Defenseman Jake Muzzin has been cleared to play and is likely to see his first action since sustaining an upper-body injury during the preseason when the Los Angeles Kings host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, according to Jon Rosen of lakingsinsider.com.
While Muzzin should be owned in most leagues, fantasy owners tend to be impatient early in the season. As a result, he's only owned in 37 percent of leagues. That's way too low considering how many games are left to play and how impressive he has been to this point in his NHL career.
Muzzin, who had six goals, six assists and 48 shots on goal in 26 games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Stanley Cup champion Kings, returns after missing their first six games. And boy could their offense use another source of scoring from the blue line.
Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk will make his season debut Tuesday at the Montreal Canadiens after missing four weeks with a separated shoulder. Fantasy owners know their lineups will get a boost from the slick-skating Russian, who is averaging just under a point per game over 12 seasons in the NHL, but how Datsyuk's teammates statistics will be affected is something to keep an eye on.
Datsyuk practiced at left wing Tuesday with Henrik Zetterberg at center, though Datsyuk said they could switch at times during the game.
Offensive contributions from defensemen have often been considered a bonus for NHL and fantasy hockey teams alike.
There is an increasing need in the NHL for defensemen to not only prevent scoring chances but also play a larger role in creating them and because of that, dependable fantasy options have emerged.
With so few high-scoring defensemen out there, the scramble to find that diamond in the rough usually starts within the first few weeks of the fantasy season. Any player that shows the slightest spark early on gets watched closely and quickly snatched up. If there is room on your roster, then strong consideration should be made for New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman Damon Severson (Yahoo ownership: 19 percent).
Gibson will have a two-game stint with the Norfolk Admirals to stay fresh while Frederik Andersen (3-0-0; six goals allowed this season) rides his hot streak. Gibson is expected to return to the Ducks after his short reassignment; until then, Jason LaBarbera will be Andersen's backup.
Anyone who watched the Ducks in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs knows coach Bruce Boudreau will not sit back and watch after his team loses. Boudreau likes to change things up, and that goes for line combinations and goalie starters. He will stick with the hot hand and is not afraid to tinker with something that is not working out.
Sometimes, all an experienced player requires are a few upstart young players skating on his line to start feeling like a kid again.
The Montreal Canadiens are off to their first 3-0-0 start since 2005-06 thanks in part to the strong play of veteran center Tomas Plekanec (Yahoo ownership: 40 percent) between second-year forward Alex Galchenyuk and rookie Jiri Sekac. The second line has combined for five of Montreal's 10 goals, with Plekanec scoring four goals and assisting Galchenyuk on the game-tying goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, erasing a 3-0 deficit and ending in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Canadiens.
Dan Boyle, owned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues, sustained a broken hand and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. It's only two days into the regular season and fantasy owners are already scouring the waiver wire.
The veteran defenseman logged 2:26 of power-play ice time in the Rangers opener and finished with a plus-1 rating, two shots on goal, two penalty minutes and one hit before exiting the game. While he still provides some peripheral category coverage when healthy, fantasy owners were banking on him to be a source of production with the man advantage after scoring 12 goals (six power-play) and 18 power-play points in 75 games with the San Jose Sharks in 2013-14.
Luckily, there are a number of readily available defensemen who have gotten off to fast starts. Here are four of them who, as projected in NHL.com's offseason fantasy content, enter the 2014-15 season with important roles to play for their respective teams.
Fantasy owners are faced with a substantial void to fill in their lineups after the Carolina Hurricanes announced Monday that forward Jeff Skinner sustained his third concussion since the 2011-12 season. Skinner, who holds dual eligibility in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues as a left wing and right wing, left the final preseason game in the first period Sunday after the injury.
It will be hard to replace a player of Skinner's ability after he put up top-10 numbers in goals, shots on goal (274) and power-play goals (11) last season, but there should be a few capable players available on the waiver wire to help bridge the gap.
The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Ryan Johansen fourth overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, but it wasn't until the 2013-14 season that the 22-year-old center finally delivered. It took some time, but Johansen seems to have been worth that pick. It took more time for Johansen to work out his contract, but like his draft selection, the wait will be worth it if you've already drafted him on your fantasy team.
Now the question is, what can owners expect from the talented Johansen?
Johansen finished his first full NHL season in 2013-14 with 33 goals, 30 assists, a plus-3 rating, 43 penalty minutes, 20 power play points and 237 shots on goal in 82 games. He was the 38th-most valuable fantasy player in Yahoo leagues, and proved to be arguably the biggest breakout player of the season.
Coming into the 2014-15 season with his contract status still undetermined, NHL.com fantasy insiders ranked Johansen as high as 41st overall and as low as 67th back on September 1. At the moment, he is currently being drafted on average in the seventh round at pick No. 72.7. Clearly, fantasy owners have been getting a discount on him due to his contract holdup. That number will change now.
Entering Saturday, Nick Leddy's Yahoo average draft position was 162.6 and his ownership was 16 percent.
That'll change in a hurry.
After being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the New York Islanders minutes after the Islanders acquired Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins, Leddy becomes a favorite to earn top-unit power-play minutes for his new team. Considering that unit includes top-10 fantasy asset John Tavares along with Kyle Okposo, Mikhail Grabovski and Frans Nielsen, this is quite a development on the fantasy landscape.
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