Fresh Blood: Late-Season PP Newcomers
With roughly four weeks left in the regular season, we are now seeing a handful of young players being thrust into an everyday PP role for the first time. In some cases, these guys are serving as replacements for PP regulars who are injured. In others, it may be a case where a weak team is now out of playoff contention and giving their young players a chance to showcase their talents for a possible role next season. Either way, it opens up opportunities for poolies to grab a player or two off the waiver wire as they make a late season run for fantasy gold.
Ryan Murphy, D, CAR
: After spending the majority of the season at AHL Charlotte, Murphy was recently recalled following injuries to the Canes' top two PP defensemen, Justin Faulk
(upper-body) and John-Michael Liles
(concussion). Over the past two weeks, Murphy has been averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game, including roughly four minutes on the PP. Though he only has one even-strength assist to show for his efforts thus far, he should continue to see quality minutes even with Faulk now back in the lineup. For those of you in keeper leagues, Murphy is arguably the Canes' top defensive prospect and should be an NHL regular as soon as next season.
Jimmy Hayes, D, FLA
: In late February, in an attempt to give his team's 30th-ranked PP unit a boost, Panthers coach Peter Horachek decided to make some changes, including inserting Hayes down low in order to make life difficult for opposing goaltenders. "At 6-foot-6, he's got a big body, he's got decent hands down there and you can't teach size," Horachek said of Hayes. Since then, Hayes has played in nine straight games, averaging just 13-14 minutes per night, however that includes roughly three minutes on the power play. Furthermore, he has six points (3G, 3A) over that stretch, and although just one of those points came on the PP, he's clearly being given more of an opportunity to contribute offensively these days.
Ryan Strome, C, NYI
: With injuries to John Tavares
(MCL) and Frans Nielsen
(hand), Strome was recalled from AHL Bridgeport following the Olympics in order to strengthen the Isles up the middle. Although Nielsen only missed two games and is now back in the lineup, Strome is still seeing 12-15 minutes per night with regular PP time thrown in. He doesn't always play the first PP unit, although he does have six points in nine games since his recall, including a PP goal. As long as he continues to produce offensively, he should continue to see regular minutes down the stretch, however keep an eye on his plus-minus number (currently minus-3), as it could result in decreased ice time if he proves to be more of a liability in his own zone.
John Mitchell, C, COL
: In Colorado, a rash of recent injuries has forced coach Patrick Roy
to juggle his scoring lines with the playoffs looming on the horizon. With P.A. Parenteau
out for the season with an MCL injury and Paul Stastny
day-to-day with a sore back, Mitchell has been given a dream assignment, centering the top line between Gabriel Landeskog
and rookie Nathan MacKinnon
. He's now seeing 18-19 minutes per night, versus his season average of 16 minutes, and is averaging roughly 3-4 minutes on the power play. He doesn't have any PP scoring to show for it just yet, but he does have a pair of two-point games in his last three contests. Furthermore, the Avs just this week inked him to a three-year contract extension to avoid him hitting the free agent market in July, showing just how committed they are to the 29-year-old center. All that aside, Mitchell still doesn't have a lot of long-term upside, but at the moment he sure looks to be in the right place at the right time. Take advantage of his recent promotion - and scoring burst - while you can.
Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF
: Ristolainen opened the season with the Sabres in October, but after playing 19 games was returned to the AHL where he spent the next four months, racking up 18 points in 30 games for the Rochester Americans. Now, however, with Alexander Sulzer
out with an upper-body injury, the last-place Sabres have decided to give the youngster another look. He played his first game Saturday against the Islanders and made a solid impression with four shots on goal, two hits and two blocked shots. Even though he did not register a point, he did see 18:24 of ice time, including 4:22 on the second PP unit. Ristolainen is widely regarded as Buffalo's best defensive prospect, a future franchise blueliner who can skate, pass and shoot with ease. Those of you in keeper leagues, take note.