We go a touch slower yet again next week, down to 43 NHL games on the week. Once again we have another team with only a single game on the schedule, however, this time it probably doesn’t greatly impact your fantasy grand plans.
The Ottawa Senators are off until a Saturday matchup against arguably the best home team so far this season. It’s not a pretty picture. Given the Boston Bruins are 3-0 with an 18-6 goal differential at home this season, you can take the Sens right out of consideration for the week.
But, to be fair, that was probably already the case.
Thomas Chabot is, rightly so, on rosters in 90 percent of leagues. He hasn’t been a letdown, with seven points in nine games. He’s third in the NHL in average ice time, only has a minus-3 rating (solid given situation) and is tied for 12th in shots among defensemen. But outside of Chabot, the outlook on these Senators for fantasy is grim.
Brady Tkachuk started strong with the first goal of the NHL season and two goals in his first two games, but in seven games since then he’s accounted for a lone assist. His most-frequent linemate, Colin White, has also been knocked out for three to five weeks with a lower-body injury. Tkachuk is still rostered in 80 percent of leagues and I wouldn’t dream of cutting bait in a league with hits as a category, but in a 10-teamer standard league? I think he can go to the waiver wire for a while.
After those two, no one else on the Senators is rostered in more than 10 percent of leagues. Vladislav Namestnikov has been a pickup this past week thanks to four goals in five games and some big minutes, but it’s not something we should expect to last. Connor Brown has a respectable seven assists this season and is somehow plus-4, so could be worth rostering in deeper leagues. Jean-Gabriel Pageau may be a short-term add with White on the sidelines, as he’ll probably be the team’s top pivot in that stretch. But, at the same time, that role will likely expose his plus-8 to some damage, which is the main fuel for his value so far this season.
In net, Craig Anderson is doing about as well as a 38-year-old goaltender on a tanking team can be expected to do – which is to say not great for fantasy. However, Anders Nilsson, who is still listed as the backup for now, is actually somewhat intriguing. Doing his best mid-2000s Roberto Luongo impression, Nilsson has faced a minimum of 36 shots in all four of his starts – and as many as 54! His .935 save percentage is third in the NHL at this stage. While that may be useful for fantasy, it’s tricky to use him as the wins won’t come and the goals-against average isn’t exactly stellar at 2.73. Still, it’s worth taking stock of Nilsson and keeping him on the radar.
After losing the draft lottery despite the best odds last season, the Sens seem to determined to take another swing this season. At least this time they would get to keep the pick! For fantasy purposes, things are about as bleak as outlined above, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be stretches where individual pieces have value.
Just, you know, not next week.
Fantasy Forecaster: Oct. 28 to Nov. 3
The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks are the only teams with the enhanced four-game schedule next week, so take advantage of it. The fewer teams with the extra game, the greater the advantage is when you can find a way to use the players.
Aside from the Senators one game, the Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights all only play twice.
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.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that are available for potential use. Ownership below 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff. I’ll try to also include players below 10 percent ownership whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
Calgary Flames: By virtue of one of two four-game schedules, some of the Flames offense should come out on top next week. If you’ve been passive about Mikael Backlund until now, that’s fine, but get him into lineups for next week. He has goals in two straight as the line of Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik are heating up. T.J. Brodie is available in most leagues and could be used on the blue line for a boost. He has six assists and a plus-4 in 12 games.
Vancouver Canucks: The other four-game set next week belongs to the Canucks. J.T. Miller is scooped up in most leagues, but may be available in shallower formats (72 percent rostered). He’s been doing what one might expect on a top line and power play with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, with four goals and 10 points in nine games. And don’t forget Alexander Edler (71 percent rostered) and his six points. Quinn Hughes (48 percent rostered) is also worthy of a roster spot in most leagues, playing big minutes for a rookie (heck, 20:26 is good for anyone, not just a rookie). He has six points, with four of them on the power play and is currently rolling on the top unit.
Minnesota Wild: The Forecaster likes the Wild next week, despite the team’s rough showing thus far. While the team is still – yes, still – juggling its lines to find the right combination, it should be safe to follow the power play in roster decisions. That means starting Jason Zucker, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu up front, while going with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon on the point. The nice part about those combinations is that they stay together on and off the power play. Admittedly, this recommendation doesn’t feel great – but I’m trusting in the Forecaster here. Outside of Parise and Suter, the other three players are available in more than 50 percent of leagues.
J.T. Compher, W/C, Colorado Avalanche: A must-add in all formats, Compher will get first crack at winging Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog while Mikko Rantanen sits on a week-to-week basis.
Kirby Dach, C, Chicago Blackhawks: The 18-year-old rookie is certainly getting his feet wet in the NHL in good company. He’s skated with Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome at even strength for his minutes in the past two games and has a goal and assist to show for it.
Joel Armia, W, Montreal Canadiens: After spreading things out to start the season, the Habs are stacking the box on offense now. Armia is the third man out with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin of late, which is a fine situation to be in for the team’s surprising leader in goals at this stage.
Quick hits (from the AHL)
Keep Vegas Golden Knights prospect Lucas Elvenes on your radar. In his first year in North America, the 20-year-old fifth-round pick is leading the AHL in scoring by factoring in on 11 of the Chicago Wolves 15 total goals this season.
Goals against haven’t been devastating for the New York Rangers so far, but they are in the bottom-third of the league with 3.38 goals allowed per game. If it becomes a bigger issue, Igor Shesterkin is waiting in the wings with a 1.34 goals-against average in the AHL so far.