As we settle in for the four-day All-Star break, here's a look at selected fantasy all-stars from around the NHL. Specifically, these are players -- both high-profile and not so much -- who have well exceeded preseason expectations to date. More importantly, we look at where they go from here.
Everyone who initially had Manson with more points than Cam Fowler by the end of January raise your hand. Anyone? While Fowler is 12 games behind due to injury, Manson's 23 points in 50 contests still stagger, considering the 26-year-old shut-down defenseman isn't exactly treasured for his scoring abilities. So maybe anticipate a little less in that department moving forward. Fowler is now healthy, as is Hampus Lindholm. Young Brandon Montour is proving to be an effective presence with the man advantage. If other options are available, Manson's fantasy managers may now choose to go in a different direction.
After an inspired first month in which he scored 11 goals and six assists in 16 games, the rookie hit a wall in early November. Since then, the seventh overall draft selection of 2016 has settled into a more conservative cadence, collecting 15 points in 22 games through December and January. Expect that latter scoring rhythm to continue going forward. While Keller is still serving on the Coyotes' top power play, he's seeing fewer minutes at even strength in skating on the club's third line. Mind you, the 19-year-old sports a brilliant future and remains a valued commodity worth investment in the vast majority of dynasty and keeper leagues.
With rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy earning an honorable mention, Heinen merits the extra attention for bringing so much more than anticipated. Racking up 33 points in 43 games, including 10 with the extra skater, Heinen has kept his regular scoring pace since season's launch, interrupted early by a brief stint in the AHL. The rookie forward's top power-play role promises more of the same. If available in deeper leagues, this still-underrated 22-year-old has real value.
After an explosive start consisting of 15 goals and 18 assists in 35 games, Kane hasn't contributed much since Christmas -- and he's clearly not happy with affairs in Buffalo. If the pending free agent isn't traded ahead of this season's deadline, as anticipated, his numbers may not sparkle much between now and early April, particularly since the 26-year-old sniper is tucked in on the Sabres' third line, far away from Jack Eichel. Still, Kane is playing for his next contract. It would be in his best interest to reassert himself before 2017-18 expires.
Already just one win shy of last season's total as starting netminder with the Coyotes, Smith is making the most of his first year outside the desert. For their part, the Flames can thank their new No. 1 for stealing a few of late, earning the club a single point, almost on his own, in three recent contests. Riding a .947 save percentage in January, Smith hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 29. But we'll see how the 35-year-old manages down the stretch. Only Toronto's Frederik Andersen has started more games in 2017-18 (42 versus Smith's 41). Wear and tear could eventually set in, but so far, so good for the experienced netminder and his playoff-contending club.
Fortunately, Aho is expected to return from a lower-body injury and concussion shortly, if not immediately, following the All-Star break. Before falling hurt, the sophomore racked up a team-leading 16 goals and 21 assists in 45 games. As long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks, which is always a concern when head injuries are in play, the 20-year-old should pick up where he left off, as the Hurricanes battle for playoff contention. Under-rostered in the grand fantasy scheme, this young skater would undoubtedly garner more attention if he played most elsewhere.
While the Blackhawks struggle to remain playoff-relevant, Schmaltz is making the most of his coveted role in centering Patrick Kane on a top-six scoring line. The 21-year-old sophomore has 35 points in 45 games, three more on the season than Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. In fact, only Kane has put up better numbers for the Hawks this campaign. In no perceived danger of losing his current gig, Schmaltz should be rostered in well more than half of ESPN leagues.
While Nathan MacKinnon sparkles as Colorado's true fantasy all-star this season, the Art Ross candidate isn't likely available for any sane return in leagues of all varieties. In a more practical light, consider Kerfoot. Centering a second forward line, while contributing on Colorado's top power play, the Harvard grad ranks fourth in Avs scoring with 32 points. Yes, fourth behind the club's big three in Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. A spot on that power play alone makes the 23-year-old rookie forward a worthy add.
Taking another step forward in his fifth year in the league, the (still only) 23-year-old leads his club in ice time (24:49), paces his blue line in shots (152) and is easily on pace for a 50-plus-point season. That's a total we expected from Zach Werenski, not Jones, after last season's head-turning campaign from the rookie. In that vein, expect more from Werenski, Jones' partner at even strength and on the top power play, in the next several weeks.
As excited as we were this past summer at the prospect of Radulov joining the Stars' one-two scoring punch of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up front, we're nowhere near let down. As long as coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't fiddle much with this trio -- which he has already at times -- all three should finish with near 80 points. That's about 20 points more than we had Radulov projected for ahead of the campaign.
