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Fantilli off to fast start for Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have dealt with plenty of adversity this season, but rookie center Adam Fantilli is making it clear he’s their franchise cornerstone now and moving forward.

Fantilli, the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, ranks second among the League’s rookies in points (24 in 40 games) behind Connor Bedard (33 in 38 games) of the Chicago Blackhawks. Per NHL EDGE stats, Fantilli also ranks ninth in the entire NHL in speed bursts of at least 20 mph (145) – with more than double Bedard’s total (64) in that category.

UPDATE: Bedard was placed on injured reserve by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday with a fractured jaw.

The 19-year-old has made such an immediate impact despite a number of factors working against his team, including injuries to valuable forwards Boone Jenner (fractured jaw), Patrik Laine (fractured clavicle) and most recently top defenseman Zach Werenski (ankle; out 4-6 weeks). The Blue Jackets also had to make a coaching change close to the start of the season when Mike Babcock resigned Sept. 17 and was replaced by Pascal Vincent.

Fantilli, 25 percent rostered in fantasy, has emerged as Columbus’ No. 1 center on a line with wing Johnny Gaudreau in Jenner’s absence and could take another step forward if he’s eventually utilized more often on the first power play. In the mean time, Fantilli is covering other standard fantasy categories like shots on goal (99) and hits (32 in 40 games) and worth adding in standard leagues.


Forsling unsung hero for resilient Panthers

The Florida Panthers, who reached the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, have been a much more dominant regular-season team this year (24-12-2 in first 38 games), and defenseman Gustav Forsling has quietly been one of their most-valuable players.

While forward Sam Reinhart (25 goals; third in NHL behind Auston Matthews’ 30, Nikita Kucherov’s 27) and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (19 wins; tied for second in League behind Alexandar Georgiev’s 21) have carried the Panthers all season long, Forsling has had impressive advanced metrics despite early season injuries to their top two defensemen in Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad.

Per NHL EDGE stats, Forsling ranks fourth in the entire League in long-range shots on goal (52) and also leads Panthers defensemen in shots on goal (85). And beyond the standard fantasy plus/minus (plus-21; tied for fourth in NHL) category, Forsling ranks 5th in the entire League in shot attempts differential (plus-230) and is still available in more than one-third of fantasy leagues (61 percent rostered).


Markstrom showing signs of bounce back for Flames

The Calgary Flames are catching fire in fantasy again, with workhorse goalie Jacob Markstrom putting together a bounce-back stretch since rejoining the lineup.

Markstrom is 4-2-0 with a .936 save percentage and one shutout since returning from injury Dec. 18. Per NHL EDGE stats, Markstrom is tied for second in high-danger save percentage (.862) this season behind Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (.873).

The Flames offense could also provide more goal support for Markstrom in the second half of the season considering Calgary is tied for ninth in offensive zone time percentage (42.1), another NHL EDGE stat, and tied for the sixth lowest 5-on-5 shooting percentage (8.0) in the League. These stats suggest Markstrom, who has had a high ceiling in the past (37 wins for Flames in 2021-22), is a buy-low fantasy trade candidate or pickup.