Tough news on the injury front for Mark Scheifele owners as the Jets’ centerman was forced from last night’s action with an upper-body injury. We should find out more about the severity later today, but my suspicion is a broken collarbone based on how he went into the boards.
Look for Bryan Little to step up with Scheifele out. He’ll never be as valuable as Scheifele, but Little could certainly score near a point-per-game pace for however long Scheifele is out. Little is owned in only 26% of Yahoo leagues, but that will soon spike.
This also opens up the 2C spot for Jack Roslovic to get called up from the minors. I discussed Roslovic’s potential in Tuesday’s ramblings. Exposure to any of Winnipeg’s top-six wingers is a great spot to be in.
There is potential for someone else to step into that 2C slot. For instance, Mathieu Perreault has been deadly in limited action on the fourth line and was lights out filling in for Kyle Connor on the top line during the brief period the youngster was out. Stay on top of the Jets’ line combinations using the Frozen Pool tools.
It sounds like Dustin Byfuglien will be back soon. Paul Maurice indicated early January for his return. Jacob Trouba hasn’t done much with the bonus minutes. At this point, I suspect that the struggles of the Jets’ defensemen to put up elite totals is a stylistic thing. They simply aren’t jumping into the play as much as in previous years. It’s probably helping Connor Hellebuyck, but hurting Trouba and Byfuglien, who have combined for two goals (both from Trouba) after scoring 21 last season. When Byfuglien returns I am going to drop Trouba in leagues that don’t score hits/blocked shots. He isn’t seeing the requisite PP time, and isn’t jumping into the play enough.
Cam Talbot’s six-game winning streak came to an end, but I’ll stick with the process believing him to be a solid bet for the second half.
Despite skating 20+ minutes with top unit power play time Andrej Sekera is scoreless in three games since returning from injury. The upside for him even with top PP minutes is a 40-point pace so expectations should be modest. Plus, after so much time away he’ll need lots of time to get fully up to speed. I wouldn’t be shocked if Sekera is a regular scratch now that the Oilers are healthy on the blueline. There’s no sense in burning Sekera out with back-to-backs if they have other defensemen to work into the lineup.
Oscar Klefbom missed last night’s game, but should be ready to go on Friday. He has been banged up all season, which is part of why he has struggled. Klefbom could bump Sekera off the top PP unit, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll get back to relevance. The Oilers’ PP remains a struggle.
Devan Dubnyk returned from injured reserve to serve as backup to Alex Stalock. They’ve got a back-to-back against the Predators this weekend so Stalock isn’t out of the mix just yet. In fact, Stalock has played just well enough to linger as an option to steal starts from Dubnyk. Dubnyk would have to fall completely flat to lose his gig entirely, but losing the odd start is totally doable.
I do have some concerns about Dubnyk. The Wild rank dead last in Corsi-For%. This isn’t the be-all-end-all, but generally speaking you want to be controlling the majority of the shots. To overcome such a deficit, you need elite goaltending and scorers who can drive shooting percentage.
Bruce Boudreau has driven teams to above-average shooting at every stop of his coaching career, including with this squad last season, but they’ve taken a step backwards on the elite shooting. In particular, Mikko Koivu whose shooting percentage has dropped to 5.2% from 12.9%. The career 9.1% shooter has seen an overcorrection that has killed his fantasy value. With only two points in his last 16 games, Koivu has become un-usable for fantasy owners.
Without elite shooting that leaves Dubnyk to be an elite goaltender. He has had some stretches of elite play for the Wild, but has a career 0.916 save percentage, which is essentially league average. A league-average goalie getting hemmed in with shots is going to give up more three-goal games than fantasy owners can stomach, especially since with scoring falling back to normal allowing three goals will lead to a loss more often than not.
Barring an elite run, which would be unpredictable, Dubnyk’s trending towards third-tier starter status. You know he’s giving you roughly 60 starts, but probably isn’t giving you more than 30 wins.
