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Fantasy reaction from 2019 NHL All-Stars

Rinne calls Ekholm one of most underrated players; O'Reilly: Blues feeding off Binnington; Yandle: Vatrano has staying power in top six

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

NHL.com has the fantasy hockey angles covered at NHL All-Star Game Media Day presented by adidas. All-stars from around the League reflected on their fantasy performances and the upside of their teammates for the rest of the season.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Fantasy all-stars for each teamRookie tracker

 

PLAYER REACTION TO FANTASY TRENDS

Arizona Coyotes: They may be dealing with long-term injuries to two of their most valuable players in goalie Antti Raanta and forward Nick Schmaltz, but NHL All-Star selection Clayton Keller believes forward Conor Garland and goalie Darcy Kuemper are more than capable of filling in.

"[Garland] goes to the net hard," Keller said. "He's been a good friend of mine while he's been up -- getting dinner together. He plays the right way and he's been getting rewarded. He's been huge for us.

Garland, 22, has 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in 23 games with the Coyotes this season. Kuemper, the highest ranked Arizona player in Yahoo, is 11-11-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 26 starts.

[Kuemper] is a great goalie. He works really hard and he's big in the net. When he's playing well, he doesn't let in too many goals. Whenever he's in the net, we're really confident in him and his ability."

 

Buffalo Sabres: Forward Jeff Skinner, a potential 2019 unrestricted free agent, credits elite center Jack Eichel for him being second in the NHL in goals (31) behind Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (37). Skinner went as far to say Eichel is the best linemate he has had in nine NHL seasons.

"It's probably the best production I've had [with a center], and he's probably the most talented player I've played with," Skinner said. "I don't know if you call that chemistry or talent, but I think for me -- reading off him is easy because he's so talented. The game seems slower for him, and as a result he draws people to him and he opens up space and time for everyone else on the ice, not just me, the defensemen and the other wingers."

Skinner said rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is another player he would like to play with for the rest of his NHL career.

Video: BUF@CGY: Dahlin blasts one-timer past Ullmark

"He's pretty good, yeah? I'd sign up to watch him too," Skinner said of Dahlin. "Seeing a guy that's 18 years old and a defenseman, obviously he's got a lot of adjustments coming to a new country and to see how he's sort of made that adjustment so seamlessly I think is a testament to his off-ice character. But on the ice, he's super talented. He's going to continue to get better and be fun to watch for a long time."

Dahlin has 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 50 games for Buffalo this season.

 

Calgary Flames: Elite left wing Johnny Gaudreau and frequent linemate Sean Monahan had rotating right wing linemates for years -- until Elias Lindholm came around. The three found instant chemistry early in the season and make up one of the highest-scoring units in the NHL, with Lindholm emerging as the biggest steal in all of fantasy. 

"Really skilled player, smart player and great teammate," Gaudreau said of Lindholm. "I can go up and down the list of the things he brings to our line, but I think for me personally, just the way he sees the ice. He can make plays, he's really really smart with the puck, he's got a great release and a great shot so he's really helped our line and we've really clicked. I try to find him as much as I can."

Lindholm is third on the Flames in scoring this season, behind Gaudreau (73 points) and Monahan (61), with 58 points (21 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games.

 

Dallas Stars: Defenseman Miro Heiskanen has taken on a heavy workload (23:06 per game) as a rookie and embraced the twists and turns of his NHL All-Star season. From helping the Stars survive multiple injuries to being a secondary scoring and defense option for a top-heavy team, Heiskanen is looking ahead toward the Stanley Cup Playoff push. 

"It's been great -- the whole experience," said the 19-year-old, who has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 50 games this season. "There were a lot of injuries and [defenseman John] Klingberg [and forward Alexander Radulov] were out, so everyone needed to step up and show what we can do and I think we did that pretty good. Now we have [Klingberg] back, so it's great for us. And it's been great to play with all three of those guys [forward Jamie Benn, center Tyler Seguin and Radulov]."

 

Florida Panthers: Defenseman Keith Yandle is a believer that the Panthers can put together another second-half push. He said center Vincent Trocheck, who returned to the lineup Jan. 18 after missing 27 games with a broken right ankle, was the missing piece that could tip the scale in Florida's favor the rest of the way. Trocheck has two goals and two assists in his first three games back, and Florida is 3-0-0.

Video: SJS@FLA: Trocheck nets second PPG in nine seconds

"I think obviously what [Trocheck] does on the ice is huge for us, but what other people don't see is what he brings to our group in the locker room," Yandle said. "He's an emotional guy. He brings that every single night. He comes to work every day at practice. When he's in the locker room he brings that certain aspect to our team that's obviously shown."

