Fantasy Fix: Kesler’s Back, Zibanejad Off Track

Each Monday, we’ll take a look at the past week in fantasy hockey. Specifically, we’ll dive into which players are heating up, which players are cooling down, players to target on the waiver wire, and an update on fantasy-relevant injuries. From week to week, a lot can change in a player’s fantasy outlook due to line combinations, injuries, or just a simple tweak in their game and we will have you covered.

Trending Up

Sebastian Aho – CAR (LW)

It’s been a bit of a streaky season so far for Sebastian Aho. But the positive news for his fantasy owners is he’s streaking upward again.

Carolina Hurricanes Left Wing Sebastian Aho
Carolina Hurricanes Left Wing Sebastian Aho (20) (John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After going pointless in five of six games, he’s turned up his play over the last week, tallying six points (four goals, two assists) in just four games. The Carolina Hurricanes have been playing much better of late, and have also been shooting the puck a lot more, which bodes well for Aho. Look for him to keep producing as long as his team maintains its high shooting percentage.

Ryan Kesler – ANA (C/RW)

Remember Ryan Kesler? The player that’s had back-to-back 50-point seasons? Well he’s finally returned from his injury that’s sidelined him since the start of the season, and he’s ready to make an impact on your fantasy team. In the three games he’s played so far, he’s tallied two assists. It appears he’s still being eased back into the lineup as he’s yet to resume his usual role on the top power-play unit where he accumulates many of his points. You can expect his production to continue rising game-by-game.

Related – Ducks Drill Down: Ducks Gift Fans With Two Big Wins

Shea Theodore – VGK (D)

After finally being given his shot in the Vegas Golden Knights lineup, Shea Theodore has taken the opportunity and run with it. In the 22 games he’s played, the youngster is up to 12 points (three goals, nine assists). He also quarterbacks the top unit of a dangerous Golden Knights power play and appears to have locked down that role with his exceptional play. This could be a star in the making, and this season may be the beginning of it.

Trending Down

Mika Zibanejad – NYR (C)

The return of Mika Zibanejad to the New York Rangers lineup following his concussion was much-anticipated. But so far, it’s been nothing but zeroes.

Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers, NHL
Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers. (Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)

He’s played in five games since returning but has failed to record a single point. The lack of production is undoubtedly frustrating for his owners, especially since he’s been playing on the top line and top power-play unit. Eventually, he’s going to bust out again in a big way, but until that happens, temper your expectations with him.

Mike Hoffman – OTT (LW/C)

It seems almost every week there’s an Ottawa Senators player listed in “Trending Down.” This week, it’s Mike Hoffman. Over his past eight games, the veteran has tallied just two points, despite seeing no decrease in ice time or opportunities. He has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 37 games, which is well behind the pace of his 61 points in 74 games last season. He continues to see heavy minutes in a top-six role, as well as solid time on the top power-play unit, so he’s likely to get back on track. But the question is when?

Zdeno Chara – BOS (D)

The steady decline of the fantasy value of Zdeno Chara continues. The veteran is in the midst of a six-game scoring drought, while also only posting 10 points in 37 games this season. It’s been almost four years since Chara has posted a productive fantasy hockey season, and it doesn’t appear this will be the year he turns it around. Although he sees significant ice time, he doesn’t utilize it offensively. He also doesn’t see any power play time at all. There are better options out there than Chara.

NHL Waiver Wire Targets

Colin Miller – VGK (D – 49% owned)

Slowly but surely, the fantasy hockey world is starting to pick up on Colin Miller’s productive season. He’s now up to 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 37 games the season, and will likely continue this output going forward.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

He continues to make the most of his opportunities, including manning the blue line for the Golden Knights’ second power-play unit. Productive fantasy defensemen are hard to come by on the waiver wire, so if he’s available in your league, snag him now.

Derek Stepan – ARI (43% owned)

When a player is used in every situation on the ice, the offensive production is bound to follow, no matter what team he’s on. Derek Stepan is seeing big-time minutes five-on-five, on the power play, and killing penalties. He’s now up to 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 41 games this season, which could make for a reliable addition to your fantasy squad. Take a scan of your league’s waiver wire to see if he’s available.

Jesper Bratt – NJD (39% owned)

After a hot start to the season, Jesper Bratt appears to have been forgotten about in a lot of leagues. But for what reason? He has 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 37 games this season and continues to see valuable playing time in offensive situations. He plays on the first even-strength line and has been alternating between the first and second units of a New Jersey Devils power play that ranks in the top ten. He’s certainly worth an add in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Related: Devils Prospect Update

Thomas Vanek – VAN (29% owned)

Playing on the top line with Brock Boeser sure has its perks. Thomas Vanek is having a very productive campaign with the Vancouver Canucks, with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 39 games. His ownership rose a significant 15 percent over the past week, so fantasy owners are starting to take notice. Pick him up now, before it’s too late.

