HomeTop StoriesRankings update: Who will step up for the St. Louis Blues?

Rankings update: Who will step up for the St. Louis Blues?

The St. Louis Blues will be facing some adversity for the next month and a half. With their No. 1 offensive defenseman, a top-six center and a top-line winger all taken out of the equation for at least four weeks, some players are going to have to pick up some slack. Double “some” qualifier is used in that previous sentence because it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

Torey Krug has put in the most time this season on the Blues first unit power play and he’s expected to miss up to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Vladimir Tarasenko has the second-most power-play ice time this season and is expected to miss four weeks with a hand injury. Ryan O’Reilly sits third in five-on-five ice time and is expected to miss six weeks with a foot injury.

That is a lot of key minutes to fill. But not all of those minutes have been turned into fantasy success. Krug is a top-60 defensemen with 1.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) this season, which is still useful in most leagues (but only just in the shallower formats). Tarasenko is a little more locked into lineups with 1.9 FPPG, which is close to top 80 for forwards. O’Reilly, on the other hand, hasn’t offered much this season. With 1.2 FPPG overall and 1.0 FPPG during the past month, O’Reilly is already in a place to be cut from rosters. Sure, if you have unlimited injured reserve or no one else hurt, you can stash him. But cutting bait is fine.

For additional context, the Blues have two five-on-five lines that have managed to score double-digit goals together. One featured Tarasenko with Pavel Buchnevich and Robert Thomas, the other featured O’Reilly with Brandon Saad and Josh Leivo.

Now, luckily for the Blues, they have spread their offense out over three lines and have the forwards to absorb the hit up front by shortening to a more traditional and stronger top six, rather than a top nine. It’s likely Thomas, Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou get first crack at being a new top line, while Saad joins Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev for a second line. It’s far from the best top six in the league, but considering the injuries to O’Reilly and Tarasenko, it’s not bad.

I don’t think this negatively impacts on Buchnevich, Thomas or Kyrou in fantasy. That is still a rock solid trio. In almost 59 minutes together at five-on-five this season (per MoneyPuck), they have the best goals per 60 minutes of any Blues combination (5.1). And with Justin Faulk ready and willing to step up as an experienced power-play quarterback, there is little to be concerned with for the fortunes of these players.

Faulk, in the end, may get a nice bump in production. While he has more overall power-play time that Krug already this season, the majority of it was with the team’s second unit. While Colton Parayko should see more power-play time with the second unit, it’s not somewhere to look for production. But Parayko is already a borderline fantasy play, so it might be just enough to bump him into contention for a short-term roster spot in some leagues. Both defensemen have averaged 1.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) in the past four weeks, so this uptick to each of their roles should help push them toward 2.0 FPPG until Krug is back.

Barbashev looks like he might be the top choice to take the power-play ice time that would normally go to Tarasenko. He’s an easier promotion over Schenn because it leaves Schenn to take faceoffs on the second unit. Barbashev, however, would really need to start connecting on the power play to get into the fantasy mix. He sits at 1.2 FPPG on the season and 1.4 FPPG over the past four weeks, so more than a small uptick in production would be required here.

Jake Neighbours was called up from the AHL to take a forward spot and he does have upside to push for a top-six role over Saad or maybe even Barabashev. He played more of his time in 13 games earlier this season on a line with Schenn, so maybe he pushes into one of those spots. He has the pedigree of a top-six winger. Still 20 years old, he has 14 points in 19 games this season as an AHL rookie.

However this plays out, it could also have a big push toward what the Blues do at the trade deadline. O’Reilly and Tarasenko are both free agents at the end of this season and will both still command significant salaries going into their age-32 season. If the Blues, who are currently outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, can’t rally around this setback and play some inspired hockey between now and mid-February, it might be easier for the team to pull the plug on the season and get something back for O’Reilly and Tarasenko at the deadline. On the other hand, if the Blues do rally it makes sense for the team to stand pat and take the healthy reinforcements for a playoff push.

