In this festive season's spirit of giving and sharing (and receiving), we're sending a fantasy wish list to real-life coaches and management around the NHL.
Instead of dropping Henrique to center the third unit once Ryan Kesler is fully recovered from his hip injury (soon), the Ducks might consider shifting the versatile former Devil to the left side of Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, at least until a once-again healthy Corey Perry bumps Rakell back to the left side. Henrique's fantasy managers would certainly appreciate such a configuration, however temporary. No offense to Nick Ritchie and Co., but a potential top six of Henrique-Getzlaf-Rakell and Andrew Cogliano-Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg feels far more formidable.
Just envision what one of the game's best offensive-defensemen could accomplish away from what feels like a perpetual rebuild project in the desert. The improvement in Ekman-Larsson's plus/minus alone (minus-25 at present) should thrill any invested fantasy manager. It probably won't happen during the season, if at all, but it doesn't hurt to dream. The 26-year-old has a year left on his contract beyond this season.
Boston Bruins: Play the kids
Rookie forwards Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk have been a breath of spirited air with the Bruins this season, especially in recent play. Rostered in 17.5 percent of ESPN leagues, Heinen has four goals and six assists in eight games, while DeBrusk (6.4 percent) has three goals and three helpers in his most recent half-dozen. The future has arrived in Boston, and both of these youngsters should be seeing top-six/secondary power-play minutes, game in and game out. They should also be spoken for in dynasty leagues across the board.
Often skating on a top line and power play with Jack Eichel, Kane is lighting it up with the league's lowest-scoring team. So unless the 26-year-old sniper is headed to join a Calgary Flames' No. 1 unit with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan or the like, his fantasy value as a member of the Sabres -- outside of plus/minus -- is richly profiting at a near point-per-game pace.
Calgary Flames: Give Sam Bennett regular power-play minutes
While it's understood that Bennett doesn't fit within the Flames' top six, the third-liner has nonetheless warmed up this December, collecting four goals and five assists. Still only 21 years old, the 2014 fourth-overall pick deserves a regular shot at contributing with the man advantage. Such a gig would certainly add to Bennett's worth in deeper fantasy leagues.
The Hurricanes' top offensive-defenseman has zero points (minus-10) in 12 games. Zilch. It's time to give one of the youngsters a shot with the No. 1 unit, at least until Faulk snaps out of this funk. We like 20-year-old Noah Hanifin for the prime assignment to begin. Rostered in 29 percent of ESPN leagues, Hanifin has 16 points on the season, compared to Faulk's seven.
From a training camp "maybe" to top-line contributor, the rookie forward is gelling nicely with center Jonathan Toews and winger Brandon Saad. The same can be said for sophomore Nick Schmaltz (rostered in 14.7 percent of ESPN leagues) alongside Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. This injection of youth gives coach Joel Quenneville a workable top six with a bright future, based on further growth and development. That combo might stick a while.
Colorado Avalanche: Leave that red-hot scoring unit alone
Since Matt Duchene's departure, the Avalanche's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has been positively smoldering. The worry is coach Jared Bednar will look to disassemble that No. 1 unit as means of spreading the wealth. If Bednar does opt for that route, fantasy managers should immediately jump on whoever lands on MacKinnon's wing in place of Landeskog and/or Rantanen. Odds are that lucky lad be widely available in ESPN leagues.
He'll come around. The 30-year-old isn't likely to score 30 goals this season, but he's due an upswing after an altogether awful November (two points) and only slightly better December. While a bottom-six demotion hasn't felt like the best option, an evening in the press box might help hit the reset button. For now, Foligno's current assignment centering Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand strikes as promising enough.
While there's much to be said on behalf of a balanced attack, that early-season No. 1 line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov was fun. Also, Seguin hasn't been nearly as productive since settling in on the second scoring unit. A more frequent regathering of the trio would be nice, beyond their togetherness on the top power play.
His most recent two contests serving as a great exception, Green has been strikingly quiet since mid-November. A trade sending the offensive-defenseman, along with his expiring contract, to a contending squad would go a long way in rebooting his productive workings.
While the Oilers now clearly believe Leon Draisaitl is best utilized elsewhere, other candidates have rotated through on McDavid's right wing. A regular, semi-permanent fixture in that prime post would be a great fantasy gift. For now, seeing 19-year-old Jesse Puljujarvi have a go at earning the gig is promising.
Outside of the club's top trio and a red-hot Vincent Trocheck, Bjugstad has been the Panthers' most productive forward. He's also been shooting up a storm, sitting in second only to Trocheck in that department. More quality minutes at even-strength and with the extra skater for the imposing and versatile skater could be in order, particularly when he's slotted in on the wing, as opposed to serving as third-line center. As it stands, Bjugstad is already on pace to finish with more than 20 goals.
"Not close" and "months away" aren't helpful. If he's not back until March, so be it, but what's the harm in offering a real update? Suffering a sliced ankle on Oct. 18, Carter was initially ruled out six-to-eight weeks. Obviously, the situation is far more dire. Nevermind fantasy managers, invested L.A. Kings fans should feel exasperated by the organization's hush-hush approach to one of their best players.
Please trade the 23-year-old forward somewhere where he has the chance to really flourish. For all involved, the relationship between Galchenyuk and the Canadiens is obviously busted. A change in scenery -- and hey, maybe even a shot at playing center again -- could do wonders for the 2012 third-overall draft selection. He scored 30 goals only two years ago, and he should get the chance to score 30 again.