On a squad otherwise populated by underwhelming fantasy assets, Larkin is enjoying a fairly successful season with a team-leading 38 points in 48 games. The 21-year-old also tops all Red Wings forwards with an average ice time of 19:58 per game and sits second in shots (122). Moreover, his current line, including wingers Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi (a rookie), is making the most productive noise for Detroit. Athanasiou (rostered in 16.8 of ESPN leagues) and Bertuzzi (4.4 percent) are worth monitoring in deeper leagues.
Skating on the top pair and No. 1 power play, and leading the Oilers' blue line with 18 points and plus-14 (a confounding number considering the team's average), Nurse is taking over for Oscar Klefbom as the club's top fantasy defenseman. Still only 22 years old, the former seventh overall selection (2013) stands to benefit further under the guidance of new skills coach and former offensive-defenseman extraordinaire Paul Coffey. All keeper/dynasty owners should invest in Nurse before he ramps it up further. This young talent is only getting started.
We expected more from the 24-year-old Panther in his third full season, but not this much more. Centering a second line and flourishing on Florida's top power play, Trocheck is riding a near point-per-game pace. He's also averaging 21:38 minutes per contest and shooting on net with heartening regularity (169). Best of all, the center most recently skated aside top winger Jonathan Huberdeau, a significant upgrade over Jamie McGinn. That's a good look. Also on that line? Young Denis Malgin, who's available in 99.8 percent of ESPN leagues.
It must feel like 2010-11 all over again for the former captain of the Kings. Skating on a No. 1 unit with Anze Kopitar, Brown is enjoying a resurgence in production with 35 points in 49 games (plus-19). If anything, Jeff Carter's healthy return (not that far off, it seems) would offer opposing teams more to worry about, without threatening Brown's top-line role. The 33-year-old hasn't fizzled out yet, so what's another couple of months? Enjoy this unanticipated flurry while it lasts, but next year is another story.
Gallagher has a legit shot at a 30-goal season for the first time in his NHL career. That's something. The well-respected forward (and the Canadiens' next captain?) also ranks second to only Max Pacioretty in shots (159). From a squad lacking in inspired fantasy assets this season, we'll take it.
The top-line winger has been even more productive of late, collecting nine points in 10 recent games, and four goals in his past five. That boosts the 26-year-old's season total to 36 points in 49 contests. As long as Zucker remains on a Wild top line with Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu -- and he seems rather comfortable there right now -- there's just cause to start him in all but the tightest of ESPN leagues.
How is Fiala still only rostered in a fifth of ESPN leagues? There was ample preseason talk of an anticipated breakout campaign from the 21-year-old sophomore. First proving capable of contributing regularly alongside center Kyle Turris and veteran winger Craig Smith, the 2014 first-round draft selection now promises more scoring fireworks on a newly formed dynamic unit with Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok. We don't get it. Only Filip Forsberg (IR) has more points among Predators forwards. If you need fantasy help up front, give Fiala a long look.
Rostered in approximately a third of ESPN leagues, Bratt sits second to only Taylor Hall in Devils scoring with 30 points, including 12 on the power play. Not bad for the 162th overall draft pick of 2016. Since the 19-year-old appears in little danger of dropping out of New Jersey's top six, he could serve as a valuable roster plug in a variety of fantasy leagues. We'd just like to see the rookie winger shoot more often.
The current front-runner for the Calder might also serve as one of several influences in convincing John Tavares to resign with the Islanders. Alongside Jordan Eberle, who you might argue isn't earning sufficient attention for his efforts this campaign, and 20-year-old Anthony Beauvillier, Barzal has 51 points on the season, including 15 in 11 games this January. That's an unsustainable pace, sure, but a minor drop-off is more than manageable. Since the gifted centerman isn't available in the overwhelming majority of competitive fantasy leagues, instead scoop up Beauvillier, who is rocking out with eight goals and two assists in his most recent eight contests.
Skating on a top line with Mika Zibanejad, the 22-year-old sophomore recently ramped up his scoring pace with an eye to an unexpected 60-point season. With Chris Kreider, sadly, sidelined indefinitely (blood clot/surgery), Buchnevich stands to maintain a grip on a Rangers top-six and top power-play position for the foreseeable future.
