As with life in general, the company one keeps on the ice figures largely into a player's degree of success, fantasy and otherwise. Considering how important opportunity is, in combination with skill/talent, where a skater slots into their lineup is incredibly important. With that view, here's a roundup of 10 under the radar fantasy favorites -- some future NHL stars, others less young and/or starry -- who are bound to contribute more to your squad because of their on-ice associations. All of them reasonably to widely available in ESPN.com leagues, and tagged with a proposed forward stack to suit your fantasy fancy, DFS or otherwise.
Taylor Hall, F, Chicago Blackhawks: The second Hall was dealt from the Bruins to Chicago, Blackhawks fans and fantasy managers alike started to ruminate on his potential chemistry with rookie sensation Connor Bedard. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where this relationship doesn't pan out splendidly, especially considering how good they've already looked together in camp. Even alongside the most promising player of a generation, the 31-year-old probably won't pot 93 points like he did during his Hart-winning campaign with the Devils in 2017-18. But he's going to collect a heckuva lot more than last year's measly 36 in Boston. Maybe even to the tune of a point/game. No chance Hall is available in more than half of ESPN.com leagues for long.
Fantasy stack: Bedard/Hall
Jonathan Drouin, F, Colorado Avalanche: If all goes well, this fresh relationship could fan out into the redemption story of the year. The script alone boasts so much potential: "Down-in-dumps winger joins former junior teammate -- now a superstar -- to take one last big kick at proving he's not a bust a full decade after being drafted third overall." Not bad, right? And it's not like Drouin is just sharing a dressing room with Nathan MacKinnon. Because of the long-term injury to Gabriel Landeskog, they're playing on the same top line and power play together. If Drouin can't make something abundantly positive of this situation, and springboard off his one-year, $825,000 "audition" into a better deal, then that's on him. But betcha he does.
Fantasy stack: MacKinnon/Drouin
Matthew Knies, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: Listening to this kid, you'd swear he was entering his fourth or fifth NHL season, not his first. Days shy of his 21st birthday, the University of Minnesota alumnus sports a maturity, on and off the ice, which belies his young age and lack of experience. Playing on the left side of center John Tavares, Knies is going to put up impressive numbers right away, regardless of who sidles in on the other wing, be it Sam Lafferty or, eventually, Calle Jarnkrok. An immediate must-grab in Dynasty competition, he also merits selection in deeper redraft leagues.
Fantasy Stack: Tavares/Knies
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JJ Peterka, F, Buffalo Sabres: After a year of figuring matters out at the NHL level, this 21-year-old is poised to make a much greater impact. Skating on a scoring line with Dylan Cozens will undoubtedly help in that regard. Seeing limited minutes (13:39) in a supporting role during his rookie season, Peterka still managed to rustle up 32 points through 77 games. He'll flirt with 60-plus this round, with a respectable fraction counting on the power play.
Fantasy stack: Cozens/Peterka
Michael Bunting, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Situated on the left side of Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis, and penciled into the Hurricanes' secondary power play, the former Maple Leaf is good for 60 to 65 points before all is said and done next spring. All the while pestering the opposition and collecting a respectable number of penalty minutes in the process. Bunting is durable too, having missed only three games in the past two seasons.
Fantasy stack: Aho/Bunting
Connor Brown, F, Edmonton Oilers: While we've had our fantasy hearts broken before by potential breakout players who failed to consistently produce when offered the chance to play alongside the best center in the world (see: Jesse Puljujarvi, etc.), this fit feels more promising. First, Brown is a good hockey player who's managed to contribute, regardless of lineup spot, in previous turns with the Maple Leafs and Senators. Then, after losing nearly all of last season to a nasty ACL injury, the 29-year-old is feeling good and all charged up to get back to it. Furthermore, even if he doesn't stick on a line with (former Erie Otters teammate) Connor McDavid, a post next to Leon Draisaitl is hardly any great demotion. If able to gut out close to a full 82 games, Brown will score 30 for the first time in his career.
Fantasy stack: McDavid/Brown
Quinton Byfield, F, Los Angeles Kings: After two partial seasons in the NHL to warm up, the 21-year-old now needs to start justifying his second overall draft selection by Los Angeles in 2020. Playing a full campaign on a top line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe should help with that. Look for Byfield to shoot more, hit more and score more, while earning substantial minutes alongside the Kings' future Hall-of-Fame center. I wouldn't rule out a jump from the secondary power play to the top one either, if all goes well. This young skater has appealing sleeper potential in deeper fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Stack: Kopitar/Byfield
Anthony Beauvillier, F, Vancouver Canucks: The new(ish) Canuck on playing on a top line with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko in preseason competition: "Every time you get the chance to play with Petey and Kuzey, I mean, they are two obviously world-class players and can make plays at any time, and just their talent and how effective they are and the ice ... [I] just got to keep it simple." Yes, he does. After last year's whirlwind season split between New York and Vancouver, the former Islander is no longer entering unfamiliar territory. He should feel comfortable enough. Some fantasy pundits are prognosticating 40 or so points from Beauvillier this year. Only if he tumbles off that top unit; otherwise he'll score more than that in the final year of his current contract. If too inconsistent for your fantasy stomach -- a legit issue with the way-too-streaky 28th-overall draft pick (2015) -- at least give him proper consideration in Daily Fantasy play when things are going right.
Fantasy stack: Pettersson/Beauvillier
Gabriel Vilardi, F, Winnipeg Jets: Jettisoned from L.A. to Winnipeg in the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade, the former King currently finds himself poised to launch 2023-24 on a top scoring line with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor. He'll definitely improve on last year's 41 points through 63 contests in that role. Drafted 11th overall in 2017, the 24-year-old is just now on the cusp of entering his prime. There's plenty of fantasy upside with this new Jet.
Fantasy stack: Scheifele/Vilardi
Alexander Holtz, F, New Jersey Devils: In improved physical condition after training hard all summer, the 21-year-old appears positioned to play full-time on a scoring line with Nico Hischier and Timo Meier. Not a bad gig. While there's likely no need to draft Holtz ahead of the regular season, definitely keep a close eye on how he manages in the early stages. Hidden fantasy gems rarely remain hidden. If nothing else, this young lad boasts great upside in Daily Fantasy competition as an outside-the-box asset. Again, at least to start.
Fantasy stack: Hischier/Holtz
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