As always, health is a big factor in making your draft-day choices. Here is a look at some of the bigger injury questions and concerns heading into the 2017-18 season.
Just a little banged up?
It isn’t even October yet, and Parise’s back is acting up again. After suffering the initial injury near the end of 2015-16, the winger hasn’t been the same since, collecting only 42 points in 69 games last year. Now participating in limited action in camp workouts, Parise is already hinting at missing the start to the regular season. That doesn’t bode well for the bounceback campaign he had hoped for in 2017-18. Forward Nino Niederreiter is the most prominent candidate to fill in on left wing within the Wild’s top six if Parise is to miss time.
This feels altogether unfair. After working hard to recover from February’s season-ending torn ACL and undergoing surgical repairs, Fabbri didn’t last long in camp before reinjuring the same knee. We’re not even expecting another update on the 21-year-old until Oct. 4. Fabbri’s absence, along with Alexander Steen‘s (broken hand), all but assures that new Blues skater Brayden Schenn will center the second scoring line to start off, splitting wingers Vladimir Sobotka and Dmitrij Jaskin, while young Oskar Sundqvist subs in at center on the third line.
Boston’s top offensive defenseman hasn’t had the best physical luck of late, taking a puck to the face in early preseason action after sitting out spring’s playoff run with an injured MCL. Suffering a nondisplaced fracture to his jaw, Krug is slated to sit out the first handful of games (three to five) of the regular campaign. Rookie Charlie McAvoy is projected to enjoy a heftier portion of top-quality power-play time in the meanwhile.
The Coyotes are hoping their star defenseman is, indeed, just a little banged up, and fortunately, that appears to be the case. After hobbling off the ice with help this past Saturday, Ekman-Larsson looked fairly worse for wear. But since then, the club has floated the possibility of its top defender recovering even in time for October’s opener, so it can’t be all that bad. If Ekman-Larsson does end up missing a contest or two, veteran blueliner Alex Goligoski and Arizona newbie Jason Demers will be asked to pitch in extra on the offensive side.
Out long term
New Year’s — that’s when we comfortably assume Kesler will be good to go following hip surgery in early June. Coach Randy Carlyle will likely experiment with Antoine Vermette and Rickard Rakell at center on the second line and secondary power play from early October until Kesler’s healthy return, with Rakell projecting much greater upside. Keep a close eye on who sticks. Additionally, young defenseman Brandon Montour merits monitoring while Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm continue to recover from their respective shoulder injuries. Both Vatanen and Lindholm aren’t due back until November.
Usually underappreciated as a fantasy asset, Zajac truly merits a pass to begin this fantasy season. Undergoing pectoral surgery in mid-August, the 32-year-old is pegged to miss four to six months altogether. If coach John Hynes sticks with Washington export Marcus Johansson on left wing, look for Adam Henrique, Pavel Zacha, and rookie Nico Hischier to fill in at center, in that depth order, from the top line on down.
Following offseason knee surgery, Ellis is estimated to miss at least three months of this regular campaign. While the 26-year-old is situated third on the fantasy depth chart behind fellow d-men Roman Josi and P.K. Subban, middling power play asset Yannick Weber could see an increase in meaningful special teams action in Ellis’ absence. Mind you, beyond serving as a dark-horse commodity in Daily Fantasy leagues that reward power play points, Weber promises little other upside. In other Nashville injury tidings, new Predator Nick Bonino now appears on track — ahead of schedule — to play in the season opener after breaking his tibia late in the playoffs. The former Penguin is projected to center the Preds’ second scoring line.
After tearing his ACL this past postseason, Sekera is projected to miss half of 2017-18, at minimum. Behind top power play performer Oscar Klefbom, Sekera leaves big skates to fill on the secondary unit, with no obvious substitutes. Sophomore Matt Benning is one option, while stay-at-home defenseman Adam Larsson could be tasked to expand his horizons and also contribute in that vein.
Recovering ahead of schedule?
The Senators were wisely prepared to wait as long as necessary to ensure their star defenseman was fully recovered from offseason foot surgery before throwing him back into competitive action. If that stretched a week or two into the regular season, longer if needed, so be it. Now there’s talk that Karlsson is recovering ahead of schedule and may not miss any meaningful action whatsoever. In an elite fantasy class of d-men alongside Brent Burns, Karlsson is again a threat to near a point-per-game pace this season. And if you’re worried about the 27-year-old slowing a step after going under the knife, remember how well he recuperated after having his Achilles sliced back in 2012-13.
It was first suggested that Dubinsky would need about three months of recovery after undergoing wrist surgery in May, but the Blue Jackets then extended that timeline into the regular season. Now there’s speculation the 31-year-old center might be ready to suit up for the opener after all. If not, pencil in Nick Foligno as Columbus’ second line center, a position that Foligno may fill even if Dubinsky is ready to go. With Boone Jenner day-to-day and Josh Anderson sitting out camp as an unhappy restricted free agent, there’s still a fair bit of line shuffling to anticipate. However, in a variety of different roles, Dubinsky has proven to be a valuable — if volatile — fantasy asset in deeper leagues over several years now. Since joining the Jackets five seasons ago, he’s averaged 0.64 points and 1.24 penalty minutes per contest.
Additional injury notes: Forward James Neal could miss the start of 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights. According to GM George McPhee, Neal’s injured hand “is taking some more time to recover than anticipated.” … New Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin remains day-to-day with an upper body injury, but the Habs don’t seem overly concerned. … Hobbled with an ankle injury, oft-injured Martin Hanzal nonetheless remains a possibility for the Dallas Stars‘ opener. … Nursing some semblance of an upper-body injury, Bo Horvat is projected to be good-to-go to start the regular season. Horvat led the Vancouver Canucks with 52 points in 2016-17. … Dealing with a neck issue, veteran Henrik Zetterberg hopes to return to action for the Detroit Red Wings before the regular campaign gets underway.