Pekka Rinne may be an actual NHL All-Star but, going forward, it may be Juuse Saros who has more fantasy value.
During this year’s All-Star break, we’re going to mix things up a bit. Sure, we could praise a bunch of fantasy All-Stars who have wowed us to date, but that’s not anything which will help our fantasy teams going forward. Instead, we’re going to highlight one player from each NHL team — some high-profile, but mostly those with less of a spotlight on them — who boast potential upside following the festivities in San Jose.
While some of these choice have already impressed us in 2018-19, others may be getting ready to emerge for the first time only now. With that in mind, here are my predictions for this season’s second-half All-Stars.
Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks (rostered in 41.0 percent of ESPN.com leagues): He’s not quite back yet, but he has been joining practice. Perry appears to be a little ahead of schedule in his attempt to return from his nasty preseason knee injury. Goodness knows, the battered Ducks could use him, having now lost fellow winger Ondrej Kase (shoulder surgery) for the duration of the campaign. While the 80-plus-point stylings of yesteryear are well in the rear-view mirror, the 33-year-old is still capable of contributing regularly once he gets back up to speed on Anaheim’s top line. Sitting just one point outside of a playoff berth, the Ducks aren’t out of it yet. They’ll need the best from their veteran winger to seal the deal come April. Look forward to Perry’s return around mid-February.
Darcy Kuemper, G, Arizona Coyotes (14.8 percent): Taking over in Arizona’s crease full-time, Kuemper hasn’t lost once in regulation this calendar year. Through eight starts, he’s 6-0-2, while boasting a .928 save percentage. Because there are only five really good teams in the West, the Coyotes find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot. Fun! Exploit Kuemper in whatever fantasy fashion you can before the bubble bursts. It could be a while. The 28-year-old goalie, who has shined brightly on occasions in the past, is rocking some serious confidence at present.
David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins (66.3 percent): Even though he’s been a steady producer all season long, Krejci will eventually catch many fantasy managers by surprise when he ends up quietly finishing with 70 points on the season. Check to see if this perennially underrated fantasy asset is available in your league, particularly if assists are valued equal to goals.
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (87.5 percent): The 18-year-old rookie becomes tangibly more impressive week by week. So, while largely spoken for across the ESPN.com fantasy spectrum, Dahlin merits targeting via trade in redraft leagues. (There’s zero chance any competent manager in dynasty leagues lets him go.) If your roster is top-heavy with quality forwards, this kid is worth relinquishing another near top-tier asset. With six points in his past six games, Dahlin could tack on another 25 or so before we’re through.
David Rittich, G, Calgary Flames (66.1 percent): The sizzling, playoff-bound Flames are currenntly running over most teams in the West, and doing so more often than not on the back of the 26-year-old Czech netminder. While there’s no great need to become intimately familiar with Rittich, you do need to know that he’s far more trusted in Calgary than Mike Smith, who was supposed to be the guy. If you need wins, don’t pass over a goaltender who hasn’t lost in regulation since Dec. 18 (8-0-3).
Nino Niederreiter, RW, Carolina Hurricanes (47.5 percent): Fans of “fresh faces in new places” will love the first impression Niederreiter is chiseling out in Carolina. He’s had four goals in four games, including a pair of two-goal contests, and he’s taken 17 shots. This indeed qualifies as “promising” from the former Wild skater. He’s also seeing hefty minutes on a top line with Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams. This is a good gig. Grab him now.
Dylan Strome, C, Chicago Blackhawks (13.5 percent): The 21-year-old heads into the break with two goals and five assists in his last four games, skating on a forward line with Alex DeBrincat and on a top power play with Patrick Kane. Free of the pressure of realistically battling for a playoff spot, the 2015 No. 3-overall pick can continue to play loose with his new club in Chicago. A no-brainer asset in dynasty leagues, Strome is still only getting started.
Carl Soderberg, C, Colorado Avalanche (39.9 percent): The ox-like forward is sporting extra spring in his scoring step these days, amassing six goals — including last-week’s hat trick against the Maple Leafs — and two assists in his last eight contests. Centering both the No. 2 scoring line and power play, the hefty 33-year-old is also averaging nearly 18 minutes and more than four shots-per-game since Jan. 9. He has tons of fantasy use in deeper leagues and as a DFS play during this tear.
Nick Foligno, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (34.1 percent): After enduring his daughter’s second heart surgery on Dec. 31, few players can use a week off more than Foligno, who intends to quietly hang out at home with his wife and kids. We anticipate a productive surge from the 31-year-old forward once play resumes, especially now that he’s comfortably back on the wing. A role on the Blue Jackets’ top power play doesn’t hurt either. He’ll approach 15 goals in Columbus’ final 34 games of the season.
