The Anaheim Ducks are no longer viciously depleted down the middle. In what’s generally being characterized as a hockey trade benefiting both sides, the Ducks acquired centerman Adam Henrique, prospect Joseph Blandisi and a conditional 2018 third-round draft pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen.
For Anaheim, Henrique fills a gaping hole up front as a capable top-six centerman. To start, the former 30-goal scorer is slated to play on a No. 1 line with Corey Perry. The move provides for a big fantasy upgrade following Henrique’s third-line assignment back in New Jersey. Any invested manager should realize that the 27-year-old is likely to tumble down Anaheim’s lineup once fellow centermen Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler return from injury. They’re both due back by late December.
As for Vatanen, he leaves a Ducks’ blue line awash with talent for an immediate position with New Jersey’s top four and No. 1 power play. Amassing only four points in 15 contests, the 26-year-old defenseman should quickly benefit from filling a role on a Devils squad scoring 3.17 goals per game. Available in 86 percent of ESPN leagues, it wasn’t that long ago that Vatanen averaged 0.52 points per contest (2013-2016).
Beyond the Anaheim-New Jersey trade, here is a roundup of fantasy tidbits from the NHL’s other 29 teams.
Arizona Coyotes: Rostered in less than half of ESPN leagues, forward Derek Stepan presently strikes as undervalued. Centering the Coyotes’ No. 1 line with a red-hot Brendan Perlini and Tobias Rieder, Stepan has a goal and six assists in seven games, including three points with the extra skater. It serves as a nice rebound performance after the former New York Rangers center’s nine-game dry spell. Fantasy managers in deeper leagues might snap him up if a pertinent hole needs plugging.
Boston Bruins: Despite the healthy return of Brad Marchand, winger Danton Heinen has managed to maintain his grip on a top-six role with the Bruins. We’ll see how long that lasts, once fellow rookie forward Jake DeBrusk (upper-body injury) returns to health. DeBrusk has been especially productive since his press-box ‘time-out’ on Nov. 11, notching two goals and four assists on 18 shots (plus-seven) through six contests.
Buffalo Sabres: Following the latest round of shuffling in Buffalo, veteran Jason Pominville finds himself back on a No. 1 scoring line with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Pominville flourished in that plum role in October, averaging a point per game, including six goals, before drying out with only two assists in all of November. This latest promotion, however long it lasts, should see the 35-year-old revitalized, at least in the short term.
Calgary Flames: While Kris Versteeg convalesces off-ice with a lower-body injury, third-line center Mark Jankowski is earning a shot on the Flames’ top power play. Considering the scoring heat brought on by Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this season, that assignment alone could merit investing in Jankowski as a dark-horse asset in daily fantasy play that rewards power-play production.
Carolina Hurricanes: In spite of anchoring the Hurricanes’ secondary power play, not one of Noah Hanifin‘s two goals and three assists in five games have counted with the man advantage. In fact, only two of his 13 points generated on the season have been with the extra skater, but given continued consistent opportunities, the contributions on special teams will come with greater regularity. Although in his third full season, the 2015 fifth-overall draft selection is still only 20 years old. Without question, this young defenseman should be spoken for in deeper keeper leagues across the board.
Chicago Blackhawks: Former Czech pro Jan Rutta appears to be adjusting well to competition on this side of the Atlantic. Somewhat quietly, the 27-year-old NHL ‘rookie’ defenseman has amassed six points in his past seven contests. He’s also averaged nearly 22 minutes per game since the first week of November. While a more consistent role with the man advantage would be nice, Rutta still has value in deeper leagues.
Colorado Avalanche: If in the market for a well-rounded fantasy defenseman, look no further than Colorado’s Erik Johnson. In addition to his nine points, Johnson leads his squad in average time on ice (26:28), shots (72) and blocked shots (44). The 29-year-old blueliner also ranks behind only forward Gabriel Landeskog with at plus-seven, and he’s available in nearly three-quarters of ESPN leagues.
Columbus Blue Jackets: We had better start paying greater attention to young Pierre-Luc Dubois. Centering a top scoring line with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson, the rookie forward is slowly turning heads with his impressive play-making abilities. Drafted third overall in 2015, the 19-year-old is rostered in only 1.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Our guess is that won’t remain that low for long.
