Fantasy hockey rankings: Three players set to receive more playing time

Mason McTavish of the Anaheim Ducks. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At some point in a season, a team destined to miss the playoffs has to start thinking about the future. Let's not go so far as to use the "T" word; you know, that thing people keep a pet fish in. But not only are teams considering their options with trade assets, but they are looking internally for which players could potentially do more with more opportunities.

Three prime examples stood out in the rankings this week, but I'm sure there are more and will be more to come as the season slips further away from some franchises. All three are getting increasing opportunities, whether they are converting them into fantasy points or not. And there will be more as some of the teams in the bottom of the standings start worrying more about next season than the current one.

Barrett Hayton, C/W, Arizona Coyotes (enters top 250 at No. 225): Hanging around on the verge of being a Coyotes regular since the 2019-20 season, Hayton broke through with a role by playing 60 games last season -- turning him into a lineup mainstay. That said, he never topped much more than 17 minutes in average ice time in any month last season, when he peaked at 17:58 in December. This season, he started outside the scoring lines again, but his usage in late December spiked when the Coyotes started moving some pieces around the depth chart a bit. Initially landing with Nick Ritchie and Christian Dvorak, Hayton picked up six points in a four game stretch from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5. The result of that was a move to the top line with Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz on Jan. 8. Hayton scored in his first three games with that trio, but has been quiet the past two games. That promotion also came with a spot on the top power-play unit, which could wake up again at any time.

Mason McTavish, C, Anaheim Ducks (enters top 250 at No. 223): There isn't a lot of positive to take from the Ducks offense this season. After letting things ride with Troy Terry, Adam Henrique and Trevor Zegras as the top line for most of the campaign, some tinkering of late has landed McTavish in Zegras' role. The promotion was made on Jan. 4 and McTavish responded with one goal and one assists. The next game, he managed two goals and two assists. In the next game ... I wish it was three and three, but no, McTavish doesn't have a point in the three games since then. McTavish had a nine-game cup of coffee with the Ducks at the end of a very busy 2021-22 season in which he played for two OHL franchises, guided the Hamilton Bulldogs to the final game of the Memorial Cup, captained the Canadians to World Juniors gold, played in the Olympics and even snuck in some AHL games before making his NHL debut. McTavish was already getting power-play run before being elevated to the top line; he shares the lead on the team with 10 power-play points and is third in ice time on the advantage.

Kirill Marchenko, W, Columbus Blue Jackets (enters top 250 at No. 237): The 22-year-old was expected to make short work of the AHL after coming from a three-season run in the KHL. He delivered. Marchenko -- though he missed the Blue Jackets lineup from the get-go in favor of other youngsters like Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov -- has amassed enough domination in the AHL (19 points in 16 games, tops among AHL rookies in points per game) to stick with the Jackets now (hopefully). He's been on the ice for 10 goals in just over 200 minutes at five-on-five so far in the NHL, scoring six of them himself. His rate of on-ice goals per 60 is higher than players such as Kirill Kaprizov or Alex Ovechkin this season, while his goals scored per 60 this season trails only Jared McCann, Daniel Sprong and Klim Kostin among players with at least 200 minutes.

As for the rest of the rankings ...

Forward notes

Nikolaj Ehlers, W, Winnipeg Jets (up 22 spots to No. 43): After one scoreless game to ease himself back in the Jets lineup, Ehlers has scored three goals and collected six assists in the five games since then. He's showcasing just how important the injured reserve can be to your team.

Elias Lindholm, C, Calgary Flames (up 20 spots to No. 61): Signs of life? Absolutely. In the past four weeks, Lindholm has quietly averaged 2.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to stay well within the reliable fantasy starter realm. The success has largely lined up with Dillon Dube being shifted to the line with Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli.

Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders (down 23 spots to No. 99): One of the more consistent players earlier in the season, the well of production has dried up for Nelson (and some other Isles). His fantasy points per game (FPPG) rates for the season and the past month tell the whole story: He has 2.0 FPPG for the season but just 1.1 FPPG in the past month. I blame the power play, where the Islanders have seemingly forgotten how to compete. Since the start of December, they have a league worst six power-play goals on 56 opportunities and have even allowed three shorthanded goals against in that span for a ridiculous net power-play percentage of 5.4%. They'd almost be better off declining penalties, Cale Makar style.

Eeli Tolvanen, W, Seattle Kraken (up 76 spots to No. 164): He's always had the stuff to be a top-six forward in the NHL. And he's capitalizing on the opportunity provided to him by the Kraken here, helping drive a line with Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand that has accounted for nine goals in eight games together. He's averaged 2.6 FPPG as a Kraken.

Scott Laughton, C/W, Philadelphia Flyers (up 43 spots to No. 173): The Flyers are getting some contributions across the lineup. Without looking, you might think Laughton was on a line with Travis Konecny, but he's not. He does join Konecny on the power play, but Laughton is getting it done at even strength, too. He's posted 2.9 FPPG in his past 12 games.

Boone Jenner, C/W, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 19 spots to No. 134): Back from injury, Jenner didn't immediately rejoin the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine, so it's hard to push him back up to where he was in the rankings prior to the injury. He may get there again, but the Jackets need to start experimenting with their lineup to find better combinations, so it's no guarantee.

Calle Jarnkrok, C/W, Toronto Maple Leafs (up 11 spots to No. 190): It's high time we call Jarnkrok more than a temporary member of the Leafs top six, as he's help down the fort on a line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner night in and night out since Dec. 20. There is a mild threat on the horizon from Nicholas Robertson's return to health and again a slight chance the Leafs manage to upgrade at wing in trade, but pending those scenarios, Jarnkrok could ride out the season here.

Kilm Kostin, W, Edmonton Oilers (enters top 250 at No. 232): Kostin is doing exactly what you want a player to do when given a chance to play in the Oilers top six: He's being versatile, playing sound position and putting himself in the right spots to let the superstars set up goals. All seven of his goals have come since he started getting run in the top six in late December.

Robby Fabbri, W, Detroit Red Wings (enters top 250 at No. 248): With three goals in five games since his season debut, we shouldn't be too shocked at this, as Fabbri can score when he's on the ice. The question is whether he can keep getting top-six looks in a fairly crowded lineup and start to earn some power-play time to really spike his potential.

Defense notes

Vince Dunn, D, Seattle Kraken (up 31 spots to No. 135): Dunn and partner Adam Larsson were on the ice for six of the Kraken goals against the Hawks at five-on-five on Saturday and none of them against as a pairing. It was the icing on a cake that has seen Dunn pot 2.2 FPPG during the past month, which ties him for 18th among all defensemen.

Jake Walman, D, Detroit Red Wings (enters top 250 at No. 216): Think Dunn's been good and under appreciated? Walman, who was recently moved to be Moritz Seider's defense partner, has posted 2.5 FPPG in the past month and is available in virtually every league. He has a good profile for blocked shots and hits, so the addition of some offensive potential from being on the ice with Seider has pushed him into fantasy relevance.

Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild (up 19 spots to No. 94): And let's take it one further! Spurgeon has averaged 2.6 FPPG in the past month, blocking more shots than any other defenseman other than Alex Pietrangelo during that span while posting six points. He's still getting secondary power-play time though as the Wild remain committed to using Calen Addison as a specialist there. If only Spurgeon could take over that spot, too.

Goaltender notes

Tristan Jarry, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (down 23 spots to No. 63): It won't be long until we see Jarry back in the crease, hopefully. Reports say he was facing shots at practice Monday. Jarry hasn't played since he came out of the Winter Classic with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes (up 38 spots to No. 77): Well, he's back and it was briefly just as awkward as expected. Andersen returned to the Canes and played lights out in two victories on Thursday and Saturday. Pyotr Kochetkov caught the start on Sunday and didn't do himself any favors by allowing three goals in a loss. It was the final justification the Canes needed to send Kochetkov down to the AHL, so Andersen should be in line for a hefty workload again.

