NHL — Fantasy hockey forecaster for the week of Dec. 4-10

NHL


Power-play percentage is definitely the easiest quick-glance assessment of how well an NHL team’s man advantage is ticking along for fantasy purposes, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

When we glance at the respective power plays of the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks this season, we find the Wild ranked fourth overall with a 23.4 percent conversion rate on the man advantage. Looking down the list, the Blackhawks are 24th overall with a 17.1 percent success rate. It seems like the Wild is the place to stack your fantasy chips, no?

Well, no. Efficiency is irrelevant for counting stats in fantasy hockey. The Wild have a total of 53 power-play points scored by its players this season. The Blackhawks have 52. Why? The Wild have had the third-fewest power-play opportunities in the league this season with just 71, meaning their 18 power-play goals show an excellent efficiency. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, have had a league-leading 105 power-play opportunities in which they’ve scored 18 goals.

Do fantasy players care all that much about a team’s wasted opportunities if the end result is the same? Arguably not. Could you also perhaps argue that, if the Blackhawks continue getting 4.2 power-play opportunities per game, they should eventually overtake the more-efficient Wild in overall production on the power play? Yes, you could.

Here are some other quick team notes that stand out with regards to power-play work. Yes, I’m still using power-play efficiency as an indicator. Just remember, it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Anaheim Ducks: The Anaheim power play improved significantly from October (ranked 29th) to November (ranked 10th) when their blue line started getting healthy (Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen) and more experienced (Brandon Montour). Vatanen won’t be missed terribly, as this was a group effort for quarterbacking duties, while Adam Henrique should help strengthen a first unit that’s been dipping pretty deep down on the depth chart for players lately.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins went from having the third-best power play in October to ranking dead last in November, thanks in large part to the injuries of Brad Marchand and Torey Krug. With both players back to full health, it’s not unfair to expect the Boston power play to roar into December. In fact, after an overall ugly start to the season in terms of injuries, the Bruins are starting to get everyone back in shape. It might not be too late for a buy-low offer on Marchand and David Pastrnak, who finished second and 14th, respectively, among all skaters on the ESPN Player Rater last season. Neither player is commanding that kind of value at the moment.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Filip Forsberg, Steven Stamkos, T.J. Oshie, Sean Monahan and Artem Anisimov make up the list of players who, as individuals, have more power-play goals than the entirety of the Blue Jackets roster combined. Alexander Wennberg led the team in power-play scoring last season, so his slow start and injury troubles probably haven’t helped matters for Columbus. However, that doesn’t explain how a team that scored 42 power-play goals last season is on pace for only 20 this season. The Blue Jackets are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for the fewest power-play opportunities this season — though they do have a game in hand. If the team doesn’t fix its man advantage, the fantasy values of players like Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson and Wennberg will be diminished significantly due to this gaping category hole.

Dallas Stars: I don’t have an obvious answer for this one. The Stars were first in the NHL with 11 goals on 40 power-play opportunities in October, but rank 27th in November with just five goals on 38 chances. That still settles them in at No. 9 overall for power-play percentage this season, but it’s a misleading ranking since the bulk of that scoring happened over a month ago. The Stars spent much of November with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn playing on separate lines at even strength. They had been together in October (with Alexander Radulov) and that trio has recently been reunited. It could be a matter of them needing to be together for the whole game in order to keep the chemistry flowing. Fantasy managers need to keep an eye on the likelihood of this power play reigniting at some point — and pounce on Devin Shore when it does. He doesn’t do much at even strength, but as the fourth forward on the top unit, Shore had five power-play assists when the times were good in October.

Detroit Red Wings: Perhaps the best overall fantasy power play in the NHL, the Red Wings have a nice combination of a recent hot streak, a high ranking in terms of opportunities per game, and stacking up well for overall percentage. Detroit has paced the NHL for power-play percentage since Nov. 1, earning them the No. 7 overall spot with a 23.5 percent success rate, despite going just 6-for-43 in October on the man advantage. Anthony Mantha has been the real hero here, with eight power play points and a team-leading 19 shots on the power play. Further down, Tomas Tatar is showing signs of potentially heating up. He’s fifth on the team in power-play time and trails only Mantha for shots on goal on the man advantage. In fact, three of Tatar’s four power-play goals have come in the past five games.


Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 4-10

Everyone is staying busy this week, with the exception of the Red Wings. who are the only club not playing at least three games. It’s not an exceptionally busy week, either, with only four teams getting a bonus fourth game on the schedule. The Calgary Flames, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will play four times next week. The Islanders are on the road for all four, while the Sharks get to play three times at home.

The Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals all get to enjoy home cooking for the entire week, with each playing three times at home.

Note: For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense) and “D” (defense) 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 1-10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.

In the notes — team, goalie and player — 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, and I’ll try to include players below 10 percent whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.


Team notes

New York Islanders

Playing all four games on the road isn’t so bad when your team is 4-2-0 over the past three weeks away from home. Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey continue to be underutilized by fantasy managers, with Barzal available in almost 40 percent of ESPN leagues and Bailey available in almost 20 percent. It’s been seven games since Barzal missed the score sheet, and he has 10 points in that span. Bailey quietly trails only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for assists this season.

Colorado Avalanche

The Forecaster is a fan of the Colorado schedule, which features a visit from the Buffalo Sabres and a road trip to Florida. Gabriel Landeskog will be back from suspension for the trip to the Lightning and Panthers, so he doesn’t necessarily need to be left out of lineups next week. He had six points in six games playing with a red hot Nathan MacKinnon prior to his costly infraction. Meanwhile, Alexander Kerfoot still owns a role on the top power play unit and now welcomes fellow rookie Tyson Jost to his line at even strength. The pickup for shallow leagues is Mikko Rantanen, who is only rostered in 57 percent of ESPN leagues, despite his 20 points in 23 games.


Goalie notes

Semyon Varlamov, G, Colorado Avalanche (rostered in 38.7 percent of ESPN leagues)

If you can pick your spots and keep him on the pine for the mid-week matchup with the Lightning, all the better. On Wednesday, Varlamov returned from an illness and stood tall against the streaking Winnipeg Jets offense. His matchups against Buffalo and Florida next week are exploitable, but the overall total for the week could be disappointing if the Lightning get to him between those outings.

Malcolm Subban, G, Vegas Golden Knights (35.9 percent)

Consecutive three-goal losses don’t look great on the ledger, but Subban has more than passed the eyeball test in all four contests since returning from injured reserve. Even in the losses to the Stars and Wild, Subban looked exceptional in the crease. With Marc-Andre Fleury still not at practice, Subban is a medium-term option for fantasy managers. He is close to matchup-proof as a No. 2 fantasy goalie based on his .924 save percentage.

Tristan Jarry, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (18.3 percent)

Don’t expect your ratios to be pretty, but Jarry should start all three games for the Penguins in Week 10 with goaltender Matt Murray expected to be out for the next few weeks. While he is starting and has a very good shot to win games with the offense in front of him, his .907 save percentage isn’t inspiring. If you need the starts and wins, he can be rostered and deployed later in the week if things don’t go well with your other netminders.

Other notes: Jaroslav Halak may be tempting as the current hot hand for the Islanders, but neither he nor Thomas Greiss has shown much consistency this season and there are some dangerous matchups on tap for next week’s slate, including the Lightning and Penguins. … Laurent Brossoit is only one more poor performance away from allowing Nick Ellis a chance to shine until Cam Talbot returns in about two weeks. Ellis has been honing his game in the AHL since last season and has as good a chance as any goaltender to surprise in the crease if he gets a shot. He was among the best goaltenders in the NCAA in his final college season in 2015-16.


Player notes

Patric Hornqvist, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins (rostered in 79.0 percent of ESPN leagues)

Well, hello there, Sidney Crosby! “Sid the Kid” has points in four straight games and a total of four goals and five assists in those four contests. Hornqvist, perhaps not so coincidentally, was moved to Crosby’s line — you guessed it — four games ago. For his part, Hornqvist has three points and a ridiculous 21 shots on goal in those outings.

Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers (13.3 percent)

Your leader in time on ice for the Oilers over the past seven games has been Nurse. It’s a sharp change in his deployment, going from 20:36 prior to this stretch, to 25:01 during this run. The result has been five points in seven games and a plus-7 rating for Nurse, who is still not a part of the Edmonton’s flailing power play. He has just 58 seconds of power-play time in this seven-game stretch, but watch for Nurse to get a shot soon and, if successful, finally make the transition to a full-time fantasy asset.

Honorable mentions: Keep an eye on Shea Weber‘s status heading into next week, not only to get him back in your lineup if he’s healthy, but also to consider Jeff Petry for a week if he’s not. Petry has filling in on the power play and has been starting to convert on the opportunities. … Deep leagues can keep an eye on the Minnesota blue line while Jared Spurgeon is sidelined for a couple weeks. Mike Reilly has barely played to this point as the team’s seventh defenseman, but has shown potential in his limited opportunities. Also expected to help is Ryan Murphy, who was called up from the AHL where he has 11 points in 18 games. Both played on Thursday for what is a potent second power-play unit for the Wild.



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