Dallas Stars: Fantasy managers waiting on Tyler Seguin‘s reunion with Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov will be pleased to know that trio is back intact ahead of the Stars’ home-and-home series with the Blackhawks. It would seem the move was inspired by the latest injury to knock out Martin Hanzal. However, knowing Ken Hitchcock, Dallas’ head coach won’t hesitate to drop Seguin back to his second scoring unit in the spirit of balance, when so moved. At that point, veteran Jason Spezza would conceivably be shifted back to Seguin’s wing.
Detroit Red Wings: The experiment of skating fringe forward David Booth on the Red Wings’ top line didn’t last long. Either Andreas Athanasiou or Martin Frk, when healthy enough, is expected to occupy the left-wing position adjacent Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist moving forward.
Edmonton Oilers: Shelve Cam Talbot for the next couple of weeks. The Oilers’ No. 1 netminder is expected out at least that long with an upper-body injury. This immediately clears the stage for backup Laurent Brossoit to prove he’s capable of holding down the fort, beginning Thursday against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. If eager to gamble on the 24-year-old — who’s been good on two occasions and terrible in a third appearance this season — maybe wait until after the Oilers face the fourth-ranked offense in the league.
Florida Panthers: There it is. A first goal of the season for young forward Denis Malgin, and by no coincidence, his first as substitute on a top line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. The 20-year-od scored the late-game winner in Tuesday’s 5-4 victory over the Rangers, assisted by Huberdeau. Managers in deeper leagues might give Malgin a whirl as long as he’s filling in for the injured Evgenii Dadonov, estimated at four-to-six weeks.
Los Angeles Kings: If disenchanted with the drop off in production from young Adrian Kempe since season’s start, don’t make any drastic moves just yet. The 21-year-old is reportedly drawing a great deal of inspiration from his idol and current linemate Marian Gaborik. “He’s a really fast player and a good goal scorer,” Kempe said. “I think that would be good for me and I’ve just got to try to keep my speed in the middle and try to feed him pucks outside.” Wouldn’t you know it, Kempe scored his first goal in eight contests, assisted by Gaborik, in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Red Wings.
Montreal Canadiens: Whether he’s nursing a lower-body injury or forgot his passport necessary for travel to the U.S. — or both — Jonathan Drouin is out of the lineup for Thursday’s contest in Detroit. Either way, the 22-year-old forward remains a possibility for Saturday’s tilt with the Red Wings back in Montreal. Adjust your lineup accordingly. Drouin has been more productive of late, collecting two goals and two assists in the three games since Carey Price‘s healthy return.
Minnesota Wild: Diagnosed with a groin injury, defenseman Jared Spurgeon could miss significant time for the Wild. We’re still awaiting more info on the severity. Averaging 25:40 minutes per game, Spurgeon has 15 points, including five with the man advantage, through 23 contests. As it stands, Jonas Brodin pairs with fellow blueliner Ryan Suter on Minnesota’s top power play, while Matthew Dumba anchors the secondary unit.
Nashville Predators: Not only is Mattias Ekholm tearing it up with five goals and three assists in his past eight games, but the 27-year-old defenseman also leads all Predators in blocked shots, while averaging a whopping 24:57 minutes. He’s also averaging 0.92 PIM per contest, if your league honors that category. Clearly coming into his own this year on a top pair with Roman Josi, Ekholm might merit a trade offer if your roster is already bursting with moveable forward talent.
New York Islanders: Following two successful outings, Jaroslav Halak appears the favorite to start against the bumbling Ottawa Senators on Friday. Allowing only three total goals in consecutive wins aver the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa, the experienced, and historically streaky, netminder figures as a potentially rewarding dark-horse asset, particularly in daily fantasy play. Or at least until his fortune turns sour. Conversely, goalie Thomas Greiss falls in fantasy prominence as the provisional back-up.
New York Rangers: Forward David Desharnais gets first crack at replacing Mika Zibanejad while the Rangers’ top centerman remains sidelined with a concussion. Those are big skates to fill, considering Zibanejad has been the Rangers’ best offensive player to date. If the 31-year-old manages well enough to satisfy coach Alain Vigneault, Desharnais could serve as a sneaky short-term and DFS asset while splitting Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. The former Canadien made noise in the past when alongside former linemate Max Pacioretty.
Ottawa Senators: Having scored only nine goals in seven recent games, all losses, the Senators currently make up an otherwise talented team playing terribly uninspired hockey. Shelve everyone — yes, even Erik Karlsson — until they collectively right the ship, and if it suits the long-term game, consider targeting Matt Duchene as a reduced-value trade candidate in the meanwhile. The former Avalanche centerman will get it figured out in Ottawa, especially if he sticks on a top scoring line with the likes of Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. It’s just a matter of when it all comes together.
