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Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of January 25-31

Fantasy hockey leagues that score by points, as is now the default here at ESPN.com, don’t have to wait to start drilling down on value trends. With rotisserie, it takes a decent sample size before we can start to find baselines for replacement value and start to assign individual player value. With head-to-head, it’s similar value to rotisserie but has a lot more to do with trends and streaks.

But with points, we can immediately start looking at production. I used fantasy points per game (FPPG) a lot in the lead up to the season when evaluating players, but now that we are in season, we can take it a step further. Who is contributing to ESPN.com fantasy leagues with their minutes? Fantasy points per 60 (FPP60) is what we’ll be looking at a lot this season.

There are two outliers at the moment, with fantasy points per 60 that are higher than 20. One is Patrik Laine, who only played one really good game before getting hurt and has 24.24 FPP60 for his 16:33 of ice time. Most have been expecting bigger things from Laine this season, so there isn’t much to read into his one good game.

For reference, David Pastrnak led the NHL last season (minimum 10 games) for FPP60 with 9.30. So Laine – and most everyone else with more than 10 FPP60 – will be coming down as the season continues.

But we can start looking at it and see where it takes us by putting the numbers in context. The other player with more than 20 FPP60 does offer an opportunity for fantasy despite playing only two games so far.

Patric Hornqvist, W, Florida Panthers (20.94 FPP60, second in NHL): Yes, it’ just two games. But facts that we know: The Panthers power play is a beast with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on the ice and Hornqvist is a power-play specialist. Combine those two facts, and we should see Hornqvist making waves in fantasy this season. His minutes won’t be significant, as he’s not a 20-minute-per-game type of player, but in his 15 minutes he’s going to be on the power play and contribute to it. Last season, as an example, he had better FPP60 than Artemi Panarin. He’s being picked up in ESPN.com leagues quickly, but there is still a window with his rostership at 63 percent.

Bobby Ryan, W, Detroit Red Wings (14.6 FPP60, fifth): Earning a role on the Wings top power-play unit, Ryan actually hasn’t earned a power-play point this season. So his strong FPP60 through three games has been driven by his four even strength goals so far. The Wings are showing a willingness to find more than one solid scoring line, recently giving Ryan time on a second line with Anthony Mantha (rather than stacking Mantha with Dylan Larkin). Only rostered in 36 percent of ESPN leagues, Ryan is a candidate for any roster based on the early season returns.

Brandon Tanev, W, Pittsburgh Penguins (10.99 FPP60, 13th): Tom Wilson 2.0? Playing on the Penguins second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker, Tanev is throwing his body around with 26 hits and, thanks to his linemates, chipping in some offense.

Adam Larsson, D Edmonton Oilers (9.73 FPP60, 18th): Playing with a zealous effort on defense, Larsson is piling up the fantasy points through blocked shots and hits. This should serve as a reminder than your fantasy defense doesn’t need to be made up of power-play quarterbacks. Fantasy points are fantasy points, even if they don’t come from pure offense.

Max Comtois, W, Anaheim Ducks (9.30 FPP60, 31st): I’ve been trying to stay tempered on Comtois this season, as I was sure we’d see his breakout last year and it didn’t come. But his play so far this season is an example of how to monitor FPP60 for contributors that could earn a bigger role on their team. The Ducks are only giving him 13 minutes of ice time so far, but there are opportunities on this depth chart for a winger to earn more time and a larger role. If Comtois keeps turning in offense during his limited minutes, his effective FPP60 could become fantasy relevant with a growing role.

Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 25 to Jan. 31

No official COVID postponements are on the docket yet, but fantasy managers need to keep an eye on the Carolina Hurricanes, who could see a couple of additional games cancelled due to 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.

Team notes

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov should be left out of fantasy lineups as they are guaranteed to miss two of the Capitals three games due to COVID protocols. Facing the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins on the week, it’s as good a week as any to have to leave them out of your lineup, so the damage shouldn’t be too great. Also, given the competition, it’s probably not worth gambling on a big game from Lars Eller, despite the added ice time he’ll get.

Colorado Avalanche: Still available in 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Andre Burakovsky looks like he may be recovered in time for the Avs four-game week. He’s an excellent choice to add to your lineup. I didn’t mention him in the intro, but Burakovsky is third in the NHL for FPP60 through his two games this season. Even if he doesn’t get mixed onto a line with Nathan MacKinnon, he should still be fantasy relevant playing with Nazem Kadri on the second line. The Avs play the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild, two teams giving up more than three power plays to their opponents per game so far. That makes Devon Toews and Samuel Girard options for defense next week, as the Avs second power-play unit has been solid. The two defenders have a combined five power-play points this season.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have three games against the Senators and a fourth against the Jets next week. Tyler Myers anyone? He’s 17th among defensemen in FPP60 so far this season, blocking shots and contributing enough on offense to boost his overall numbers. And, while he’s no Tom Wilson or Brandon Tanev because he’s on the third line, Tyler Motte is combining the grit and offense for a decent fantasy showing. Thanks to his body checks and two goals, he’s matched Auston Matthews FPP60 so far this season (while playing only 20 minutes fewer than the Leafs star).

Player notes

Ty Smith, D, New Jersey Devils: The longer no other defensemen contribute significantly on offense, the more likely it becomes Smith can carve out his role. He’s a potential future PP quarterback, and that future could become now if P.K. Subban can’t find his game. Damon Severson, as the Devils know better than anyone, is serviceable in the role, but if Smith is ready for a larger role, Severson isn’t enough to stand in his way. Smith has a goal and three assists through four games.

Jordan Kyrou, W, St. Louis Blues: Playing with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz on what is arguably the Blues top line, Kyrou has four points in four games. It’s no guarantee he hangs onto the plum role with talented players like Mike Hoffman and Robert Thomas in the bottom six, but so long as Kyrou is at the top of the depth chart, he’s rosterable.

Alex Tuch, W, Vegas Golden Knights: Elevated to the top power-play unit for the past two games, Tuch responded with a massive showing against the Kings on Thursday. So long as he’s playing on the top power play, he’s worth starting.

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