Fantasy 31: Players benefiting from a bye week

Between Jan. 7 and Jan. 19, every team in the NHL rests idle for a stretch of five, six or even seven (hello !) games, as mandated by the league‘s latest collective bargaining agreement. Here‘s a speculative look at fantasy-relevant skaters and goalies, team by team, who stand to benefit from such a break for one reason or another. Since most of these players are already rostered in the majority of ESPN leagues, they could make for attractive trade targets, or at least offer their respective fantasy managers something to look forward to through the second half of the 2017-18 season.


Bye: Jan. 7-12

and the Ducks have to be content with one successful warm-up contest following 11 games lost to a hurt knee, then six days off to strengthen and really heal. Now let‘s see if the veteran winger reclaims his usual spot on a top line and power play with center or if he continues to battle on a unit with .


Bye: Jan. 7-11

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wasn‘t named to his second career All-Star Game based on his most recent on-ice accomplishments. One assist (minus-15) since Nov. 28 doesn‘t cut it by any measuring stick, less so in stride with what we‘ve come to expect from the elite offensive-defenseman. While the perennially developing Coyotes don‘t score much altogether, Ekman-Larsson has nowhere to go but up. That makes him appealing as a reduced-value trade target. Just imagine if the talented 26-year-old is actually dealt to a contender ahead of this year‘s trade deadline.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

The grind of a full NHL campaign can wear on any player, never mind a 20-year-old rookie. Defenseman has already played more games with the Bruins in 2017-18 (40) than all of last season at Boston University (38). He‘s also logging heavy minutes, averaging nearly 23 per contest. Make no mistake, five straight days off will do McAvoy a world of good, physically and mentally. Prepare for a strong second half from the Calder candidate.


Bye: Jan. 12-17

The Sabres‘ most productive winger has slightly slowed, potting only a goal and two assists in nine contests. So a breather to reset, coupled with the ongoing chance to showcase himself as an attractive trade asset to contenders, should inspire to power back up next week.


Bye: Jan. 15-19

Defenseman hasn‘t had the most productive past couple of months, collecting only five assists since Nov. 20, a striking drop off, considering the blueliner‘s 0.52 point-per-game pace through his past three seasons. Fortunately, Brodie is still seeing a hefty amount of ice time at even strength and with the man advantage. The 27-year-old remains in good position to snap out of his current funk.


Bye: Jan. 15-19

Like Brodie in Calgary, defenseman could certainly use some time away to reboot his offensive game. With only four goals and nine assists, the Hurricanes‘ offensive-defenseman is well off his usual scoring pace, but he‘s still skating on the top pair and anchoring the club‘s No. 1 power play. He‘s also shooting the puck (118 shots on goal), which suggests the dam will break at some point, maybe soon after a Jan. 20 restart. Unlike many others on this list, Faulk is available in a large fraction of ESPN leagues.


Bye: Jan. 15-19

One day after wallowing in the press box as a healthy scratch versus the Senators, scored his second goal of the season in a 2-1 loss to the . It‘s not all that surprising, considering the benching was intended as a kick-in-the-pants for the accomplished defenseman. While young has taken over as the Blackhawks‘ contemporary No. 2 fantasy blueliner behind , Seabrook still has use in deeper ESPN leagues. Scoring his first goal since opening night, along with a five-day break to regroup, should set the stage for a better second half from the 32-year-old.


Bye: Jan. 7-12

Only goalie should be appreciative of this midseason respite, as the rest of the red-hot Avalanche have won five-straight, averaging 4.4 goals per game, ahead of the forced vacation. Listed day-to-day with a , Varlamov might not need any more than nearly a full idle week to recuperate. Whether coach Jared Bednar opts to go with No. 2 goalie — who‘s been great of late — immediately following the break remains in question, but Varlamov will get his fair shot at reclaiming the starter‘s gig soon enough.


Bye: Jan. 13-17

Similar to Anaheim‘s Perry, forward managed to squeeze in one post-injury matchup before his team‘s regulated getaway. While the 23-year-old didn‘t manage a shot against the Sabres on Thursday, more than 18 minutes of ice time suggests that his back issue isn‘t bothering him too much. Before falling injured just before Christmas, Wennberg was on a brief roll with two goals and three assists in four games. Enduring a disappointing campaign altogether after last year‘s 59-point showing, the 14th-overall draft selection of 2013 still has plenty of time and opportunity in a top-six scoring role to contribute regularly in the second half.


Bye: Jan. 7-12

Forward hasn‘t scored a goal since Dec. 9 and has only 16 points on the season. While we no longer expect the explosively productive Spezza of old, he‘s still playing on a scoring line with and skating with the secondary power play. There‘s plenty room for improvement here. Some midseason time off won‘t hurt, especially if the 34-year-old is managing some minor, nagging injury.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

An additional five days off allows for goalie to fully heal from his latest lower-body injury. The Red Wings would rather not rely heavily on backup , who‘s been lousy most of this season. Howard, on the other hand, had been excellent leading up to his minor injury, allowing 10 total goals in six consecutive starts (four wins). We‘ll see if Detroit‘s No. 1 continues to ride that positive momentum after the break.


