Eight Eastern Conference players benefiting from injuries.
One of the most frustrating factors in fantasy hockey is injuries. They are often unpredictable and can affect any player, sometimes for large amounts of time. The man-games missed can easily derail your hopes for a league championship even if you have the best team and think the stars have aligned perfectly in your favor. Furthermore, these injuries can have longer-term implications as their effects can be felt long after the player returns to action. For example, players accumulating concussions can become huge risks to own moving forward.
Meanwhile, injuries have implications well beyond the player in question. On one hand, his linemates no longer get to share the ice with him which can impact their respective fantasy values. On the other hand, the absence creates a hole in the lineup which in turn presents opportunities for one or many players lower on the depth chart to assume more important roles. This can easily turn into a short-term boost in production and can also lead to better opportunities in the more distant future if the player proves to be worthy of a promotion.
Today we will look at eight players in the Eastern Conference in a better place than they were in previously because of an injury to a teammate. Each situation is unique and the impact will be felt across different types of leagues depending on the player’s strengths and the role he is currently playing.
Ian Cole (Pittsburgh)
While Justin Schultz’s rise from the ashes this year has been well-documented, Cole has had a great fantasy season and has done so much more quietly. His 22 points are a personal-best while his across-the-board dominance have made him a multi-category beast. No doubt, the various injuries that have ravaged the Penguins’ blueline have helped Cole excel as he has always logged third-pairing minutes. This year his average ice time is just under the 20-minute mark.
With Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey currently on the sidelines Cole has been logging heavy minutes. In fact, in the past four games his average ice time is 23:29. While he has no points during this span, he is plus-two and has blocked a whopping 14 shots. If Cole is somehow on the wire and you need help in peripheral categories then you should look in his direction to shore up your blueline in the final weeks.
Yanni Gourde (Tampa Bay)
The numbers have not been eye-popping for Gourde but nonetheless his role over the last few games is very encouraging for his value in deep dynasty leagues. Since Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette went down with injuries recently, Gourde has been the team’s second center with Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin on his wings. With Johnson still off the ice and team captain Steven Stamkos still not close to returning there will be more opportunities for Gourde moving forward. If he can pick up a few points along the way it might be enough to earn a spot on next year’s Lightning team in a depth role. He could be a useful plug in one of your final roster spots and his scoring history in the minor leagues gives some hope to turn into something better down the road at the NHL level.
Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh)
Earlier in the year Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary were joined by Bryan Rust, who burst onto the scene last spring and proved to be a nice depth option in deep leagues. Rust has been out since February 9 and since then Guentzel has 16 points in 18 games including eight in his past 10. In fact, Guentzel has progressed so rapidly that he has ascended to the top spot in Dobber’s prospect rankings.
Looking back there are a number of players who have put up star-level numbers on Crosby’s wing including Chris Kunitz finishing above the point-per-game mark in 2012-13. This along with Guentzel’s own progression to earn his spot in the NHL should give fantasy owners a lot of hope for the future. There is potential for him to produce like a star for many years.
Calvin de Haan (New York Islanders)
Veteran workhorse Johnny Boychuk has missed the past eight games with a foot injury. During that span de Haan has four points while logging over 21 minutes per game, well above his season average of 19:26. Beyond the offensive boost, he also does very well in the peripheral categories, highlighted by his 170 blocks which ranks third in the league. Boychuk skated yesterday before practice so his return might be coming soon which would limit de Haan’s effectiveness in the final weeks. Still, if you need some immediate punch on defense you should add him while he continues to receive top-pairing minutes.
Josh Ho-Sang (New York Islanders)
The Islanders have had various injuries up front lately with the likes of Casey Cizikas and Alan Quine missing chunks of games. This enabled former first-round pick Josh Ho-Sang to make his NHL debut on March 2. The 21-year-old has responded well with six points in his first 10 games despite moving around the lineup a lot. He has averaged more than 16 minutes in ice time and has even seen time on the top line next to John Tavares.
The youngster has done enough to at least warrant starting the year in the NHL next year much to the delight of those who have invested in him in keeper leagues. He remains a controversial figure but this should not get into the way of owning him in fantasy leagues. After all, production is what matters to us.
Niklas Kronwall (Detroit)
In the past Kronwall was an excellent fantasy defenseman but his aging body and an accumulation of ailments have rendered him to a lesser version of his past self. This year has been especially bad and the Red Wings have suffered as a result. However, in recent weeks the Wings lost Jonathan Ericsson and Ryan Sproul to injuries which has allowed Kronwall to play more minutes down the stretch. He has not been great but has shown enough to make him useful in some leagues during the final weeks.
Since Ericsson went to the sidelines on February 11 Kronwall has averaged over 20 minutes per game and has five points in 17 games. This is not an impressive total but three of those points have come on the power play. Meanwhile, during this stretch he has 21 shots and 21 blocks. Nothing great but in some leagues people have to dig deep for help and Kronwall might prove to be surprisingly useful.
Alex Petrovic (Florida)
Since Aaron Ekblad went down with a concussion four games ago Petrovic has seen his role enhance and his production has followed. He has averaged 20:40 per game which is three minutes above his season average. During this stretch he has two assists, four shots, six PIM, 10 hits and four blocks. He is already worth owning in many multi-category formats but this recent outburst has made him a viable option in shallower leagues. Even if the offense dries up he still has plenty to offer in the final weeks including the ability to single-handedly win you the PIM category by himself as he showed on March 11 when he racked up 27 PIM.
Brayden Point (Tampa Bay)
Point has been much more successful than his teammate Gourde as evidenced by his five points over the last four contests. Amazingly, he has been logging a freakish 22 minutes per game during this surge. All in all this has proven to be a successful rookie campaign for Point as he is over 0.5 points per game and has logged second-line minutes overall. He has also proven to be versatile, finding success both at center and on the wing on various units. This will prove to be valuable beyond this year when the Lightning will have Stamkos and Johnson back as its top two centers. At this point he is worth owning in any keeper league.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.
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