The New York Rangers pulled off an impressive victory in their season opener against the St. Louis Blues, but the win came at a hefty cost for both the team and fantasy hockey owners.
Dan Boyle, owned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues, sustained a broken hand and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. It's only two days into the regular season and fantasy owners are already scouring the waiver wire.
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The veteran defenseman logged 2:26 of power-play ice time in the Rangers opener and finished with a plus-1 rating, two shots on goal, two penalty minutes and one hit before exiting the game. While he still provides some peripheral category coverage when healthy, fantasy owners were banking on him to be a source of production with the man advantage after scoring 12 goals (six power-play) and 18 power-play points in 75 games with the San Jose Sharks in 2013-14.
Luckily, there are a number of readily available defensemen who have gotten off to fast starts. Here are four of them who, as projected in NHL.com's offseason fantasy content, enter the 2014-15 season with important roles to play for their respective teams.
Once Boyle is placed on injured reserve in Yahoo leagues, take a shot on whichever of these defensemen are available in your particular league format.
Marek Zidlicky, D, New Jersey Devils
Yahoo ownership: 39 percent
No one is expecting the Devils to reel off six goals per night, but the team capitalized off a suspect Philadelphia Flyers defense Thursday to open its season in impressive fashion. Zidlicky, who logged a team-high 22:11 with 2:50 of power-play ice time, assisted on goals by Patrik Elias and newcomer Mike Cammalleri to go along with a plus-2 rating, one shot on goal and three hits. Zidlicky, despite being on a one-year contract, promises to be a big part of the Devils' offensive initiative all season long. And if you think Zidlicky's opening performance was a fluke, just remember he had 42 points last season -- the most by a Devils defenseman since Brian Rafalski (55) in 2006-07.
Olli Maatta, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Yahoo ownership: 29 percent
FANTASY HOCKEY ANALYSIS
If you need to replace Dan Boyle in a deep fantasy league, look no further than young defensemen Sami Vatanen and TJ Brodie.
All offseason long, we've been raving about the fantasy potential of the Penguins first defense pairing (Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff), but Maatta's three-assist showing against the Anaheim Ducks serves as a reminder he's undervalued as a sophomore with so many weapons around him. With Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik out of the picture, he will be relied upon for secondary scoring from the blue line and would see his role elevated even further if the team deals with injuries again. As expected, the 20-year-old defenseman didn't see much power-play time in the opener, but it's hard to pass on a future star at the position who posted nine goals and 20 assists as a rookie in 2013-14.
Sami Vatanen, D, Anaheim Ducks
Yahoo ownership: 7 percent
Vatanen had a mention in my preseason standouts piece, and carried over his preseason success to his team's regular-season opener with two power-play assists. While he is starting the season on the third defense pairing with Clayton Stoner, he saw an eye-opening 5:13 of power-play ice time against the Penguins and could turn out to be a specialist in that category for a Ducks team with options on 'D' (e.g. Cam Fowler, Francois Beauchemin, Hampus Lindholm) but no clear-cut power-play anchor. The 23-year-old Finnish prospect should stick with the NHL club in 2014-15, so he could be an absolute gem if added as your fourth or bench defenseman right now.
TJ Brodie, D, Calgary Flames
Yahoo ownership: 5 percent
Brodie, a heralded possession player alongside standout Mark Giordano, blasted a power-play goal for the Flames in their 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. He was a sleeper candidate entering the season and is available in the vast majority of leagues at the moment. He has chipped in a plus-2 rating, two penalty minutes and three shots on goal through two games, and has a chance to build off his 31-point season in 2013-14. It's a common misconception to avoid Flames players in fantasy, so take full advantage by adding this efficient deep-league fantasy option.