Bye: Jan. 14-19

Although there isn‘t much to celebrate in Edmonton this campaign, it isn‘t all doom and gloom. The club happens to be quite pleased with the of defenseman and forward . Nurse leads the Oilers‘ blue line in plus-minus (plus-10) and PIM (40), and sits second in points (14) and shots (100). Meanwhile, Puljujarvi is quietly carving out a position on a scoring line. “He‘s become one of our most dangerous wingers, if not the most dangerous,” coach Todd McLellan recently said of the 19-year-old forward. A bit of idle time should benefit both young players, unused to the grind of a full NHL campaign (Nurse came somewhat close two years ago, but played a more limited role). Both are worth watching through a fantasy lens as the season wears on.


Bye: Jan. 13-18

Starting every single game since fell hurt Dec. 4, might gain from this mandated timeout more than any other goalie in the league. Mostly good-to-great since taking over for Florida‘s No. 1, the experienced backup has waivered of late, winning just one of four contests with a .894 save percentage. A refreshed Reimer has the potential to shine once again after some much-needed rest, at least until Luongo makes his healthy comeback, which is anticipated for early February. Then decisions could become tough between the pipes for coach , particularly if Reimer continues to perform well.


Bye: Jan. 7-12

Thanks to the Kings‘ bye week, shouldn‘t miss any more than the one Jan. 6 contest against the while hampered by an unspecified, but “minor” issue. Ranking second in fantasy stature to fellow defenseman , Muzzin has 23 points, including five with the extra skater, on 90 shots (plus-nine). Fantasy managers should continue to utilize the 28-year-old blueliner as they usually would.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

Goalie wrapped up play ahead of the break with a couple of convincing wins. That‘s something. But moving on from the Canadiens‘ elite netminder, we‘re much less stirred by the current flock of Montreal skaters as fantasy assets, bye or no bye. That is, unless GM Marc Bergevin uses this time off to hammer out a deal sending elsewhere, allowing the floundering star forward a potential Renaissance.

Minnesota Wild
Bye: Jan. 15-19

The Wild optimistically eye having once their midseason break is in the books. Suffering with his latest lower-body injury, Niederreiter will miss this coming weekend‘s tilts with the and , but could (should?) be healthy enough when the visit Jan. 20. If so, coach Bruce Boudreau figures to be spoiled with choice of healthy scoring forwards now that is also back in the mix. All fantasy managers with Wild assets up front should keep a close eye on how Boudreau‘s top nine shakes out at that stage.

Nashville Predators
Bye: Jan. 10-15

Potting a goal and an assist against the Oilers on Jan. 9 is an encouraging way for to enter his team‘s forced-upon rest, particularly in light of the 24-year-old‘s recent run of only three points in 11 contests. There‘s little doubt the young forward feels the weight of living up to last season‘s output of 31 goals and 30 assists, and this pause might relieve some of that pressure. He‘s still skating on the Predators‘ top line and secondary power play, so don‘t be surprised if Arvidsson finds another scoring gear in the second half.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

Ahead of the Devils‘ break, goalie dropped four straight, allowing four goals in each loss. Before that dismal stretch, New Jersey‘s No. 1 was super, running 8-1-1 while surrendering only one goal in five of those contests. This pause could serve well in recalibrating Schneider in the right direction. Expect the streaky netminder to emerge with a bang, beginning Saturday against the visiting .


Bye: Jan. 8-12

Goalie is exhausted. He as much himself. If the veteran netminder is to have any shot at succeeding in the Islanders‘ No. 1 role, this breather feels essential. It would also help if the rest of the club ceased with allowing nearly 40 shots per game, as they have since Dec. 21. Additionally, the return of forward remains a question mark as he recuperates from a not “horrific” but “certainly not good” lower-body injury, as characterized by head coach .


Bye: Jan. 8-12

The Rangers‘ break couldn‘t have come at a better time for forward , who prematurely left last Sunday‘s game in Las Vegas with a leg contusion. The second-line center might not miss a beat after the work-week off and suit up for Saturday‘s home matinee with the Islanders. Hopefully, for Rangers fans and invested fantasy owners alike, the club also gets its collective offensive act back in gear, after averaging only 1.86 goals per game since just before Christmas. Hayes collected 17 goals and 32 points in 76 contests last season, but has struggled to just one assist in seven recent games.