Zach Parise is on the road back playing rehab games in the minors. It’s been a while since Parise had universal fantasy relevance, but he should still provide solid depth scoring and shot volume. If Rick Nash is good enough to be relevant in your league Parise should offer similar production.
Chris Kreider was knocked out of last night’s action due to an upper-body injury. Like with Scheifele we are waiting for an update today. This pushed Nash into top-line and top PP duties. Nash could have an extended run of elevated play, although the Rangers’ have struggled to score of late.
Mika Zibanejad is scoreless in four games since returning from injury. Everything from linemates and minutes is there for him to produce, he simply hasn’t gotten it done yet. I’m not ready to bail on him yet, but we did see Zibanejad fall apart after getting hurt last season. It’s something to be weary of if it becomes a trend.
In positive injury news, Ryan Kesler returned to the Duck lineup last night. Check out their lines:
#1 28% COGLIANO,ANDREW - KESLER,RYAN - WAGNER,CHRIS
#2 22.4% GETZLAF,RYAN - KASE,ONDREJ - RAKELL,RICKARD
#3 21.7% HENRIQUE,ADAM - ROY,KEVIN - SILFVERBERG,JAKOB
#4 15.5% RITCHIE,NICK - SHAW,LOGAN - VERMETTE,ANTOINE
That’s not a great spot for Kesler, especially with him banished to PP2. Also losing Jakob Silfverberg off that line won’t help. Kesler probably won’t make an immediate impact coming off of hip surgery so set your expectations low for now. He skated 16:44 with time on both special teams units, but it could be another month before he’s back to skating 20+ minutes a night. Once he’s up to speed he’ll be the nightmare we al remember.
It’s good news for Adam Henrique that Kesler’s return didn’t squash his spot as #2C with PP1 time, but it’s bad news that Henrique has only two points in his last eight games, both of which came in a revenge game against New Jersey. He’s heading straight to the waiver wire for fantasy owners.
The Penguins were without Kris Letang due to a lower-body injury. His status is day-to-day. How a player gets hurt over Christmas break, I’ll never know, but if we were taking bets Letang was the front-runner.
This injury underscores the value of Justin Schultz. Mind you, Schultz has been out with an injury of his own, but we have seen that he has the capacity for greatness when unleashed in Letang’s stead. With rumours swirling about Letang potentially getting traded, Schultz has the chance to explode once again.
I don’t want to overplay this situation. I’d put the odds on Letang getting traded at less than 50%, but they did win a Cup without him, which could embolden them to make a big move.
Most of Letang’s “struggles” have been percentage based. His 917 PDO is the lowest in the league among players with at least 200 minutes of 5-on-5 action. Whatever degree to which you think talent can impact shooting percentage, it isn’t as extreme as the Penguins shooting just 3.9% with Letang on the ice, especially not when you consider that they have elite shooting talent on the roster.
Whether it’s trade or injury, Schultz has some mighty potential. Schultz’s ownership has hit a low at just 61% on Yahoo. I encourage making a speculative pickup. You need to be willing to ride this out for a few weeks, which could mean some bleak production from Schultz. He has scored at roughly a 35-point pace thus far, and 35-point defensemen can go through dark stretches. On a high scoring team like Pittsburgh that is less likely, but the potential for him to fail to score for two weeks exists if he remains blocked by Letang.
As for Letang, his value would take a hit going elsewhere as he’d lose exposure to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the gang, especially Pittsburgh’s lethal PP. However, the Venn diagram of plausible destinations for Letang and teams where he wouldn’t be the #1 option has no overlap. He’d still be good, but perhaps not good enough to absorb the injury risk.
As always, any question of selling a player comes down to what you can leverage in return. It is certainly worth exploring what you can get in return for Letang, but if you can’t net a star calibre player (someone around the top-10 at any position) you are probably better off riding it out.
By the way, with both of those guys out it was Olli Maatta who stepped into the top PP minutes. He was held scoreless, but did manage five SOG. Maatta has had a bounce-back season after multiple injury-plagued runs. He’s once again in the mix for a 30-point season, a feat he has yet to accomplish as an NHLer.
