You might think the universe would have granted us a bit of reprieve from the injury bug over the NHL’s three-day holiday break. You’d be wrong.
Though the Nashville Predators welcomed back two impactful fantasy players in P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson, the Montreal Canadiens announced that Carey Price wasn’t accompanying them on the road, Taylor Hall‘s injury prevented him from suiting up for the Devils on Thursday and Anaheim’s John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury. We also learned Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, who was leading all defensemen in goals before he was hurt, will miss a full three months after undergoing surgery.
Price has led all goaltenders in wins in December and has been much better after a rough start in October. Losing him and Gibson for any significant time would mean fantasy leagues would be down two surefire No. 1 goaltenders. Neither the Canadiens nor the Anaheim Ducks have anything close to a replacement-level goalie ready to take over. Antti Niemi will get the next few starts for Montreal, but he has been atrocious so far this season. The Ducks are down to Chad Johnson in net, as Ryan Miller is also on the injured reserve. If Price and/or Gibson need to miss more than a week, you will have to find a replacement because neither Niemi nor Johnson is going to cut the mustard, either in the short- or long-term.
Dumba’s injury is very disappointing, as he was on pace for a true breakout campaign. He had a chance to be the first defenseman to crack 30 goals since Mike Green did it back in 2008-09. Though Jared Spurgeon will push into fantasy-relevant territory with the added ice time and opportunity, he won’t come close to replicating Dumba’s value. If you are looking for someone with a chance to get closer to Dumba’s potential, Darnell Nurse is still available in half of the ESPN leagues and has put together a pretty impressive December with Oscar Klefbom out of the lineup. Nurse has scored three goals, with a total of 11 points and 36 shots in 12 games.
As for Hall, this is the second time that this lingering issue has kept him out of the lineup. We could be in for more of these absences in the future if Hall doesn’t get himself better. It’s especially concerning because he didn’t play following an extended rest over the holiday break. Jesper Bratt gets elevated to the top line whenever Hall is out, so he could be on the radar in deeper leagues.
That’s all the bad news. The good news is that Subban and Arvidsson are back. Arvidsson is immediately in the mix as a top-100 skater, but may need Filip Forsberg to also return from injury before he starts returning those dividends. Nashville eased Subban back into the lineup with minimal minutes, but he should be up to speed soon enough. He’s a top-50 fantasy play at full speed and could be a buy-low candidate if you act fast.
And this just in: the Boston Bruins may be without both Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy on Saturday. Will it never end? Hopefully Marchand, at least, can recover in time to play in Tuesday’s outdoor game.
Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 31-Jan. 6
Highlights from teams playing four games: Things ramp back up following a short week, with 14 teams playing a four-game schedule. In fact, five of those 14 teams have no back-to-back sets involved. Of those sides, three have goaltenders who could very well start all four games. As a result, Ben Bishop, Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard are the top goaltending choices for the week. The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins also have the “stacked and spaced” schedule, but their goaltending situations aren’t nearly as stable or as strong. … At the other extreme for the four-game teams, the Predators play a pair of back-to-back sets. That could mean a two-game week for Juuse Saros, which is always intriguing for fantasy.
Teams playing two games: Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have a reduced schedule this coming week, playing at home against the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks. But Toronto’s top fantasy assets are good enough that you aren’t going to sit Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner or Morgan Rielly. You could, however, opt to sit Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen on a case-by-case basis.
Highlights from teams playing three games: Sergei Bobrovsky is the only starter with a three-game schedule who is likely only going to be playing twice due to a back-to-back set. The rest of the three-game goaltenders have at least a chance to start all three, given the spacing of off days. … We also have the Winter Classic on the docket, with the Bruins and Blackhawks meeting outdoors on the campus of Notre Dame.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense) and “D” (defense) matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
Every week, the focus in the notes below will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. The generalized cutoff is that a player is rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, but this space will also include players below 10 percent whenever possible to try to cater to deeper formats.
New York Rangers: In addition to Lundqvist being positioned as one of the top goaltending options this week, New York’s offense also boasts significant potential given a four-game schedule with rests between each game. Kevin Hayes should be chief among your targets, as he is red hot and widely available. Hayes has points in eight consecutive games, with five goals and 10 assists in that span. He’s also available in just shy of half of ESPN leagues. As he plays with Chris Kreider both on and off the power play, Hayes is worth riding until the well dries up.
Carolina Hurricanes: It took a while, but Andrei Svechnikov is finally getting a chance on a stacked top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. He played 18 minutes on Thursday and fired four shots on goal. It helps his standing that Jordan Staal has been out, but even with Staal in the mix, Svechnikov should get an extended look. That bodes well for the coming week, as the Hurricanes boast one of the best offensive schedules on the Forecaster.
J.T. Compher, W/C, Colorado Avalanche: Could it be that the Avalanche finally have a player ready to contribute with the “big three” on the power play? With the team trying Tyson Jost, Alexander Kerfoot, Matt Calvert, Sven Andrighetto, Colin Wilson and basically anybody else who owns a pair of skates as the fourth forward on the power play, it’s surprising that no one has seized the opportunity to share the ice alongside Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Compher has four power-play points in his past seven games and seven total points in that span. With the rate at which the top trio has scored, it’s worth speculating that his production will continue.
Bryan Rust, W, Pittsburgh Penguins: While it was Jake Guentzel getting a lucrative long-term contract this week, Sidney Crosby‘s other winger is the one you want to pick up in your fantasy league. Available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues, Rust was clicking with Crosby prior to the holiday break. Although he was held off the scoresheet on Thursday, Rust came into that game with 11 points in his previous seven outings.