Injuries often play as big a role in your success in fantasy leagues as your decisions on roster moves. They are often unpredictable and can wipe out a key player for the entire year, leaving you scrambling for solutions. This can be very discouraging as you may feel you are the favorite to win the championship and your efforts may ultimately fall short for reasons out of your control.
On the flip side, there is a more positive side to these injuries. Obviously, there is a hole created in the lineup that must be filled. This gives other players the opportunity to play a more important role and in turn increase their production. Sometimes the effect is only short-term and things will return to normal once the injured player is back. However, in other instances there can be longer-term ramifications.
Today we will look at 10 players in the Eastern Conference that have been benefiting from injuries to teammates. Some have only seen a recent increase in production while others have been riding the wave for much longer. What is most important is what comes next for each of these players.
Phillip Danault (Montreal)
Danault has been a pleasant surprise this year after beginning the campaign in the bottom-six with little hope of any major contributions. Injuries to the Canadiens down the middle forced him into a prominent role and he responded with what can already be called a breakout season. So far he is averaging 0.5 points per game and has been very good in the faceoff circle winning 5.5 draws per game.
With that said, be careful not to overvalue Danault’s offensive potential as he has not been an overly productive player since turning pro. Rather, he should be considered a secondary scoring option who should be avoided in shallower leagues. In fact, he might be more valuable in multi-category leagues that include faceoff categories. In the short-term, keep an eye on line combinations. With Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais also in the mix at center, Danault could easily end up on a lower line with lesser wingers.
Ryan Dzingel (Ottawa)
Thanks in part to another concussion suffered by Clarke MacArthur, Dzingel was able to secure a spot in the top-six on a line with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan. Dzingel has amassed 24 points in 47 games while logging less than 15 minutes per game and with a role on the second power-play unit. The Sens might acquire a winger in the near future to bolster their lineup but they have been balancing their forward lines so Dzingel should not be affected much. He is a bubble option at best in most one-year leagues anyway.
Long-term Dzingel should be a decent option to produce similar numbers to his current pace as he has shown he can produce even without prime minutes. However, expecting more than this is wishful thinking until his role expands. This will be a difficult task as the Sens have several players established ahead of him on the depth chart.
Valtteri Filppula (Tampa Bay)
Filppula has rebounded nicely from a disastrous 2015-16 season. His 32 points are already one better than his total for all of last year. While there is no direct evidence to the absence of Steven Stamkos benefiting Filppula, the void created down the middle has assured him a spot on one of the team’s three scoring lines. Had Stamkos remained in the lineup there is no guarantee the older Filppula would have kept his spot with younger centers Tyler Johnson and Vladislav Namestnikov also in the mix. One slump could have put the veteran in a tough spot.
Long term, he should remain a decent option for offense. With the Lightning out of the mix Filppula could be moved at some point. Otherwise he should be fine remaining in Tampa. Despite the concern expressed for his situation, the emergence of several young Lightning players has not affected Filppula’s role on the team much yet.
Cody Franson (Buffalo)
After Jake McCabe went down with an injury early in a game on January 20th, Franson’s role expanded and he responded very well. In the four games including that one he has a total of four points while logging minutes well above his season average. This is an important development for Franson as he was in danger of falling short of 20 points for the second year in a row after finishing north of 30 the prior three years. His stock has faded quickly since leaving Toronto and Franson is running out of time to show he can be more than a depth defenseman.
Ultimately Franson’s fantasy value will depend on his ice time. He will likely not match the point totals he had in Toronto but when he was playing a top-four role he was posting freakish multi-category numbers. The right situation could result in him returning as an underrated commodity in the right kind of league.
Zemgus Girgensons (Buffalo)
It has been a rough road for Girgensons since Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly arrived in Buffalo. After finishing just shy of 0.5 points per game in 2014-15 he has a combined 31 points in 119 games since. Not to mention, his ice time has been in decline. Johan Larsson, who had been averaging close to 17 minutes per game mainly centering the third line, went down with injury at the end of December. Girgensons’ offense picked up immediately as he has recorded seven of his 13 points in a dozen games in the new year while averaging 15:45 per game, nearly three minutes more than his season average.
This is likely not enough to make Girgensons worth picking up in one-year leagues but many have been patient with him in multi-category keepers. If he can learn to produce consistently from the third line his ice time will stay up which will allow him to contribute more across the board.
Jonathan Marchessault (Florida)
Arguably no player benefited more from a key injury than Marchessault who went from not being an established NHL player to one looking like he could be a long-term fit on a scoring line. When Jonathan Huberdeau eventually returns there is a good possibility Marchessault will get knocked off the top line and maybe even outside the top-six barring further injuries on the left side in Florida.
While moving down the depth chart would no doubt hurt Marchessault’s value, the fact he was able to capitalize and show he belongs in the NHL is huge. His strong run has likely solidified him as a top-six forward which is a great return for fantasy owners considering he was likely available on the wire back in October when the season started. And with some quality centers on the roster he will always be assured a good linemate which can only help keep the point totals up.
Dmitry Orlov (Washington)
John Carlson has been out the past six games. During that span Orlov has stepped up with more power-play duties and has responded with six points, three of them with the man-advantage. After a career year in 2015-16 despite a limited role, Orlov has taken the next step in responsibility and is on pace to challenge for 40 points for the first time in his career. However, his average ice time still site under 20 minutes and his usual role on the power play remains a secondary one so it will ultimately be very difficult to his that mark this year.
Long-term Orlov should remain a solid point-producer for the Capitals as he continues to grow. There are concerns though with his offensive upside in this environment. Considering Carlson generally lines up with Alexander Ovechkin on the point on the power play, that leaves the second unit as Orlov’s only option. Of course, there is still room for him to grow into a greater role at even strength which will no doubt help him produce additional offense.
Steve Santini (New Jersey)
Injuries suffered in January by John Moore and later Andy Greene opened the door for rookie Steve Santini to get some playing time. He has taken advantage of the opportunity by posting five points in 13 contests despite just 15 minutes per game and no presence on the power play. There will likely be no impact on one-year leagues but this stretch of good play is important for Santini as it creates future opportunities. He should transition into a full-time NHLer soon enough. Plus, with only Damon Severson as an established offensive player on the blueline there will be opportunities for Santini to be put in favorable situations to put up points. There will be some bumps in the road but when Santini gets settled he could be a decent fantasy option with good value in multi-category leagues.
Justin Schultz (Pittsburgh)
Various injuries to Kris Letang gave Schultz the opportunity to play a greater role and what he has done since gaining some momentum has been amazing. Currently fourth among all defensemen with 35 points, Schultz has reached this level despite no consistent role on the top power-play unit and an average of just 19 minutes in ice time. During Letang’s latest absence of six games Schultz was once again the go-to guy and he responded with nine points during that stretch.
Long-term it is difficult to envision him maintaining this rate but we cannot dismiss him as just a secondary scorer either. He has shown that he can produce ridiculous numbers in the right situation. He is no doubt a wild card but one with a huge upside which makes him must-own.
Vincent Trocheck (Florida)
With mainstay centers Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad missing significant time due to injuries, Vincent Trocheck has taken on an important role for the Panthers. In fact, he is averaging close to 22 minutes per game which is an incredible amount for a forward. He had a slow start to the campaign but has been on fire of late with 12 points in his last nine games. At this point he looks like he will eclipse last year’s 53 points when it is all said and done.
One has to wonder how much ice time Trocheck will get when the Panthers are fully healthy down the middle for a long stretch. He may have shown enough to continue getting top-line minutes over the long haul. If so then this would be a great spot for him to reach his peak over the next couple years.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.
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