The "problem" is the Wild already has four capable wingers to flank top centers Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu. Demoting Jason Zucker or Nino Niederreiter doesn't really jive, yet jamming Parise alongside bottom-six centers Daniel Winnik or Matt Cullen isn't ideal either. One compromise might be the creation of a third scoring line with Parise, Charlie Coyle and promising rookie Joel Eriksson Ek. One way or another, coach Bruce Boudreau could have some juggling to do in the not-too-distant future, as Parise cautiously revs it up in practice.
Performing brilliantly of late, the Predators' future No. 1 has served as a prized spot-start and daily fantasy commodity. Rinne's fantasy managers shouldn't bristle at this thought either, as a titch less action could work in their netminder's favor over the long haul. Asking the 35-year-old for another quality 65-game season ahead of a potentially long playoff run is a bit much.
Devils radio analyst Glenn "Chico" Resch recently suggested Hall would score with even greater regularity if he allowed his center to carry the play more often. Such an adjustment would also likely benefit Hall's linemates, rookie center-in-question Nico Hischier and winger Kyle Palmieri. Time is likely to play a factor here, as Hischier, still 18 years old, gains valuable experience game by game.
Perhaps playing with an expiring contract isn't serving as a motivating factor while Tavares remains on pace for his first 100-point season, but just in case the star's uncertain future does inspire that little bit of extra fire, fantasy managers can't be faulted for wanting a delay in putting pen to paper. And that's assuming Tavares even re-signs with the Islanders, which is hardly a given.
This one has been a mindboggler since last season's scoring eruption in New York. Leading his club with 17 goals already this campaign, seven of them in his past nine games, Grabner still doesn't get a whiff of ice time with the man advantage. Why not? Acknowledged as the best finisher on the team, the 30-year-old might boost the Rangers' already-good power play to a Tampa Bay Lightning/Predators-level of great.
Like Ekman-Larsson, Green and Galchenyuk, Hoffman would undoubtedly benefit from a trade away from his current squad. The Senators are struggling, and the 28-year-old has scored all of one goal in 11 games. The St. Louis Blues and many other contending clubs are shopping for a top-six winger. Unlike other fanciful trade proposals, a potential deal in this vein smells super legit.
One of the league's streakiest netminders is on a December roll with seven wins in nine straight starts (.926 save percentage). Never mind temp backup Alex Lyon, never mind Michal Neuvirth once he recovers from injury, the Flyers should simply play Elliott until he crumples. The 32-year-old has historically run hot and cold to the extreme, and he's very, very warm right now. Let fantasy managers ride this heat wave.
That isn't who he is. Not on this squad, anyway. Since his early-season outbreak for a goal and seven assists in six contests, Rust has amassed all of nine points in 29 games. Unless injury-induced desperation sets in, the 25-year-old forward belongs in the Penguins' bottom six. Insisting otherwise only sets up vulnerable fantasy managers for major disappointment.
Jones' fantasy managers won't much care for this wish, but the fact is the Sharks' No. 1 netminder has played poorly of late, allowing at least four goals in each of December's six contests, while Dell has shined. A little extra time off to work out the kinks could also work in Jones' favor in the long run.
St. Louis Blues: Trade for a top-line winger
Want Paul Stastny to emerge from his current run of scoring sluggishness? Throw an Evander Kane or Mike Hoffman on his wing and watch the 31-year-old center blossom once more. Such an addition would undoubtedly benefit Alexander Steen on Stastny's other wing, as well. Then once Jaden Schwartz returns from injury, relieving Vladimir Sobotka of his unsuited top-line duties alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn, the Blues might sport the most intimidating top six in all the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Stick with Tyler Johnson on the wing
One quick skip from third-line center to the second-unit wing and bam! Johnson nearly instantly erupts out of his first-quarter slump. Skating with Ondrej Palat and young center Brayden Point, Johnson is riding a seven-game December point streak with four goals and eight assists. Again, that's 12 points in seven games. Under no circumstances should Lightning coach Jon Cooper undo this inspired lineup move.
As frustrating as it is for fantasy managers and Leafs fans alike, rushing Matthews back ahead of a full recovery from whatever is ailing his upper-body could backfire in grand fashion. Fortunately, the organization appears fully committed to taking the cautious route with an eye to the long game. Even if the star forward sits out another week, two or more, it will be well worth the short-term sacrifice for all invested.
He was drafted sixth overall in 2014 for a reason. The Canucks might profit handsomely from letting the 21-year-old learn from two experienced veterans. Let him figure out how to contribute while establishing an imposing, physical presence. Let him make mistakes. Then when Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi recover from their respective injuries (later January?), those two can rejoin rookie firecracker Brock Boeser on the early season's exciting and effective second scoring line.
Vegas Golden Knights: Just keep doing what you're doing
Whatever it is, it's working beautifully. From Jonathan Marchessault to Reilly Smith to Erik Haula to William Karlsson, just about every prominent Vegas skater up front is enjoying a career year. In the case of veteran James Neal, it is his most productive campaign in a long while. David Perron is on a point-per-game pace. Former Bruins blueliner Colin Miller already has three more points than his 61-game total from last year. Young defenseman Shea Theodore is emerging as a long-term threat from the back end. The goaltending duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Malcolm Subban is one of the league's best. Hey, if it ain't broke...
Some are already comparing the new forward duo of rookie Vrana and Kuznetsov to the Capitals' top forward pairing of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, as mentioned in this week's Line Changes. That sounds promising, especially since Vrana is rostered in only 3.6 percent of ESPN leagues. Drafted 13th overall in 2014, the 21-year-old has two goals and an assist in his past four contests.
Far more effective than Jacob Trouba with the man advantage, Myers more than merits this assignment. The towering defenseman has five assists in five games, including three with the extra skater, since the Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien to a lower-body injury. Of Myers' 19 points on the year, 11 have counted on the power play, in contrast to Trouba's lonely pair of assists.