When defenseman Johnny Boychuk was traded from the Boston Bruins to the New York Islanders prior to the start of the 2014-15 season, fantasy hockey team owners saw an opportunity to increase their offensive and power-play numbers and started steadily adding Boychuk to their respective rosters. The payoff has been huge with Boychuk remaining in the top 10 among defensemen in assists (12) and power-play points (eight) this season. But with Boychuk and defensive teammate Lubomir Visnovsky being placed on injured reserve Wednesday, it’s time for fantasy owners to start digging for that next diamond in the rough.
Since Boychuk has been one of the bigger surprises this season and Visnovsky hasn’t done much since returning from an upper-body injury Oct. 23, the gap between those players and those available on the waiver wire isn’t tremendous.
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The following players are suitable replacement options, each with different availability to account for larger and smaller leagues.
Nick Leddy, New York Islanders (owned in 31% of Yahoo leagues)
As NHL.com correspondent Brian Metzer mentioned in his fantasy defensemen analysis story Wednesday regarding injured Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, the best replacement options are usually found from the same team of your respective injured player. The logical choice here is Leddy, who was second to Boychuk among Islanders defensemen with five goals, 10 points, 40 shots on goal, and currently leads the entire team at plus-10 this season. Leddy should also likely shoulder the load as the lone defenseman on the Islanders’ top power play unit, skating with team captain John Tavares and talented forwards Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (owned in 29% of Yahoo leagues)
This rookie defenseman is likely only available if you play in a smaller league, but now is the time to add Klingberg before it’s too late. The 21-year old Swede was kept off the scoresheet the past two games, which stopped a five-game scoring streak (three goals, five assists). It’s tough to gauge what type of numbers Klingberg will put up as the season progresses, but those eight points, along with 14 shots on goal and six penalty minutes over his first 11 NHL games makes him a low-risk, high-reward addition to your team.
Marco Scandella, Minnesota Wild (owned in 18% of Yahoo leagues)
With solid statistics across the board and availability in many leagues, Scandella is a good choice to fill the void left by either Boychuk or Visnovsky. The 24-year-old leads all Wild defensemen this season in penalty minutes (34), a career-high five goals, and is second among team defensemen with eight points and 45 shots on goal. Although the power play numbers are lacking when compared to Boychuk, Scandella is not only a capable replacement, but also someone that can contribute to your team for the long haul. And considering that the Wild's top defenseman Ryan Suter, who leads the League with 29:19 average time on ice per game, is out Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens with mumps-like symptoms; adding Scandella now brings the potential for increased time on ice.
Brayden McNabb, Los Angeles Kings (owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues)
While it’s nice to be in an eight or 10-team fantasy league and have your choice of any of the defensemen mentioned above, the reality is that some owners have to settle for more obscure picks. McNabb has already matched his career high with eight points (all assists) through the same 25 games he achieved that feat in 2011-12 with the Buffalo Sabres. With six assists over his past seven games, it is advisable to snatch up McNabb now and hope he continues his hot play as you await the return of the injured Islanders defensemen.