The NHL All-Star break is nearly upon us and the annual gap in the schedule presents a great opportunity to assess your fantasy squad and determine your plan of action for the remainder of the year. In keeper leagues, the decision typically revolves around whether to make a run at a title or sell-off assets in an effort to build for the future while the focus in redraft formats should simply be to project the final third of the year and identify areas of weakness in your lineup.
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Despite how it may have looked in real-time, the Penguins appear hopeful that Kris Letang will escape serious injury after he was hit from behind by the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo Tuesday. Whether the talented blueliner is able to play in Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks or not, this most recent ailment offers us another chance to walk through the potential impact of a Letang injury on the rest of the Pittsburgh defense corps. Because Letang typically serves as the only defenseman on the five-man top power play unit, his absence earlier in the season opened up an opportunity for Christian Ehrhoff to see premium minutes, however that wasn’t the case against the Flyers Tuesday. After their usual quarterback left the game, the Penguins called on Paul Martin to run their man advantage and he stands to be the biggest beneficiary if Letang misses an extended stretch. Owned in just 3 percent of Yahoo leagues, Martin could see his fantasy stock skyrocket if this were to materialize and is probably worth a speculative add in deeper formats right away.
Sticking with the Pens, it was revealed Tuesday that winger Patric Hornqvist is set to begin skating again next week, meaning his return to game action could happen shortly thereafter. To those that worry his return could be damaging to the fantasy value of David Perron, I don’t share the same concerns. Ignoring the fact that Hornqvist’s track record suggests he might be back on the sidelines with an injury again before the season is over, I believe strongly that Pittsburgh can support multiple scoring wingers. Perron has amassed seven points in as many contests with the Penguins and has fired 33 shots on goal during that span so I’m confident he’ll remain productive whether he lines up alongside Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
In last week’s column, I identified Mike Green as an exceptional value in DFS games because of his explosive potential and his recent string of games further supports this argument. It’s no secret that Green has a history of injury issues, but what also can’t be denied is the fact that he’s among the very best fantasy commodities when he's healthy. Though he has missed eight games already this season, he remains in the top 20 scorers among defenseman, on pace for nearly 60 points over a full campaign. In addition, his nine points in 10 games during the month of January rank him fourth in the NHL among rearguards, behind only Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Streit and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The already-anemic Arizona Coyotes were dealt another blow earlier this week when it was announced that leading scorer Mikkel Boedker would be sidelined for about four-six weeks after undergoing surgery to remove his spleen. If this news has you considering ignoring the team entirely from a fantasy perspective, I’m here to tell you not to do that. The holes created by absent forwards can be filled by other members of the club who may present value, although their plus/minus ratings may be a little shaky. Judging by the team’s deployment in Tuesday’s loss to Chicago, it would seem that the trio of Antoine Vermette, Shane Doan and Tobias Rieder will get the first shot at top power play minutes, although I can’t recommend Rieder in anything but the deepest of formats. In addition, Sam Gagner and Martin Hanzal could step up in Boedker’s absence and take on a larger share of the scoring load. The good news is that no Arizona forward is owned in greater than 30 percent of leagues so there’s a good chance you can roster one or two of them if you so choose.
This may be the perfect time to try acquiring Bruins phenom David Pastrnak, who carries just a 20 percent ownership rate at the moment. After he burst onto the scene with a pair of two-goal efforts last week, the 18-year-old Czech has been held scoreless in his last three outings, but I wouldn’t let that scare me away. He continues to play on Boston’s top line alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci so the scoring opportunities should eventually find their way onto his stick and he’s still not a household name so getting your hands on him might not be that much of a challenge. It’s rare that a player with this much potential is so readily available this late in the season. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.
Here’s your reminder that Winnipeg has activated Jacob Trouba from injured reserve and that you should go pick him up if he is available in your league. Before he suffered an upper-body injury over a month ago, Trouba was very quietly in the midst of a 10-game stretch in which he had recorded eight points, a plus-2 rating, six penalty minutes and 24 shots on goal. He doesn’t receive the fanfare of certain other “big-name” defensemen, but I assure you he’ll become more popular very soon. This 39-percent ownership rate won’t last long.
Bargain Bin Finds
As always, this space is reserved to highlight players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Chris Stewart (6 percent) – He has been a terrible disappointment this season, but with Buffalo willing to sell anything that isn’t nailed down, it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll be in another uniform by trade deadline day. His combination of scoring ability and toughness give him the potential to be a solid fantasy contributor with his next team.
David Desharnais (13 percent) – The playmaking center is a streaky scorer and his ownership rate typically trends in accordance with his play. With three points in his last two games, Desharnais seems like he may be embarking on another hot streak so why not grab him before his stock rises?
Mike Fisher (17 percent) – There was a time that playing for the Predators might have been a good justification for why a player was underrated by the fantasy community, but in this day and age, especially with the recent success enjoyed by Nashville, that’s not a valid excuse. Fisher may have missed the first six weeks of the season, but he has been exceptional since joining the team. Prorated over a full 82 games, he’s on pace for 32 goals and 32 assists, yet remains available in over 80 percent of leagues. Go figure.