Seth Jones, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin were locked in, but we saw Josh Anderson, Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand rotating in. Bjorkstrand probably has the upper hand here, but Anderson would be spicy considering he also skates on the top line.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Blue Jackets move towards some three-forward looks when Werenski returns. Werenski remains day-to-day with a mystery injury speculated to be a back ailment. I wonder if this is the sort of injury that lingers and saps a player’s efficacy. There’s no question that Jones has been the better of the two top defensemen.
I have discussed the irrelevance of who plays on the Blue Jacket power play because they have been so bad, but last night ended a four-game streak of scoring a PP goal. They have gone 5/23 over the last seven games. All they need to boost their players is to be run-of-the-mill bad, which is achievable.
I continue to be smitten with Dubois. He has 11 points in 13 games this month, which would have relevance in just about every league, especially since he has winger eligibility with certain providers. He is available in 70% of Yahoo leagues and could help a lot of fantasy teams.
Break up the Bruins’ second line! Boston laid five goals on the Senators with all five coming from the second line of Danton Heinen, Riley Nash and David Backes. Heinen is easily the most interesting of the trio. He has run his point total up to 24 in 31 games. He has five goals and 12 points in 12 games this month.
I still don’t think we’re looking at sustainable relevance for fantasy owners because of his reduced PP usage. All the same, we’re talking 15-16 minutes per game with secondary PP time. In the average league, he’ll fade from relevance at some point, but you can use him while he’s hot! In particular, I’ve made some hay with Heinen in daily fantasy.
Perhaps you jump to the Heinen option now that Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris are cooling off in Nashville. Fiala has gone two straight without a point, but Turris has run it up to four straight, which is more concerning. I’m not quite done with this duo, but I don’t mind keeping a short leash with them as their opportunity on the Preds is reduced. I do expect to be dropping Fiala at some point.
It may be time to jump back in with Justin Faulk. The opportunity has been there all season, but shooting percentages have not been in his favour. He has points in three straight games. We’re going streaking!
The official timeline for Tyson Barrie is 4-6 weeks following surgery to repair a broken hand. I also wonder how effective he’ll be coming off that surgery. We have seen players like Brendan Gallagher tank in efficacy after hand surgery. He should have the legs when he returns, but will he have the dexterity?
Erik Johnson took over PP1 duties with Barrie out. There is some big time potential here. He notched an assist in 26 minutes of action. Mind you, Johnson has been logging heavy minutes all year but the PP1 time and the exposure to Nathan MacKinnon will help him gain relevance over the next month and a half. Johnson has already been piling up peripheral stats and is on pace for 231 SOG. He won’t fully replace Barrie, but is adequate.
Corey Crawford is on the IR once again, with an undisclosed injury. Last time he missed a week with a lower-body injury, but there’s no sense in speculating at how long this will be. If the timeline is weeks, not days, then the timing isn’t great. Chicago has the late bye week and is off January 15-19. Ideally, Crawford would miss time during the Blackhawks’ bye week, but it would have to be serious for him to miss a month.
In the meantime, Anton Forsberg is your uninspiring replacement option. Jeff Glass has been recalled from the AHL and boasts modest numbers, but we won’t see him unless Forsberg is a trainwreck (possible) or Crawford is out for an extended period.
Forsberg is 1-4-3 with a GAA of 3.13. The Blackhawks play their next four games on the road. This is a nightmare scenario.
Zac Rinaldo’s six-game suspension won’t have much fantasy impact, if any, but I’ll have to admit that I was hoping for a much larger penalty. My stance on this doesn’t has less to do with the specific play and more to do with my disdain for the enforcer role, which is thankfully getting phased out of the game. The NHL has the fastest professional sport going, it doesn’t need goons interrupting the breath-taking action. I’d have thrown the book at him, but mostly because he represents the type of player I no longer have any time for.
Check out Cam Robinson’s latest prospect ramblings with a bunch of World Junior coverage.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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