Forward notes

Jason Robertson, W, Dallas Stars (down seven spots to No. 14): On the plus side, having a down month now means “only” 2.1 FPPG for Robertson. After scoring three goals on Dec. 1, Robertson would only manage three more for the rest of the month. But he kept his fantasy points respectable and now has a chance for another hot streak to keep him among the elite.

Alex DeBrincat, W, Ottawa Senators (up nine spots to No. 40): Safe to say DeBrincat is fully settled in to his new digs. After eight points in eight games in October and just nine points in 14 games in November, DeBrincat posted a more DeBrincat-esque 19 points in 14 games in December. And Josh Norris, who will be his center, is now travelling with the team again.

Travis Konecny, W, Philadelphia Flyers (up seven spots to No. 45): Before the season, I had Konecny as one of my big bounceback players. Then Sean Couturier was injured for the bulk of the season and I didn’t think Konecny could still get there without the team’s top center. He’s proving me wrong and right. With 2.7 FPPG, Konecny is truly among the elite fantasy producers, Couturier be damned.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C/W, Edmonton Oilers (up 17 spots to No. 50): It was a bit of a slow ramp-up for Nugent-Hopkins on the power play. After only posting one power-play tally and 12 power-play points across the first two months of the season, he managed five power-play goals and 12 points in December alone.

Jordan Kyrou, C/W, St. Louis Blues (up 33 spots to No. 59): The injuries to Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are going to put the Blues offense squarely on the shoulders of Kyrou and Robert Thomas for the next month and a half. Kyrou’s 2.9 FPPG over the past month says he can answer the bell.

J.T. Compher, C/W, Colorado Avalanche (up 12 spots to No. 210): Even after the Avs get all their healthy bodies back, Compher has more than proven his mettle as a key piece of this team’s top six and the internal replacement for what they lost when Nazem Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames. He’s still going to get secondary power-play time and a role in the top six even after everyone is back.

Calle Jarnkrok, C/W, Toronto Maple Leafs (enters top 250 at No. 216): Right before he came back from injury, the Leafs traded Denis Malgin to the Avalanche essentially clearing the spot on the second line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner for Jarnkrok. He has not disappointed, with a point in all five games since then (three goals and four assists).

Defense notes

Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers (down six spots to No. 56): Like the rest of the Panthers, Ekblad had a pretty rough December. This is likely due in no small part to catalyst Aleksander Barkov playing off and on for only half the team’s games. With Barkov back to health, here’s hoping the Cats can find their groove again, because four assists in 14 games does not look good on Ekblad.

Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (up 46 spots to No. 117): Back from a knee injury, Rielly returned to his role as the top defender for the Leafs this past week. That said, he did not immediately reclaim his role on the top power-play unit, as the Leafs were satisfied to continue with their five-forward top unit. Rielly needs that power-play access, so hopefully he can get back there.

Erik Gustafsson, D, Washington Capitals (enters top 250 at No. 181): The injury to John Carlson coincides with Gustafsson getting on a heater, so he’s a must-add in all leagues until he get more clarity over how much time Carlson will miss after taking a puck to the face before the holiday break.

Goaltender notes

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes (up nine spots to No. 118): Something has to come to a head soon with this goaltender situation. Andersen has been practicing with the team for almost a month now, but still not healthy enough to return? The obvious answer is to trade out Antti Raanta, but that’s easier said than done with a 33-year-old goaltender, though the Canes do seem to be showcasing him with consecutive starts and consecutive shutouts over the break. But it goes to show what we’ve been saying in the fantasy realm for some time now: It doesn’t matter who is in this crease, as the Hurricanes play such a strong possession game that it helps goaltenders of all stripes to thrive. That doesn’t make it any easier to make sure you have the right one in fantasy. What’s the advice? Hold on to Andersen and hold on to Pyotr Kochetkov, and don’t get enthralled by Raanta’s little run of success recently.

Stuart Skinner, G, Edmonton Oilers (up 30 spots to No. 138): Still being utilized as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, Skinner needs to be on rosters at the moment and it’s OK to drop Jack Campbell if you need to. That said, new calendar and fresh start in mind, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Oilers try one more time to get Campbell going in the crease following the holiday break. It’s worth paying extra close attention to the Oilers results this week in case you need to pounce on Campbell on the free-agent pile.

