Jean-Gabriel Pageau is one of several players doing a great job filling in for injured stars.
Injuries have always played a major role in the outcome of fantasy leagues. Obviously, the team losing a quality producer suffers a serious setback. However, one player’s misery is another player’s opportunity. Sometimes the increased role pays immediate dividends which can help your team in one-year leagues. In other instances young and unproven players are doing their part to solidify their hold on an NHL job for the future, which offers more appeal in keeper leagues.
Today we will look at situations throughout the Eastern Conference where a player has benefited from a recent injury.
At this point it is not known exactly how long Robin Lehner will be out. During his absence, Chad Johnson is a solid option to consider. He has quietly compiled 17 wins in 33 starts and has a .919 save percentage. He could be helpful for teams currently in head-to-head playoffs, especially as an injury replacement.
Since February 12 Justin Faulk, Carolina’s top defenseman, has suited up for just one game. During that span, rookie Jaccob Slavin has logged an average of 24:34 in ice time. The production has not been there to date but the heavy minutes are a great sign for the 21-year-old blueliner. Slavin was a productive player in college and if he can maintain his spot high on the Hurricanes’ depth chart he will have plenty of opportunities to add some extra points down the road.
The Canadiens have been hit hard by injuries at defense of late but the more fantasy-relevant news is up front. In the absence of David Desharnais, former first-round pick Michael McCarron has been able to carve out a role as the team’s third center and may have done enough to earn a bottom-six role next year. The points are unlikely to come overnight but McCarron should be coveted in multi-category keeper leagues as he offers a strong mix of hits, PIM and faceoff abilities.
Mike Cammalleri, one of the better players in terms of points per game in the league this year, has been out for nearly two months. This, along with various injuries to the likes of Patrik Elias and Jiri Tlusty have helped clear the deck for some youngsters to emerge while receiving solid amounts of ice time.
The most newsworthy newcomer has been Devante Smith-Pelly, who has been on fire since coming to New Jersey at the trade deadline from Montreal. Obviously, he is going to have trouble keeping up his current pace which includes seven goals on just 20 shots. He has also been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career which makes him a risk as a keeper-league investment.
Joseph Blandisi has shown some nice multi-category potential as a player that gives you a bit of everything. However, his offensive upside is likely going to be limited as he could be stuck as a tweener in the long run rather than a full-time scoring-line player.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Reid Boucher has been strong of late with five points in his last seven games which makes him a candidate for immediate pick-up. So far he has been a higher-volume shooter than Blandisi and has a history scoring at the lower levels which could ultimately push the latter out of more favorable offensive opportunities.
New York Islanders
With Jaroslav Halak out for several more weeks, Thomas Greiss has become the main stopper for the Islanders. While he has lost his last three games, Greiss continues to post great peripherals including 19 wins, a 2.26 GAA and .928 save percentage this year which makes him an appealing option for head-to-head playoff match-ups. Unlike Johnson in Buffalo, Greiss has the benefit of a playoff-caliber team in front of him.
Following a season-ending injury to Kyle Turris, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has stepped up in a big way alongside Mark Stone to make himself an appealing producer in all formats. More importantly, the added offense down the stretch has made him a multi-category star including a knack for contributing while shorthanded, which can be a deciding factor in head-to-head match-ups. Also on Pageau’s line has been Zack Smith, who is having a career year while hitting the 20-goal mark for the first time.
Since Evgeni Malkin went down to injury, Nick Bonino has averaged close to 18 minutes in ice time and has three points in five games. While he has been a non-factor offensively this year, it is worth noting he has a 49-point campaign under his belt which adds some credibility to his current run. He could be a good source for secondary scoring in the last few weeks of the season.
Fellow center Matt Cullen also has three points in his last five and has seen his ice time creep up in Malkin’s absence. With that said, he is not an effective point-producer at 39 years of age so his appeal is limited to certain deep multi-category leagues.
Long-term injuries suffered by key players such as James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and more recently Leo Komarov have opened the door for some new blood to make their mark in Toronto. At the top of the list is former first-round pick William Nylander who has five points in his last two games. Nylander is obviously going to be a factor in fantasy leagues for the next several years but his strong play of late will help shorten the wait time for his owners.
Zach Hyman has also shown good signs of late. Whether or not he becomes fantasy-relevant long-term remains to be seen but he has shown enough to warrant an investment in leagues that allow you to carry prospects. He is riding a lot of momentum after a monster senior year at the University of Michigan last year followed by a strong rookie campaign in the AHL prior to making the jump to Toronto.
Nikita Soshnikov has also come on strong with five points in the first 11 games of his NHL career. However he may ultimately slot in outside of the top-six which limits his fantasy appeal. He should be given more consideration in multi-category leagues where he can maintain appeal even if he moves around the lineup.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.