Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of February 15-21

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Next week features the NHL’s most unusual game site of the season, when the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins drop the puck outdoors at Lake Tahoe. The Flyers are due to play at home on Wednesday before flying out west to meet the Bruins on Sunday, February 21.

The Colorado Avalanche have been out of action since Feb. 2 due to postponements. The outlook is more optimistic there, as the Avalanche were back at practice on Thursday (including star Nathan MacKinnon, recovering from a lower-body injury).

But for a minute, let’s quickly revisit what I discussed last week in this space: Fantasy points banking on the schedule. Things have changed since last week. Hopefully this will be the last time a slew of postponements makes it worthwhile to check on the schedule in detail.

As of Monday, Feb. 15, the New Jersey Devils will have 47 games remaining. The range on the other end is the Vancouver Canucks, who will have 38 games remaining. Aside from the Devils, other potential teams whose players will have banked points would include the Buffalo Sabres with 46 games left, the Minnesota Wild with 45 games left and the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers with 44 games.

The teams not mentioned all range from 40 to 43 games.

I will also say that the general discrepancy still isn’t enough to sway me to take action on the schedule via trade. Things change, players’ paces will improve or fall off, and injuries will happen.

Could you say that Nicklas Backstrom‘s 2.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) over the Capitals remaining 43 games would be more valuable than Leon Draisaitl‘s 3.0 FPPG over the Oilers remaining 40 games? That would be accurate, yes.

But is it reasonable to think Backstrom will keep up that pace compared to Draisaitl? Would you want to make that trade for Backstrom? I would argue no.

If you happen to be dealing in the extremes, then an argument could be made. Would I consider trying to offload Elias Pettersson (38 games left), who is struggling anyway, for Jack Hughes (47 games left)? Absolutely — especially if my fantasy team was struggling. Even if Pettersson regains his form, the extra nine games will go a long way to helping offset any difference.


Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 15 to Feb. 21

The four teams heading to Lake Tahoe will have only two games on the schedule this week, as well as the Montreal Canadiens.

For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense), which is on the left for each game, and “D” (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon 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, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their 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.

Team notes

Toronto Maple Leafs: Load up on all the Leafs you can get your hands on. OK, fine, that’s not super helpful when a team is so top heavy that its players are either rostered in 100 percent of leagues or fewer than 20 percent. But, there is a particular opportunity at the moment ahead of the Leafs four-game week that includes three home dates with the Senators: With Wayne Simmonds on the long-term IR with a broken wrist, Ilya Mikheyev is locked in as the new winger for John Tavares and William Nylander. He has a point in each of his two games in the role so far.

Carolina Hurricanes: A four-game week and plenty of players available to help in fantasy. Jordan Staal‘s production this season has been among the league’s elite. His 9.29 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is top 12 in the NHL and, with 17:29 average ice time, his FPPG is still top 20. Vincent Trocheck, who will be less available than Staal, has posted similar metrics. Both players have been elevated to the top power-play unit at the moment.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are clearly still tinkering with their newfound bounty of centers. Pierre-Luc Dubois has played two games with the club and the look has been different both times. That said, one consistent in both games has been the line of Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp. The Jets seem determined to keep Copp in the top six, so it may be time to stop sleeping on him as an option. This is a good schedule for scoring next week with two games against the Oilers and two against the Canucks.

Player notes

Max Comtois, W, Anaheim Ducks: I’ve mentioned already this season that I think I’m overcompensating for my mistake in pushing Comtois too hard a year early. But it’s hard to ignore that he’s stepped up as the leader for the Ducks struggling offense. He has twice as many goals as anyone else on the team so far, has decent enough counting stats for a forward (shots, hits, blocked shots) and, if he continues to show promise, will come into more power-play time eventually.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes: Expected back from injury Friday, he is available in about a quarter of ESPN.com leagues. Jakob Chychrun has elevated his game in OEL’s absence, but Ekman-Larsson will still be the go-to option for the Coyotes on the man advantage. He should be rostered universally.

Cam Atkinson, W, Columbus Blue Jackets: There’s the line combination we’ve been looking for. Atkinson played with the former Jets for the past three games and the trio led the Blue Jackets in ice time on Thursday. Atkinson’s four points against the Blackhawks didn’t all come with Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine (in fact, only one did), but it should be a confidence-boosting outing for the relatively new trio. If you are into this idea too, also consider Roslovic, who has five points in the three games they’ve been together.

Nicolas Beaudin, D, Chicago Blackhawks: Not an early lock for the Hawks lineup so far this season, Beaudin has stepped into the secondary power-play quarterback role in recent games. He took on the first unit on Thursday and picked up a couple points. Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist haven’t cemented their role there, so this is worth monitoring.