NHL — Fantasy hockey forecaster for the week of Jan. 22-28
Those in weekly transaction leagues will be limited to looking at this week’s Forecaster with a detached acceptance. Standard ESPN leagues that set weekly lineups locked this past Monday until after the All-Star break. That will hamper your ability to take any action on any of the notes here. That said, there have been some extremely important updates to share from the hockey world over the past several days, so skipping a Forecaster this week would have been irresponsible.
After a quick couple of notes on the schedule, I’ll dive into some of the key happenings from around the league. If you’ve been struggling in the goaltender department, you’ll want to stay tuned.
Again, any weekly leagues already locked on Jan. 15 and won’t be open for changes until Jan. 29. That said, those playing in leagues with daily moves have some wiggle room to add a couple of players for the four days of action that lead up to next weekend’s All-Star festivities.
The Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs should get some preference in your lineup with three games, while the Washington Capitals should be discounted for playing only once. The rest of the NHL teams have two games on tap, so there’s no need to do anything drastic to add to your counting stats.
The Avalanche rate very well for offense on the Forecaster. Rookies Alexander Kerfoot and Samuel Girard would make great options off the waiver wire for a one-week ride on your team. Depending on the severity of Sean Monahan‘s flu bug, Sam Bennett could also be an option. If Monahan feels under the weather enough to sit through the All-Star break, Bennett will continue to center Johnny Gaudreau on the top line.
Kyle Okposo is also a key target for the short-term (and possibly longer). Since being elevated to a line with Jack Eichel and Benoit Pouliot in recent games, Okposo has gone on a mini-tear with two goals and five helpers during his past three. His atrocious numbers through the first part of the season pushed his availability in ESPN leagues to more than 65 percent.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 15-21
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 below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who 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.
Anton Forsberg, G, Chicago Blackhawks (rostered in 8.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Even rumblings about Corey Crawford missing the rest of the season due to post-concussion syndrome (or vertigo) should be enough to have fantasy managers scrambling to get Forsberg on your roster. If Crawford is truly not coming back, the 25-year-old budding prospect is easily the preferred option to journeyman Jeff Glass. Forsberg turned in what was arguably a top-20 all-time season by a 24-year-old goaltender in the AHL last season, so his future remains bright in the NHL. He also played 51 games last season, so the workload shouldn’t wear on him. Ultimately, Forsberg isn’t Crawford, so he’s not a direct replacement, but he’ll have value on a Hawks team that should win plenty of games down the stretch.
Don’t drop Jake Allen, even in shallow leagues. However, Hutton is a no-brainer addition to any fantasy team at this point. Streaks are streaks, and Hutton is on one heck of a streak. Hutton has five wins, a 1.83 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in six starts since Dec. 30. During that same span, Allen has zero wins, a 6.42 GAA and .836 save percentage in two starts. The Blues, regardless of investment in Allen as the No. 1, have no choice but to continue to ride Hutton. Fantasy managers need to do the same. This still isn’t a long-term solution for the Blues or fantasy players. Given opportunities like this in the past, the 32-year-old Hutton has never been able to cling to success for much longer than a few weeks at a time. Allen will get back on top at some point, but the correct move now is to get him to the bench and utilize Hutton.
Jonathan Bernier, G, Colorado Avalanche (38.9 percent)
While the situation with the Blues could turn back to Allen on a dime, I think the streak by Bernier with the Avalanche is going to be sustained. A closer look at his career shows that Bernier is not a great backup goalie, but whenever he’s called upon to start, he shines. His peripherals on bad Maple Leafs teams from 2013-16 were always OK, but the lack of overall success led him to becoming a backup with the Anaheim Ducks last season. Late in the campaign, when John Gibson was sidelined, Bernier was a revelation. He posted a 10-1-2 record with a 1.82 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 13 games last March. Should we really be surprised to see him get regular starts and catch fire again here? Semyon Varlamov lost some of his shine in recent seasons, so it’s not out of the question for the Avalanche to give Bernier the lion’s share of starts even after Varlamov returns from a groin injury.
After finally giving up on Alex Iafallo busting out, the Kings tried Tanner Pearson on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. But after little chemistry developed there, Kempe found himself on the top line Thursday. Kempe is a high-upside scoring prospect who has already put himself on the radar while playing further down the lineup this season. He potted a goal and played a season-high 17:46 on Thursday, so we could see more of him in this role.
Non-specific Hurricanes forward, F, Carolina Hurricanes
Someone is going to reap a windfall of fantasy value in light of the devastating injury to Sebastian Aho this past week. While no one on this Canes’ roster can replace what Aho brought to the top line with Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen, someone is going to get to try. I usually try to narrow these down with at least a guess or two, but the Hurricanes could very well plug in any one of Jeff Skinner, Justin Williams, Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, Brock McGinn or Lee Stempniak and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Check out Saturday’s lineup and make a note of which forward lands on the top line and top power-play unit in Aho’s stead. Most reports certainly paint a doom-and-gloom picture with regards to Aho’s chances of a return anytime soon.