One thing that I try to stress in many of these lists is that for most players, it all comes down to opportunity.
Whether it's players with the potential to hit 70 points for the first time, waiver-wire pickups, bounce-back candidates, rookies that can surprise or whatever, players need that opportunity to be successful. It doesn't matter the size, the pedigree, the contract, the skill, the draft position or anything else. A player is in a better chance to succeed if he's playing in a top-six role rather than a bottom-six. It's not just limited to young players either. Look at Ilya Kovalchuk. In L.A., he was averaging 15:25 minutes per night and was a healthy scratch for 18 games before getting bought out. He goes to Montreal, averages 19:31 per night with power-play time, and has 12 points in 15 games.
Of course, having the opportunity doesn't automatically mean production. It just means there's a better chance of production. It can also be fleeting. When Aleksander Barkov missed three games with an injury last week, Denis Malgin was inserted into the lineup and although he averaged just 10 minutes a night, he was getting reps with Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov. Malgin wasn't able to produce, and was back to a healthy scratch on Saturday with Barkov back in the lineup. For some of the players on this list, it's not a recent thing either. They've been with elite players all season, but haven't been able to produce. However, keep them in mind in case they go on a hot streak. After all, if they're staying in that top position while running cold, they probably won't be shifted down the lineup when running hot.
Below are 10 players who are getting an opportunity, so keep them on your radar in case they finally start a hot streak.
10. Sam Gagner
He's not on the power play, and he has only 11 points in 30 games, but keep an eye on Gagner as he's been getting the opportunity to play with Connor McDavid the last few games. Anyone getting a chance to play with McDavid has to be on your radar. In Gagner's last seven games, he has three goals with 17 shots and is a plus-two. Of course, one thing we know about the Oilers is that they cycle through McDavid's linemates pretty quickly, so Gagner can last there for a week or a month.
9. Jimmy Vesey
Vesey has never lived up to the hype that many were expecting after a successful college career. Even this year, his points-per-game and ice time are down from a year ago. However, for the last number of games, he's been lining up with Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel at even strength, and has even been getting reps on the top power-play unit. He's rewarded patient fantasy general managers with four points in his last three games. This may only last until Victor Olofsson, who practiced for the first time on Saturday, returns from injury.
8. Andrew Mangiapane
A few days ago, this choice could have easily been Buddy Robinson, who was playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on the top line with the Flames. However, the 28-year-old Robinson didn't play Saturday night and only has 12 games in his NHL career, so he could be back in the AHL in a day or two. Instead, let's focus on Mangiapane, who is only 23 years old, and has career highs of 10 goals and 18 points. He's been playing mostly with Matthew Tkachuk all season, and Elias Lindholm has been added to that line for the last 30 games or so.
7. Kyle Turris
Much like Kovalchuk, Turris is a veteran that many fantasy GMs had given up on, but is now getting more minutes and producing. He was given the opportunity to play with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund for the first 20 games or so, but eventually started playing with Colin Blackwell and Craig Smith. Recently, he's been playing with Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. His ice time is up significantly (he played almost 22 minutes on Saturday night) and he's averaged 19:51 in his last six games. He's got five points and three power-play points in those six games.
6. Mason Appleton
The Jets' prospect hasn't been lighting up the big leagues, but in the last seven games, he's been getting the opportunity. In his first nine games of the season, he averaged 10:21 of ice time while playing with Gabriel Bourque, Mathieu Perreault and Nick Shore. In the last seven games, he's averaged 14:16. More importantly, in those seven games, 63 per cent of his even-strength shifts have been with both Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler.
He's not getting any power-play time, and his point production is the same as what it was a year ago. However, don't be surprised if he starts producing on a crazy hot streak anytime soon. He's been lining up with Sidney Crosby almost all season. In fact, almost 80 per cent of all of Simon's five-on-five shifts have been with Crosby, which is quite a feat considering that Crosby missed 28 games with a sports hernia injury.
4. Barclay Goodrow
Goodrow is going through a cold spell right now, with just one point in five games. However, it's important to note that his ice time has been increasing consistently throughout the season. In his first 21 games, he averaged 14 seconds of power-play time and 14:13 overall. In his next 23 games, he averaged 29 seconds of power-play time and 16:13 overall. In his last 11 games, he's averaged 1:33 with the man advantage and 17:50 overall. He's also been above 19:30 in five of his last 10 games. His most frequent linemates this season has been Timo Meier and Evander Kane, and in the last few games, he's been playing mostly with Kane and Patrick Marleau, while getting power-play time with Meier and Marleau. He should already be rostered in leagues with hits, as he has 26 in his last five games, but this boost to ice time and quality linemates is a great sign.
3. Joel Farabee
Farabee hasn't played the last two games as he's been battling a bad case of the flu, and his ice time was slowly decreasing until Jan. 21. However, in the six games he's played since then, his ice time has gone back up and he has six points while playing with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. To be fair, we have been here before with Farabee, as he started the season mainly with Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk.
2. Zach Sanford
Sanford has 11 points in his last 13 games, which should be no surprise to people who have been paying attention to the Blues. His ice time has been increasing all season (from 11:52 in his first 16 games to 12:47 in his next 14 contests to 14:37 in his last 13), but most of his ice time this season has been with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron. With Perron on pace for a career season and O'Reilly looking good for another 70-point season, Sanford has been a good fit on that line and has started to get rewarded.
1. Chandler Stephenson
I've written about Stephenson before, but he's definitely someone who is getting an opportunity that he might not have gotten anywhere else. Since getting dealt to Vegas in early December, Stephenson has been playing mostly with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and thriving in that role, with 17 points in 28 games. He's also gotten some man-advantage minutes, but doesn't have much power-play production to show for it. He also has triple eligibility in Yahoo leagues, which is a nice bonus.
There are plenty of NHLers who are getting an opportunity. Here are another quick 10 players, in alphabetical order:
Drake Batherson: Much better since his callup, and is on the top power-play unit.
Jake DeBrusk: Getting some time on the top power-play unit and is only one point off his career-high for man-advantage points.
Nick Foligno: Off the top power-play unit, but still averaging 18-plus minutes per night with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Not only does he have six points in his last 10 games, he's also on pace for a career-high in hits.
Taro Hirose: Since getting called back up three games ago, Hirose is in a top-six role with some power-play time.