When premier forwards around the NHL (Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk, Vladimir Tarasenko, etc.) are sidelined with injuries, dreams of a fantasy championship tend to hang in the balance.
In keeper leagues, that makes for some difficult decisions. But in one-year, head-to-head leagues, it's important to act quickly.
Fantasy owners who lost a key player to injury heading into their playoffs should check out the young talent now playing at the NHL level in picking a replacement. (Photo: Getty Images, Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI)
Luckily, in recent weeks and months, call-ups around the NHL have come to the rescue to make those decisions a bit easier. These are fresh, young options that could inject some life into an ailing roster. Based on where they fall in their team's lineup and what they have accomplished so far in 2013-14, they must be considered down the stretch -- even if their ownership appears low based on your league size.
Here are five forwards who have been recalled this calendar year and are worth a shot if your team has qualified for the fantasy playoffs. Keep in mind these players, in many cases, are worth retaining as keepers this offseason considering their long-term upside.
Nicklas Jensen (LW/RW, Vancouver Canucks)
Yahoo ownership: 1 percent
Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows were mired in lengthy offensive droughts until Jensen, 21, began to settle in on the Canucks' top line. The Danish forward has had points in five of seven games since being recalled from Utica of the American Hockey League earlier this month, and carries dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues. He is taking advantage of the ice time he's been given (17:33 per game) and is still only getting his feet wet. He's been a hit so far in Vancouver and will continue to see a splash of production as the team has limited options up front in the absence of Kesler and Daniel Sedin.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (C, Washington Capitals)
Yahoo ownership: 12 percent
Center - WSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 10 | +/-: 0
Fantasy owners should know all about Kuznetsov by now, but his ownership is shockingly low considering he is panning out as advertised. The 21-year-old Russian has five assists (two power-play points) in six games since joining the Capitals and is playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom
and Troy Brouwer
on the team's West Coast swing. The time has come for us to elevate his status to "must-add" in deep leagues. Don't be surprised if his ownership soars to the 30-percent range over the next few weeks.
Anders Lee (C, New York Islanders)
Yahoo ownership: 6 percent
The injury to John Tavares was expected to open up top-six spots for young forwards like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, but Lee's emergence has stolen the show. Despite the team's ongoing struggles, Lee has been a bright spot on the Islanders' top line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo and has been an opportunistic goal-scorer in his limited career at the NHL level. He had eight shots on goal Tuesday and has 10 points (six goals, four assists), 35 shots and a plus-4 rating in 10 games this season. Okposo is day-to-day with an injury and Lee's shooting percentage (17.1) might eventually cool off, but this youngster should remain on the top line for now and has likely earned a full-time spot with the big club moving forward after this impressive late-season stint.
Brandon Pirri (C, Florida Panthers)
Yahoo ownership: 2 percent
Center - FLA
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 18
SOG: 55 | +/-: 8
Pirri never caught on for the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks
, but has found a much more promising situation with his new team. Drafted by then-Chicago general manager Dale Tallon
in 2009, Pirri was acquired by the Panthers prior to the NHL Trade Deadline this season in a deal that could pay dividends for Florida in years to come. Pirri, who spent time with Rockford (AHL) this season and had 13 points in 35 career games with the Blackhawks, already has seven points (three goals, four assists) and 21 shots on goal in nine games with the Panthers. He has finally been given a concrete depth role and is giving owners a glimpse of his ceiling down the road.
Teuvo Teravainen (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
Yahoo ownership: 1 percent
Kane is the only player with 225-plus shots on goal, 25-plus power-play points and a positive rating this season. He was placed on long-term injured reserve Friday, leaving a sizable void for fantasy owners and the Blackhawks, who had some instability on their second line to begin with. But adding Teravainen, considered to be the best NHL-affiliated prospect not currently playing in the League, could help matters. The 19-year-old native of Finland won't be in Chicago's lineup Friday but needs to be added in dynasty leagues. He carries risk-reward value in deep formats similar to when Kuznetsov arrived from Russia.