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Fantasy hockey rankings: How to handle late season injuries

The Tampa Bay Lightning are counting on Ondrej Palat for the stretch run. Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

Injuries aren't leaving us alone for the final few weeks of the fantasy season.

Steven Stamkos is definitely out for the remainder of the regular season, while Mark Stone and Chris Kreider sound like they'll miss a good chunk of what's left. These are all massive impacts to fantasy, as all three players have been top-50 fantasy assets thus far.

While the replacements on their respective NHL clubs won't return the top-50 value you lost, we can still attack those positions to mine some additional value.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ondrej Palat becomes a must-add wherever he is available. He is the replacement for Stamkos out of the gate on the top line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Palat has not been super productive to date this season, but his new role will come with power-play time, in addition to the ice time with star players.

Palat should be available in around 50% of leagues and will be a contributor with Stamkos on the sidelines.

The Vegas Golden Knights have gone back to the well of Chandler Stephenson to replace Stone on a line with Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson. While Stephenson has been filtering in and out of the top six since becoming a Golden Knight in December, he hasn't had a permanent role. That said, his numbers with Vegas have been above average: 38 games, 21 points and a plus-19 rating. Much of that damage was done when he had a top-six role nailed down with Karlsson out.

The loss of Stone for a number of weeks will mean more production from Stephenson. It won't be game changing for your roster, but it will be enough to be worthy of starting. Stephenson had six points in eight games with Karlsson out in late January and early February.

Stone's absence also will elevate Karlsson back to the top power-play unit, locking him in as an every-week starter.

For their first game without Kreider, the New York Rangers turned to Phil Di Giuseppe to skate with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. But I don't see the career bottom-six Di Giuseppe as a permanent fixture here. Can we speculate and hope that Kaapo Kakko gets another scoring-line look after fading into fantasy oblivion? What about cramming center Filip Chytil into a spot on the wing? There are options here, and Zibanejad has emerged as a true catalyst for his linemates. It will be worth keeping an eye on the lines to see if someone can emerge in time to have some medium-term value for the fantasy playoffs/stretch run.

In the meantime, this also moves Buchnevich into a role on the top power-play unit, making him a solid piece for your roster going forward. Buchnevich should be available in three-quarters of leagues.

Some other quick injury notes:

  • If Dougie Hamilton or Morgan Rielly were dropped in your league -- which was not an unreasonable move for a bubble team when they got hurt -- it's time to start playing pickup chicken with your leaguemates. Both star defensemen are getting toward the latter end of their injury windows.

Forwards on the move

Nikita Gusev, W, New Jersey Devils (up 47 spots to No. 182): It's not the line we necessarily expected to emerge for the Devils, but it's Gusev, Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt getting the team on the board of late. Gusev is riding a six-game point streak in which he has nine points. The 27-year-old first-year NHLer has had a mercurial season, but he is in position to finish strong.

Vincent Trocheck, C, Carolina Hurricanes (up eight spots to No. 151): I know I responded to his trade last week by lowering him in the rankings, and I wasn't optimistic about his role with the Hurricanes, but that was before the team kept losing games. Losers of three straight and six of the past nine, the Hurricanes have been juggling lines to try to get back into a groove. Trocheck now has a chance to come out of the blender in a better position. His past power-play success could get him into a plum spot.

Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville Predators (down 19 spots to No. 161): Yuck. Johansen is playing 15 minutes or less most nights, down on the Preds' third line. After scoring 64 points last season, he'll be lucky to sniff 50. Drop him if you haven't already.

Defensemen on the move

Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators (up 101 spots to No. 97): Saying Ellis came back with a bang is an understatement. After missing the better part of two months with an upper-body injury, Ellis roared onto the scene this past week with eight points in five games.

Goaltenders on the move

Mackenzie Blackwood, G, New Jersey Devils (up 42 spots to No. 126): In case you had already written off the Devils' goaltending and didn't notice, Blackwood needs to have your attention. He just completed a February line of 6-0-1 with a 1.27 goals-against average and .967 save percentage. He is still available in half of fantasy leagues.

Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Wild (enters ranks at No. 199): If Blackwood doesn't make you think the goaltending realm is impossible to get a handle on, how about Stalock? His February was arguably just as good as Blackwood's: 7-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA and .932 save percentage. He is available in closer to 85% of ESPN leagues.

New to rankings

Alex Stalock, Dominik Kubalik, Igor Shesterkin, Matt Niskanen, Duncan Keith, Charlie McAvoy, Ondrej Palat, Chandler Stephenson, Ryan Graves, Nick Foligno, Blake Coleman, Corey Perry, Mike Smith.

Just missed

Brandon Saad, Jordan Eberle, Jared Spurgeon, Dougie Hamilton, Mats Zuccarello, Ondrej Kase, Tyson Jost, Filip Chytil, Morgan Rielly, Nick Schmaltz, Barclay Goodrow, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Ristolainen, Vince Dunn, Christian Dvorak, Nick Cousins.

Dropped out

Viktor Arvidsson, Jack Hughes, Tyler Myers, Josh Bailey, Kailer Yamamoto, Steven Stamkos, Chris Kreider, Jacob Markstrom, James Neal, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Elliott, Cam Fowler, Carter Hutton.