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Oilers' Hall, Sabres' Kane lead injury bounce-backs

by Sean McCullen / NHL.com

Losing your top scorer during a playoff push in late February or early March can leave you on the outside looking in come the fantasy postseason.

Injuries play a major role in fantasy hockey each season. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to prepare for them; they are completely out of your hands.

What you can control is who you draft and who you add off the waiver wire, and that includes players coming off an injury-shortened, subpar season. Knowing whether a player returning from injury is worthy of an early, middle-round or late draft pick could go a long way in determining whether you make the playoffs and win your league.

Those fantasy owners who were scared off by Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne's injury woes in 2013-14 almost certainly regret not drafting him last year after he won 41 games and had a stellar 2.18 goals-against average and .923 save percentage to finish second in 2014-15 Vezina Trophy voting.

Ditto Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who bounced back from an injury-ravaged 2013-14 season that saw him play 37 games to score 54 points in 69 games last season.

Here are seven players (in order of preference) who are primed to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2014-15 season:

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers, C/LW -- Hall had an NHL career-high 80 points (27 goals) in 75 games in 2013-14, but a leg injury slowed him down last season, when he had 14 goals and 38 points in 53 games. He seems to be a lock to play wing alongside rookie phenom Connor McDavid and is primed for the most productive season of his career. Hall, 23, is minus-23 in 299 NHL games, but he does provide coverage in other areas. In 2013-14, his 250 shots on goal were tied for 18th in the NHL, and he had 44 penalty minutes (T-130th among forwards). Although his Yahoo average draft position (ADP) is 44.8, you won't regret taking him in the third round.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche, C/RW -- MacKinnon's second NHL season came to an end March 5 when an MRI revealed a fracture in his foot. He had 14 goals and 38 points in 64 games. It was a disappointing encore for the 2014 Calder Trophy winner, who had 24 goals and 63 points in 82 games as a rookie. After playing on the wing most of his first two NHL seasons, the 20-year-old should get more ice time in the middle after Colorado traded center Ryan O'Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres this offseason, and that would likely mean a spike in assists. Like the Avalanche as a group, MacKinnon got off to an extremely slow start last season, but he was starting to heat up before breaking his foot; he had five goals and nine points in his final 10 games. That's the MacKinnon I expect to see this season. Take him in the late-third or early-fourth round.

Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres, LW -- Kane is confident he's fully recovered from shoulder surgery on Feb. 6 -- "I've already scored 30,” Kane said Sept. 17, "so maybe I want to score 40 or 50" -- so why shouldn't fantasy owners be? The 24-year-old has been hampered by injuries throughout his six-season NHL career, all with the Winnipeg Jets. Kane has never played a full season in the League and missed 45 games in 2014-15 and 19 in 2013-14. His injury history obviously is a concern, but his skill is undeniable. When he played a career-high 74 games in 2011-12, he scored 30 goals. Five days after he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Winnipeg traded Kane to Buffalo, where he'll likely play on the top line alongside O'Reilly, who had 36 assists with the Avalanche as second-line center in 2013-14. Take Kane in the seventh or eighth round.

David Krejci, Boston Bruins, C -- Krejci clearly was not himself when he was able to get on the ice in 2014-15, though he did have a very respectable seven goals and 24 assists in 47 games. The 29-year-old missed the first three games of the season and 17 of 19 games Nov. 1-Dec. 16 because of an undisclosed injury widely believed to be related to his hip or groin. A knee injury cost him 15 games Feb. 22-March 22. Krejci said last week he is healthy. Despite uncertainty about who will play on his wings, Krejci, who averaged 0.86 points per game in 2013-14 (35th in the NHL), will center the Bruins' top line and should go higher than his 168.7 ADP on Yahoo. Take him in the 11th or 12th round.

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins, D -- Maatta was limited to 20 games in his second NHL season because of illness and injury. He had nine points (one goal) after he scored nine goals with 20 assists and a plus-8 rating as a 19-year-old rookie in 2013-14. The 21-year-old defenseman had a cancerous tumor removed from his thyroid gland on Nov. 4. He returned Nov. 18 for a game against the Montreal Canadiens only to sustain a season-ending shoulder injury 10 games later in a Dec. 6 game against the Ottawa Senators. He was also diagnosed with the mumps in late December. Maatta is healthy again following surgery and figures to play on Pittsburgh's top defense pair with Letang. Although he won't get much power-play time if Letang is healthy (the Penguins prefer to use four forwards and one defenseman), he should contribute 35-40 points. Take him in the 11th or 12th round.

Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks, C -- Anisimov showed signs of being a legitimate top-six forward with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013-14 (22 goals, 17 assists, 162 SOG in 81 games) before regressing during an injury-plagued 2014-15 season. He missed seven games Oct. 31-Nov. 14 because of a concussion, then sat 23 games Dec. 1-Jan. 27 with a torn triceps. Now in Chicago and expected to center the Blackhawks' second line, the 27-year-old Russian should easily surpass his career high in points (44 with the New York Rangers in 2010-11).

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings, LW/RW -- Franzen didn't play again after he sustained a concussion Jan. 6, but he had seven goals, including four on the power play, and 15 assists in 33 games. If he can stay healthy, Franzen (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) is worth drafting in the last round for his man-advantage production alone; he has four seasons with double-digit power-play goals in his NHL career. The 35-year-old is plus-93 in 10 NHL seasons and had more than 200 SOG each of the past three seasons he's played 70 or more games, including a career-high 248 (26th in the League) in 2010-11. For now, see how Franzen fares the first week or two of the season; if he looks like "The Mule" of old, then grab him off the waiver wire.

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