Martin Jones, G, Seattle Kraken (up 111 spots to No. 112): This winning streak by the Kraken has really highlighted what Jones has been quietly bringing to the table this season. While the ratios aren't anything to write home about, wins are a massive part of goaltending for fantasy. And Jones has posted the third-most wins in the league this season. The win streak also removed any short-term questions about Philipp Grubauer pushing back into the crease that was meant to be his this season.

Filip Gustavsson, G, Minnesota Wild (up 34 spots to No. 150): Speaking of ratios, Gustavsson has among the best in the league since Dec. 1. He has the second-best save percentage and best goals-against average in the NHL in that span. He's also managed to play 49% of the Wild's crease share in the past four weeks, clearly pushing into a tandem with Marc-Andre Fleury.

ESPN fantasy NHL top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edm (F1)
2. David Pastrnak, RW, Bos (F2)
3. Leon Draisaitl, LW, Edm (F3)
4. Auston Matthews, C, Tor (F4)
5. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buf (D1)
6. Tage Thompson, C, Buf (F5)
7. Roman Josi, D, Nsh (D2)
8. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Min (F6)
9. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Col (F7)
10. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Wpg (G1)
11. Linus Ullmark, G, Bos (G2)
12. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Col (F8)
13. Elias Pettersson, C, Van (F9)
14. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB (F10)
15. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (F11)
16. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G3)
17. Cale Makar, D, Col (D3)
18. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Wsh (F12)
19. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G4)
20. Juuse Saros, G, Nsh (G5)
21. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Fla (F13)
22. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G6)
23. Timo Meier, RW, SJ (F14)
24. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vgk (D4)
25. Jason Robertson, LW, Dal (F15)
26. Bo Horvat, C, Van (F16)
27. Kyle Connor, LW, Wpg (F17)
28. Travis Konecny, RW, Phi (F18)
29. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (F19)
30. Josh Morrissey, D, Wpg (D5)
31. Jake Oettinger, G, Dal (G7)
32. Brad Marchand, LW, Bos (F20)
33. Aleksander Barkov, C, Fla (F21)
34. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (F22)
35. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Wpg (F23)
36. Tim Stutzle, LW, Ott (F24)
37. Mitchell Marner, RW, Tor (F25)
38. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D6)
39. Charlie McAvoy, D, Bos (D7)
40. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edm (F26)
41. Brayden Point, C, TB (F27)
42. Jakob Chychrun, D, Ari (D8)
43. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Wpg (F28)
44. Jack Eichel, C, Vgk (F29)
45. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Ott (F30)
46. Alexandar Georgiev, G, Col (G8)
47. Jordan Kyrou, C, StL (F31)
48. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D9)
49. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D10)
50. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (F32)
51. Zach Hyman, LW, Edm (F33)
52. Alex DeBrincat, LW, Ott (F34)
53. Roope Hintz, C, Dal (F35)
54. William Nylander, RW, Tor (F36)
55. Filip Forsberg, LW, Nsh (F37)
56. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D11)
57. Sebastian Aho, C, Car (F38)
58. Mats Zuccarello, RW, Min (F39)
59. John Tavares, C, Tor (F40)
60. Mark Scheifele, C, Wpg (F41)
61. Elias Lindholm, RW, Cgy (F42)
62. Alex Tuch, RW, Buf (F43)
63. Tristan Jarry, G, Pit (G9)
64. J.T. Miller, C, Van (F44)
65. Erik Gustafsson, D, Wsh (D12)