Philadelphia Flyers: Fantasy managers in leagues that include defensive categories should hold Ivan Provorov in higher esteem. While he ranks behind Shayne Gostisbehere in offensive prowess, the 20-year-old sophomore offers additional value as the club’s leader in blocked shots, fourth in the league with 63, and ranks second on his squad in hits (49). Anchoring the Flyers’ secondary power play, Provorov also has 13 points on the season while averaging a team-leading 25:02 minutes per game. The 2015 seventh-overall draft selection remains available in nearly half of ESPN leagues.
Pittsburgh Penguins: At onset, the Penguins’ net belongs to Tristan Jarry while No. 1 Matt Murray takes two-to-three weeks to recover from a lower-body injury. What the unproven 22-year-old makes of this opportunity remains to be seen. A veteran of four complete and one partial NHL contests, Jarry is a full-fledged fantasy wildcard. Still, managers in need of goaltending help are encouraged to roll the dice, particularly ahead of this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Eastern Conference basement-dwelling Sabres.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have reassigned goalie Antoine Bibeau to their AHL affiliate, so we can suppose Martin Jones (undisclosed minor injury) is at least able to dress as the back-up to No. 2 Aaron Dell for Friday’s contest with the Panthers, if not start. The club could also take the more cautious route, after Dell stopped all but one of 23 shots faced in Tuesday 3-1 victory over the Flyers. Check in before puck drop in Florida.
St. Louis Blues: Forward Patrik Berglund made his healthy debut for the Blues on Wednesday following offseason shoulder surgery. A consistent presence with the extra skater in the past, it’s only a matter of time before the imposing forward resumes that regular role. Coming off a career-high 23-goal campaign, Berglund has some value in deeper leagues and as a dark-horse daily fantasy asset in more favorable matchups, particularly when the 29-year-old is on a roll.
Tampa Bay Lightning: For what it’s worth, Anton Stralman leads all NHL defenseman with a plus-15. Still, minimal comfort is offered there in light of the offensive-defenseman’s lack of production this season (six points). Keep in mind the 31-year-old veteran could again see valuable minutes on the Lightning’s power play if Mikhail Sergachev cools off at some point during the 19-year-old’s rookie season. It’s hardly out of the question, as the 82-game grind of the NHL has a history of taking its eventual toll on first-year full-timers.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Fans of the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner forward pairing will be pleased to learn that duo is once again united ahead of Thursday’s tilt with the Oilers. William Nylander, having scored one lonely goal in 18 contests, is slated on the Maple Leafs’ fourth unit with Matt Martin and Dominic Moore. Just remember the situation remains ever fluid with head coach Mike Babcock at the helm.
Vancouver Canucks: The short-lived experiment of skating Sam Gagner with No. 1 center Bo Horvat appears over. We’ll get a better sense from Travis Green through the next couple of games if the Canucks’ head coach is fully recommitted to his young top line of Sven Baertschi, Horvat and Brock Boeser. Baertschi’s fantasy value, in particular, otherwise takes a hit.
Vegas Golden Knights: In offering an update on the health status of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights couldn’t be more clear in their cautious handling of their No. 1 netminder. “There is no such thing as a mild concussion,” general manager George McPhee said earlier this week. “A concussion is a concussion, and players are much more cognizant of this type of injury now, as we all are. It’s important that (Fleury) is 100 percent for right now and for 15 years from now.” The 33-year-old isn’t even practicing yet, and as such, Vegas’ net belongs to Malcolm Subban for the foreseeable future.
Washington Capitals: As discussed in Tuesday’s Line Changes column, Tom Wilson sports a bump in productive potential while skating on a top scoring line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Although Wilson’s rate of netting penalty minutes has slowed in recent contests, the 23-year-old feisty forward remains at the top of the league among active league regulars in PIM/game (2.71) while averaging 2.9 hits per outing.
Winnipeg Jets: Entrenched on a top line and power play with one of the most dangerous forward pairings in the league in Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, 20-year-old Kyle Connor is comfortably on pace for a 60-point season in his first full NHL campaign, yet the 2015 first-round draft selection remains spoken for in less than 20 percent of ESPN leagues. We don’t get it.