Radek Faksa, C/LW, Dallas Stars (3.0 percent): Truthfully, we’re hard-pressed to get excited about anyone outside of Dallas’ big three — Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov — plus John Klingberg on the blue line. However, if the Stars are to have any hope for a postseason push, they’ll require secondary scoring from somewhere. Currently lining up as the team’s second-line center alongside Benn, Faksa has some potential to contribute in that vein. He scored from that spot in a 4-2 win over the Jets ahead of the break. Fingers crossed.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Detroit Red Wings (12.3 percent): For fantasy purposes, it doesn’t matter that the Red Wings are a not-so-great team with negligible hope of earning a playoff spot. What matters is this 23-year-old sophomore continues to produce on a top line with Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist — with three goals and three assists in six recent games. There’s value here, especially in deep leagues.
Mikko Koskinen, G, Edmonton Oilers (41.1 percent): He’s got to earn that three-year, $13.5-million contract, doesn’t he? That’s even more true after signing on the line just ahead of his GM’s demise. Like it or not, it will be Koskinen — and not Cam Talbot — who Edmonton will turn to for the most starts as the club desperately tries to shake of its funk and perhaps challenge for a berth in the postseason. This nine-day break should do the Oilers a world of good, and especially Koskinen, who was much better before a mid-December slide. Keep the 30-year-old in view if you need goaltending help.
Frank Vatrano, C, Florida Panthers (7.8 percent): So, this young man comes seemingly out of nowhere, tallies some goals, slides into a primo scoring role, and then scores some more. Largely skating on a top unit Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov, even with Florida’s essential forward personnel all healthy, the 24-year-old has six goals and five assists in the 11 games since New Year’s Eve. He’s also shooting the puck with appreciable frequency — and he’s overwhelmingly available. What’s not to like?
Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings (52.9 percent): Color us stubborn, but this can’t be the best we’ll see from Toffoli this season. After scoring 24 goals and 23 assists just a year ago, this current clip of 20 points through 50 contests doesn’t add up. Neither does his uncharacteristically low shooting percentage of 5.7, which undoubtedly will get closer to his career average of 10.4 percent going forward. The Kings need to score more — much more — if only for morale and an eye towards next season. Toffoli should help to that end, especially back on Jeff Carter‘s wing. We anticipate a far stronger end to the campaign from the frustrated 26-year-old.
Pontus Aberg, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild (5.0 percent): Fewer than four years into his NHL career and already playing with his fourth team, Aberg has to settle in somewhere at some point. Four games in with the Wild — and so far, so good. On a scoring line and the top power-play unit with “goal-scoring machine” Zach Parise, the 25-year-old already has three assists in Minnesota. This kid has serious 60-point potential. Fantasy managers in deeper leagues should take a swing if they’re looking for some fresh blood.
Tomas Tatar, LW, Montreal Canadiens (67.7 percent): Nearly four months in, we’re finally convinced that Tatar’s positive turn with his new squad in Montreal is no fluke. This is largely because, after enduring a recent slump, the 28-year-old has again busted out with two goals and three assists in four games. A regular scoring-line and power-play role should see Tatar hit the 60-point plateau for the first time in his career.
Juuse Saros, G, Nashville Predators (20.7 percent): The 23-year-old sophomore has been extra stingy this January, allowing just eight goals in five-plus games — four of those goals coming in the lone dud against Florida — while boasting a .955 save percentage. His solid play has allowed the Predators the luxury of resting Pekka Rinne (who has been somewhat shaky of late) more often, as Nashville prepares for what the team hopes will be a long playoff run. Look for a lot more from Saros the rest of the way.
Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils (4.3 percent): Before outright dismissing this admittedly wild pitch, know that Schneider has already endured two conditioning starts in Binghamton. One went well. The other, less so. Still we’re curious to see how the once-formidable netminder (and not that long ago) bounces back — or doesn’t — from his abdomen issue and whatever else is going on with him, both physically and mentally. Fantasy managers with goalie concerns should at least consider him as an option.
Jordan Eberle, RW, New York Islanders (40.2 percent): After a tepid start to the season, Eberle is finally warming up for the red-hot Islanders on a top scoring line and the team’s No. 1 power play. A recent run of five goals and five assists through 11 games is much closer to the 28-year-old’s career pace. He’s also shooting more often, which helps. Fantasy managers in deeper leagues should snag Eberle before he attracts more attention. Plus, if Robin Lehner — the hottest goalie around and rostered in only 54.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues — is somehow available, secure him immediately.
Filip Chytil, C/RW, New York Rangers (3.3 percent): A collection of three goals and an assist in his four most recent games is offering fantasy managers outside of dynasty leagues a good reason to give this 19-year-old work-in-progress an extra look. This isn’t to suggest that fantasy folks of all stripes should immediately add the rookie. However, everyone needs to keep an eye on him. Chytil is already skating on the New York’s No. 2 scoring line and power play.