Alexander Kerfoot – COL (17% owned)

Everyone’s loving the production of the main cogs of the Colorado Avalanche offense in Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. But there’s another stud that wants to join the party. Rookie Alexander Kerfoot has taken advantage of playing on a lethal top power-play unit, posting 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 34 games. To make him an even more attractive add, he was recently bumped up from the fourth line to the second line. His potential is sky high, so don’t miss out.

NHL Injury Updates

Jeff Carter – LAK (Ankle)

After being cut by a skate in the LA Kings’ game on Oct. 18, Carter is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Recent reports say he could be out until February, and reportedly isn’t even close to resuming skating.

Ryan Kesler – ANA (Hip)

Kesler returned to the Anaheim Ducks’ lineup Dec. 27.

Zach Parise – MIN (Back)

Parise was sent to the AHL for a conditioning stint this past week but has since been recalled back to the Minnesota Wild. He’s yet to be activated from IR, but it seems a return is coming this week.

Zach Parise Minnesota Wild
Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports)

Roberto Luongo – FLA (Lower Body)

Luongo is expected to miss multiple weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Dec. 4. No definitive timeline for his return has been set, but he did practice in full gear this past week for the first time since the injury.

Justin Schultz – PIT (Lower Body)

Schultz practiced in a non-contact jersey this past weekend and is now expected to return at some point this week.

Jaden Schwartz – STL (Ankle)

Schwartz suffered a serious ankle injury on Dec. 9 and is expected to miss at least six weeks.

Sven Baertschi – VAN (Jaw)

Baertschi suffered a fractured jaw on Dec. 9 and will miss 4-6 weeks. He’s been seen skating on his own recently, but remains with the same return timetable.

Bo Horvat – VAN (Ankle)

Horvat suffered a fractured ankle on Dec. 5. He’s considered week-to-week, without any specific timetable for a return.

Bo Horvat Canucks
Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Corey Perry – ANA (Lower Body)

Perry suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 11 and is considered week-to-week. He’s expected to join the Anaheim Ducks on their upcoming road trip but there’s no guarantee he will make his return in that time.

Devan Dubnyk – MIN (Lower Body)

Dubnyk returned to the Minnesota Wild lineup Dec. 29.

Logan Couture – SJS (Concussion)

Couture returned to the San Jose Sharks’ lineup Dec. 31.

Dustin Byfuglien – WIN (Lower Body)

Byfuglien suffered a lower-body injury Dec. 9 and has been placed on IR. He’s considered week-to-week but has recently said he expects to be back early in the New Year.

Related: Jets Get First Taste of Adversity with Scheifele Injury

David Krejci – BOS (Upper Body)

Krejci returned to the Boston Bruins lineup Dec. 30.

Alexander Wennberg – CBJ (Back)

Wennberg suffered an undisclosed injury Dec. 22 and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Alexander Wennberg Blue Jackets
Alexander Wennberg of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports)

Zach Werenski – CBJ (Undisclosed)

Werenski returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup Dec. 29.

Tyson Barrie – COL (Hand)

Barrie suffered a fractured right hand Dec. 23 and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Oscar Klefbom – EDM (Upper Body)

Klefbom returned to the Edmonton Oilers lineup Dec. 29.

Nino Niederreiter – MIN (Ankle)

Niederreiter took a shot off the ankle Dec. 22 and is considered day-to-day as a result.

Shea Weber – MON (Foot)

Weber has been given some time to let his foot injury heal. He’s still considered day-to-day but has no timetable for a return.

Bobby Ryan – OTT (Finger)

Ryan returned to the Ottawa Senators lineup Dec. 27.

Bobby Ryan Senators
Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Michael Frolik – CGY (Face)

Frolik suffered a fractured jaw Dec. 28 and is considered week-t0-week.

Artem Anisimov – CHI (Upper Body)

Anisimov suffered an upper-body injury Dec. 28 and was recently placed on IR. No timetable has been set for a return.

Corey Crawford – CHI (Upper Body)

Crawford was placed on IR Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury. He’s out indefinitely.

Cam Atkinson – CBJ (Foot)

Atkinson suffered a fractured foot Dec. 23 and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Anthony Mantha – DET (Groin)

Mantha has missed the last two games with a groin injury. He’s still considered day-to-day.

Radim Vrbata – FLA (Illness)

Vrbata has missed the last two games due to illness. He’s considered day-to-day but is expected to return early this week.

Radim Vrbata Panthers
Radim Vrbata of the Florida Panthers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Filip Forsberg – NSH (Undisclosed)

Forsberg suffered an undisclosed injury Dec. 29 and has recently been placed on IR. No details have been released regarding the nature of his injury or a timeline for return.

Chris Kreider – NYR (Arm)

Kreider will be out indefinitely with a blood clot in his right arm.

Kris Letang – PIT (Lower Body)

Letang has missed the last three games due to a lower-body injury but is expected to return this week.

Nazem Kadri – TOR (Upper Body)

Kadri has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. He’s still considered day-to-day.

Mark Scheifele – WPG (Upper Body)

Scheifele suffered an upper-body injury Dec. 27 and is expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks.