One of the only concerns that has come with drafting Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos in recent fantasy seasons is his injury history. Unfortunately, his season has taken another turn for the worse.
Stamkos sustained a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings and reportedly is expected to have arthroscopic knee surgery. The exact timetable remains unclear, but the possibility Stamkos could miss months could put his fantasy owners in a serious dilemma. Stamkos missed the tail end of the 2015-16 regular season and most of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs because of a blood clot, and was limited to 37 games in 2013-14 because of a broken leg.
The Lightning captain was off to his best start in years, ranking second overall in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. He is among the League leaders in points (20, tied for third in NHL), power-play points (seven, tied for ninth) and shots on goal (58, tied for ninth). Stamkos was playing frequently alongside fellow top five fantasy asset Nikita Kucherov, but now the Lightning and fantasy owners have to go back to the drawing board to try to salvage their seasons.
Read: Steven Stamkos to have surgery on right knee
One fantasy beneficiary from this development is Tyler Johnson (C, 58 percent owned), who had a 72-point, plus-33, 203-SOG season alongside Kucherov last season. Johnson likely will move back up to first-line center in addition to playing significant power-play time. The Lightning also are expected to welcome back Jonathan Drouin (LW/RW, 68 percent) on their current road trip; he becomes a must-own player in all formats considering how well he played during Stamkos' absence last spring.
Video: NYI@TBL: Johnson buries one-timer to tally PPG
Valtteri Filppula (C/LW, 11 percent owned) should be elevated to the second line and could reunite with Drouin and Ondrej Palat (LW, 39 percent owned), a line combination that thrived last postseason. Vladislav Namestnikov (C/LW, 8 percent owned) has been playing well of late alongside Stamkos and Kucherov with one goal, three assists and two PPP in his past four games, and is even averaging 2:36 of power-play time per game (five PPP). There's a good chance Namestnikov, Palat or Alex Killorn (C/LW, 37 percent owned) will flank Johnson and Kucherov on the first line moving forward.
If you're unable to scoop up an in-house replacement option, there are high-end players available in many leagues. The center-eligible left wings we recommended to replace injured forwards Johnny Gaudreau and/or Taylor Hall certainly apply if available, but here are more options depending on your league format:
Mitchell Marner, C/RW, TOR (54 percent owned): Marner, on a team with fellow rookies Auston Matthews and William Nylander, has emerged as a Calder Trophy candidate for the Toronto Maple Leafs with 15 points and 45 SOG in 16 games. He had a monster game Tuesday against the Nashville Predators, scoring three points and helping linemate James van Riemsdyk get a hat trick. The 19-year-old is a star in the making and also has the power-play usage (2:08 per game) and keeper-league upside to make him arguably the best outside replacement option for Stamkos.
Video: PHI@TOR: Marner's shot from the slot sneaks through
Eric Staal, C, MIN (46 percent owned): Staal has 13 points, a plus-6 and 45 SOG in 15 games alongside mostly Charlie Coyle (C/RW, 26 percent owned) for the Minnesota Wild, and could get an added boost with the return of left wing Zach Parise. Staal is far from the 70-100 point player he was earlier in his career, but has a strong chance at 55-60 if he stays healthy. His ownership is way too low given his bounce-back production to this point. He has the lowest ownership among centers in Yahoo's performance-based top 50.
Alexander Wennberg, C, CBJ (37 percent owned): Speaking of low ownership, it continues to baffle our fantasy staff to see Wennberg still available in just about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. He did not have a point Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, but has put forth elite production in three standard categories thus far (15 points, plus-7, eight PPP in 14 games). He's on the top line and first power-play unit for the Columbus Blue Jackets with Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson. Although his SOG volume is low (15), his performance in other categories speaks for itself.
Kyle Turris, C, OTT (34 percent owned): The Ottawa Senators have started slow offensively (2.19 goals per game, 27th in NHL), but Turris has left nothing to be desired from a goal-scoring standpoint with eight in 16 games (tied for eighth). He's playing alongside Bobby Ryan at even strength and leads Senators forwards in ice time per game (19:39). His low assist total (two) could spike once defenseman Erik Karlsson and the Senators get rolling.
Video: OTT@PHI: Turris slides in wraparound to tie game late
Sam Reinhart, C/RW, BUF (27 percent owned): Reinhart is a long-term fantasy investment who could pay off down the line once center Jack Eichel returns from his ankle injury. Reinhart scored 23 goals last season as a rookie for the Buffalo Sabres, with a good chunk coming alongside Eichel in the second half of the season. Reinhart has been moved back and forth from center to wing during Eichel's absence and other injuries to Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly, but is averaging 2:50 per game on the power play, scoring four of his seven points with the man-advantage. His shooting percentage (8.3) should improve over time, and Reinhart could re-emerge as a top 75 forward by the end of the season.
Victor Rask, C, CAR (25 percent owned): Rask remains among the top 100 fantasy assets based on performance, and has responded from a four-game slump with two goals and 11 SOG in his past three games. He has been a fixture alongside Jeff Skinner all season, and plays on the Carolina Hurricanes first power-play unit as well (2:25 per game). He's available in three-quarters of Yahoo leagues and is yet another No. 1 center who could help you replace Stamkos.
Video: ANA@CAR: Rask nets one-timer to trim the deficit
Travis Konecny, C/LW, PHI (19 percent owned): Konecny is not on the Philadelphia Flyers first power play unit (1:49 per game, two PPP), but provides fantasy owners with the even-strength exposure to Jakub Voracek, one of the most valuable fantasy players League-wide. Konecny, one of six rookie forwards to hit double digits in points (others: Patrik Laine, Marner, Nylander, Matthews, Jimmy Vesey), is by far the least owned player of the bunch. He has been racking up SOG of late, totaling 11 in his past three games and 42 on the season (fourth among rookie forwards).
Travis Zajac, C, NJD (11 percent owned): Zajac's value could take a hit with the injury to his linemate Hall, but he's still the New Jersey Devils top center and should chip in points semi-frequently. He has 10 points in 15 games with three on the power play, and his SOG volume has been higher (2.4 per game) compared to his career average (1.9). He's one of the few players on this list to average more than three minutes per game (3:05) on the power play, and should reunite with Hall upon his return in the next month.