Almost one year to the day that the Chicago Blackhawks lost Corey Crawford for the remainder of the 2017-18 season, fear of another lengthy absence for the goaltender have once again been brought to mind. Crawford's head smacked the goalpost on Sunday during a pileup against the San Jose Sharks. With extreme concern, he immediately left the game and has since been diagnosed with another concussion.
Concussions are an injury where recovery time is difficult to predict. One thing we do know is that the more concussions you have, the worse they tend to be. Crawford missed a full 10 months of action due to the concussion he suffered at this time last year, so that does not bode well for his outcome this time around. Certainly, we all are hoping for the best, but the reality is that both the Blackhawks and fantasy managers must prepare for the worst.
If Crawford's injury does indeed turn out to be of a long-term variety, eventually someone is bound to emerge as an unexpectedly fantasy-relevant goaltender. Cam Ward is not likely to be this someone going forward. The veteran goaltender has lost a step somewhere along the way. Perhaps moving from the Corsi-friendly confines (a measure of shot attempt differential at even strength) of Raleigh has exposed something here. Either way, Ward's ratios are among the worst in the NHL this season. Heck, Chicago was leading 3-2 when Crawford came out of the game on Sunday and ended up losing 7-3.
The Blackhawks do have two good prospects down on the farm. Collin Delia has been the starter for the Rockford IceHogs this season and is waiver exempt, which is likely the reasonhe has been called up on an emergency basis. Delia is an undrafted free agent that Chicago picked up a few years back based upon his play in college. He got a cup of coffee in the NHL last season -- his first as a pro -- but never really got regular starts. In a regular gig between the pipes for the IceHogs this season, he leads the AHL in save percentage among qualified goaltenders.
Anton Forsberg is the other option, but he would have to clear waivers if he were to be sent back down to the minors at any point. Despite a poor showing last season when he was thrust into the spotlight by Crawford's injury, Forsberg remains a high-potential goaltending asset at 26 years old. He's looked solid in a part-time role for the IceHogs this season. In hindsight, the 2.97 GAA and .908 save percentage he produced last season for Chicago look a lot better in light of what Crawford and Ward have done behind this defense over the last few months.
Both Delia and Forsberg are intriguing fantasy assets. The Blackhawks remain among those NHL teams that -- on paper -- could turn their season thing around at any moment. Is the team's core really that different than the one that was winning Stanley Cups? The right set of circumstances could have this team winning games again and the regular goaltender would be a prized fantasy asset if that happens.
A starting goaltender's injury can often turn out to be a rallying point that changes a team's dynamic, so stashing Delia now could be a shrewd move for any fantasy squad desperate for goaltending help -- especially if you missed out on this week's Carter Hart sweepstakes. More on that in a bit...
Forwards on the move
Jakub Voracek, W, Philadelphia Flyers (up one spot to No. 40): If you were the incoming coach of the Flyers and sat down with your depth chart to decide on the line combinations, it's a safe bet that nine out of 10 times you would pair Claude Giroux and Voracek together on the top line. The now-fired Dave Hakstol moved away from that duo partway through last season -- even though the pair (with Sean Couturier) were tearing up the league -- and he's stayed away from it at even-strength ever since. I don't think it's a stretch to think that Voracek and Giroux are destined to play on the same line in the very near future. Despite playing together at even-strength for only a couple of months at the start of last season, the tandem still finished the season among the top-five most-dangerous duos for scoring. A full 40 goals were scored last season on which they each had a point, and the five duos who had a higher total than that were pairs who played together both at even-strength and on the power play all season long. Interim coach Scott Gordon will want to tinker with Philadelphia's lines to put his own stamp on the club. In addition to Voracek, I think the coaching change also bodes well for Wayne Simmonds and James van Riemsdyk.
Henrik Borgstrom, C, Florida Panthers (up nine spots to No. 236): Finally! I put Borgstrom in the rankings the instant that Vincent Trocheck's foot started facing the wrong direction expecting a call-up sooner, rather than later. It took almost a month, but at last he's up -- and on a scoring line for the Panthers, where he should remain until Trocheck has healed up (which may not be this season). Borgstrom has showed well as an AHL rookie so far this season and will have scoring-line opportunities given to him at the NHL level. He is a speculative pickup right away in 14-team leagues and should be on the radar in shallower formats.
Denis Gurianov, W, Dallas Stars (enters ranks at No. 231): Stars coach Jim Montgomery has tried just about every conceivable combination to get himself two solid lines of scoring, instead of just one stacked unit. He used a new puzzle piece on Sunday against the Avalanche as 2015 draft pick Gurianov is back up with the Stars. An offensively gifted prospect, Gurianov has turned the corner in the AHL this season, tied-for-fifth in the league in assists and sitting with 28 points in 23 games. He hadn't come close to a point-per-game pace in two previous AHL seasons, so something has clearly clicked for him at the age of 21. He played in Sunday's contest on a line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and didn't look out of place with the superstars.
Defenseman on the move
Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins (up two spots to No. 60): Krug has managed to maintain fantasy value as the No. 25 defenseman on the ESPN Player Rater during the past 30 days -- a feat made more impressive as Boston has been without it's key catalyst the entire time. Patrice Bergeron could rejoin Bruins practice on Wednesday for the first time since an upper-body injury knocked him out on Nov. 16. Krug and Bergeron have only played together for eight games this season, because Krug missed the bulk of October. With Bergeron back on the ice either this week or next, Krug has no excuse not to be a top-three fantasy defenseman.
Goaltender on the move
Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia Flyers (enters ranks at No. 229): The Flyers hands are tied and they have little choice but to debut their "goaltender of the future" this week. Hart's AHL numbers this season aren't going to blow anyone away, but he's still just a 20-year-old rookie. He has turned a bit of a corner of late with better ratios. The Flyers have a new GM, an interim head coach and a pile of injured goaltenders. Who is to say Hart won't emerge from this kerfuffle as the No. 1 netminder by January? It certainly won't be Gritty. Hart has the skill, he has the opportunity, and he's been groomed to shoulder a starter's workload. He's a must-add in all fantasy leagues until we see how the dust settles. Hart doesn't even have to be great. He could just be "pretty good" and that would be enough to win the Philadelphia starting job going forward.