Injury Ward: Mining Forgotten Talent
Out of sight, out of mind – that's the theme for this week's Injury Ward. During the course of a season, many players miss a significant number of games due to injury. This tends to hinder their point totals, ultimately causing their offensive production to look less impressive when compared to fellow athletes. If a player was on fire for the first half of the year but missed the second half with an injury, his absence would allow other players to pass him in the scoring race. As a result, you won't find him atop any leaderboards when the season ends, and he probably won't be considered for any awards. In addition, his name won't be in the headlines, his daily highlights won't be on SportsCenter, and we may start to forget how well he was playing – in other words, out of sight, out of mind. In this week's Injury Ward, I'll discuss a few that you should be keeping in mind when fantasy hockey resumes.
During the first quarter of the campaign, Drouin was displaying an element of tenacity that he hadn't yet shown in his time with the Canadiens. He was battling for every puck and always seemed to be making the right play through those first 19 games of the year, during which he tallied 15 points. Unfortunately, a wrist injury interrupted his upward trajectory and he was held out of the lineup for over two months. When he returned, it was clear that he hadn't completely shaken off the rust and he went on to suffer an ankle injury – which kept him out for many of the team's recent games. I feel like most people will avoid Drouin in fantasy hockey leagues because his overall production of 15 points in 27 games is quite underwhelming. However, I think he can rediscover his form from the beginning of this season and manage a 60 to 65-point pace going forward.
Karlsson's fantasy hockey value has plummeted as a result of his recent injury history, but I think we've reached a point where his perceived value has dropped below his actual value. In other words, although it seems crazy to say, I think Karlsson is now an undervalued fantasy hockey asset. Now, Karlsson has had a number of significant injuries during his career, but he's maintained at least a 65-point pace through each of the last eight seasons. However, things started to get concerning when Karlsson missed 29 games with a groin injury last year – his first season as a member of the San Jose Sharks. He returned for the playoffs but appeared considerably less mobile and ultimately reaggravated the injury. Fast forward to this season and Karlsson is scoring at a 59-point pace, with many speculating that the groin injury is still hindering his performance. After appearing in 56 games this year, Karlsson was eventually sidelined with a broken thumb. Unfortunately, I feel like those two unrelated absences – one for his groin and one for his thumb – will be lumped together into one narrative that suggests Karlsson's lingering injuries are affecting his on-ice performance. At the end of the day, we don't have access to Karlsson's detailed medical reports, so we can't confidently determine how his past injuries will affect his future play. Nevertheless, I think Karlsson's status as a 'band-aid boy' will lead to fewer people targeting him in fantasy hockey league. I for one will jump at the chance to acquire a defenseman who can put up 60 points in a bad year.
There isn't really a lot to say about Tarasenko. He's consistently broken the 30-goal and 65-point mark over the last five years and I'm sure we all know how good he is. However, considering he only appeared in 10 games this year, there's a chance some of you might forget about him during next year's fantasy draft. So, this is my way of reminding you he's had plenty of time to recover from shoulder surgery and will be a valuable fantasy hockey asset when the NHL gets back in action.
Before injuring his shoulder in late December, Guentzel put up 43 points through 39 games – which translates to 90 points over a full season. That's incredible production from a player who was selected outside of the top-50 in the average Yahoo Fantasy Hockey League – behind other left-wingers like Gabriel Landeskog, Alex DeBrincat and Jamie Benn. At the age of 25, Guentzel has plenty of good years ahead of him, playing alongside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. I think that Guentzel's shoulder injury prevented him from achieving the impressive point totals that would have gained mainstream recognition. As a result, I think he remains an underrated option in fantasy formats.
He closed out last season with 33 points in his final 38 games – a 71-point pace. He carried that momentum into the 2019-2020 campaign, posting a 72-point pace through 43 appearances. Ultimately, a number of injuries prevented the hockey world from recognizing this as his breakout season, but I think we'll be seeing big things from Mantha over the next few years. Don't overlook him because he plays for the Red Wings.
I feel like Hamilton's excellence this season was overshadowed by an even more impressive performance from John Carlson. In addition, Hamilton's strong showing became a little bit easier to forget because we haven't seen him play for the last three months. So, here's your reminder that Dougie Hamilton is an incredibly valuable fantasy hockey asset who scored at a 70-point pace this year. John Carlson, Roman Josi and Cale Makar were the only defensemen in the league to score at a higher rate.
If you're looking at point totals, Ellis sits 24th in scoring among defensemen with 38 points. However, then you remember that he missed a significant period of time with a concussion. You check again and discover that he only played 49 games, registering a 64-point pace that actually ranks within the top 10 for scoring among defensemen. My friends, don't be fooled by Ellis' modest point totals. He is an underrated fantasy hockey asset.
The 25-year-old forward got off to a slow start this year, with six points in his first 19 games. He bounced back in a big way, tallying 30 points over his next 30 appearances. Unfortunately, a couple of significant injuries (rib and ankle) caused him to miss a total of 21 games – leaving his point total at a seemingly mediocre 36 points. However, you know better than to judge players based on point totals. That 30-game stretch of excellence marked the beginning of a breakout and I'm sure Bjorkstrand is going to be a valuable fantasy asset in fantasy leagues for years to come. After averaging less than 13 minutes of ice-time last year, this season marked the first in which Bjorkstrand was seeing a prominent role on the team. I'd say he made the most of his new opportunity and should continue to see significant minutes in the future.
He missed the start of the season while recovering from knee surgery but has been really good since returning to the lineup. Scrolling through the NHL scoring race, you may not be impressed by Hyman's 37 points. However, considering he tallied those points in just 51 games, I'd say his 59-point pace is pretty impressive.
Zibanejad barely qualifies for this list because he sits 12th in league scoring, so I'm pretty sure everyone knows how good he is. However, I thought I'd remind you that he's played fewer games than everyone ahead of him in the scoring race, and only six players in the league have outperformed his 108-point pace.
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