[Editor's note: As of January 23, both Josh Norris and Max Pacioretty are out for the remainder of the season, as announced by their respective teams.]
The Ottawa Senators are a stronger team today than they were through most of the season's first half after welcoming back one of their most productive forwards. Out since Oct. 22 with shoulder injury, Josh Norris made his most welcome return to Ottawa's lineup versus the Penguins on Wednesday. Centering a scoring line with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, the 23-year-old logged more than 19 minutes and looked his old, effective self, outside of skipping work in the faceoff circle. Give it a few games, and the 2017 first-rounder should be back to those old draw tricks as well.
After banging out 35 goals and 20 assists in only 66 games this past season, Norris is going to start putting up points in a hard hurry. Unless your fantasy team is racked and stacked with steadfast gems, the Senators forward merits considerable thought as a worthwhile addition.
Guaranteed, he won't be available in more than a third of ESPN.com leagues for long. If Norris is indeed already spoken for, consider the following gaggle of injectable forwards (and one goalie) who are poised to provide your fantasy squad with a valuable boost.
Max Pacioretty, Carolina Hurricanes (44.9%): He's back. Again. Sidelined a pair of games with a new lower-body injury, Pacioretty is due to return to Carolina's lineup alongside top center Sebastian Aho Thursday. After missing the season's first half in recovery from Achilles surgery, the veteran scored three goals in three contests before injuring himself in fresh fashion last week.
I fully realize Pacioretty's penchant for falling hurt is concerning and annoying, but his upside is too great to ignore. The number of shots he rifles on net alone merits his inclusion in most conventional leagues. And suppose he strings together a pair of healthy months? The dynamic 34-year-old is worth the fantasy gamble, in my view.
Brandon Hagel, Tampa Bay Lightning (58.4%): One hundred days into the 2022-23 season and the Lightning forward still isn't commanding the fantasy respect he so richly deserves. Why? A little weak in the name recognition department? Underwhelming career resume to date? This is only Hagel's third full season, so maybe give the lad a minute.
As it happens, the 24-year-old has averaged a point/game since Oct. 22. He's playing on a top line and power play with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. He's on pace for nearly 35 goals and more than 40 assists. Pick him up.
Artturi Lehkonen, Colorado Avalanche (65.6%): The Avalanche are beginning to look more like the defending Stanley Cup Champs they are of late, partly thanks to Lehkonen's recent run of five goals in three games. After a sluggish December and start to January, Nathan MacKinnon's top linemate appears to be getting his mojo back. Along with several other Avalanche competitors. Lehkonen's other linemate, Evan Rodrigues (13.6%), also sports fantasy value in deeper leagues.
Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers (17.4%): And not just because he's a cool cat, trying in tangible fashion to make the league and sport more inclusive. Also because he's skating on Philadelphia's top power play and scoring a lot. At even strength and with the extra skater. Since Dec. 15, Laughton has pitched in seven goals and 10 assists through 15 contests. That works out to an average of 2.8 fantasy points/game. Only Travis Konecny - whose current rate of production is next-level ridiculous - is serving as a more valuable asset with the Flyers right now.
Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins (17.0%): The speedy winger is radiating strong 2017-18 vibes right now, reminding us that he did once score 33 goals and 31 assists for the Minnesota Wild. Affixed on a top-six line with Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell, Zucker has four goals and two assists in his most recent six games. If Rakell (68.4%) himself is already spoken for in your deeper fantasy league, perhaps give this other productive Penguin some thought.
With his current contract expiring at the end of the season, the 31-year-old should feel a little extra inspired to make the most of these last few months.
Kirby Dach, Montreal Canadiens (12.2%): Consider the young Canadien the deep-league special of the week; perhaps not the most reliable asset, but boasting tons of upside and potential. Currently skating on a line with Josh Anderson and Mike Hoffman (escaped from the press box), the still only 21-year-old has three goals and three assists on 14 shots in his past six contests. His resulting average of 2.7 fantasy points/game is tops on the team, even bettering Cole Caulfield. Keep in mind, Dach was drafted third-overall in 2019 for a reason.
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (62.1%): Now this is the Campbell Oilers fans were hoping to enjoy after the team signed the goalie to a $25-million deal in the summer. The puck-stopping, game-winning version of these past two weeks. Since the calendar flipped to 2023, Campbell is 5-1-0, with a .919 SV% and 2.01 GAA. He's won four straight. Even with Stuart Skinner back in the fold after attending the birth of his kid, coach Jay Woodcroft should feel inclined to run - more often than not - with the hot hand in net. Plus, as mentioned in Sean Allen's Daily Notes, Edmonton's schedule after hosting the Lightning on Thursday includes meetings with the Canucks, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Flyers, Senators, Canadiens, and Red Wings once more. They don't face a team in a potential playoff spot again until Feb. 17. Plenty of opportunities for some W's on the horizon.