Ottawa Senators
Bye: Jan. 11-17

Everyone from your parents to your mail carrier will tell you defenseman hasn‘t been himself this season. So this seven-day vacation, along with a couple of multi-point games from Karlsson leading up to it, promises a brighter second half. Fantasy managers would be foolish to deal the two-time Norris winner for anything less than a king‘s ransom, though, right? Right?

Philadelphia Flyers
Bye: Jan. 8-12

Coach Dave Hakstol acknowledged that has been playing injured for most of the season, so a five-day physical break for the dynamic winger can‘t hurt. The further development of chemistry with rookie center , an ongoing work in progress, should also help boost Simmonds‘ five-on-five production in the season‘s latter half. If nothing else, the 29-year-old‘s rhythm of contributing regularly with the man advantage — seven goals and four assists to date — appears in little danger of waning.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

After missing a month with a lower-body injury, defenseman was able to shake off some of the rust through four games leading up to the Penguins‘ sabbatical. Despite contributing just the one assist that week, the 27-year-old logged regular minutes and held his own as ‘s defensive partner. It won‘t be long before he starts denting the scoresheet again at even strength or in anchoring a (young, but promising) secondary power play, even with a healthy in the lineup. If Schultz is somehow available on your fantasy waiver wire, there‘s no time like the present to invest in blue-line value for nothing.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

Five days of additional rest for anyone who has recently sustained a concussion, however minor, is of great value, so look for to tear it up again once play resumes Jan. 13 versus Arizona. The Sharks center amassed 26 points before being sidelined in mid-December and one goal plus three assists in the five games following a return. Couture remains on pace for his most productive season since 2014-15 (67 points).


Bye: Jan. 10-15

This mandated break is nothing less than a precious gift for goaltender . Struggling at present, the Blues‘ No. 1 surrendered five goals in each of his last two starts, his only two appearances since Dec. 29. On the flip side, backup has performed well, not only as St. Louis‘ go-to of late, but also all campaign long, however sporadically. If Allen doesn‘t show immediate signs of salvaging his mojo following this idle interval, we should see a lot more of Hutton moving forward.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Bye: Jan. 12-17

is , sustaining a distressing leg injury on Thursday against the Flames. If the Lightning‘s six-day bye doesn‘t suffice in recovery time for Tampa‘s top defenseman — we‘ll learn more about the injury later Friday — young will be entrusted with greater responsibility, including a role with the Lightning‘s potent No. 1 power play. Twelve of Hedman‘s 33 points on the year have counted with the man advantage.


Bye: Jan. 11-15

Forward needs a reboot. After blasting out of the gates with 23 points, including 13 goals, in 27 games, the agitating centerman has one goal through 16 subsequent contests (zero assists). That‘s just bizarre, even with coach Mike Babcock having him often matched up against the opposition‘s best. Fortunately, Kadri is still seeing top-six minutes and valuable ice time with the man advantage. We‘ll see how he bounces back after some time away.

Vancouver Canucks
Bye: Jan. 15-19

With 22 goals and 18 assists in 40 contests, is enjoying an outstanding full inaugural campaign. Still, as mentioned previously in this space, the 20-year-old has never come near competing in the equivalent of an 82-game NHL slate. The Canucks‘ string of five days off could go a long way in preventing a rookie burnout as the season trudges on, especially now that Boeser is tapped to participate in the All-Star Game and won‘t get a beach-lying bonus-breather at the end of the month. While we‘ll never know how much the young forward would have fared otherwise, his fantasy managers can take confidence in knowing Boeser is less likely to lose steam through February and beyond.


Bye: Jan. 8-12

Veteran might not mind stepping back for a brief period, despite his team‘s continued success. The Knights‘ second-place goal scorer experienced his own seven-game drought, during which he collected just one assist, before potting his 18th against the Rangers just ahead of the break. Still on pace to surpass the 35-goal plateau for the second time in his NHL career, Neal will be a key factor in the second half as his squad trudges towards the playoffs.


Bye: Jan. 13-17

Skating on a scoring line with and a Capitals‘ secondary power play, should have more to show for his past 10 games than one assist. However, as with other young players mentioned here, the 21-year-old is still learning to adjust to his first full season in the NHL. It‘s a process, one that Washington‘s staff is willing to see through. The 2014 13th-overall draft selection remains a promising keeper-league commodity with the potential to make more noise in the season‘s final months.

Winnipeg Jets
Bye: Jan. 14-19

You can‘t fault the Jets for not relishing their upcoming pause in momentum, as the club surges up the Western Conference standings. From goalie to fellow All-Star , coach Paul Maurice‘s lads are having quite a stretch…except for forward , who suffered an upper-body injury in the last few days. Since the issue isn‘t considered all that serious, the break now offers Lowry a chance at full restoration without missing more than four total games. Making fresh strides this campaign, the fourth-year skater is contributing regularly from his third-line center spot and with the power play. He continues to have value in deeper fantasy leagues.

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