There's no question that rookie Nathan MacKinnon and new coach Patrick Roy stole the spotlight in their sparkling debuts for the Colorado Avalanche, but Wednesday's 6-1 rout of the Anaheim Ducks also made it clear Steve Downie can be an asset to both his team and fantasy owners.
Operating on the team's top line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, Downie kicked off the season with a Gordie Howe hat trick (one goal, one assist, five PIMs), with both of his points coming on the power play. He also added four shots on goal and two hits in the win.
Colorado's depth up front, showcased by NHL.com leading up to the season with a League-leading nine forwards in its top 300 fantasy player pool, was evident all night long in a virtuoso offensive display. It was merely one game, but four of Downie's teammates -- MacKinnon, O'Reilly, Jamie McGinn and Alex Tanguay -- joined him in recording multi-point games on opening night.
But while each component of the Avalanche's top three lines brings his share of fantasy upside to the table, Downie brings physicality and a touch of scoring on a daily basis. Colorado simply lacked such an element last season when Downie missed 46 of 48 games due to a knee injury.
Owned in only 13 percent of Yahoo Fantasy leagues, this dual-eligible forward (LW/RW) showed great chemistry with O'Reilly after being traded to the Avalanche during the 2011-12 season. That season, split between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Avalanche, Downie was one of only eight players League-wide to record 40-plus points and 100-plus PIMs.
It seems that despite missing such a large chunk of time last season due to injury, Downie picked up right where he left off upon his return to the ice.
As noted in my preseason injury bounce-back piece, the category coverage and position flexibility of Downie make him worth considering in any league that takes points and penalty minutes into account.