The 23-year-old Duchene, who has a career-high 70 points, plus-8 rating and 217 shots on goal this season, is expected to miss about four weeks with a sprained MCL. It’s an injury that will severely alter the depth of the Stanley Cup Playoff-bound Avalanche and offensive production for fantasy owners around the globe.
With recent injuries to Duchene and PA Parenteau, Colorado has shifted Calder Trophy favourite Nathan MacKinnon from right wing to center and onto a line with Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. Paul Stastny looks to remain the team’s second line center alongside Gabriel Landeskog but has John Mitchell — for now — lining up on his right.
Duchene, one of the top keeper assets League-wide, is one of 10 players with 70-plus points and 200-plus shots on goal in 2013-14. Only Sidney Crosby (29), Claude Giroux (23) and Phil Kessel (23) have more multi-point games than Duchene (21). His flair for late-game production has also been well-documented with nine of his 23 goals coming in the third period or overtime, and six of them game-winners (T-13th in NHL).
Duchene’s dual eligibility (C/LW) in Yahoo leagues made him all the more valuable. This injury forces keeper-league owners to bench or shelf him on injured reserve for the final two weeks of the regular season. Fantasy owners no longer have the lineup flexibility and consistent production of Duchene on their side, and those in one-year leagues have no choice but to drop a player who was a popular third-round fantasy draft pick (average draft position: 35.5).
Duchene is not a player who can easily be replaced, but fantasy owners will have to take their best shot. Here are some readily available options with dual eligibility and something to play for down the stretch.
Vincent Lecavalier (C/LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
Prior to Sunday, Lecavalier hadn’t had a multi-point outing since Nov. 12. He’s missed time due to injury this season and has been a disappointment since joining the Flyers, but being demoted to the fourth line Saturday served as a wake-up call. He scored three goals, including one on the power play, on 12 shots in two games over the weekend. His nine shots on goal Sunday was the most he’s had in a game since he had 12 on March 11, 2011.
Carl Soderberg (C/LW, Boston Bruins)
It’s rare to see third-liners warrant consideration in shallow-type fantasy leagues, but Soderberg has approached that territory given the steady, productive nature of his unit. He has emerged during his first full season after a brief NHL stint late last season and years playing in Sweden. He has 15 points in 18 games since the Olympic break and has been consistent alongside veteran Chris Kelly and former 70-point regular Loui Eriksson. With 13 power-play points, solid shot production and a positive rating, Soderberg is a safe bet who can lift your team in a number of categories during Duchene’s absence.
Tomas Tatar (C/LW, Detroit Red Wings)
Tatar, 23, had a quiet weekend but proved to be an explosive option off the waiver wire with three straight multi-point games from March 23-27. Although he’s been streaky for deep-league owners this season, he has assumed a top-six role for the Red Wings given their laundry list of injuries. Even if his linemate Gustav Nyquist sticks on the top line with David Legwand and Johan Franzen, Tatar has a chance to feed off the fellow youngsters around him (Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan) and be productive with Detroit being on the cusp on extending its postseason streak.
Beau Bennett (LW/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
Bennett, a preseason sleeper choice of mine, remains an intriguing option despite being limited to 14 games due to injury. With Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup, Jussi Jokinen has shifted to center and Bennett has moved onto that second line with Jokinen and James Neal. Bennett has two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-3 rating in two games since returning from a lingering wrist injury and should be on your radar in deep leagues.