Pheonix Copley, G, Los Angeles Kings (enters top 250 at No. 231): Could he truly be the Kings answer in the crease? Copley is up to eight wins versus one loss this season. While his ratios aren’t something to write home about overall, they are inflated by his one big loss in his third game against the Buffalo Sabres (you know, the league’s top offense). I’m stashing Copley where I can at this stage. He’s a little old (30) to truly draw comparisons to what Andrew Hammond did in 2014-15 or what Jordan Binnington did in 2018-19 (which is start the year in the AHL, come up midway through the season and win their team into the playoffs), but it’s hard not to get some of those vibes from Copley’s early returns.

It’s not too late to play ESPN Fantasy Hockey! Sign up for free and create your league before January 13 to start drafting players like Connor McDavid, Jason Robertson, and more! We’ve got you ready with helpful guides to short-season fantasy hockey:

ESPN fantasy NHL top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edm (F1)
2. David Pastrnak, RW, Bos (F2)
3. Leon Draisaitl, LW, Edm (F3)
4. Auston Matthews, C, Tor (F4)
5. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buf (D1)
6. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Wpg (G1)
7. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Min (F5)
8. Tage Thompson, C, Buf (F6)
9. Roman Josi, D, Nsh (D2)
10. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB (F7)
11. Cale Makar, D, Col (D3)
12. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Col (F8)
13. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Col (F9)
14. Jason Robertson, LW, Dal (F10)
15. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G2)
16. Elias Pettersson, C, Van (F11)
17. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Fla (F12)
18. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Wsh (F13)
19. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (F14)
20. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G3)
21. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D4)
22. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G4)
23. Tristan Jarry, G, Pit (G5)
24. Brad Marchand, LW, Bos (F15)
25. Linus Ullmark, G, Bos (G6)
26. Mitchell Marner, RW, Tor (F16)
27. Charlie McAvoy, D, Bos (D5)
28. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Ott (F17)
29. Timo Meier, RW, SJ (F18)
30. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (F19)
31. Bo Horvat, C, Van (F20)
32. Kyle Connor, LW, Wpg (F21)
33. Aleksander Barkov, C, Fla (F22)
34. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (F23)
35. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (F24)
36. Josh Morrissey, D, Wpg (D6)
37. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D7)
38. Jakob Chychrun, D, Ari (D8)
39. Jake Oettinger, G, Dal (G7)
40. Alex DeBrincat, LW, Ott (F25)
41. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vgk (D9)
42. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Wpg (F26)
43. Juuse Saros, G, Nsh (G8)
44. William Nylander, RW, Tor (F27)
45. Travis Konecny, RW, Phi (F28)
46. Brayden Point, C, TB (F29)
47. Alexandar Georgiev, G, Col (G9)
48. Roope Hintz, C, Dal (F30)
49. Mats Zuccarello, RW, Min (F31)
50. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edm (F32)
51. Logan Thompson, G, Vgk (G10)
52. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D10)
53. Jake Guentzel, LW, Pit (F33)
54. Jack Eichel, C, Vgk (F34)
55. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Col (F35)
56. Aaron Ekblad, D, Fla (D11)
57. Sebastian Aho, C, Car (F36)
58. Tim Stutzle, LW, Ott (F37)
59. Jordan Kyrou, C, StL (F38)
60. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (F39)
61. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D12)
62. Dylan Larkin, C, Det (F40)
63. Patrik Laine, RW, Cls (F41)
64. J.T. Miller, C, Van (F42)
65. John Tavares, C, Tor (F43)
66. Filip Forsberg, LW, Nsh (F44)
67. John Carlson, D, Wsh (D13)
68. Seth Jones, D, Chi (D14)
69. Andrei Svechnikov, LW, Car (F45)
70. Moritz Seider, D, Det (D15)
71. Zach Hyman, LW, Edm (F46)
72. Elias Lindholm, RW, Cgy (F47)
73. Thomas Chabot, D, Ott (D16)
74. Joe Pavelski, RW, Dal (F48)
75. Jeff Skinner, LW, Buf (F49)
76. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D17)
77. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D18)
78. Nico Hischier, C, NJ (F50)
79. Vitek Vanecek, G, NJ (G11)
80. Logan Couture, C, SJ (F51)
81. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dal (D19)
82. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bos (F52)
83. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D20)
84. Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR (F53)
85. Drake Batherson, C, Ott (F54)
86. Mark Scheifele, C, Wpg (F55)
87. Alex Tuch, RW, Buf (F56)
88. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Cls (F57)
89. Ville Husso, G, Det (G12)
90. Kris Letang, D, Pit (D21)
91. Rasmus Andersson, D, Cgy (D22)
92. Tomas Hertl, C, SJ (F58)
93. Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Col (F59)
94. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (F60)
95. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (F61)
96. Ilya Samsonov, G, Tor (G13)
97. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Ari (D23)
98. Martin Necas, C, Car (F62)
99. Darcy Kuemper, G, Wsh (G14)
100. Pavel Buchnevich, RW, StL (F63)
101. Matt Murray, G, Tor (G15)
102. Alec Martinez, D, Vgk (D24)
103. Justin Faulk, D, StL (D25)
104. Jake DeBrusk, LW, Bos (F64)
105. Nick Suzuki, C, Mon (F65)
106. Jacob Markstrom, G, Cgy (G16)
107. Claude Giroux, LW, Ott (F66)
108. Quinn Hughes, D, Van (D26)
109. Jamie Benn, LW, Dal (F67)
110. David Krejci, C, Bos (F68)
111. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Col (F69)
112. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (F70)
113. Brandon Montour, D, Fla (D27)
114. Carter Verhaeghe, C, Fla (F71)
115. Ivan Provorov, D, Phi (D28)
116. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Min (F72)
117. Morgan Rielly, D, Tor (D29)
118. Frederik Andersen, G, Car (G17)
119. Darnell Nurse, D, Edm (D30)
120. Brandon Hagel, LW, TB (F73)
121. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Wpg (F74)
122. Clayton Keller, C, Ari (F75)
123. Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Car (G18)
124. Cole Caufield, RW, Mon (F76)
125. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Cgy (F77)
126. Jesper Bratt, RW, NJ (F78)
127. Dylan Cozens, C, Buf (F79)
128. Brent Burns, D, Car (D31)
129. Anders Lee, LW, NYI (F80)
130. Nazem Kadri, C, Cgy (F81)
131. Vincent Trocheck, C, NYR (F82)
132. Max Pacioretty, LW, Car (F83)
133. Mark Stone, RW, Vgk (F84)
134. Cam Talbot, G, Ott (G19)
135. Filip Hronek, D, Det (D32)
136. Adam Larsson, D, Sea (D33)
137. Bryan Rust, RW, Pit (F85)
138. Stuart Skinner, G, Edm (G20)
139. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI (F86)
140. Kevin Fiala, C, LA (F87)
141. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D34)
142. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Min (G21)
143. Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (D35)
144. David Perron, RW, Det (F88)
145. Devon Toews, D, Col (D36)
146. Troy Terry, C, Ana (F89)
147. Kevin Hayes, C, Phi (F90)
148. Rickard Rakell, C, Pit (F91)
149. Sam Reinhart, RW, Fla (F92)
150. Matty Beniers, C, Sea (F93)
151. Nick Schmaltz, C, Ari (F94)
152. Karel Vejmelka, G, Ari (0)
153. Shea Theodore, D, Vgk (D37)
154. Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Van (F95)
155. Spencer Knight, G, Fla (G22)
156. Robert Thomas, C, StL (F96)
157. Nicholas Paul, C, TB (F97)
158. Hampus Lindholm, D, Bos (D38)
159. Lawson Crouse, LW, Ari (F98)
160. Matt Boldy, LW, Min (F99)
161. Michael Bunting, LW, Tor (F100)
162. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Sea (F101)
163. Noah Hanifin, D, Cgy (D39)
164. Anthony Duclair, LW, Fla (F102)
165. Tyson Barrie, D, Edm (D40)
166. Tony DeAngelo, D, Phi (D41)
167. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (F103)
168. David Savard, D, Mon (D42)
169. Boone Jenner, C, Cls (F104)
170. Neal Pionk, D, Wpg (D43)
171. Phillip Danault, C, LA (F105)
172. Jake McCabe, D, Chi (D44)
173. Matt Duchene, C, Nsh (F106)
174. Jordan Binnington, G, StL (G23)
175. Vince Dunn, D, Sea (D45)
176. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Vgk (F107)
177. Sam Bennett, LW, Fla (F108)
178. Chandler Stephenson, C, Vgk (F109)
179. J.J. Moser, D, Ari (D46)
180. Jared McCann, LW, Sea (F110)
181. Erik Gustafsson, D, Wsh (D47)
182. T.J. Oshie, RW, Wsh (F111)
183. Viktor Arvidsson, RW, LA (F112)
184. Taylor Hall, LW, Bos (F113)
185. Ben Chiarot, D, Det (D48)
186. Jeff Petry, D, Pit (D49)
187. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Wsh (F114)
188. Owen Tippett, RW, Phi (F115)
189. Ryan Hartman, RW, Min (F116)
190. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Phi (F117)
191. Dominik Kubalik, LW, Det (F118)
192. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D50)
193. Adrian Kempe, C, LA (F119)
194. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Cgy (F120)
195. Jakub Vrana, C, Det (F121)
196. Joel Edmundson, D, Mon (D51)
197. Carter Hart, G, Phi (G24)
198. Brayden McNabb, D, Vgk (D52)
199. Brock Boeser, RW, Van (F122)
200. Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Car (F123)
201. Trevor Zegras, C, Ana (F124)
202. Jordan Eberle, RW, Sea (F125)
203. Tyler Johnson, C, Chi (F126)
204. Luke Schenn, D, Van (D53)
205. Craig Anderson, G, Buf (G25)
206. Reilly Smith, RW, Vgk (F127)
207. Marcus Bjork, D, Cls (0)
208. Adam Henrique, C, Ana (F128)
209. Alex Iafallo, LW, LA (F129)
210. J.T. Compher, RW, Col (F130)
211. Ian Cole, D, TB (D54)
212. Alexander Romanov, D, NYI (D55)
213. Jake Sanderson, D, Ott (D56)
214. Gustav Forsling, D, Fla (D57)
215. Tom Wilson, RW, Wsh (F131)
216. Calle Jarnkrok, C, Tor (F132)
217. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Fla (G26)
218. Martin Jones, G, Sea (G27)
219. Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA (F133)
220. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D58)
221. Zach Parise, LW, NYI (F134)
222. Colton Parayko, D, StL (D59)
223. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI (F135)
224. Scott Laughton, C, Phi (F136)
225. K’Andre Miller, D, NYR (D60)
226. Daniel Sprong, RW, Sea (F137)
227. Evan Rodrigues, C, Col (F138)
228. Mike Matheson, D, Mon (D61)
229. Sean Monahan, C, Mon (F139)
230. Filip Gustavsson, G, Min (G28)
231. Pheonix Copley, G, Wsh (0)
232. Marcus Pettersson, D, Pit (D62)
233. Dmitry Orlov, D, Wsh (D63)
234. Michael Rasmussen, C, Det (F140)
235. Noel Acciari, C, StL (F141)
236. Jordie Benn, D, Tor (D64)
237. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Phi (D65)
238. Matt Benning, D, SJ (D66)
239. Jonas Siegenthaler, D, NJ (D67)
240. Morgan Frost, C, Phi (F142)
241. Antti Raanta, G, Car (G29)
242. Esa Lindell, D, Dal (D68)
243. Kaiden Guhle, D, Mon (0)
244. Cam York, D, Phi (D69)
245. John Klingberg, D, Ana (D70)
246. Brandon Tanev, LW, Sea (F143)
247. Olli Maatta, D, Det (D71)
248. Rasmus Sandin, D, Tor (D72)
249. Scott Mayfield, D, NYI (D73)
250. Kyle Okposo, RW, Buf (F144)

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