Fantasy owners in need of a boost to their roster may benefit from a post-Halloween treat, compliments of the of the head coach of the Minnesota Wild. By splitting up top-line skaters Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, Mike Yeo opens the door for other Wild forwards to make a greater impact on offense.
First and foremost, Charlie Coyle re-joins the fantasy conversation in his return from a knee injury. The partial inspiration for the forward line shake-up, Coyle is pegged to skate with Parise and Dany Heatley or possibly Justin Fontaine. While this re-labels Coyle (owned in 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues) as a tempting addition for most fantasy owners, those still stuck with Heatley have good cause to shudder. If Fontaine scoops the top-line gig -- the 25-year-old rookie has performed well as of late -- Heatley would tumble to the fourth line with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. For a former fantasy darling, that would be quite the fall from grace.
Meanwhile, Yeo has Nino Niederreiter -- featured in this space as a "trending up" candidate Oct. 17 -- and Kyle Brodziak penciled in with Koivu. At first glance, that projected grouping doesn't bode well for winger Jason Pominville, who subsequently falls to the third line with Matt Cooke and Mikael Granlund. But only on paper. The Pominville trio shakes out more as a secondary second scoring line; a "2B," if you will. In 13 games to start the season, Pominville, Cooke and Granlund have a combined 23 points, including 10 goals. That kind of production isn't likely to dry up, though keep an eye on their ice time.
Of course, the aforementioned formation is still very much in the experimentation phase. We'll get a much better sense of how everyone jells when the Wild face the Montreal Canadiens this Friday. For one thing, we wouldn't be all that shocked to see Pominville take Brodziak's spot. Plus, it will be fascinating to see which forward -- be it Coyle, Pominville or someone else -- competes on the top power-play unit with Parise and Koivu. But, all that being said, if you want to gamble on adding some instant spark to your fantasy roster, give Coyle another look.
Patrick Maroon, LW, Anaheim Ducks (owned in 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Replacing Dustin Penner on the Ducks' top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Maroon has two goals and an assist in his past five games. And Maroon could very well hold onto that plum position for a while yet, since Penner is projected to replace Teemu Selanne upon his pending return. Selanne is expected to sit out the next couple of weeks thanks to a facial injury from this week. As a bonus side dish, Nick Bonino (owned in 7 percent of ESPN.com leagues) is also considered a warm fantasy commodity as present-day, top power-play unit companion to Getzlaf, Perry and Maroon.
Erik Cole, RW, Dallas Stars (owned in 8 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Coach Lindy Ruff reportedly likes what he sees from Cole on the Stars' No. 1 line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Such an endorsement is music to our consistency-craving ears, considering the revolving door of wingers alongside the club's top two forwards. And it wasn't that long ago (2011-12) that Cole collected 35 goals and 26 assists with the Canadiens.
Brandon Pirri, C, Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Looking to permanently fill the second-line center position, coach Joel Quenneville is offering Pirri the opportunity to close the door on the matter. As discussed in Wednesday's Fantasy Grapevine, Pirri has shown some initial promise alongside Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane. Saturday's matinee against the Winnipeg Jets will offer more evidence as to whether the 22-year-old is ready to blossom as a top-six regular.
Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): A lesser competitor would be faulted for not contributing to the scorecard alongside a seriously tuned-in Phil Kessel. And Kadri isn't lacking much in the talent and/or skill department. For as long as the speedy 23-year-old fills in for Tyler Bozak (lower-body injury) on the Maple Leafs' top line with Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, he remains a fearsome fantasy force. Bozak isn't due back until the second week of November. As far as "sell-high" candidates are concerned, Kadri -- a solid fantasy performer under normal circumstances -- currently fits the bill.
Elias Lindholm, C, Carolina Hurricanes (owned in essentially zero percent of ESPN.com leagues): Skating with Eric Staal, Nathan Gerbe and Alexander Semin, Lindholm earned his first NHL power-play assist earlier this week. We figure it to be the first of many. While the 18-year-old Swede remains in danger of demotion to the AHL, he appears to be impressing coach Kirk Muller at present, earning more than 17 minutes of ice time against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. This kid could develop into a real fantasy gem, particularly in deep, keeper leagues.
Radko Gudas, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (owned in 42 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Admired more for his propensity to collect penalty minutes, Gudas is evolving into a respectable offensive force with the Lightning. The 23-year-old tough guy has three points in his past four games, including a power-play goal. And this past Tuesday, Gudas played more than 23 minutes for the first time in his NHL career. As a well-rounded fantasy package, the sophomore defenseman is turning more than a few heads. Just don't anticipate 22 penalty minutes every game (Scottie Upshall + rowdy use of water bottle = Gudas ejection).
