Fantasy hockey forecaster: Nov. 5-11

NHL

With no teams having played more than 14 games this season, we still have a small enough sample size to have some quirky stats. Here are a few of them that have fantasy implications.

The Los Angeles Kings, Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks are bottom three in the league for goals per game: It’s bad enough that Mikko Rantanen has helped put in only three fewer goals than the Kings as an entity at this point. Scoring wasn’t expected to be a problem for a Kings squad that finished middle-of-the-pack last season and then added one of the NHL’s best goal scorers of the past two decades in Ilya Kovalchuk. The Knights were fifth in the league last season and the Ducks were 18th. These three teams were certainly expected to be toward the top half of the league for goals this season. Consider this an opportunity. Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Rickard Rakell, Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown can all probably be acquired for significantly less than they would have cost at the draft. I don’t expect any of these three teams will be among the bottom-third of the league — let alone the last three teams — in scoring this season.

Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have five more points than the rest of the Bruins combined: Where is the secondary attack for the Bruins? Surely they can’t continue at such a clip when opponents know they don’t have to defend against anyone else. Rarely will teams stay this top heavy throughout the course of a season. If the coaching staff decides to spread the well at even strength, it would have a detrimental effect on the fantasy value of all three players. This trio is very well established, so it would probably take a decent losing streak for anything to happen, but here’s hoping David Krejci can inspire some kind of threat behind the big three. There is a similar risk for this situation with the Colorado Avalanche, too.

Jaroslav Halak leads the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage and has now appeared in more games than a perfectly healthy Tuukka Rask: This is a completely unexpected situation for the Bruins to be in. They’ve each started six games for the Bruins, and Halak is yet to come away without a point in the standings. That’s what matters most to teams, so expect to see a lot more Halak until something changes. It’s time to roster him in every league. He’s available in more 65 percent of ESPN leagues.

Josh Anderson leads all Columbus Blue Jackets with seven goals: I’m cherry picking here, as Anderson only has eight points and the Blue Jackets have five other players with four or more goals. But I want to highlight this as Anderson showed flashes last season before fading down the depth chart as the season progressed. This year, he seems fairly consistent as a second-line player with Boone Jenner and has a healthy 37 shots on goal despite getting just 14:55 per game in ice time. Leagues with 14 or more teams should be on Anderson at this point.

Nico Hischier needs one power-play point to match his total from last season: I pointed out Hischier’s lack of power-play time as a rookie a lot in the preseason because I expected exactly this. He’s ascended to the top power-play unit with Taylor Hall and is going to add 25-plus power-play points to his other totals as a rookie. In my mind, Hischier is a 70-point player this season as a basement.

Both New York Islanders goaltenders are qualified top-10 leaders in save percentage: The debate before the season was whether Robin Lehner or Thomas Greiss could beat out the other and occasionally chip in some fantasy value. But with both goaltenders playing lights out, this is a difficult situation for fantasy. It’s hard to use one of them when they are splitting time. Lehner is hurt right now, so Greiss could have a little run. But when they are both healthy, this will be a frustrating situation. I’m heavily invested in Lehner because I think this is a fresh start for his career and believe his ceiling is much higher than that of Greiss.

Elias Pettersson is tied for the Vancouver Canucks scoring lead despite playing only eight of their 14 games. This kid is so good. He’s been a human highlight reel so far this season and has made me almost say Brock who a couple of times. That’s right, don’t forget that the Canucks also have the player who probably would have won the Calder Trophy last season. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson are giving the Canucks a lot of hope for the future. Of course, he can’t keep up his pace for 95 points this season, so consider cashing in on the Pettersson hype train. In fact, dealing him one-for-one for Boeser might make you feel queasy (Boeser has two goals and seven points in 12 games), but would probably pay off in a re-draft league.


Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 5-11

Action ramps up in the NHL this week, with 11 teams playing a four-game week. Only four teams play a reduced schedule of only two games. This week should be a higher scoring affair than usual in head-to-head formats.

Teams playing four games: Take your pick to load up your games played by choosing from the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals. I’ll discuss the Capitals, Bruins and Coyotes below in team notes. … Most teams have a back-to-back set here, so there will be an opportunity to get at least a spot start from some of the stronger backup goaltenders on the aforementioned clubs. Specifically, the Wild’s Alex Stalock will be in a good position to have a solid start this week against either the Kings or Golden Knights. … Ty Rattie is practicing again for the Oilers. Watch his status through the weekend and consider either him or Drake Caggiula as an option for your team to draft off of Connor McDavid for the week. … If Alexander Radulov‘s lower-body injury lingers, it will be worth targeting the open wing spot next to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. For now, that is Mattias Janmark, but that could change. … Stay away from the Devils net until things sort themselves out. Though I’m an outspoken Cory Schneider supporter, losing to the Detroit Red Wings in your first start doesn’t instil a ton of confidence. Keith Kinkaid has been less good of late, too. The schedule is four road games that includes such offenses as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets. Just skip this week and revisit later.

Teams playing two games: The Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets only play twice. With so many teams playing a four-game schedule, heavy investment in these teams will put you at a disadvantage for the week. That said, you’re not sitting the studs here: Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, Filip Forsberg, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, etc. However, it’s not impossible that you can find a reasonable alternative with four games to players such as Jonathan Toews or Kyle Connor in leagues that have weekly locks. … None of these teams have back-to-back contests, so Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck owners are probably safe to roll them out.

Teams playing three games: Of the teams with three games, the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs have back-to-back sets during the week. That means John Gibson, Sergei Bobrovsky, Henrik Lundqvist and Frederik Andersen will get you one fewer start than usual. … Roberto Luongo is off the injured reserve and is starting on Friday in Finland. He should be getting a heavier workload going forward to see if he can fix what ails the Florida Panthers in net. It’s not a bad week to pick him up and kick the tires.

For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense) and “D” (defense) matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.

In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Being rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, but this space will also include players below 10 percent whenever possible to try to cater to deeper formats.


Team notes

Washington Capitals: The Caps are going to feast at home this coming week. They play four games, all at home, against the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes and none of the games are back-to-back sets. I know it’s been frustrating trying to chase Tom Wilson‘s empty spot on the top line, but for a chance at getting a winger to ride shotgun with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, it’s worth the effort. For now, Jakub Vrana has been filling the role, but keep your eyes peeled for another shakeup after the Caps were embarrassed in Montreal on Thursday.

Boston Bruins: Jaroslav Halak is worth using if you need a couple of quality goaltending starts this week. I think we’ve moved past the point of assuming his only work will come in back-to-back sets. I don’t know which of the four games he’ll start, but I suspect Halak gets close to 50 percent of the work until Tuukka Rask starts turning things around. … If you need a deep-league flier for your offense, consider Anders Bjork. With Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen all having a chance already, Bjork is the latest to get the fourth-forward role on the Bruins stacked top power-play unit.

Arizona Coyotes: Alex Galchenyuk is still available in 50 percent of ESPN leagues, but he shouldn’t be. His Coyotes career got off to a slow start with the injury, but he’s not playing the role of the team’s No. 1 center on and off the power play. He has four points in four games with a plus-4 rating. The Coyotes play the Philadelphia Flyers (twice) and Capitals, who have both allowed closer to four goals per game this season than three. … Since Galchenyuk came back, Richard Panik has played on his line in the past two games. He has two goals and a plus-5 rating. If you need to dig a little deeper for some help from this squad, Panik is your target.

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