66. Max Pacioretty, LW, Car (F45)
67. Logan Thompson, G, Vgk (G10)
68. Moritz Seider, D, Det (D13)
69. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D14)
70. Thomas Chabot, D, Ott (D15)
71. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bos (F46)
72. Darcy Kuemper, G, Wsh (G11)
73. Nico Hischier, C, NJ (F47)
74. Joe Pavelski, RW, Dal (F48)
75. Aaron Ekblad, D, Fla (D16)
76. Vitek Vanecek, G, NJ (G12)
77. Frederik Andersen, G, Car (G13)
78. Jake Guentzel, LW, Pit (F49)
79. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dal (D17)
80. Rasmus Andersson, D, Cgy (D18)
81. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D19)
82. Dylan Larkin, C, Det (F50)
83. Drake Batherson, C, Ott (F51)
84. Pavel Buchnevich, RW, StL (F52)
85. Seth Jones, D, Chi (D20)
86. Andrei Svechnikov, LW, Car (F53)
87. Patrik Laine, RW, Cls (F54)
88. Tomas Hertl, C, SJ (F55)
89. Adam Larsson, D, Sea (D21)
90. Brent Burns, D, Car (D22)
91. Brandon Hagel, LW, TB (F56)
92. Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR (F57)
93. Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Col (F58)
94. Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (D23)
95. Jeff Skinner, LW, Buf (F59)
96. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI (F60)
97. Jesper Bratt, RW, NJ (F61)
98. Justin Faulk, D, StL (D24)
99. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (F62)
100. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Min (F63)
101. Kris Letang, D, Pit (D25)
102. Logan Couture, C, SJ (F64)
103. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (F65)
104. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Cls (F66)
105. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (F67)
106. Nazem Kadri, C, Cgy (F68)
107. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Col (F69)
108. Martin Necas, C, Car (F70)
109. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D26)
110. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Ari (D27)
111. Vincent Trocheck, C, NYR (F71)
112. Martin Jones, G, Sea (G14)
113. Quinn Hughes, D, Van (D28)
114. Brandon Montour, D, Fla (D29)
115. Blake Wheeler, RW, Wpg (F72)
116. Kevin Fiala, C, LA (F73)
117. Jamie Benn, LW, Dal (F74)
118. Clayton Keller, C, Ari (F75)
119. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (F76)
120. Matty Beniers, C, Sea (F77)
121. Claude Giroux, LW, Ott (F78)
122. Anders Lee, LW, NYI (F79)
123. Cole Caufield, RW, Mon (F80)
124. Darnell Nurse, D, Edm (D30)
125. Michael Bunting, LW, Tor (F81)
126. Ivan Provorov, D, Phi (D31)
127. Pheonix Copley, G, Wsh (0)
128. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Cgy (F82)
129. Dylan Cozens, C, Buf (F83)
130. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Col (F84)
131. Morgan Rielly, D, Tor (D32)
132. Alec Martinez, D, Vgk (D33)
133. Stuart Skinner, G, Edm (G15)
134. Boone Jenner, C, Cls (F85)
135. Vince Dunn, D, Sea (D34)
136. Devon Toews, D, Col (D35)
137. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D36)
138. Hampus Lindholm, D, Bos (D37)
139. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Min (G16)
140. Matt Murray, G, Tor (G17)
141. Phillip Danault, C, LA (F86)
142. Ilya Samsonov, G, Tor (G18)
143. David Krejci, C, Bos (F87)
144. Rickard Rakell, C, Pit (F88)
145. Lawson Crouse, LW, Ari (F89)
146. Tyson Barrie, D, Edm (D38)
147. Mark Stone, RW, Vgk (F90)
148. Nick Suzuki, C, Mon (F91)
149. Chandler Stephenson, C, Vgk (F92)
150. Filip Gustavsson, G, Min (G19)
151. Tony DeAngelo, D, Phi (D39)
152. Carter Verhaeghe, C, Fla (F93)
153. Cam Talbot, G, Ott (G20)
154. Robert Thomas, C, StL (F94)
155. Neal Pionk, D, Wpg (D40)
156. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Det (F95)
157. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Cgy (F96)
