Signing with New Jersey doesn't appear to be a fantasy dream for Will Butcher at first sight, but it was a smart decision for the Denver alum.
He should immediately receive top offensive minutes while playing a sheltered five-on-five role. The Devils don't have a strong power-play quarterback, so Butcher has the potential to fill that role. Additionally, the Devils — all of a sudden — have a nice collection of offensive pieces. A power-play unit of Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier has potential, and Butcher would likely be the focal point on the blue line.
There is always the potential for Butcher to begin the season in the minors, but considering the laundry list of suitors for his services, sticking in the NHL was likely an unofficial term of his contract with the Devils. He'll have to play his way off the team, as opposed to playing his way on to the team.
Here's a quick look at a number of players that are currently ranked outside the Top 250 at Yahoo.
After posting a modest .72 points per game in the AHL (10 goals and 26 assists, Ho-Sang recorded 10 points — four goals — through 21 games with the Islanders. His 4.9 Relative Corsi For percentage was impressive, but a larger sample size is needed to accurately gage his possession outlook at the highest level. The obvious draw to Ho-Sang is his high-end offensive skill and the potential to see power-play time on the No. 1 unit. Additionally, it's not crucial for his fantasy stock to play with John Tavares. In fact, Ho-Sang might be able to drive a scoring line himself against if he's receiving more favorable even-strength matchups. There isn't a lot of risk, and there is obvious upside. It's also worth noting that Ho-Sang packed all 10 of his points into a 14-game stretch last year, which is a nice showcase of his upside.
Things were looking bleak for Lindholm until he went on a scorching 41-game run beginning in late December last year. He posted nine goals, 36 points and 96 shots during that span and saved his season. It was the breakout campaign that had been in the making for the 22-year-old forward, and while it might be difficult to show significant improvement in 2017-18, he offers a nice offensive floor. Additionally, it was encouraging to see his shot volume climb during that heater. He might never be an efficient scorer, but his 6.7 shooting percentage over the past two seasons is as close as it gets to being unsustainably low. Lindholm's fantasy stock is boosted by his eligibility at right wing, which is also helpful for in-season flexibility. The Hurricanes are trending in the right direction, and Lindholm is just entering his prime, too.
There are obvious red flags with Barrie — especially in leagues included plus-minus rating. However, even when everything went wrong around him, the 26-year-old defenseman still recorded 38 points. In any formats not including plus-minus, or in points-only setups, Barrie is a strong late-round option. He began 58.2 percent of his five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone and posted an impressive 50.0 Corsi For percentage while the Avalanche as a team ranked 23rd with a 48.6 mark. Barrie is also the undisputed power-play quarterback and averaged 3:04 of ice time per game with the man advantage. Additionally, after registering 21 power-play points in 2015-16, Barrie recorded just 10 last year. With a little improvement up a man, it will be difficult for Barrie to fall short of the 40-point mark again in 2017-18. Just note, he does very little in the peripheral categories, so offense is Barrie's only relevant fantasy return.
A few more deep dives
After scoring 25 goals in 2014-15, Lee appeared to be set for a major breakout in 2015-16. As we know, it didn't happen. Instead, he posted a 17.8 shooting percentage last year and scored a career-high 34 goals and 52 points. He's unlikely to match last year's shooting percentage, but he thrives in the difficult areas of the ice and has exceptional hands. If he continues to be locked in with John Tavares in all situations and maintains his high shot volume (career 2.46 shots per game), Lee will be able to cruise to another solid fantasy showing while sustaining a hit to his shooting percentage. Additionally, he's averaged 2.13 hits per game and has 140 PIM over the past three seasons, so in leagues including those categories he offers additional value. The 27-year-old winger is also still in his offensive prime.
Ehlers' rookie year started and ended well, but his midseason lull hurt his final stat line. Still, capping off 2015-16 with 24 points through his final 30 games was a clear sign of things to come. He broke out last year with 25 goals and 39 assists despite logging just 17:29 of ice time. His 2.68 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five was also especially impressive. To take the next step in his development, he'll need to improve on last year's 12 power-play points. Unfortunately, with a crowded forward corps, there is a chance Ehlers fails to show significant statistical growth with the man advantage right away. However, just repeating last season's numbers would make his an excellent fantasy asset, and if he receives more ice time (very possible), a slight uptick in scoring is well within reach. His long-term upside remains sky high.
Outside of an injury-riddled 2015-16 season, Turris has progressed into a high-floor fantasy contributor since the lockout-shortened year. He recorded a career-high 27 goals last year and has also notched 55 points or more in each of his past three full seasons. The 28-year-old center also led all Senators forwards in ice time — 19:30 per game — by almost an entire minute in 2016-17. With a go-to role and a number of capable wingers to compliment him, Turris checks out as a reliable option to target again this fall. His 185 shots, 17 power-play points and 47 PIM last year shouldn't be overlooked, either. That's sneaky cross-category production. At this stage of his career, his offensive ceiling is capped, but there's a lot to like about having him as a supporting piece on your roster.
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