Fantasy hockey waiver watch: Options to replace Nikita Kucherov

Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning could miss time with injury. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, we'll mine the waiver wire for lesser-rostered assets to help your squad, whether you favor dynasty or the redraft format, and we'll also toss in some tips for DFS players out there. Finally, we will look at some former go-to fantasy assets who may be overvalued - in the short- or long-term - for one reason or another.

With potentially significant and unfortunate news coming out of Tampa Bay on Monday, we'll buck convention and begin with focussing on the possible loss of an A-plus fantasy performer.

Lowered expectations

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (99.9%): If it truly is as bad as all that, this a huge blow. As first reported by Erik Erlendsson, the injury suffered by Nikita Kucherov in Saturday's tilt with the Capitals appears serious. The superstar forward might need to go under the knife, again, and could be out a while. After missing the full 2020-21 regular campaign following hip surgery, Kucherov erupted in the postseason with eight goals and 24 assists through 23 contests. And won a Cup.

Until we learn more, invested fantasy managers should move Kucherov to injured reserve and know that Corey Perry - this is important - appears the initial substitute on Tampa Bay's top line alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat (leaving the Killorn/Cirelli/Stamkos unit alone). It'll be interesting to see what the former Hart winner makes of this new assignment. Boasting 926 points through 1264 career NHL games, Perry still knows how to contribute. Plus, he's always good for a few PIM too. The 36-year-old is currently rostered in 1.9% of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Forwards to consider

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton Oilers (53.0%): A preseason favourite target of mine, Puljujarvi will continue to receive attention in this space until he gets his deserved share of fantasy respect. The 23-year-old is playing on a top Oilers' line with Connor McDavid. He already has two goals and two assists through two contests. He looks great. As Edmonton's lineup is currently constructed, this young forward should be spoken for in the overwhelming majority of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Kyle Palmieri, RW, New York Islanders (27.0%): Skating on a top Islanders' line and power play with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, the veteran winger will put up a healthy number of points this campaign. I realize last year's truncated, post-trade deadline run with his new squad was underwhelming, but it's a fresh slate and, unlike last spring, Lee is healthy and present. Palmieri has fantasy value in all but the shallowest of redraft leagues.

Jeff Carter, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (26.6%): The veteran center makes for an excellent short-term fantasy investment, filling in on the Penguins' No. 1 line while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin recuperate. The freshly cobbled top-unit pair of Carter and Danton Heinen - subbing in for an injured Bryan Rust - have a combined four goals and three assists in three games. Even once Crosby and Rust return, which could be relatively soon, the Carter/Heinen duo should still produce on a second scoring line with Jason Zucker. Malkin is projected out much longer. But Carter is at his most valuable while shouldering the load as Pittsburgh's leading center. Which is now.

Jakub Voracek, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets (21.6%): The former Flyer/once-again Blue Jacket looks like he's having an excellent time in his new top-line/power-play role in Columbus. Since the 14-year veteran (still only 32 years old) is skating alongside a freshly inspired Patrik Laine, who could blame him? Voracek is going to collect around 70 points in Columbus this season, most of them assists. If that's worth something in your ESPN.com fantasy league, pick him up.

Jonathan Drouin, LW, Montreal Canadiens (14.4%): One bright spot during this sluggish start by the Canadiens is Drouin's revitalized presence and play. After taking last season's mental health break to deal with anxiety and insomnia, which he'd battled for years, the forward now appears pumped, engaged, and focussed. Skating on a scoring line with Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak, the 26-year-old already has a pair of goals - and that's with the Habs playing lousy as a whole. I don't expect Drouin to be widely available in fantasy leagues for long.

Charlie Coyle, C, Boston Bruins (9.4%): Presenting as the early choice to replace a departed David Krejci as the Bruins' second-line center, Coyle could be in for a particularly fruitful season. There are worse gigs than skating with the likes of Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. I'm not leaping all over Coyle as an asset this very second - the current absence of power-play opportunities certainly dulls his fantasy glow - but steering into wait-and-see mode through the next few games. Krejci served as an underrated fantasy commodity for years; we'll soon see if Boston's new No. 2 (for now) behind Patrice Bergeron carries on that tradition.

Jacob Peterson, C/LW, Dallas Stars (0.8%): A pleasant preseason surprise for Dallas, to be sure. Hardly considered a slam dunk to make the squad out of camp, the rookie is presently competing on a top-six line with Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski. Adapting to the NHL game in quick order, the former Swedish pro is already a goal to the good - "It was fun scoring" - and carving out a role on the top power play. Even though the healthy return of Jason Robertson could jostle Peterson out of a top-six gig, the special teams' minutes will likely continue. Admired for his high hockey IQ, this 22-year-old already presents as a valuable under-radar fantasy asset. Managers in keeper and deeper re-draft leagues should maintain close watch.

See also: Yegor Sharangovich, C/LW, New Jersey Devils (14.1%); Viktor Arvidsson, RW/LW, Los Angeles Kings (10.7%); Mikael Granlund, LW/C, Nashville Predators (10.6%); William Eklund, LW, San Jose Sharks (2.2%)


Keith Yandle, Philadlephia Flyers (22.9%): Only one game in, the veteran puck-moving defenseman already has two assists, including one earned in anchoring the Flyers' top power play. Yandle isn't going to play a ton of minutes, or block a bunch of shots, but he'll put up precious production numbers as a member of that special teams' unit. The 35-year-old merits serious consideration in any fantasy league that rewards scoring with the extra skater.

Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings (13.6%): The young defenseman is "as advertised" thus far. Skating on Detroit's second pair and No. 2 power play, Seider has three assists to show for his first two NHL games, including a helper with the man-advantage. Drafted sixth overall in 2019, this 20-year-old is already a part of the Calder conversation. A must-roster in keeper leagues, Seider deserves consideration in deeper re-draft competition as well.

See also: Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche (19.8%); Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (7.9%)


Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (27.0%): Is everyone still certain Linus Ullmark is the Bruins' No. 1 netminder? Because Swayman just followed up a superior preseason performance with a stone cold near-shutout win in last week's opener against the Stars. This young goalie reminds me of St. Louis' Jordan Binnington circa 2019 in that, dating back to last season, he truly expects to win every single game. Remember, too many fantasy managers were slow to embrace Binnington back then. It could be worth rolling the dice on Swayman ASAP, as a No. 3 fantasy netminder, in case we're in store for a similarly stellar showing. A true timeshare in Boston isn't the worst thing either.

Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars (9.2%): No question, a healthy Anton Khudobin will eat into Holtby's playing time, but the latter has been the better (dehydration issues on opening night aside) of the two active Dallas netminders in the earliest stages. Meaning Holtby should compete more. There are still too many quality netminders in the Stars' organization for my fantasy taste - Ben Bishop intends to heal and play this season while Jake Oettinger is already tearing it up in the AHL - but Holtby could start to woo me over with another solid performance or two. At minimum, he's worth a whirl in Daily Fantasy play when the match-up makes sense.

See also: Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings (24.0%)