158. Jacob Markstrom, G, Cgy (G21)
159. Ville Husso, G, Det (G22)
160. David Savard, D, Mon (D41)
161. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (F97)
162. Bryan Rust, RW, Pit (F98)
163. Owen Tippett, RW, Phi (F99)
164. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Nsh (F100)
165. Sam Reinhart, RW, Fla (F101)
166. Karel Vejmelka, G, Ari (0)
167. Filip Hronek, D, Det (D42)
168. Nick Schmaltz, C, Ari (F102)
169. Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Van (F103)
170. Jared McCann, LW, Sea (F104)
171. Jeff Petry, D, Pit (D43)
172. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Wsh (F105)
173. Scott Laughton, C, Phi (F106)
174. Jake McCabe, D, Chi (D44)
175. Ben Chiarot, D, Det (D45)
176. Joel Edmundson, D, Mon (D46)
177. Viktor Arvidsson, RW, LA (F107)
178. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D47)
179. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, Buf (G23)
180. Jordan Binnington, G, StL (G24)
181. T.J. Oshie, RW, Wsh (F108)
182. Jake DeBrusk, LW, Bos (F109)
183. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Sea (F110)
184. Matt Duchene, C, Nsh (F111)
185. J.J. Moser, D, Ari (D48)
186. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, StL (F112)
187. Sam Bennett, LW, Fla (F113)
188. K'Andre Miller, D, NYR (D49)
189. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Fla (G25)
190. Calle Jarnkrok, C, Tor (F114)
191. Matt Boldy, LW, Min (F115)
192. Brayden McNabb, D, Vgk (D50)
193. Carter Hart, G, Phi (G26)
194. Shea Theodore, D, Vgk (D51)
195. Colton Parayko, D, StL (D52)
196. Adrian Kempe, C, LA (F116)
197. Tom Wilson, RW, Wsh (F117)
198. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Vgk (F118)
199. Thatcher Demko, G, Van (G27)
200. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI (F119)
201. Brayden Schenn, C, StL (F120)
202. Brock Boeser, RW, Van (F121)
203. Ryan Hartman, RW, Min (F122)
204. Luke Schenn, D, Van (D53)
205. J.T. Compher, RW, Col (F123)
206. Adam Henrique, C, Ana (F124)
207. Kevin Hayes, C, Phi (F125)
208. Daniel Sprong, RW, Sea (F126)
209. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Wsh (F127)
210. Alex Iafallo, LW, LA (F128)
211. Nicholas Paul, C, TB (F129)
212. Evan Rodrigues, C, Col (F130)
213. Lucas Raymond, LW, Det (F131)
214. Antti Raanta, G, Car (G28)
215. Justin Schultz, D, Sea (D54)
216. Jake Walman, D, Det (D55)
217. Jeremy Swayman, G, Bos (G29)
218. Jordan Eberle, RW, Sea (F132)
219. Craig Anderson, G, Buf (G30)
220. Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA (F133)
221. Ondrej Palat, LW, NJ (F134)
222. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Phi (F135)
223. Mason McTavish, C, Ana (F136)
224. Brandon Tanev, LW, Sea (F137)
225. Barrett Hayton, C, Ari (F138)
226. Trevor Zegras, C, Ana (F139)
227. Alexander Romanov, D, NYI (D56)
228. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D57)
229. Jake Sanderson, D, Ott (D58)
230. Filip Chytil, RW, NYR (F140)
231. Klim Kostin, RW, Edm (F141)
232. Jack Campbell, G, Edm (G31)
233. Dmitry Orlov, D, Wsh (D59)
234. Spencer Knight, G, Fla (G32)
235. Morgan Frost, C, Phi (F142)
236. Yanni Gourde, LW, Sea (F143)
237. Kirill Marchenko, LW, Cls (F144)
238. Jason Zucker, LW, Pit (F145)
239. Esa Lindell, D, Dal (D60)
240. Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Car (F146)
241. Scott Mayfield, D, NYI (D61)
242. Tyler Seguin, C, Dal (F147)
243. Jordan Staal, C, Car (F148)
244. Marcus Pettersson, D, Pit (D62)
245. Joel Farabee, LW, Phi (F149)
246. Matt Benning, D, SJ (D63)
247. Jack Roslovic, C, Cls (F150)
248. Robby Fabbri, C, Det (F151)
249. Ryan Graves, D, NJ (D64)
250. Mattias Ekholm, D, Nsh (D65)

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