The Winnipeg Jets have lost their No. 1 center to injury for the rest of the season, leaving fantasy owners searching for answers.
Bryan Little has been ruled out for Winnipeg's 23 remaining regular-season games because of a compression fractured vertebrae. Little (C/RW, 80 percent owned) is second on the Jets in scoring (42 points in 57 games) and ranks 181st in Yahoo leagues at the time of his injury. He has covered four categories well this season with 17 goals, 25 assists, 12 power-play points and 127 shots on goal.
Little's most frequent linemates this season have been Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler at even strength, and he had the same linemates with Mathieu Perreault (C/LW, 16 percent) on the power play most often. Little missed the past two games for the Jets and the recent combinations were shaken up as a result.
Nikolaj Ehlers (LW/RW, 15 percent) has been playing with Mark Scheifele (C, 46 percent owned) and Wheeler on the first line, while Perreault has been centering Drew Stafford and Alexander Burmistrov on the second unit. Ladd, a pending unrestricted free agent who could be traded before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, has been occupying a third-line role. Ehlers and Scheifele have also been together on the first power-play unit with Ladd and Wheeler.
With those combinations in mind, here is the in-house fantasy outlook as well as outside center-eligible options who can help you replace Little.
Jets' options: If Scheifele is available in your league, he's the slam-dunk fantasy addition at this time. Playing on the first power-play unit could boost his PPP total (six) down the stretch, which would make him a six-category asset. Perreault has 13 PPP this season but that number won't help you much unless he returns to the first man-advantage unit. Monitor Perreault and Ehlers in the coming days to see who emerges as the rest-of-season replacement for Little.
Mike Ribeiro or Sam Reinhart: The Nashville Predators' second-line center (17 percent owned) has been productive on the power play, and found recent chemistry with Filip Forsberg at even strength and with the man-advantage. Reinhart, seven percent owned and third in goals (18) among rookies, should shoulder a greater burden for the Buffalo Sabres with Ryan O'Reilly out. For more on Ribeiro, Reinhart and other available power-play specialists, check out my column from Wednesday.
Jussi Jokinen: If Jonathan Huberdeau is out long-term, expect the veteran Jokinen to remain on the Florida Panthers' top line with Aleksander Barkov, who returns from injury Thursday, and Jaromir Jagr. Jokinen is tri-eligible (C/LW/RW) in Yahoo leagues and is the 84th-ranked player with his strengths being assists (29) and plus/minus (plus-15) on top of solid totals across the board. He's 44 percent owned at the moment.
Ryan Strome: The New York Islanders forward (C/RW in Yahoo) has been playing alongside John Tavares, so he should be owned in more than 14 percent of leagues. Strome has taken a big step back since his 50-point season in 2014-15, but has point-per-game upside given his linemate for the Islanders, who have the most remaining games in the NHL (24).
Anaheim Ducks' top-nine forwards: Mike Santorelli (1 percent owned) has three goals, three assists and 15 SOG in his past seven games alongside Ryan Getzlaf and David Perron. Rickard Rakell (16 percent owned) had two goals, three assists, one PPP and 10 SOG in his past five games alongside Corey Perry at even strength. Depending on your league size and category format, it may be worth digging deep for one of these short-term center-eligible fliers.