On pace for his first 82-point season, Stone also leads all Senators forwards in plus/minus (plus-10) and average ice time (20:51). His pending RFA status only adds additional incentive to finish the season strong, no matter how the Ottawa club is faring. Point is, he's worth holding onto. Recovering from a minor lower-body injury, the 25-year-old is loosely expected back following the break.
Even with Brayden Schenn out of the Philly equation, few anticipated the great influence Couturier would have on other high-performing Flyers (see: Claude Giroux), while also taking his own productive game to the next level. However, there's little chance any competent fantasy manager would release either impact forward for less than an outrageous ask. Instead, focus on the third member of the top line. Skating with Couturier and Giroux, rookie Travis Konecny has a goal in each of his past four games, and the 20-year-old sophomore is available in 86.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pittsburgh's original backup was on quite a roll, starting 16 games and subbing in for two more, from the end of November, through December and into the first half of January. Then in rolls NHL newbie Casey DeSmith, who seizes ownership of the Penguins' crease with four straight starts, three of them outstanding, ahead of the All-Star break. And now No. 1 Matt Murray says he's ready to return after missing time because of his father's death. It's possible we might not see much, if any, of Jarry going forward. It's perhaps time to let the 22-year-old loose.
His two recent stinkers aside (11 goals against through consecutive losses to the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets), Dell has otherwise campaigned effectively to replace Martin Jones as the Sharks' No. 1. The 28-year-old backup has been the better netminder, all around, for San Jose this season. However, those two subpar performances could suffice in giving Jones another fair shake after the break, if recovered from a recent lower-body injury. In other words, Dell may have blown it, in just two games, after playing steadfastly stingy since early November. Stay tuned.
The fact that Jake Allen is no longer the No. 1 netminder for the Blues speaks to how well Hutton has performed. Coach Mike Yeo can talk tandem all he wants, but the fact is, it's been Hutton's net since start of the new year. Since Dec. 30, the 32-year-old is 7-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. Grab him up.
One of several Tampa skaters who qualify for fantasy all-star distinction this season, Point earns the edge for surpassing expectations by the largest margin. It isn't even like we weren't expecting good things from the second-year center. Skating on a scoring line with Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, Point is holding his own with 20 goals and 24 assists (plus-20) in 49 games. If there's a drop-off from the 21-year-old on the way, it shouldn't be significant.
Before suffering a recent upper-body injury, Rielly accumulated 31 points in 47 games, on pace for about a third more than projected. But since the sidelining of the Leafs' top offensive defenseman, fellow blueliner Jake Gardiner has erupted for eight assists in four games. Keep all of that in mind once the Leafs resume action, especially if Rielly isn't yet well. An additional note: Since joining a forward line and power play with Mitch Marner, center Nazem Kadri has three goals in two games. The capable scorer had just one in his previous 20 contests. Consider that dam busted open.
On the upside for his fantasy managers, Boeser has performed well enough to merit a spot in this year's All-Star Game. However, the 20-year-old rookie might benefit more from a stretch of days off the ice and out of the spotlight. Remember, the University of North Dakota alum was tired to start this 82-game grind. Still, the Calder candidate's sum of 43 points in 46 games is beyond impressive.
Even though we could justifiably list every member of the Knights' top six as fantasy overachievers, Karlsson takes the crown for going well above and beyond. Leading his squad in goals (27) and plus/minus (plus-26), the 25-year-old sits second to only Jonathan Marchessault in points with 42, up just a titch from his previous best season-long total of 25 points in 81 games (last year in Columbus). Oh, and guess who's a restricted free agent in need of a new contract this summer?
No other skater in the NHL offers the same one-two scoring/PIM punch. Collecting 112 penalty minutes to date, Wilson leads all others league-wide aside from Florida's Micheal Haley (who amassed 39 PIM versus the Stars this past Tuesday alone). What's more surprising is the 23-year-old's steady gig on a top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. In that sense, the feisty forward is a threat to score each and every outing. If your fantasy league rewards rule-breaking behavior, Wilson is an obvious asset.
Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck, G (86.7 percent)
While we're enthralled with the offensive prowess shown by those up front, with and without Mark Scheifele in the lineup, no one other Winnipeg player can surpass what Hellebuyck has accomplished this season. Never mind starting most games, which was supposed to be Steve Mason's gig, Hellebuyck wasn't even guaranteed to play in the NHL this season. The 24-year-old now has Winnipeg first in the Central with 26 of his club's 29 wins, a 2.35 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Pat yourself on the back if you invested in the Jets' star netminder early.