In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll discuss players who are seeing more opportunity than they were last year, as well as players seeing less opportunity than last year. It's still early in the season, so we can't put too much stock into ice time averages because the sample size is so small. However, some of these early numbers may give us an idea of what's to come, as well as what we should keep an eye on going forward.
Columbus' captain is enjoying a high volume of offensive opportunity this year. He's skating over 20 minutes a night, which represents a two-minute increase from last year's average. He's also starting more of his shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive zone this year, sporting an offensive zone start percentage of 52-percent. In contrast, he was used in a much more defensive role last season when he had an offensive zone start percentage of just 33.5-percent. At even strength, Jenner is currently playing beside Jakub Voracek and Patrik Laine – which may explain the scoring-focused deployment. The final piece of Jenner's new offensive role this year pertains to his role with the man advantage. He's seeing 67-percent of the team's total power-play time and already has three power-play goals through six appearances. Jenner was already putting up a lot of hits, blocks and face-off wins, but adding more offensive production to his repertoire would make him a multicategory beast. It's important to mention that Max Domi is currently sidelined with an injury, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with the line combinations and Jenner's deployment once Domi returns.
Kuznetsov's 2021 campaign was derailed by two bouts of COVID-19. He managed 29 points in 41 appearances and was trusted with just 16 and a half minutes of ice time per game. He's off to a hot start this year, tallying nine points through six outings while skating nearly 20 minutes a night. Part of Kuznetsov's increased opportunity can be explained by the absence of Nicklas Backstrom, who is currently sidelined with a hip injury. Now I wouldn't necessarily recommend trading Kuznetsov in your fantasy league because I think he'll still be a valuable asset even after Backstrom gets back to the lineup. However, it's likely that Kuznetsov's ice time drops to some extent once Backstrom returns, so it wouldn't be the worst idea to sell high before that happens.
The 23-year-old winger had somewhat of a breakout campaign last year, scoring 17 goals in 56 outings. He managed the impressive goal total while seeing a modest 16 and a half minutes of ice time per game. The 2021-2022 campaign is still young, but Batherson's ice time is up a full three minutes from last season as he's now skating 19 and a half minutes a night. He put up a hat trick and an assist against the Capitals on Mo