Due to the holiday break, we've had a lot more time than usual since we last updated our rest-of-season rankings. As a result, there's been a lot more change in the fantasy landscape than there might be in a typical one week's time. You'll see that reflected here, as 18 new players join the rankings this week. Typically, that list checks in at around 10-12 names.
Perhaps the most significant development from a fantasy perspective, however, is the loss of two fantasy D1 options for what will probably be the bulk of January. Ottawa's breakout star Thomas Chabot will be out for up to three weeks after suffering a shoulder injury this past Friday on a hit from Matt Martin of the Islanders. Meanwhile, Dustin Byfuglien left Winnipeg's game against Minnesota on Saturday after colliding with Luke Kunin. Byfuglien most likely won't be back in the lineup until after the All-Star break.
Prior to the injuries, these guys were my No. 6 and No. 8 defensemen in the rest-of-season rankings. Byfuglien was No. 43 overall and Chabot was No. 50. That's a pretty big blow to any fantasy lineup, and especially unlucky for anyone counting on both players -- which is very possible, given Chabot's "late-round gamble" status at the beginning of the season.
Attempting to replace either player with their on-ice replacements isn't going to cut the mustard. The Jets will promote Josh Morrissey to the top power-play unit, and he'll likely respond with increased production. He's currently rostered in almost 50 percent of ESPN leagues, which is a benchmark that indicates he isn't around in deeper formats.
The Senators' replacement for Chabot is at the other end of the spectrum. While Maxime Lajoie has a sneaky eight power-play points this season, it's not reflective of what we should expect from him in an elevated role. Most of his production came thanks to a hot October, during which time Lajoie scored more than half of his total points for this season. He'll be available in almost any league, but even with a role on Ottawa's top power play, he is not someone to consider at this time.
Where should you look? Here are a few suggestions:
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks: What we look for when trying to replace a D1 in fantasy is a player with a job as a power-play quarterback, providing us with an opportunity to speculate on increased production. There is no speculating needed with Edler. He's already proven to be a D1 this season -- full stop. The fact that he's rostered in just 8.7 percent of ESPN leagues is a gift to fantasy managers who have now lost Chabot or Byfuglien. Add him to your team immediately. Over the past 30 days, Edler is No. 7 on the ESPN Player Rater among defensemen, thanks to three goals, six assists, a plus-6 rating and five power-play points. Perhaps more telling is the list of defensemen who have fared better than him over that span: Kris Letang, Mark Giordano, Byfuglien, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. That's some exclusive company.
Erik Gustafsson, D, Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks have been somewhat of a mess this season, but have found a modicum of stability as of late, winning five of seven games. Gustafsson has been part of the turnaround, after being handed the keys to Chicago's top power-play unit on Dec. 14. Since then, Gustafsson has three goals, six assists and four power-play points in nine games. Only Karlsson and Morgan Rielly have more points among defensemen over this stretch. Gustafsson is only rostered in 5.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders: Edler clearly already has D1 upside, so why is a guy like Pulock under consideration? No, he hasn't come close to D1 fantasy value over a sustained period of time, but he remains just one roadblock away from that possibility. The Islanders are showing some signs of heating up as a team, and that bodes well for their power play. Nick Leddy, however, continues to block up the first unit. If Barry Trotz would make a change here, suddenly Pulock would be primed for a run.
Leddy is No. 11 in the NHL in terms of total power-play minutes among defensemen, yet is no better than No. 27 in total power-play points. Heck, he doesn't even have a goal on the man-advantage this season. The only regular No. 1 power-play quarterback I can argue as having been worse for fantasy is Carolina's Justin Faulk. He has just three power-play points, but at least Faulk has registered 35 shots-on-goal with the extra skater, compared to just 13 from Leddy. In any event, Pulock is rostered in only 27.5 percent of ESPN leagues, boosted by a somewhat hot December, where he had 11 points in 14 games.
