Fantasy hockey: Why you should pick up Evander Kane before it's too late

Evander Kane led the San Jose Sharks in power-play production two seasons ago and could give Edmonton the injection of skill they need. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

In conventional scoring leagues, there's no more coveted fantasy skater than one who contributes regularly with the extra competitor. For those familiar with English rhyming slang, these figures are prone to earn their managers double-bubble -- if not the less rhymey triple-bubble -- in one move. A power-play goal or assist not only counts in the basic category, but also as a point with the extra skater, and perhaps even a shot on net. Two to three fantasy boxes checked off in one go. No small wonder these players are so highly prized across the fantasy spectrum. And the league is about to witness the return of a prominent performer in that much-valued vein.

Cleared by the NHL after allegedly breaking COVID-related rules over the holidays, Evander Kane signed with the Edmonton Oilers Thursday afternoon. Goodness knows, the spiraling club could use the injection of such skill from such a proven performer.

Fact is, GM Ken Holland & Co. aren't pursuing this route only to bury Kane in the bottom six. No chance. Instead, they're securing him to play on the wing with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl -- my guess is the former -- and eventually on the club's top power play. Under current circumstances, there's little question coach Dave Tippett will experiment with such a potent unit, at minimum. Tumbling to 20th in the league since Dec. 27, the Oilers are plodding along at 18.8% effectiveness on the PP. Which is rather amazing, considering McDavid and Draisaitl still lead the NHL in points with the man advantage. Kane led San Jose in power-play production only two seasons ago with 14 goals and four assists in only 64 games, before notching seven points with the extra skater during last season's shortened campaign. The 30-year-old forward is also notorious for shooting on net a lot and earning a healthy share of penalty minutes.

As of right now, Kane remains available in more than 71% of ESPN.com leagues. But know that, as pen is put to paper, that figure will shrink in a hard hurry.

Here's another handful of under-radar assets that offer a bit extra fantasy oomph in power-play production:

Anthony Duclair, LW/RW, Florida Panthers (Rostered in 57.6% of ESPN.com leagues)

As if you needed yet another reason to secure Duclair as a fantasy commodity. Of his 18 goals and 16 assists in 35 contests, seven points have counted with the man advantage. Which makes sense, since Duclair not long ago joined a top power-play unit with forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov and defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Averaging 2.0 fantasy points per game in standard fantasy competition, the Panthers winger should be accounted for much more than in a fat half of ESPN.com leagues. Much more.

Sean Monahan, C, Calgary Flames (52.2%)

Just because his ultra-productive days are no doubt in the rearview, that doesn't mean the former 30-plus goal scorer is ultimately washed up altogether. Barely out of his mid-20s (he's all of 27), and with a long road in the pros ahead, Monahan remains determined to break out of this arduous multiseason slump. A mid-January pledge to shoot more on net is already reaping tangible rewards. Since Jan. 18, the Flames center has three goals -- two counting with the extra skater -- on 14 shots through four contests. No real surprise there, considering Monahan is still skating on a top power play with one of the hottest lines in all of the NHL.

As long as he sticks with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk on special teams, and continues to rifle the puck on net with regularity, this former fantasy darling could be in for a much richer second half to 2021-22. Fantasy managers with subpar lineups in ESPN.com standard leagues might want to give him some thought.

Tage Thompson, C, Buffalo Sabres (14.5%)

While they're not winning most games, the Sabres' power play is chugging along at 23.1% effectiveness since Dec. 27, good for 14th in the league. Not bad. No small thanks to their best forward this season, who has been sizzling hot with the extra skater of late. Since New Year's Eve, two goals and four assists of Thompson's eight points altogether have counted with the man advantage. No small wonder he's averaging 2.6 fantasy points per game over that period. Like Duclair in Florida, the Sabres' top center is confoundingly under-represented in ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Tyler Ennis, LW/RW, Ottawa Senators (0.6%)

Judging by his out-of-blue hat trick in Tuesday's 5-0 win over Buffalo, plus 12 shots over the span of two contests, the recent two-game benching appears to have done Ennis a world of good. Coach D.J. Smith believes so, crediting the forced mini-break for helping quiet the negative noise in Ennis' head:

"He's had great legs since he sat a couple in a row. Sometimes you just need to refresh mentally, a reset. It's like you're starting the year over. ... Now, he all of a sudden he looks like he's 20 years old again and he's making all these plays. So that's how finicky the mind is and how confidence comes and goes."

That's not all. With Drake Batherson unfortunately sidelined for weeks, if not months, Ennis appears entrenched as substitute on the Senators' top unit with the man advantage. Remember, the 32-year-old used to pitch in regularly on the power play in his first turn with Ottawa (2019-20), and for many earlier seasons as member of the Sabres. The versatile winger is also climbing into a top-six spot alongside center Tim Stutzle at even strength. Fantasy managers in deeper ESPN.com leagues would do worse than pay extra attention to how Ennis fares with all this extra offensive responsibility. That hat trick was certainly a nice start.

James van Riemsdyk, LW/RW, Philadelphia Flyers (11.8%)

Because he's likely to be traded to a contender before this year's deadline, that's why. Along with captain Claude Giroux, van Riemsdyk sits prominently on the trade block for a team that (A) hasn't won a game since 2021, (B) has essentially zero shot at a playoff berth and (C) needs to get faster/younger to compete down the road (admirable speed isn't one of JVR's more appreciated qualities). While the Flyers would probably have to retain some salary, the one year remaining on the 32-year-old's contract suggests such a deal is likely doable.

If so, wherever he does land, a prominent spot on the power play is basically guaranteed. Since 2013-14, the former Maple Leaf with a formidable front-of-net presence has potted 30% of his 410 points with the extra skater. A fresh start with another special-teams unit should see a tangible uptick in this season's rate. There's potential sneaky value here in deeper ESPN.com leagues. The pressing question is to whether to jump on van Riemsdyk now -- when he's overwhelmingly available -- or to wait until when/if a deal is brokered. There's risk either way.