There's no sugar-coating this one: the injury to Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres is devastating to his fantasy owners.
Eichel, who was among the rookie leaders in goals (24; second), points (56; second), power-play points (21; third) and shots on goal (238; first) last season, is out after spraining his ankle at practice Wednesday. He will miss Buffalo's season opener Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, and coach Dan Bylsma said "it's certainly more weeks than days at this point."
Now that we have a better idea of an injury time frame, you should stash Eichel on an injured reserve or IR+ spot once he's eligible. It won't be easy to replace a player who was drafted on average among the top 50 in standard leagues (ADP: 42.9) and even higher in keeper formats, but here are your best bets:
Sam Reinhart, C/RW, BUF (45 percent owned): Reinhart, who scored 23 goals as a rookie last season, is the leading candidate to earn greater usage in the Sabres lineup after Eichel's injury. Reinhart is expected to skate with Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane in the opener, but could move back to center once right wing Kyle Okposo returns from injury. Either way, he'll be a first power-play fixture for as long as Eichel is out and possibly afterwards as well.
William Nylander, C/RW, TOR (43 percent): You'll have a tough time getting your hands on Auston Matthews after his historic four-goal NHL debut, but you can at least get a splash of the rookie's production by adding his linemate Nylander, who's dual eligible in Yahoo. Nylander had two assists, was plus-3 and had three SOG in the opener against the Ottawa Senators. If Nylander is already off the board, Mitchell Marner, another Toronto rookie, is C/RW-eligible after Yahoo's latest position update and readily available in deeper leagues (22 percent owned).
Video: TOR@PHI: Nylander finishes Marincin's feed
Kyle Turris, C, OTT (35 percent): Turris made quite a statement against the Maple Leafs (two goals, including overtime winner) to bounce back from an injury-plagued second half last season. He plays on the top line with Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, and offers exposure to point-per-game defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Paul Stastny, C, STL (34 percent): Stastny played on the second line with Robby Fabbri and Alexander Steen in the Blues' season opener, but also did serious damage on the power play with Vladimir Tarasenko against the Chicago Blackhawks. He had three points (two PPP) with a plus-1 and one SOG. There are always injury concerns surrounding Stastny, but you know he's going to produce when healthy.
Dylan Strome, C, ARI (28 percent): Strome is a dark horse rookie expected to play top-six minutes for the Coyotes alongside Anthony Duclair and/or Max Domi. He may even see first power-play action over time. If you're looking for a center with a high ceiling who could be a keeper even after Eichel returns, add Strome rather than Turris or Stastny. Bank on Strome for at least 50 points this season.
Jiri Hudler, C/RW, DAL (26 percent): With Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin expected to play with Patrick Eaves, the Stars will have a loaded second line with Hudler and potential top-50 fantasy assets in Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp. The Stars debut Thursday at home against the Anaheim Ducks, so add dual-eligible Hudler before he puts up a multipoint game and gains greater ownership.
Sam Bennett, C, CGY (17 percent): Bennett had a quiet opener scoring-wise for the Flames, but chipped in peripheral category production with four penalty minutes and three SOG. He's centering a much-improved second line with Troy Brouwer, who scored shorthanded in the opener, and rookie Matthew Tkachuk. If that trio sticks for the full season, Bennett can be a fantasy steal. He's the best option right now among centers under 20 percent owned.
Nick Bonino, C, PIT (4 percent): It's unknown how long Sidney Crosby (concussion) will be out, but one look at Pittsburgh's lines is all you need to know about Bonino's short-term value. He thrived late last season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs alongside Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin, and that trio will remain intact for the season opener Thursday against the Washington Capitals. For as long as Crosby is out, Bonino will also have a chance to join the first power-play unit alongside Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Co. Many forget Bonino had 20 PPP three seasons ago with the Anaheim Ducks.
Read: Jack Eichel sidelined 'weeks' with injury
Video: Pete Jensen on NHL Now