When the Nashville Predators drafted Seth Jones with the fourth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, fantasy owners couldn't help but envision him on the team's top defensive unit for many years to come.
Suddenly, 23-year-old defenseman Roman Josi became an afterthought from a fantasy standpoint.
Jones was paired with star blueliner Shea Weber early on this season, logging a ton of minutes and even producing power-play points. Over his first 14 games, Jones had seven points, four coming with the man advantage. His seamless transition was well-documented, opening eyes around the League.
But since then, Jones has cooled off considerably with 11 points over his next 37 games. His rating has staggered to minus-19. Over that time frame, Predators coach Barry Trotz has limited Jones' ice time based on his earlier workload.
Roman Josi, 23, has taken on a heavy workload and is proving to be valuable in fantasy leagues that count power-play points, blocks and shots on goal. (Photo: John Russell/NHLI)
With Jones' struggles came an opportunity for Josi to skate alongside Weber again. Given a heightened workload, Josi has logged an average of 25:56 per game (sixth-highest in NHL). He has returned to form after missing 10 games due to a concussion early in the season and has been utilized in a featured role on the blue line at even strength and on the power-play (3:00 PP TOI per game). Lately, it's making a difference for fantasy owners.
Josi has two goals and four assists during his current four-game point streak. He also put together a five-game point streak from Dec. 7 to Dec. 17. Though his rating (minus-12) has made him a liability at times this season, he's gone three straight games with a positive rating (plus-6 over that span) and continues to mature by the day.
His 20 points is already a career-best total (16 in 2011-12, 18 in 2012-13), but his production has not stopped there. In leagues that count any combination of shots on goal (108, 14th among defensemen), power-play points (10, T-26th among 'D') and blocked shots (89, 29th among 'D'), Josi has become a commodity.
Jones, meanwhile, has only seen 20-plus minutes of ice time five times in his past 22 games. He had eclipsed that mark 23 times over his first 29 career games. There's no question that the future remains bright for Jones, but his short-term fantasy value has dwindled over the past few months. On the other hand, Josi's short-term value is growing while his long-term potential continues to surface.
He's by no means a more valuable asset in keeper leagues than Jones, but it's time to recognize the fantasy relevance that Josi has regained over the past month and change.
The wealth of ice time has been there for Josi, but the ownership in Yahoo leagues (10 percent) has not. Half of his points on the season have come with the man advantage, so it's important for deep-league fantasy owners to consider adding Josi to the equation.