Forwards on the move
James van Riemsdyk, W, Philadelphia Flyers (up 24 spots to No. 129): While the coaching chance in Philadelphia hasn't brought Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux back together again, it has elevated the stature of one winger who had previously been buried on the depth chart. While his second tenure with the Flyers didn't start well, van Riemsdyk has been responding to a promotion to the team's top-line with Giroux and Sean Couturier. Now with six points in eight games and a secure spot, van Riemsdyk is starting to look more like the player we thought we were getting on draft day -- a top-six winger with 30-goal upside.
Ondrej Palat, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 37 spots to No. 205): Speaking of draft-day busts that are looking better of late, Palat has worked his way back into the Lightning's top-six and recently cracked the power play as well. Obviously, hanging around on the ice with any combination of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov is very good for fantasy production. Palat had a nice little hot stretch in mid-December with seven points in six games, but has cooled off a bit over the past four contests. Still, that's a pretty good baseline going forward, making him a staple in rotisserie formats and a good guy to come off the bench in head-to-head leagues when he's hot.
Defenseman on the move
Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild (enters ranks at No. 229): We could have included Matt Dumba up top as another D1 that fantasy managers may have lost for a decent stretch. An injury suffered on Dec. 15 turned out to require surgery, so Dumba could be gone until almost April. That means he's droppable in most formats, though if you do so, set yourself a reminder to pick him up ahead of the fantasy playoffs. The Wild have been in the doldrums ever since his injury, winning just one of seven games. Spurgeon, however, has picked up the slack on the power play. His minutes spiked from around 22 MPG prior to the injury up to almost 30 MPG since Dumba was hurt. The results haven't been there yet, but when the Wild remember how to score again, Spurgeon should benefit from the increased presence.
Goaltender on the move
Robin Lehner, G, New York Islanders (up 44 spots to No. 141): Lehner has been a fantasy yo-yo in the rankings this season, and with good reason. He started strong, stumbled a bit, got injured, and then, just when he started showing some signs of improvement, Thomas Greiss went on a tear. It's still not Lehner's job, but we are getting closer to that seeming inevitability. Greiss is still playing well, but Lehner was phenomenal in December, going 5-1-1 with a 1.06 GAA and a .962 save percentage in seven appearances. Lehner now sits first among all qualified goaltenders in GAA and is tied with Jack Campbell for the best save percentage. As someone who drafted Lehner in every one of my leagues, I'm anxious for him to become the clear-cut starter here -- and the stats indicate he should be. However, I'm also cautious about how he would respond to the workload, so I'm content to rank him as a G2 for the time being.
New to rankings
Alex Pietrangelo (back sooner than expected and back on the power play), Collin Delia, Dylan Strome, Nate Schmidt, Phillip Danault, Mackenzie Blackwood (his consecutive shutouts make him the youngest Devil to achieve the feat, besting Martin Brodeur's mark), Jared Spurgeon, Jakob Chychrun, David Perron, Laurent Brossoit, Nick Ritchie, Linus Ullmark, J.T. Compher (playing in place of Gabriel Landeskog on Colorado's top line amid a shakeup), Jake DeBrusk, Alex Iafallo, Erik Gustafsson, Philipp Grubauer and Ty Rattie (back with Connor McDavid thanks to a series of injuries).
Cam Fowler, Esa Lindell, Mike Green, Anthony Mantha, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Hartman (can he stay top-six after Filip Forsberg returns?), Josh Ho-Sang, Alex Killorn (has recently bumped Yanni Gourde from the top-six), Andreas Johanssen, Brandon Pirri (six goals in seven games this season) and Connor Brown.
Oscar Klefbom, Colin White, Filip Chytil, Andrew Shaw, Nino Niederreiter, Samuel Girard, Daniel Sprong, Mikael Backlund, Brent Seabrook, Dylan Sikura, Corey Crawford, Erik Johnson, Milan Lucic, Matt Dumba, Eeli Tolvanen, Jordan Eberle, Nolan Patrick and Zach Hyman.