The Edmonton Oilers learned Wednesday that rookie center Connor McDavid would need months to recover from surgery to repair a fractured his left clavicle. But life without McDavid doesn't necessarily mean the wheels are going to fall off their potent forward arsenal.
This situation presents opportunities for another of the League's hottest young commodities, as well as the Oilers' impending reinforcement. Forward Leon Draisaitl (28 percent owned in Yahoo) is off to a scorching start after being recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League, and Jordan Eberle is expected to return to the Oilers lineup Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Draisaitl, 20, has had at least two points in his first three games this season (three goals, four assists) to go along with three power-play points, a plus-4 and 10 shots on goal. That's as impressive of a fantasy stat line as you could ask for from a recent call-up, so he'll continue to be at the forefront of the Oilers' offensive schemes with McDavid sidelined. Draisaitl skated at center on Edmonton's top line Thursday, with Taylor Hall, whom he has gelled with early and often, and Eberle, who has an underrated pedigree at the NHL level despite Edmonton's rough recent seasons.
Eberle (86 percent owned) had 34 goals and 76 points in 78 games in 2011-12, and has followed with 60-plus points in 2013-14 (65) and 2014-15 (63). While his shoulder injury sustained during the preseason was a setback, he is back in the mix in early November having missed 13 games.
If there's any silver lining to the McDavid injury, it's that neither Draisaitl nor forward Nail Yakupov has to drop down in the lineup. Yakupov, who has 10 points and 34 shots on goal in 13 games, has revitalized his fantasy stock playing alongside McDavid after two straight seasons of minus-30 or worse, and will continue his upward climb alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11 points in 13 games; two goals Tuesday), who was bumped to the second line at practice, and Benoit Pouliot, a proven depth scorer showcased alongside McDavid early and also in the past with the New York Rangers.
Counting McDavid's 12 points in his first 13 NHL games, the Oilers are one of four teams entering Thursday with four 10-plus point producers; the Montreal Canadiens have eight, the Boston Bruins have five, and the Dallas Stars also have four. But with Draisaitl's immediate success and Eberle's finishing ability, things are not nearly as bleak as perception indicates for the McDavid-less Oilers.