With the season about to start, here is a list of injuries that could affect fantasy owners.
The Big Guns (>75% owned in Yahoo Leagues)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The Desert Dogs’ defenseman has been skating and the team is hopeful he’ll be ready to start the season on Thursday. For a while now, Ekman-Larsson has been thought of as a skilled offensive defenseman on a lacklustre team. Enter Derek Stepan and early Calder favourite Clayton Keller, and all of a sudden there’s new life in the Coyotes’ offense. Aside from Dallas, Arizona probably saw the most improvement this offseason, so look for an increase in Ekman-Larsson’s numbers. Especially his plus-minus. Minus-25? Jeez that’s cold for the desert.
Erik Karlsson – The Senators will most likely begin the season without their captain as he continues to recover from an offseason surgery that repaired a tendon in his foot. November 1 was the expected date of return, but it’s very likely that Karlsson plays before that. He has been skating and made great progress, but the team doesn’t want to take any chances with their superstar’s health.
Torey Krug – The Bruins are hopeful that Krug will only miss the first three to five games after suffering a jaw fracture in the preseason. Boston’s talented defenseman has benefitted from stars like David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand finding their game recently. Although he is expected to wear a protective mask when he returns, it shouldn’t hinder his offensive output for too long. Keep an eye on Charlie McAvoy as the season begins, he might make for a sneaky little add this week.
Patrice Bergeron – “Day-to-day” is something we’re going to be hearing a lot this season, even before the season apparently. Bergeron left Tuesday’s practice early and didn’t skate the past couple of days, so his presence in the opening-night lineup is doubtful. With the Bruins missing one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defenseman, be cautious with how you start Tuukka Rask early on this season.
Jonathan Toews – Should be “OK”. Definitely expect him in the lineup on opening night. Arguably one of the game’s best centers, Toews often gets a lot of criticism from fantasy owners as his real-world talent doesn’t transfer to our virtual rosters. However, with Brandon Saad returning to Chicago, don’t underestimate the Blackhawks captain this season. In the three seasons Saad was on the team, Toews had a pretty impressive 182 points in 204 games. Don’t be surprised by a nice little bounce-back from him this season.
James Neal – The Golden Knights will be without their best winger as they play their first NHL game. Although he has skated, Neal is yet to recover from the hand injury he suffered in last season’s playoffs. Expectations are never high for an expansion team as they find their bearings in the league, so don’t expect Las Vegas to rush the face of their franchise back into the lineup.
The Second Liners (40%-75% owned in Yahoo Leagues)
Patric Hornqvist – The Penguins’ forward isn’t expected to play the season opener against the Blues as he recovers from offseason hand surgery. With names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel healthy to start the year, it doesn’t make any sense to rush Hornqvist into the lineup before he is ready. He could be back by the end of the week, but it depends on his progress each day.
Ryan Kesler – If you own Ryan Kesler in one of your leagues, your Christmas present might be his return from hip surgery. That seems like the approximate timeline for one of the league’s best shutdown centres to recover. The absence of Kesler’s defensive acumen is important to highlight for the Ducks, as they will also be without defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm to start the season. John Gibson owners might want to shelter his starts early on in the fantasy hockey campaign.
Ryan Ellis – The Predators defenseman will miss at least the first few months of the 2017-2018 season as he recovers from knee surgery. In September, general manager David Poile seemed to think the recovery period would be six months, projecting a return in the new calendar year. Returning to form after surgery can be dependent on the individual, so expect more specific updates as the season progresses.
Zach Parise – It’s been a while since the Wild forward has played a full season, and it’s going to be at least another year. A back injury will prevent Parise from playing in the team’s three-game road trip to start off the new campaign. Although he has been skating and seems to be in great shape, he’s not yet at 100 percent, and the team is going to exercise patience before bringing him back (and his back) into the lineup.
Antti Raanta – Arizona’s rubber stopper has been skating and could very well be ready to start on Thursday night against the Ducks. Don’t worry Raanta owners, your goalie hasn’t been replaced with a piece of equipment from the chemistry lab (please laugh). In all seriousness, I think Arizona was a great place for the former Rangers’ goaltender to land, the low pressure of the Arizona hockey market should allow him to find his form behind a rejuvenated Coyotes team.
The Depth Guys (10%-40% owned in Yahoo Leagues)
Sami Vatanen – The Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman will miss the first month of the regular season as he recovers from shoulder surgery. With injuries like this, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date of return, as it really depends on when Vatanen is feeling like his normal self again. The Ducks would love him to rebound from a poor 2016-2017 campaign (24 points in 77 games) and return to the form of past seasons when he was putting up close to 40 points in 70 games.
The Mr. Irrelevants (<10% owned in Yahoo Leagues)
Hampus Lindholm – After flirting with the 30-point mark for the first three seasons of his career, the Ducks’ defenseman took a bit of a step back last season, registering only 20 points in 66 games. Lindholm will miss the first month of action as he recovers from shoulder surgery, with November 1 marked in the calendar as his expected return.
Martin Hanzal – The Stars’ forward seems to have made good progress from an ankle injury that kept him out of preseason action and should be ready to welcome the Golden Knights to the NHL on Friday. Look for big things from Dallas this season. The additions of Ben Bishop, Alex Radulov, Marc Methot, and of course Martin Hanzal foreshadow a season of success.
Marian Gaborik – The Kings’ forward is likely to miss the beginning of the season as he continues to recover from a knee injury, still staying off the ice. The team had seemed optimistic that Gaborik would resume skating earlier in the week, but it wasn’t worth rushing him into the lineup and risking a longer absence in the future.