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Fantasy buzz: Third-line forwards making impact

Backes-Heinen duo, Gourde worth adding; Wennberg, Niederreiter injury updates

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

 
DraftKings value picks for Thursday

CENTER:

Value pick: Mark Jankowski, CGY ($3,300 at TBL): The Calgary Flames rookie has solidified his spot as the their third-line center. Jankowski has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 34 games this year, but has five points (two goals, three assists) and has seen his ice time increase to 15:12 per game over the past 10 games. He centers a line with forward Sam Bennett and wing Garnet Hathaway and also plays on a talented second power-play unit with Bennett, Micheal Ferland and defensemen T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton. Calgary's third line has some against-the-grain value against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SUN, SNW, NHL.TV).

Video: LAK@CGY: Jankowski ties the game with bunt off stick

Spend up for: Nicklas Backstrom, WSH ($6,400 vs. CAR)

WING:

Value pick: Alex Killorn, TBL ($3,500 vs. CGY): The Tampa Bay Lightning wing has provided DFS value with three points (one goal, two assists) in the past five games for an average of 2.6 DraftKings points per game. Killorn plays on Tampa Bay's third line with forwards Vladislav Namestnikov (two points in past five games) and Yanni Gourde (five points in past five games). The trio will also play together on the Lightning's second power-play unit against the Flames on Thursday.

Spend up for: Artemi Panarin, CBJ ($6,500 at BUF)

DEFENSEMAN:

Value pick: Markus Nutivaara, CBJ ($3,000 at BUF): The Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman has seen his ice time rise to 20:06 per game over the past 10 games. He has three assists and 15 shots over that stretch. Nutivaara has already more than doubled his point total with 15 in 37 games compared to last season (seven in 66 games). Nutivaara now plays on the Blue Jackets second pairing with David Savard and occupies the point position on the second power-play unit. Columbus has a favorable matchup at the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, FS-O, NHL.TV), especially considering they'll be facing Linus Ullmark in his season debut.

Video: NYI@CBJ: Nutivaara puts in loose puck to extend lead

Spend up for: Seth Jones, CBJ ($5,800 at BUF)

GOALTENDER:

Mike Smith, CGY ($7,100 at TBL): Fantasy owners looking for a creative DFS play should ride the hot hand with Smith, who's seeking his fifth straight win when the Flames visit the Lightning on Thursday. Smith has allowed 10 goals on 132 shots faced (.924 save percentage) in the span. The Lightning rank ninth in shots on goal per game (33.2), so Smith will have plenty of opportunity to rack up DraftKings points and could even return value in a loss.

 

Injury updates to fantasy-relevant players

Nino Niederreiter, LW/RW, MIN: The Minnesota Wild forward (45 percent owned in Yahoo) will miss one week with a lower-body injury. Niederreiter has 19 points (13 goals, six assists) in 33 games. He scored a hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 4 but did not have a point against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and has missed the past two games. Wild forward Zach Parise (54 percent) will take his place on the second line with center Eric Staal (81 percent) and wing Tyler Ennis (2 percent). Parise played 17:53 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, his highest total in five games since returning Jan. 2 after recovering from back surgery. Parise had one shot on goal and played 3:23 on the power play on Wednesday.

Alexander Wennberg, C, CBJ: The Columbus Blue Jackets center has been activated off injured reserve Thursday. Wennberg (24 percent owned) sustained a back injury Dec. 21 that had him projected to miss 4-6 weeks. After a slow start, Wennberg had five points (two goals, three assists) in the five games prior to his injury. He led the Blue Jackets in assists (46, 21 on power play) last season. It's unlikely Wennberg will take rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois' spot as No. 1 center, but fantasy owners should monitor this situation closely because Wennberg could center a line with right wing Cam Atkinson (46 percent owned) once the latter returns from a fractured foot. Wennberg could return against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, FS-O, NHL.TV) and has a low price of $4,400 in DraftKings.

Video: TOR@CBJ: Wennberg picks the corner on a two-on-one

 

Third-line forwards worth adding in most leagues

Fantasy hockey usually revolves around top-six forwards and thsose who see first power-play usage, but here are three players who are returning value in third-line roles:

Danton Heinen, C/LW/RW, BOS: With 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 36 games, Heinen (39 percent owned) has been one of the most-productive third-liners in the League. The Boston Bruins rookie forward has six points (one goal, five assists) in his past five games. The Bruins third line of Heinen, Riley Nash (1 percent), and David Backes (47 percent) combined for 15 points during the stretch. Heinen's points-per-game average (0.83) ranks third among rookies behind Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (1.00) and New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (0.90). Heinen has seen time on Boston's top power-play unit; the Bruins rank tied for ninth in power-play percentage (20.8).

David Backes, C/RW, BOS: Since returning Nov. 29 after colon surgery, Backes (47 percent owned) has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 18 games. He ranks 37th in Yahoo over the past 30 days. He started the season with no goals and one assist in five games, but his resurgence can be attributed to forming chemistry with Heinen, who ranks 41st in Yahoo over the same 18-game stretch. Backes has earned a spot on Boston's second power-play unit with forwards David Krejci (21 percent), Jake DeBrusk (4 percent), Ryan Spooner (3 percent) and defenseman Charlie McAvoy (68 percent) and brings added value in hits leagues (54 in 23 games).

Video: BOS@PIT: Backes finds twine from the boards

Yanni Gourde, C/RW, TBL: The Tampa Bay Lightning rookie forward was off the fantasy radar in the preseason but is among Yahoo's top 100 overall based on standard-category performance (92nd). Overshadowed by teammates Nikita Kucherov (1st in Yahoo), Steven Stamkos (3rd), Brayden Point (39th) and Vladislav Namestnikov (45th), Gourde has established himself as reliable fantasy option regardless of his linemates. He's averaging 16:13 and centering a third line with wings Alex Killorn (8 percent owned) and Namestnikov (85 percent). Gourde also averages 1:59 per game on the power play, where he skates on Tampas' second unit with Tyler Johnson (C/RW, 65 percent, 93rd in Yahoo). He's priced at $4,300 in DraftKings against the Calgary Flames on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SUN, SNW, NHL.TV).

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