Maybe it’s the messed up schedule, maybe it’s just my perspective, but it feels like it’s one of those seasons in which finding unclaimed fantasy value has been more difficult. This is an anecdotal feeling and I don’t have anything to back it up except for an overall impression of the availability of players over 16 years of writing about fantasy hockey.
It feels like we have to dig a little bit deeper to find those helpful players to add to our roster.
In the past, I’ve used a benchmark of a player being rostered in fewer than 20 percent of ESPN leagues as my “this guy is probably available” reference point. With that in mind, I was quite sure Alex Tuch would be below that threshold as I went to list some “probably available” players to lead off this forecaster. Lo and behold, Tuch is well above that threshold, currently rostered in 30 percent of ESPN leagues.
Two things … No. 1: good on you, ESPN players. Even though he’s a third-line player for the Vegas Golden Knights and is barely skating 15 minutes per game, his production on a per-minute basis is fantasy relevant and he’s the first man up if any injuries strike the Vegas lineup. In other words, he’s worth having on your team. No 2: If a player like Tuch is rostered beyond my “probably available” threshold, this is going to take some work to find some players who aren’t.
Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota Wild (13.8 percent): Paired up with either Matt Dumba or Jared Spurgeon this season, Brodin is playing big and important minutes for the Wild. So much so, his 1.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG) is tied with Joel Eriksson Ek for the team lead among skaters and — if that pace can hold — he projects to rank 21st among defensemen for fantasy points over the remainder of the season. Brodin has been getting the job done through a combination of shots and blocked shots to fuel his fantasy points, while picking up enough goals and assists to stay relevant. He came out of the NHL’s COVID protocol on Thursday and should be back in uniform shortly.
Andrew Mangiapane, W, Calgary Flames (7.7 percent): Somewhat quietly, Mangianpane has locked down a top-six role for the Flames, playing with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. He had eight fantasy points in eight games on Feb. 1, but since then has pushed his total to 24.2 fantasy points in 16 games. His current pace has him scoring more fantasy points over the remainder of the season than such players as Evgeni Malkin, Kirill Kaprizov or teammate Sean Monahan.
Adrian Kempe, W Los Angeles Kings (14.3 percent): Playing wing on a surprisingly effective second line with Jeff Carter and Gabriel Vilardi, Kempe is also the fourth forward on the Kings improved power play. In his 17:26 per game, he’s peppering the net with shots on goal per 60 minutes that outpace the likes of Jack Eichel and Artemi Panarin.
David Savard, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (23.3 percent): Rostered in a touch more than my 20 percent cutoff, it’s worth mentioning Savard as a prime example of a defenseman pushing his way to fantasy relevance with the peripheral stats (hits and blocked shots). If you missed the Adam Larsson train already, Savard is a good consolation prize for your roster. He’s top 10 in hits and top three in blocked shots among defensemen this season — and the result is a top 50 ranking among defensemen for remaining fantasy points.
Mats Zuccarello, W, Minnesota Wild (3.9 percent): Different than the previous recommendations here, as Zuccarello is a known commodity for fantasy, but has struggled since moving to the Wild last season. He was injured to start the campaign, but is back since the Wild returned from their COVID shutdown. He played on the team’s top line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala this week and is getting some power-play time on the second unit.
Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 22 to Feb. 28
At this stage, next week is supposed to be a full-go for the schedule, but, as we’ve seen this past week, nothing is etched in stone. The Dallas Stars are on the road all week though, so the situation in Texas shouldn’t come into play for more postponements. And, assuming all goes well this weekend with the Philadelphia Flyers, all teams will be back in action from COVID.
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.
Buffalo Sabres: Going from from a postponed game to play five next week, the Sabres are the ideal target to seek counting stats. If Sam Reinhart is available in your league, jump on him. The current lineup has him playing with Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, as well as on the top power-play unit. Tage Thompson is an option for deeper leagues, on the top line with Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson. And if Rasmus Ristolainen is on your bench due to his COVID outage, get him back into your lineup. Even if he missed the start of the week, he should be back for the bulk of games.
Chicago Blackhawks: With four games, including a set with the Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks offense could be a spot to bolster your lineup. Especially with power-play quarterbacks Nicolas Beaudin and Adam Boqvist widely available in fantasy leagues. Pius Suter is also an option, with the latest Hawks deployment having him on a line with fantasy stars Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat.
Philipp Kurashev gets Chicago on the board with a goal in the second period which would lead to the 2-0 shutout in Detroit.
Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, W, Dallas Stars: The cancelled games and COVID breaks, in addition to injuries throughout the offense, have made it difficult to get a firm grasp on how the Stars secondary scorers will fare this season. But, throughout it all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Hintz and, to a lesser extent, Gurianov will be picking up a ton of slack for the absence of Tyler Seguin and what sounds like a medium-term injury to Alexander Radulov. Hintz’s fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is 50th among skaters and has been on par with Nathan MacKinnon this season, while Gurianov’s FPP60 — in more than two fewer minutes per game — ranks 53rd.
Jesse Puljujarvi, W, Edmonton Oilers: All right, let’s get on this train before it’s too late. Rostered in 39.2 percent of ESPN leagues, the signs are all positive of late for Puljujarvi. Since Jan. 24, Puljujarvi has played all 11 of his games on Connor McDavid‘s wing. But looking just from Feb. 1 onward, Puljujarvi has played six games and managed 2.3 FPPG and 8.22 FPP60. For comparison, Draisaitl has posted 8.23 FPP60 this season.