Bobby Ryan, RW, Ottawa Senators (18.0 percent): After enduring back-to-back injury-riddled and altogether unproductive seasons from Ryan, fantasy managers are certainly justified in feeling skeptical about the winger’s recent surge. However, this run of five goals and five assists since New Year’s Eve remains attractive enough, as does his spot on a top line and power play with center Matt Duchene. As long as he doesn’t bust up his hand again, the 31-year-old should be in for his most fruitful campaign in quite some time. He’s worth a whirl in deeper leagues.
Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia Flyers (22.4 percent): He’s the only obvious choice in Philadelphia, unless somehow Gritty can get you points. Hart is actually winning games for the Flyers. Shouldering a save percentage of .927 through January, the 20-year-old rookie is 4-2-1, which is hardly terrible. Since the Flyers are a better team than their record suggests, Hart could well close out 2018-19 on a further upswing. This young lad should be rostered in far more leagues than he is at present.
Justin Schultz, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (37.5 percent): Admit it. You forgot all about him, didn’t you? Nobody can fault you for that, since Schultz last played on Oct. 13, when he scored four assists in four games before suffering a serious ankle injury. However, now the Penguins’ best offensive defenseman not named Kris Letang is set to return in the next couple of weeks. He should get right back in the swing of things, contributing at even-strength and with the No. 2 power play. Don’t hesitate on Schultz long if your fantasy blue-line could use a boost.
Tomas Hertl, LW/RW, San Jose Sharks (91.3 percent): Hertl is spoken for in most leagues, but merits extra attention as a DFS asset during his current run. Already enjoying a breakout campaign with 45 points to date, the 25-year-old has eight goals and four assists in his last nine games — including two hat-tricks. The point is, he’s scoring in bunches, which brings with it extra charm for GPP play. Just be prepared to blow a bit of budget if you go his route.
Jordan Binnington, G, St. Louis Blues (21.3 percent): The super-green 25-year-old has been great for St. Louis while the perceived No. 1, Jake Allen, has not. Guess who’s starting, and winning, more often while the Blues muscle their way back into playoff contention. Since Jan. 7, Binnington is 5-1-1 with a .936 save percentage. Allen has won once through that stretch. Ride Binnington hard until he falters — if he falters at all.
Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (14.7 percent): Stapled on Steven Stamkos‘ wing at even-strength and on the No. 1 power play, Palat is warming back up after a cool conclusion to December. Now with three goals and three assists in his last eight games, things hint at a quicker scoring rhythm moving forward. Besides, the 27-year-old is the only member of the Lightning’s top-six available at all in ESPN.com leagues.
William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (85.3 percent): Make no mistake, that three-point performance in Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Capitals will go a long way in helping Nylander reset over the break. Since returning post-holdout (and with a plump new contract) the 22-year-old has been a bust. Or he had been, perhaps, since his most-recent performance alongside center Nazem Kadri sported all the markings of a slump-busting breakout. It wasn’t just the points, but also the way he moved and battled. Anticipate more of the same from the 2014 No. 8-overall selection once the Leafs reconvene.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Vancouver Canucks (46.1 percent): Perhaps we should offer the Canucks more credit for their offseason hire of respected goaltending coach Ian Clark. This is the guy who helped shape Sergei Bobrovsky into the dominant goalie we know today. While Markstrom’s save percentage and GAA aren’t anything special — November was ugly, while December was quite the opposite — he’s winning games for Vancouver, which is new. New is good — and useful, if you’re in need of wins from an everyday starter in the NHL.
Paul Stastny, C, Vegas Golden Knights (47.2 percent): Need assists? Stastny will oblige. After returning from injury in mid-December, Vegas’ second-line center has collected 15 points in 13 games, including six helpers in his last five contests. In addition to competing alongside wingers Alex Tuch and Max Pacioretty (and Brandon Pirri for a bit), the 33-year-old veteran is also skating with the Knights’ top power-play unit.
Jakub Vrana, C/LW, Washington Capitals (19.1 percent): Even through Washington’s seven-game losing streak leading up to the break, the Capitals stuck with Vrana on their second scoring line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov. That tells you a lot. While Vrana’s current numbers won’t knock you over — 28 points in 50 games — he’s already bested last year’s total, which took place over 73 contests. Drafted No. 13 overall in 2014, he’s still just getting started. A dynasty consideration at present, the 22-year-old could have some use in deeper redraft leagues to close out the regular campaign.
Bryan Little, C, Winnipeg Jets (37.7 percent): While he isn’t of the caliber of a Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, or Patrik Laine in terms of fantasy, Little still has plenty to offer in deeper leagues. That’s even more true now that the Jets’ second-line center (alongside Laine) is tuned in with five goals and four assists in his last nine games. Mine what you can from the former Barrie Colt before he cools off again.