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Fantasy hockey last-minute line changes and notes

Could line changes in Buffalo hurt Jeff Skinner's stock? Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly there. With puck drop looming on the 2019-20 regular season, here's a final-hour roundup of fantasy-relevant tidbits from around the league. This brief tour includes a little lineup shuffling, anticipated and otherwise, and some estimates - from head coaches themselves - on predicted goaltender workload. Don't forget to check in next Monday for this campaign's inaugural edition of Waiver Watch, to get a jump on the earliest of lineup adjustments. Fantasy life comes at you fast in the NHL, particularly in the first few weeks.


Anaheim Ducks

The youth movement is confirmed underway in southern California. To launch 2019-20, veteran center Ryan Getzlaf is flanked by 22-year-old Troy Terry and 20-year-old Max Comtois, while - once recovered from a not-so-serious lower-body injury - 21-year-old Sam Steel is projected to center a second unit with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg. Of these three youngsters, Comtois boasts greatest fantasy value at even-strength, while Terry sports the edge with the extra skater as member of the Ducks' top power play. Remember, in his first turn as Anaheim's head coach, Dallas Eakins is intent on allowing his forwards more freedom on offense.

Boston Bruins

Head coach Bruce Cassidy submits Tuukka Rask, even healthy, could play as few as 50 games this season, leaving another 30-plus in the hands of Jaroslav Halak. Those targeting 60-plus starts from their No. 1 goalie are therefore advised look outside the Bruins' crease, while fantasy managers in deeper leagues should respect Halak as a excellent handcuff option. Boston's backup posted a 2.34 GAA and .922 SV% through 40 appearances in 2018-19.

Buffalo Sabres

One of this preseason's stars, Victor Olofsson is deservedly earning himself a role on the Sabres' top scoring line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. That bumps Jeff Skinner, who benefitted handsomely from playing with Eichel this past season, to compete on a second unit with Marcus Johansson, at least to start. While there's talk of Kaapo Kakko eyeing 30 goals his first NHL season, the Rangers winger may not be the only rookie in New York State to ring up that number. Rostered in only 4% of ESPN.com leagues at present, Olofsson could serve as an early fantasy steal.

Chicago Blackhawks

Alexander Nylander and Drake Caggiula - not Brandon Saad - appear coach Jeremy Colliton's two forwards of choice to skate up front with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, with Nylander harboring the early edge. That puts a significant dent in Saad's fantasy value. On Chicago's other dynamic scoring line, Andrew Shaw has, in fact, done enough to secure the gig aside Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, inflating Shaw's corresponding value in deeper leagues.

Colorado Avalanche

The re-signing of Mikko Rantanen - reunited straightaway with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog - results in Joonas Donskoi tumbling to the third line, leaving winger Andre Burakovsky to skate on a second unit with center Nazem Kadri and Tyson Jost. Outside Colorado's elite trio, Kadri, a former 30-plus-goal scorer with Toronto, boasts the greatest fantasy value up front as running mate on the top power play.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Will it be the 20-year-old rookie or 31-year-old veteran? John Tortorella doesn't yet seem settled on who to skate on a Blue Jackets' top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson, between Alexandre Texier and Nick Foligno. It may take weeks, even months (if ever), for Columbus' head coach to commit to one or the other (or someone else altogether). But for now, Texier, while unproven, sports the higher fantasy ceiling season.

Dallas Stars

Head coach Jim Montgomery is reportedly favoring a hefty-enough workload for his backup netminder again this season. Even with Ben Bishop healthy, and rebounding off an outstanding (if limited) campaign, Montgomery suggests he prefers divvying up responsibilities almost evenly between his two netminders. Perhaps favoring Bishop over Anton Khudobin 48-34? Adds up to 10-15 games fewer that what's usually warranted from a top-tier fantasy netminder.

Los Angeles Kings

After first launching training camp at center, Jeff Carter has since shifted to the wing on the Kings' second scoring line, adjacent Adrian Kempe and Ilya Kovalchuk. It's easy - and understandable - to suppose part of Todd McLellan's revitalization plan is rebooting Carter's scoring ways of old. While last year was lousy, the 34-year-old has 705 points to show for his 980-game career, more than half of them goals. He's currently rostered in 44% of ESPN.com leagues.

Montreal Canadiens

No longer a secret in Montreal, untested rookie Nick Suzuki is not only expected to win a roster spot out of camp, but a top-six role aside Max Domi - potentially bumping Jonathan Drouin to the third line (if Artturi Lehkonen sticks instead). A dynasty asset for years to come, Suzuki could earn his fantasy stripes as early as this season. This kid can score.

New York Rangers

It appears Filip Chytil isn't ready for the top-six spotlight in Manhattan after all. Initially rumored as the preferred candidate to center a potent scoring line with Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko, Chytil has since been booted to the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford. So Ryan Strome gets the gig instead. Rostered in only 7% of ESPN.com leagues, Dylan's older brother - who has yet to consistently live up to his 2011 fifth-overall draft billing - could finally evolve into the producer and fantasy asset we all expected him to be.

St. Louis Blues

Sophomore Sammy Blais - not Zach Sanford as earlier anticipated - is slotted in to start the regular season on a scoring line with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron. While a regular gig on the power play appears off the table for now, Blais could develop into an appreciated fantasy asset in deep leagues if he maintains that top-six role.

Tampa Bay Lightning

As it happens, Brayden Point might not miss much time after all. In recovery from spring hip surgery, the Lightning forward was initially forecast to return around late October. Now there's speculation Point could be back a couple of weeks earlier. For now, Anthony Cirelli serves as top center for the Lightning (assuming coach Jon Cooper sticks with skating Steven Stamkos on the wing). Fantasy managers should utilize Cirelli accordingly.

Vegas Golden Knights

Injuries to Alex Tuch (week-to-week) and Cody Eakin (day-to-day) mean Cody Glass is likely to be included in the Knights' lineup in launching 2019-20. The 20-year-old WHL standout could be in for an explosive debut, if, in the spirit of balance, is tasked to center a scoring line with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, bumping Paul Stastny to the third unit. On the onset, it might be worth activating a player other than Stastny, at least until the veteran center reclaims his spot between Pacioretty and Stone. Glass, on the flipside, should serve as a dynamite dark-horse asset in the short-term.