Jesse Puljujarvi, RV, Edmonton Oilers (ranked 33.3% in ESPN.com leagues): Finally, in just a few games, the former Oilers player gets a chance on the Edmonton front line with Connor McDavid. And if Sunday’s performance against the Winnipeg Jets is any indication of how he handles that opportunity, the 22-year-old won’t be demoted anytime soon. Puljujarvi was exceptional in every way, offensively, in the 4-3 win, with an assist on six shots in 17 minutes on the ice. He could have easily scored two goals and another assist. The 2016 fourth-round coach could have had a very productive year if he had continued this kind of effort with a superstar at center. It’s worth letting your imagination run wild.
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Adrian Kempe, C/LW, Los Angeles Kings (8.1%): On the first line and on the power play with Alex Jafallo and Anze Kopitar – who is not in goal – Kempe has scored three goals and made two assists in his last four games, including two points with an extra skater. With 16 goals and 21 assists in his first full NHL campaign (2017-18), Kempe has not lived up to expectations. This could be the year the 24-year-old finds his rhythm by scoring goals regularly. It’s something for fantasy managers in the deeper leagues to think about.
Jordan Kiru, C/RW, St. Louis Blues (7.3%): Kiru, who plays with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz, has scored one goal, made four assists and taken 12 shots in his last four games. The 22-year-old has also been used in the Blues’ game recently. The guy is fast. And according to head coach Craig Berube, Kiru is just learning how to put that speed to good use in his first full NHL season.
Pius Suter, C, Chicago Blackhawks (5.7 percent): Suter’s patience early in the season playing up front with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat has already paid off, as the Swiss attacker scored a hat trick in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Red Wings. With Jonathan Toews and Kirby Duch at center, Suter and Dylan Strome currently form a double for the Blackhawks. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the 24-year-old scored 30 goals and 23 assists in 50 games with Zurich last season – his fifth as a pro. A hat trick in the NHL doesn’t make a season yet, but we’ll soon find out if Chicago has found a gem abroad to temporarily replace Kane and DeBrincat.
Carter Verhaeg, C, Florida Panthers (4.8%): The former minor league star player is worth watching in deeper fantasy leagues as a classmate of Alexander Barkov in the Florida top unit. What follows are two goals from Verhaeg and an assist in two games. After spending years in the AHL and ECHL before making his NHL debut with the Lightning last season, the 25-year-old may have finally found a comfortable home in the Sunrise. That doesn’t mean Verhaegge will shine all winter/spring, but he can serve as a valuable temporary fantasy stopper while Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Patrick Line and others are on the bench. The Panthers, well-rested and inactive since last Tuesday after two games against the Carolina Hurricanes were postponed due to the league’s COVID protocol, face the Blue Jackets and Red Wings in back-to-back games this week.
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Andrew Kopp, C/LW, Winnipeg Jets (3.2%): With the absence of Patrick Laine (first injured, now gone), Kopp has two goals and three assists on 16 shots in four games on the goal line with Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers. Once Pierre-Luc Dubois joins the team after a mandatory quarantine period – on February 9 against the Flames – Kopp’s potential output improves even further with the former Blue Jackets center. Of course, coach Paul Maurice may rearrange the lines once Dubois is in place, perhaps moving Stastny to the wing, but for now Copp’s chances of scoring seem healthier than ever.
See also Jonathan Drouin, Montreal Canadiens; Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars; Nick Schmaltz, Arizona Coyotes.
Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils (7.3%): The 20-year-old rookie has scored at least one point in each of the first five games of his NHL career. That’s impressive. Although the young offensive blue player needs to improve his defensive game, coach Lindy Ruff seems content enough to let him quietly work on both balance and power play. Smith, ranked 17th overall in 2018, has value in deeper league drafts as well as dynasties/drafts.
See also: Rasmus Andersson, Calgary Flames; Nick Leddy, New York Islanders
Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (12.1%): Keep in mind that Ilya Samsonov should miss at least four games, according to the NHL’s COVID protocol. There’s no guarantee he won’t miss more. That’s where VanEcek comes in. He stopped an impressive 45 of 48 shots in Sunday’s extension against the Sabres. Head coach Peter Laviolette suggested that if Vanecek plays well this week against the Islanders and Bruins, Samsonov might be less busy when he returns.
Patrick Lane, RW/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (98.5%): There are a few items to check off before Lane is even on the ice with his new team. First of all, we have to take care of the work visa. Then there’s the mandatory quarantine period before it starts again after arriving from Winnipeg. Oh, and how does that upper body wound feel? Even after all these hurdles are overcome, it will be difficult to befriend John Tortorella. Lane’s lack of enthusiasm on the defensive end will not please the Blue Jackets’ head coach. At best, the Jets’ former sharpshooter ends up on the goal-scoring lists with center-half Max Domi or Alexander Texier – who scored 10.4 percent on ESPN.com – not bothering Tortorella and enjoying a productive off-season. Sure, why not? Bliss knows the 2016 second-round pick should disappear now that he’s won his deferment by trade. I’m just saying we have a long way to go before that happens. Those responsible for Lane’s fantasy should be patient.
See also: Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks; Ryan Graves, D, Colorado Avalanche
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