Florida has the lowest 5-on-5 shooting plus save percentage in the NHL, giving them plenty of room, not to mention desire, for improvement.

"That's the plan," Yandle said. "Getting [Trocheck] back and a few games before the break is huge. He's obviously been that guy to help us win three in a row against really good teams too. Going forward, we've got to play desperate."

Another key factor in Florida's recent surge has been forward Frank Vatrano, who already has NHL career-highs in goals (16), assists (10), points (26), power-play points (six) and shots on goal (125) and recently was promoted to the top line with valuable center Aleksander Barkov. Yandle said Vatrano has staying power in Florida's top six.

"I think [Vatrano] has that in him," Yandle said. "Skating with him before the season, obviously we got a little glimpse of him last year with our group, but he was coming off of an injury. Skating with him this summer, you could see what kind of a shot he has.

He's a fast kid and gets in on the forecheck. Putting him on a line with Barkov has really helped him out -- I mean, it would help anyone out playing with [Barkov] -- but it's really shown what he can do offensively in being able to shoot the puck and find the back of the net."

 

Nashville Predators: No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne raved about his protege Juuse Saros, who has been one of the most efficient backups in the NHL and is coming off a 47-save 2-1 win at the Vegas Golden Knights in Nashville's final game before 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.

Video: NSH@VGK: Saros stones Marchessault twice in front

Rinne, 36, agreed with the notion Saros is a security blanket for the Predators in the short and long term.

"A thousand percent, [Saros] is an amazing young goalie and he's a fun guy to work with," Rinne said. "He's a great partner. He's shown that so many times he can steal games like last night [at Vegas]. He has a bright future ahead of him. I think he's ready to just play -- play more games. He's just a great goalie."

Saros is 12-6-1 with a 2.58 GAA, .914 SV% and two shutouts in 21 games (17 starts) this season. 

Rinne also reflected on the unheralded production this season of defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who quietly leads Nashville defensemen, a group that features P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, in scoring and ranks 10th at the position with 37 points (six goals, 31 assists) in 51 games.

"To me, [Ekholm] is for sure [one of the most underrated players in the NHL]," Rinne said. "He could be here right now [at the NHL All-Star Game]. He should be. He's been just an absolute stud for us. He's so reliable.

When he's in the lineup, it's easy to take it for granted. But if you miss that guy, it shows. He's having a tremendous season, and I'm just very happy for him, the way he's playing and just how important he is to our team."

 

Philadelphia Flyers: Rookie Carter Hart, the youngest goalie in the NHL, appears to not only be the Flyers' option of the future but also the present. Center and captain Claude Giroux has been impressed by Hart's ability to navigate a difficult season and thrive so quickly at the NHL level. 

"You don't see a lot of goalies that are 20 years old that come in this fast," Giroux said. "For him to get called up and do the things that he's doing right now, it's obviously not the circumstances that we wanted to happen; we had a few injuries for our goaltenders. But for him to come and play the way he is right now, it's pretty amazing."

Hart is 7-5-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .922 save percentage in 13 starts since his recall from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17.

 

St. Louis Blues: Center Ryan O'Reilly has been impressed by the emergence of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who is 5-1-1 with a 1.84 GAA, .936 save percentage and one shutout in nine games (seven starts) and could feasibly emerge as the No. 1 starter over Jake Allen. He became the 35th goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win at the Flyers on Jan. 8, following his recall from San Antonio of the AHL on Jan. 5.

Video: STL@NYI: Binnington makes couple of big stops

"[Binnington] came in, and we just kind of fed off him," O'Reilly said. "Great energy at a time when we were struggling. We were trying to find a spark, he just came in and provided it. He obviously shut the door multiple times this year and gave us a chance to win.

"It's a credit to him. He's paid his dues and is playing great. Early in the year we struggled, especially defensively. It's nice that we're starting to find out game more. These goalies [Binnington and Allen], if you box out and give them a chance to make a save, they're making huge saves at huge times. Jordan has been outstanding for us."

 

INJURY UPDATE

Colorado Avalanche: Elite center Nathan MacKinnon (bruised left foot) did not play at 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend but is expected to be ready for the Avalanche's first game after their bye week against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

MacKinnon, who had a "cool experience" coaching his Avalanche linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog for the Central Division team at the NHL All-Star Game, didn't want to risk further injury.

"I'll be ready - [it was] just precautionary," MacKinnon told NHL.com. "Looking forward to getting back on the ice here over the break and getting ready to play."

 

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