Alex Burrows, RW, Vancouver Canucks (owned in 82 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Unable to wrench the top-line spot away from a red-hot Ryan Kesler upon his return from a foot injury, Burrows is said to be content enough competing on a second Canucks' scoring line with Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli. Well, his fantasy owners are likely to be significantly less thrilled. Especially since Kesler is also hogging the top power-play gig with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. While Burrows remains a solid commodity altogether, he loses that extra fantasy sparkle that stems from playing with the twins.
Derick Brassard, C, New York Rangers (owned in 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With the return of Carl Hagelin and impressive play of Chris Kreider, Brassard has been relegated to the Rangers' third line with J.T. Miller and Brian Boyle. If you want the most promising of Brad Richards' current linemates on your own roster, grab Hagelin (owned in 3 percent of ESPN.com leagues). Grab him now, actually. Even once Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan return from injury, the former University of Michigan skater could remain a fantasy standout.
P.A. Parenteau, RW, Colorado Avalanche (owned in 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Stuck with a struggling Nathan MacKinnon on the Avalanche's third line, Parenteau hasn't registered a point in his past five games. Neither has MacKinnon. Meanwhile, members of the Avs' top six continue to light up the scoreboard, and Colorado remains at the top of the Central with only the one loss. In other words, don't plan on a significant shake-up to get Parenteau or MacKinnon back on track.
Ales Hemsky, RW, Edmonton Oilers (owned in 3 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Center Sam Gagner, recovered enough from a broken jaw, is again pegged to skate regularly with Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov; resulting in another Oilers' forward line made up of David Perron, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Arcobello (on the wing). By our math, that leaves Hemsky as the odd man out of the top six.
Kris Russell, D, Calgary Flames (owned in 25 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With Mark Giordano on the injured shelf for the next six to eight weeks, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie and Russell are being asked to shoulder extra responsibility as offensive defensemen for the Flames. While Wideman is largely spoken for in fantasy leagues, and Brodie is worth long-term investment as one of the game's more promising youngsters, Russell is the one in which we're most interested as a short-term substitute. And not only because he's paired with the ever-dangerous Wideman. Anyone familiar with Russell's NHL resume knows the former 67th overall draft pick (2005) is apt to put up impressive numbers in a flurried manner before shrinking back into the shadows. Keep your fantasy allegiance short and sweet, and Russell could serve you handsomely.
Michael Bournival, LW, Montreal Canadiens (owned in 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues): We're a month into the season, and Michael Bournival is still filling a prominent forward role for the Canadiens. It's about time we show the 21-year-old winger a little fantasy love. Skating on a line with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec, Bournival has seven points in his past seven games. Now, where he ends up once Max Pacioretty (leg) and other injured Habs return to the lineup remains difficult to determine. But the young Shawinigan native has a good gig going at the moment.
Martin Havlat, RW, San Jose Sharks (owned in 2 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Recovered from offseason pelvic surgery, Havlat made his season debut for the Sharks this week. On the upside, Havlat is a gifted and proven competitor with an impressive history of performing and contributing at a high level in the NHL. Unfortunately, history also suggests it's only a matter of time before the injury-prone winger tweaks/pulls/strains/sprains/breaks another part of his body. So don't put too much stock in the 32-year-old.
Eric Gelinas, D, New Jersey Devils (owned in essentially zero percent of ESPN.com leagues): Serving as a much-appreciated spark plug on the Devils' blue line, Gelinas has contributed a goal and an assist in three games since last week's call-up from the AHL (and both came on the power play). However, Gelinas could be headed back to Albany once Bryce Salvador recovers from a stress fracture in his foot. We'll get a better sense of what the Devils intend to do with the 22-year-old nearer Salvador's estimated return date, late next week.
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The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Maxime Talbot to the Avalanche for forward Steve Downie. While it's too early to determine where Downie slides in among the Flyers' forwards -- on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, perhaps? -- we comfortably suggest Talbot isn't the primary choice to replace the former Avalanche winger on a scoring line with Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene. So the aforementioned Parenteau may be in for a promotion soon ... Sidelined with an upper-body (not a concussion!) injury, Alex Ovechkin will miss Friday's tilt with the Flyers. As long as the Washington Capitals list their star as day-to-day, there's no need to panic. The team hasn't yet ruled him out for Saturday's contest with the Florida Panthers.