Fantasy Impact: John Tavares is out for the remainder of the regular season with a torn MCL.
Normally an 82-game player, Tavares joins Steven Stamkos as a reliable, elite superstar who is suddenly out long term. Of primary concern for Tavares owners is - can he come back from this and return to that 82-game player? Or will he now suddenly find himself missing a few games every season the way former 82-gamers Marian Hossa and Ryan Kesler seem to?
Take your finger off the panic button Tavares owners. Even if this 'worst case' scenario comes to pass and Tavares starts missing five games here, 10 games there over the next several years - you'll still be okay. Because players like Tavares (and Stamkos) are so far above the pack when it comes to fantasy value, that it would take three or four injuries to finally knock them down a notch. So you could trade Tavares the next time he gets injured and still get the same return you would get right now - except you would have the benefit of waiting to see if he can get back to where he was. And that's obviously the best-case scenario.
Fantasy Players Impacted: This pushes Frans Nielsen back to first-line center status. Nielsen had been slowing down after notching 21 points in his first 19 contests (22 in 41 since). That's not to say that he'll get back to a point per game, but an uptick is in the cards when he returns (see update below).
Update: Nielsen is out until March 10th (or so) with a broken hand. This puts the onus on rookie Brock Nelson and wet-behind-the-ears Ryan Strome for the first seven or eight games after Sochi. Opportunity knocks!
The player I like best here is Brock Nelson. A solid prospect with upside, Nelson has been pigeonholed on a checking line and has permormed admirably. In fact, he's played so well that he's seen moments on the power play and on a scoring line and has produced reasonably well. Now the team finally has a real need for him on a scoring line and he is the type of player who will pull through not unlike the way Tyler Johnson has pulled through for Tampa Bay. With 22 games left on the schedule, I would not be surprised to see Nelson tally 14 to 16 points.
Meanwhile, the wingers will take a hit here. Remove an elite center on pace for 90+ points and of course his wingers are going to be hurting. Here is Kyle Okposo's linemates breakdown for each of his 59 points:
Total Points for Kyle Okposo : 59
|Str||On Ice Line Combination||Points||%Total|
|EV||OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||24||40.68%|
|PP||NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||7||11.86%|
|PP||MOULSON,MATT - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||4||6.78%|
|EV||GRABNER,MICHAEL - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE||3||5.08%|
|EV||MARTIN,MATT - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||2||3.39%|
|EV||NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE - VANEK,THOMAS||2||3.39%|
|EV||GRABNER,MICHAEL - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||2||3.39%|
|EV||BOUCHARD,PIERRE-MARC - MOULSON,MATT - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||2||3.39%|
|EV||MOULSON,MATT - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||2||3.39%|
|EV||OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||1||1.69%|
|EV||NELSON,BROCK - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN||1||1.69%|
|EV||BOUCHARD,PIERRE-MARC - OKPOSO,KYLE||1||1.69%|
|EV||BAILEY,JOSH - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE||1||1.69%|
|EV||MOULSON,MATT - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE||1||1.69%|
|PP||NELSON,BROCK - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||1||1.69%|
|PP||BAILEY,JOSH - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||1||1.69%|
|EV||BAILEY,JOSH - NELSON,BROCK - OKPOSO,KYLE||1||1.69%|
|EV||CLUTTERBUCK,CAL - GRABNER,MICHAEL - OKPOSO,KYLE||1||1.69%|
|EV||NELSON,BROCK - NIELSEN,FRANS - OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||1||1.69%|
|PP||OKPOSO,KYLE - TAVARES,JOHN - VANEK,THOMAS||1||1.69%|
That's right - 49 of his 59 points this season have come with J.T. on the ice with him. Expect a significant downtick from Okposo to end the campaign.
As for Thomas Vanek - well, he's got enough problems without adding this to the mix. Problems such as hangovers, countrymen mad at him, etc. But Vanek is on pace for 68 points and, with a trade likely, he'll probably finish up around there regardless.
And that brings us to the player everyone is wondering about. Ryan Strome. We all know what this guy can do, but if you need to brush up on your Strome knowledge, here is a great fantasy hockey profile of him. There is little doubt in my mind that he will be recalled, and there is also little doubt that he will see more ice time and PP time this go-around. With 22 games left, he could tally anywhere from seven points (if he has trouble getting going) to 15 or 16 points (if he finds 'the zone' quickly). There is definitely some risk/reward here.
Projected lines, NYI:
Thomas Vanek - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Michael Grabner - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Projected lines, Team Canada (just a quick though - discuss below):
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Martin St.Louis
Matt Duchene - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Jeff Carter
Patrick Marleau - Patrice Bergeron - Rick Nash