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Fantasy injury bounce-back candidates for 2018-19

Pacioretty, Shattenkirk, Varlamov trying to return to form after difficult season

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com identifies 10 injury bounce-back candidates for the 2018-19 season: players who missed at least 16 games because of but could be in line for a return to previous levels of production. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

NOTE: Players are listed in order of NHL.com rank. Non-injury bounce-back candidates were identified in a separate list.


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FORWARDS

Max Pacioretty, LW, Vegas Golden Knights

NHL.com rank: 62

Pacioretty gains an instant boost after being traded to the Golden Knights from the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 9 and could be a top 50 fantasy player. He had been one of the most consistent goal-scoring forwards in the NHL over the past four seasons prior to missing the final 18 games with a knee injury in 2017-18. His 141 goals from 2013-17 were the fourth most (Alex Ovechkin, 187; Joe Pavelski, 145; Sidney Crosby, 144) and he was one of two players (Ovechkin) to score at least 30 goals in each of those seasons. Pacioretty, 29, had at least 30 goals, 60 points, 32 PIM, 11 PPP, six game-winning goals, and 268 SOG in four straight seasons before the injury, which limited him to 64 games where he had 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) and was minus-16. If healthy, Pacioretty could score 30-plus goals playing on a Vegas team loaded with offense.

Video: Potential bounce back players for 2018-2019

Cam Atkinson, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets

NHL.com rank: 112

Atkinson was had a foot injury which caused him to miss a month of the season. Despite missing time, he still scored 24 goals - his fifth-straight 20-goal season - was plus-19 (NHL career-high), and had 231 SOG, nine fewer than he had in 17 more games in 2016-17. Atkinson also was a point-per game player (33 points in 33 games) after returning from the injury in January. Playing on the first line with center Pierre-Luc Dubois and left wing Artemi Panarin and top power-play unit should benefit the 29-year-old who covers every category except PIM (he had 14 PIM last season and his career high is 22).

Jeff Carter, C, Los Angeles Kings

NHL.com rank: 120

After missing close to four months of the season (55 games) with a leg injury, Carter returned and made an immediate impact with 19 points (13 goals, six assists) in 21 games. He also had six power-play goals, nine PPP and averaged more than three SOG per game. Carter, who had scored at least 21 goals in each of the 10 seasons prior, will return to his role on the top power-play unit which means exposure to elite fantasy players Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk and Drew Doughty. Centering the second line between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli also should help Carter top 60 points.

Nino Niederreiter, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild

NHL.com rank: 161

The top-line wing missed three games in four seasons prior to missing 19 with a left ankle sprain in 2017-18. He still managed to score 18 goals in 63 games, which projects to 23 in an 82-game season. Niederreiter had seven PPG last season, tied for second on the team despite missing significant time. The 25-year-old is a plus-54 in five seasons with Minnesota and has had least 36 PIM in four of the past five seasons. If he can increase his SOG volume (1.89 per game in his NHL career) he could be a significant category coverage contributor.

Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks

NHL.com rank: 183

Thornton went from 82 points in 2015-16 to 50 in 2016-17, and was on pace for 60 points last season before a knee injury cut his season short, limiting him to 47 games. The 39-year-old had been remarkably consistent and durable, missing 13 games in 12 seasons prior. Thornton is always good for assists and PPP, although his SOG totals are low. He should slot into the first-line center role flanking elite fantasy forwards Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane, which should boost Thornton's stock upon his return. Having defenseman Erik Karlsson as a teamate, who was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13, should also help.

Video: Joe Thornton re-signs with the Sharks for one year

David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins

NHL.com rank: 230

The 32-year-old veteran center had a solid season despite missing 18 games with an upper-body injury (17 goals, 27 assists, plus-10, 13 PPP). A second-line center, Krejci has upside because of the Bruins' uptick in scoring the past two seasons - they ranked sixth in goals scored (267) in 2017-18 - and because he plays on one of the team's top two power-play units (which ranked fourth in the League last season). He's also shown the ability to score in big games, scoring more than 20 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011 and 2013 when Boston advanced to the final. Krejci had 10 points in 12 playoff games last season and is a valuable late-round center option when healthy.
 
 

DEFENSEMEN

Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers

NHL.com rank: 188

Even when healthy, more was expected from Shattenkirk, who signed a four-year contract with the New York Rangers on July 1, 2017. He had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists), including 12 on the power play, but was minus-14. Shattenkirk missed 36 games with a knee injury, and didn't score a goal in his final 30 games. With the Rangers in a rebuilding mode, the 29-year-old will anchor the top pair and should see high time on ice, especially on the power play. If he can keep the plus-minus from trending downward, Shattenkirk could be valuable as a category specialist. Consider him among the mid-to-late rounds in 12 team standard league drafts.

Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL.com rank: 225

The fantasy ceiling was high for Schultz entering last season after he set NHL career highs in goals (12), assists (39), points (51), plus-minus (plus-27), PPP (20) and SOG (154). He missed time with a lower-body injury last season, which limited him to 27 points in 63 games, but was plus-22. Schultz, 28, also had eight points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games His 3.7 shooting percentage was less than half of what it was in 2016-17 (7.6) but that could have been because of the injury. Schultz is on the sixth best fantasy team (LINK:https://www.nhl.com/news/2018-19-fantasy-hockey-team-power-rankings/c-299081864) according to NHL.com and his numbers should revert closer to 2016-17, if healthy.

Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers

NHL.com rank: N/R

It was a disappointing season for almost every Oilers player not named Connor McDavid. Coming off the best season of his NHL career (12 goals, 26 assists, 38 points, plus-7, 16 power-play points, 201 SOG), Klefbom was slowed by a shoulder injury. However, he saw an uptick in SOG, going from an average of 2.45 per game to 3.07 per game and had an increase in power-play ice time and shorthanded ice time. If the Oilers can fix their special teams woes (last in power-play percentage, 25th in penalty-killing percentage), the 25-year-old should improve upon his minus-12 last season.
 
 

GOALTENDER

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

NHL.com rank: 141

Injury concerns are always a question with Varlamov, who had two hip surgeries in 2016-17 and missed 18 games with a knee injury last season. Varlamov was 24-16-6 with a 2.68 GAA and .920 save percentage in 51 games (47 starts), and grew stronger as the season went on; in his final nine starts, he allowed one goal or fewer in six of them. However, even if healthy, he could find himself in a timeshare situation with Philipp Grubauer, who was acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 22. Varlamov will have his work cut out for him, but could be a low-risk, high-reward pick in the middle rounds. Fantasy owners that draft Varlamov could also draft Grubauer a round or two later as an insurance policy.

 

Other injury bounce-back candidates: Carey Price (G, MTL; 133); Chris Kreider (LW, NYR; 185); Kyle Palmieri (RW, NJD; 192); Mike Green (D, DET; 218); Ondrej Palat (LW, TBL; 208); Alexander Wennberg (C, CBJ; N/R); Zach Parise (LW, MIN; N/R).

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