We know the skill is there for young prospects, but opportunity doesn't always manifest. We have a few new prospects who, by virtue of lineup absences or injuries, are finding their way into the league at this midway point of the season. Some are getting more opportunity than others, but all have the skill to at least be on the fantasy radar.
Matt Boldy, W, Minnesota Wild: It's been a particularly successful first four games for Boldy. He almost looks like the missing piece to the Wild's offensive lineup. Slotting in with Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau at even strength, and even getting some power-play time with the first unit, he has four points in four games, clocking in at 2.4 fantasy points per game (FPPG). The lines are arranged in such a way that even with a healthy Joel Eriksson Ek, there is room for Boldy here. At this point, the Wild can't justify sending him back to the AHL if he keeps scoring. He's definitely worth scooping up in redraft leagues (and should already be rostered in any keeper format).
Cole Perfetti, C/W, Winnipeg Jets: A dominant debut in the AHL this season has seen Perfetti rack up 15 points in 17 games. Holes on the wing in recent weeks have allowed him to play his first six NHL games, mostly in a top-six role. But it's not going quite as swimmingly for Perfetti as it has been for Boldy. Perfetti has one goal to show for his efforts despite getting the vast majority of his ice time with team point leaders Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois. With Blake Wheeler eyeing up a return this weekend, the window could also be closing on Perfetti's chances to break into fantasy relevancy. Nikolaj Ehlers is also out of action, so maybe he gets a few more games. But either way, we haven't seen enough to make him a must-grab in redraft. Deeper keeper leagues should consider him, but only if part of the rules include a larger taxi squad roster.
Jets score two quick goals to take early lead over Caps
Kyle Connor's goal gets the Jets on the board, and Cole Perfetti follows up with a score of his own just over a minute later.
Cam York, D, Philadelphia Flyers: Turning 21 earlier this month, York's play belies his age for the Flyers through eight games. He's getting tons of key minutes from coach Mike Yeo, including a leading role on the power play over both Keith Yandle and Ivan Provorov. If the Flyers weren't in such a tailspin, there might be more reason for optimism here. Unfortunately, York's breakthrough is coming when the Flyers are reeling on the ice. So he has the skill and he has the opportunity, it's just a bit of a bad break that the opportunity is coming at a time with limited upside. That said, his 1.6 FPPG is borderline justifiable in any medium-sized fantasy league, so there's an argument to get him now and hope for improvements around him to come.
Quinton Byfield, C, Los Angeles Kings: Making his season debut on Thursday following a preseason ankle injury, Byfield is clearly not being thrown directly into the fire. He played on the third line at even strength, but was also given ample opportunity on the Kings top power-play unit (though Adrian Kempe missed the game). That protection at even strength, but massive opportunity on the power play can be a good combination for a skilled youngster to find their stride. The second-overall pick from the 2020 draft has a chance to earn some fantasy value in this situation -- even if his five-on-five stats are muted. If I'm a fantasy manager with a hole in my lineup, I'm taking a chance on Byfield now to try to get ahead of the competition. He comes with the type of hype that will make him a hot commodity if he gets two power-play points in his next game.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 24 to Jan. 30
Only one scheduled game for next week was moved, so we are back to a normal schedule for now. I look forward to seeing how crazy the Forecaster tables look during the frenzy of rescheduled games in February.
Every team plays at least twice this week, with 13 teams playing four games, so this is a fairly busy schedule. The Penguins and Islanders are of interest, getting all four of their games at home. The two-game teams are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators, and both clubs have favorable schedules. I don't know that I'd go out of my way to bench anyone for a light schedule.
Vegas Golden Knights: Talk about a test for the resilient Golden Knights: A four-game road trip against the Capitals, Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning, and the team might be without their three best forwards still. But that "might" is getting very interesting. Obviously it's too soon to see Jack Eichel make a return, but Max Pacioretty is making quick progress in his recovery from wrist surgery. He's back with the team and a return next week has not been ruled out. Mark Stone is in COVID protocol, so he could also return before the week is out. And beyond the forward, Alec Martinez is reportedly getting close to the lineup, too. He's been out since early November after taking a skate to the face. I know I mention this a lot, but I'd be remiss not to remind you that he led all defensemen in fantasy scoring last season.
Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand may be out for a few games after leaving Thursday's contest with a shoulder injury. Taylor Hall moves into must-start status, even though he's arguably been there for a while since David Pastrnak was moved to his line. But with Marchand out, Hall also gets a spot on the top power-play unit. Going a little deeper, Jake DeBrusk took over for Marchand on Patrice Bergeron's wing and would have some muted fantasy appeal next week if he gets to stay there.
Pittsburgh Penguins: I don't know that I've seen as promising a schedule as the Penguins four-game homestand next week. They welcome the Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings. With the exception of the Kings' defense, all of those teams can be found in the bottom-third of the league in goals against and goals for per game. Jason Zucker is out of the lineup after a short appearance, so Danton Heinen could be a pickup on Evgeni Malkin's line (where you can also find Kasperi Kapanen).
Blake Wheeler, W, Winnipeg Jets: His overall stats this season look bad. But Wheeler was heating up, big time, before he suffered an injury on Dec. 10. In his five games before missing time, Wheeler had a goal and nine assists. The Jets desperately need his presence and offense to return. He is currently eyeing up a Saturday return. Wheeler was dropped in 18 percent of leagues. Check to see if one of yours is among that.
Tyler Motte, C, Vancouver Canucks: Maintaining 2.0 FPPG during his past five games, Motte is looking a little more like the fantasy-relevant player he was at the start of last season (prior to an injury derailing his campaign). He will almost never leave you with a goose egg thanks to his peripheral stats (hits, blocked shots). Motte might make a particularly good fill-in next week with so many Canucks hitting the COVID list (J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland), potentially leaving him with extra ice time.