All of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Anthony Cirelli (more on him later) were out of the lineup for Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Coach Jon Cooper said that all Kucherov and Cirelli will be joining Stamkos on the day-to-day list. Let's hope this doesn't last too long because that's a lot of talent to be missing from fantasy rosters.

The team still managed a 3-1 win over the McDavid-less Oilers, and Yanni Gourde scored, giving him two goals in two games. It's his first time having points in consecutive games in two months. Good timing.

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Michael Ferland is in the AHL getting up to speed, which would indicate a return to the NHL is not far behind. If he can get to the top line with Horvat, there could be some fantasy value here in banger leagues.

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Frederik Andersen returned to the net for Toronto on Thursday night. With Jack Campbell around, hopefully he doesn't have to play nearly every game from here on out.

Alex Radulov was put on the IR by the Stars but their beat writers didn't seem to think this will be a long-term thing. In other words, he could be back in a week or so rather than a month or so.

Andreas Johnsson suffered a knee injury in Toronto's 3-2 loss to Dallas, and coach Sheldon Keefe said it would not be a short-term injury. That spells bad news for the Toronto winger, who had a strong start to the season but had seen his role greatly diminished under Keefe.

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Zdeno Chara will not be suspended for his cross-check to the neck of Brendan Gallagher.

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Speaking of suspensions, Zack Kassian thought this was a good idea:

 

He should get the season. That is way over the line.

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Victor Olofsson was back in the lineup for the Sabres after missing six weeks with a lower-body injury. He didn't waste any time getting reacquainted with the back of the net, scoring a power-play goal in the third period and then the overtime winner in Buffalo's 4-3 win over Columbus. He played 17 minutes and was on the top line/top PP unit, picking up where he left off.

Jack Eichel had a goal and two assists in this game. At least there are some bright spots here.

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James van Riemsdyk continued his torrid pace, putting up a goal and two assists in Philly's 6-2 stomping of the Panthers. That gives him five goals and 12 points in his last 10 games.

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It's Valentine's Day! Hopefully everyone reading this enjoys tonight with a special someone. If not, well, there's four games to watch tonight at least.

I wanted to take today to review a few players I'm in love with. I probably should clarify I don't mean, "watch them from a distance"-love, more "I have a general fondness"-love. These are my large adult sons who are either on their way to the NHL, or are very early in their careers. Previously on this list we've had names like Ondrej Kase, Jakub Vrana, Tyler Toffoli, Jake DeBrusk, Jakob Chychrun, Devon Toews, and Nikolaj Ehlers, among many others. They're generally not guys drafted at the very top of drafts who may take some time to hit their stride, but when they do, fantasy owners reap the rewards.

(Yes, of course there are some unmentioned misses in there, and yes, some of the mentioned players have had uneven careers, but this is Valentine's Day, let's be positive!)

 

Kailer Yamamoto

It was a couple years ago I got into an argument with Dobber. My argument was that Yamamoto (and also Jesse Puljujarvi) were, at the time, the team's two best right wingers, and that both should be playing in the top-6. Dobber, on the other hand, believed that at best Pulju could play a middle-six role while Yamamoto was a couple years away. I'm not sure either of us can definitively claim anything about Pulju, but clearly Dobber was right about Yamo. Sometimes I just get too excited for my own good.

Anyway, Yamo has shown out since being recalled and slotting on the second line (well, I guess top line now with Connor McDavid's injury), posting seven goals and 14 points in 15 games going into Thursday night's action. Now, it should be noted that he's shooting 28 percent overall, and the team is shooting 13.1 percent with his line on the ice at 5-on-5, both numbers too high to sustain themselves (the former more than the latter). Regardless, with McDavid' injury, he should get more ice time and that means being able to sustain production levels simply through increased TOI.

Yamamoto also needs to pick up his individual shot totals, and he has started doing that in recent games. All the same, the guy that I've been waiting for years to get to Edmonton's top-6 is finally here, and he's showing out. Good for him and good for their fans (and good for his disciplined fantasy owners).

 

Filip Hronek

Hronek didn't hit my radar until last year when he played to a 41 points/82-game pace playing for an atrocious Detroit team. He was also able to drive offensive shot attempts while playing very good defence, meaning good shot differentials. Also, beyond that, with Mike Green's career winding down and the team's blue line completely bereft of talent (besides maybe Dennis Cholowski, and he's TBD), that he would basically be the default go-to defenceman for the Red Wings. That's come to pass as he's playing nearly 24 minutes a night. That level of ice time has him playing to a 40-point pace, and he's doing that playing on an atrocious team. (Fun fact, the last team to score near the pace of the 2019-20 Red Wings was that abomination of a 2016-17 Avalanche roster, and that was in an NHL environment that was scoring 10 percent less than it is now.)

I think there are legitimate concerns here. Hronek's play-driving skills, and defensive skills, have taken a hit this year. It's probably fair to say that there are a lot of team effects here, but Detroit had a similarly bad team last year. I would just say for now that two half-season samples can be wonky, especially for an unestablished player.

There is also Moritz Seider to consider, who, by all accounts, is having a great first year in the AHL. He could be ready as soon as next year, and will that cut into Hronek's ice time significantly? I doubt that will happen initially, but it may not take as long as some people think. Hughes and Makar taught me that lesson.

If Seider can't take Hronek's job and cut into his ice time, it's smooth sailing for Hronek in the near-term. There just isn't any competition for his job. Again, Cholowski seemed to be a threat, but he's having a hard time staying in the NHL. And if you can't get consistent minutes on *this* blue line, it's hard to see him having a big role as the team improves.

 

Anthony Cirelli

Cirelli's virtues were extolled in these pages last summer, saying that he may have the chance to be the team's second-line centre as Steven Stamkos gets Claude Giroux'd. Now, Cirelli didn't end up playing with one of Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov as I had hoped, but that he's remained the team's second-line centre basically the entire season is a very good sign. Even with little PPTOI, he's already tied his output from last year (39 points), putting him on pace for nearly 60 points. That's a great year for a 22-year old centre with almost no power-play exposure.

As I've written over the year, my concern is that Cirelli's value is seen to be more defensive than offensive, which is why he's not often used on the power play. As long as the team keeps using him in defensive roles and without the PPTOI, it's really hard to see him taking that next step, fantasy-wise. He doesn't shoot as much as we would like, but he does provide some PIMs and a healthy amount of hits. He has value in all formats.

What the future holds for Cirelli is uncertain. If he keeps a defensive role, it'll cap his upside. Fantasy owners should be excited, though. There is a lot of talent here.

 

Jordan Kyrou

Kyrou has 25 goals and 58 points in his last 63 AHL games spanning to last season. It's pretty obvious that he doesn't have much more to prove at that level. The problem he's running into (aside from staying healthy) is that there's a glut of wingers on the St. Louis roster. Consider that Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Robert Thomas have locks on top-9 winger spots. That leaves two spots, and it's clear the team values players with what I guess would be deemed "grit" like Sam Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, and Zach Sanford. That fails to mention appearances from guys like MacKenzie MacEachern and Alex Steen (who seems to be a third-line regular now), and it's obvious Kyrou just doesn't have a role with the team, at least not this year. That was the Robby Fabbri Problem.

That doesn't take away from Kyrou's skill set in the slightest. As mentioned, he's performed very well in the AHL as evidenced by his points and being over three shots per game this year. He has great speed and great offensive instincts. I think there's still a true top-line scoring winger here, but it just doesn't look like it'll happen in St. Louis, at least not in the near-term. Even next year, everyone is still under contract, so things don't look promising for 2020-21. Just don't give up on him because St. Louis is too deep to give him a consistent role.