We are less than one week into the 2019-20 NHL season but we already have our first big injury.
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Evgeni Malkin will be out “longer-term” with a lower-body injury. Fellow centre Nick Bjugstad will also be sidelined for an extended period of time with a lower-body injury, all but destroying the Penguins’ centre depth. Jared McCann moved up to the second line and Teddy Blueger centred the third line in Monday’s practice.
— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) October 7, 2019
Darren Dreger of TSN has since reported that Malkin will be out at least one month with a soft tissue injury to his leg. Durability has always been an issue for Malkin and that was reflected in his Yahoo! Average Draft Position (35.1). Over the last four seasons, Malkin has missed 19.2 percent of the games but ranked fifth in the NHL in points-per-game (1.13). During that time, he has averaged 38 goals and 55 assists (93 points) per 82-games. If you could guarantee that he could play a full season, Malkin would be a consensus first-round pick, but this is exactly why he was going late in the third round.
It’s tough to lose your third-round pick after just two games, but you should have some replacements on your team already given how deep the centre position is. Below I’ve listed six centres who are owned in under 50 percent of leagues that make great adds to help solidify your centre depth while Malkin is sidelined.
Nico Hischier — C —New Jersey Devils [47% Owned]
Through two games, Hischier has just one assist but is playing a promising 18:29 ATOI and all of that next to Taylor Hall. The Devils are off to an 0-1-1 start and decided to shuffle their lines in Monday’s practice. One of the only things to stay the same was the Hall-Hischier combo. Kyle Palmieri was moved off of the line but the dynamic Nikita Gusev was moved up.
I mentioned Hischier as a sleeper many times throughout the preseason and his usage next to Hall should allow him to succeed in 2019-20. The one concern with Hischier was the addition of Jack Hughes, but through two games he is averaging nearly three minutes more per game than Hughes.
The Devils have three games in each of the next two weeks with two of the six games on the typical “off days” (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), which make it easier for you to get him into your lineup.
Roope Hintz — C/LW — Dallas Stars [46% Owned]
While the Stars have had a slow start (0-3-0), Hintz has looked really good through one week. Hintz was a popular breakout choice this fall and so far, so good. After a two-goal game in Detroit on Sunday, Hintz has three goals in three games. One reason to expect a breakout was a boost in ice-time and he has received that so far—going from 14:03 ATOI in 2019 to 17:15 ATOI in 2020.
Hintz is somewhat limited on the power-play because their top unit consists of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg. However, he should be a reliable source of goals and points at even-strength. Dallas hasn’t used consistent lines yet but Hintz is almost guaranteed to skate with one of Pavelski, Radulov or Benn on any given night.
With the drastic increase in usage and consistently quality linemates, Hintz should be viewed as a 20-goal, 30-assist candidate in 2019-20 and that makes him a valuable bottom of your lineup forward—especially if you just lost Malkin.
Alex Galchenyuk — C/LW — Pittsburgh Penguins [42% Owned]
The big draw to Galchenyuk during fantasy draft season was him playing with Malkin. With Malkin out, that possibility is gone but it could increase Galchenyuk’s usage. Through two games, Galchenyuk ranked seventh on the team in power-play usage but he skated on the top PP unit in the first practice without Malkin. Galchenuk was on a unit with Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Justin Schultz. Over the last two seasons, Galchenyuk has recorded 45 power-play points (18G / 27A) and usage on a far superior unit with Crosby and Letang boosts his outlook over the next few weeks.
The Penguins have four, three and three games over the next three weeks, which makes Galchenyuk a solid in-house replacement for Malkin, especially since he is sliding in for Malkin on PP1.
Erik Haula — C/LW — Carolina Hurricanes [19% Owned]
It seems like such a long time ago that Haula broke out for 29 goals and 55 points, but he’s brought back those memories through three games with Carolina. Haula’s usage in Carolina has been massive so far. He is averaging the fourth most ice-time among Hurricanes’ forwards (18:08) and is third in PP/TOI (3:14). Haula is being used as the net-front presence on the Hurricanes’ top power-play unit and he’s converted it into two PPG in three games—he’s also added a goal at 5v5.
Carolina is incredibly deep on the wings, so Haula is playing with excellent talents (Ryan Dzingel and Martin Necas) despite centring what is considered their “third-line.” His high-end usage at 5v5 and on the power-play and shot volume (3.0 SOG/gm) makes Haula a 30-goal candidate if he can stay healthy this season.
Cody Glass — C — Vegas Golden Knights [17% Owned]
Glass was the No.6 overall pick in 2017 and showcased his high-end offensive ability since Vegas selected him. He posted 171 points (52G / 119A) in 102 games during his final two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL). After turning pro, Glass had five points (3G / 2A) in six AHL regular season games and 15 points (7G / 8A) in 22 playoff games.
The 20-year-old made the Golden Knights out of training camp and could stick with the team. Vegas has shown their confidence in the rookie centreman by playing him on the second line with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and using him on the top power-play unit. Playing with two great veteran forwards will allow a young talent like Glass to post serviceable fantasy numbers in year-1.
There’s some obvious risk in rostering Glass because he could quickly drop down the lineup or even be reassigned to Chicago (AHL) if he doesn’t produce. Still, while he’s playing with Stone and Pacioretty, Glass is a strong bottom of the roster option.
Derek Stepan — C — Arizona Coyotes [12% Owned]
Stepan is routinely one of the most under-appreciated fantasy centres but reliable bottom of the roster production. Stepan had a down-year in 2018-19 but prior to that, he had five straight seasons of 50-plus points—18 goal, 41 assists (59 points) per 82-games.
Stepan’s usage is elite. He played 19:15 ATOI in his first two seasons with Arizona and has averaged over 21 minutes per game to start this season. The Coyotes have had a tough time scoring goals early-on, but Stepan will be relied on as their No.1 centre with Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel throughout the season and he should once again finish around 20 goals and 40 assists. He’s never going to win you a week on his own, but his consistent production can fill-in for Malkin over the next month or so.