn’t flourish in the role. And Landeskog is said to be out for several weeks. Point is, Donskoi is at least worth a look, as member of the Avs’ refurbished top unit.

St. Louis Blues: While the shoulder injury knocking out Vladimir Tarasenko long-term isn’t news anymore, the most recent incarnation of the Blues’ top line merits a look. The latest to earn a turn in filling in for Tarasenko aside Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, forward Sammy Blais, managed well enough scoring on his only (albeit impressive) shot in Wednesday’s win over the Wild. While Craig Berube has threatened to address Tarasenko’s absence by committee, the Blues head coach might feel persuaded to leave Blais be as long as it works. Rostered in less than 10% of ESPN.com leagues, the Sophomore could serve as an intriguing DFS asset, if nothing else. Right now, I like him in deeper conventional leagues too.

On the mend

Boston Bruins: Beyond the best forward unit in the NHL, it’s worth mentioning that second-line center David Krejci is back after his unhealthy hiatus. Following a five-game absence, the veteran forward scored a goal and assist in his first reappearance, Tuesday, versus the Sharks. Perpetually and perplexingly underrated as a fantasy asset – 73 points last season everyone! – Krejci should be rostered in much more than a third of ESPN.com leagues, as he is now.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sitting out 11 contests with a lower-body injury, Evgeni Malkin is now targeting Saturday’s tilt with the Oilers for return. This development not only helps the centerman’s own fantasy managers, but those rostering Alex Galchenyuk as well. Out himself for a nine-game spell, Galchenyuk is bound to benefit from competing alongside Malkin, once these two have real opportunity to jell. While there are plenty of fantasy competitors who have, understandably, long thrown in the towel on the underachieving former Coyote/Canadien, those still open to a potential Renaissance campaign from Galchenyuk should know he’s available in more than two-thirds of ESPN.com leagues.

Nashville Predators: Sidelined with a lower-body injury since Oct. 15, Filip Forsberg is finally expected back against the Flames Thursday. Before falling hurt, the 25-year-old winger potted five goals and three assists in only six games. Jam him back into your lineup ASAP. And readjust, as in lower, your fantasy expectations of Kyle Turris as Forsberg’s former fill-in on a scoring unit with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund. Bonus note: Looks like Calle Jarnkrok is sticking on the Predators’ top unit with Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen. Rostered in only 6.1% of ESPN.com leagues, Jarnkrok has nine points on the season, including two goals and two helpers in his most recent four games.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Managers hoping for a bit more from Alex Kerfoot as Mitch Marner‘s centerman should realize John Tavares could be back as soon as Saturday. Fact is, Kerfoot still holds fantasy appeal on Toronto’s third line, between Kasperi Kapanen and Ilya Mikheyev and has a place in deeper leagues. In other Leafs’ news, Zach Hyman is believed to be close – next week maybe? – after sitting out the start of 2019-20 in recovery from offseason surgery. Not that you need to be sold on Marner and Tavares as alluring fantasy assets, but they’re more effective altogether with Hyman as their usual linemate doing his bit to create space. Just FYI.

Vegas Golden Knights: Sidelined since the start of the season with an upper-body injury, Alex Tuch appears ready to re-join the fold in Vegas, perhaps as soon as Halloween night against the visiting Canadiens. Although Vegas is undoubtedly wholly better with Tuch in the lineup, there’s no penetrating that Knights’ top-six anytime soon. His fantasy managers – and there’s a good lot of you – should manage expectations while the 20-goal scorer of last year works on a third line with Cody Eakin. It’s also worth mentioning that defenseman Nate Schmidt is due back after playing only three minutes in this campaign’s inaugural contest. Schmidt has limited value in deeper leagues, as member of the club’s secondary power play.

‘Tis but a scratch?

Tampa Bay Lightning: Placed on IR with a lower-body injury, Victor Hedman isn’t eligible to return until the Lightning head over to Sweden, more than a week from now. Fortunately, that means the elite defenseman projects to miss only one more game in the meanwhile. Less sunny-side up, there’s no guarantee Hedman will be good to go when Tampa plays the Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm (which wouldn’t go over well with ardent Swedish fans of one of the NHL’s best Swedish players). Knowing Hedman’s injury isn’t super serious, all we can do is monitor his progress over the next few days, and know that Mikhail Sergachev is again poised to sub in on the top power play against the Islanders Friday. If Jon Cooper doesn’t choose to turn to Kevin Shattenkirk instead. Outside of Daily Fantasy competition, it doesn’t matter much over the next few days.

Florida Panthers: Out five games and counting with a lower-body issue, Vincent Trocheck isn’t a slam-dunk to compete against the Red Wings Saturday either – particularly since the Panthers don’t play again until Thursday (why rush it?). As such, Brian Boyle merits mention as Trocheck’s current sub on Florida’s second scoring line between Mike Hoffman and Brett Connolly. If interested in a bargain DFS asset over the weekend, Boyle has two goals and an assist from that spot in three contests.

New York Islanders: Shelved since Oct. 12 with a lower-body injury, Jordan Eberle‘s remains up in the air. He’s skating, but has yet to participate in practice. Question is, whose spot does Eberle take in the lineup once healthy? Josh Bailey has done an admirable job as replacement on a scoring unit with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, collecting two goals and three assists in five games. Also, the Islanders have won seven-straight. Fantasy managers who have jumped on the Bailey bandwagon might then reassure themselves that Eberle is more likely to replace Derick Brassard on the Isles’ second unit, once fit.

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