Fantasy hockey forecaster for the week of March 19-25

NHL News


We are approaching three weeks since the trade deadline, so it seems like a good time to check back on the players who changed addresses on Feb. 26 to see if some of the fantasy value has actually panned out.

For an unscientific approach, the following players are ranked for their ESPN Player Rater value from March 1 to March 15, which is more or less their true fantasy worth since changing teams (give or take a few days to get settled).

J.T. Miller, C/LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (45th skater on ESPN Player Rater over past 15 days)

The clear-cut biggest winner of the deadline to date, Miller finally settled in on the Lightning’s top line with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, and the results are flowing from there. He’s playing a similar role to what Vladislav Namestnikov did before the two were traded for each other, so that also includes prime power-play time. Miller had a hat trick (two power-play goals) and 10 shots on net on Tuesday, clearly signaling his arrival as a fantasy difference-maker for the stretch run. He’s still available in 35 percent of ESPN leagues.

Brian Gionta, RW, Boston Bruins (68th)

That’s right, the second-highest fantasy value from a player who settled into a new jersey at the trade deadline was a player who wasn’t even in the NHL to start the season. Gionta looks like he didn’t miss a beat by taking the bulk of the season off and then playing in the Olympics. He has six points in eight games, and despite muted overall ice time, he’s pumping other peripheral stats with three power-play points and 23 shots on goal. He’s not going to single-handedly win you your league, but slip him in for the final couple weeks while Boston has a schedule advantage over every other team except the Florida Panthers.

Paul Stastny, C, Winnipeg Jets (71st)

Patrik Laine was already heating up prior to Stastny’s arrival, but the incoming centerman certainly stoked the flames. Laine’s current point streak dates back to five games prior to Stastny coming over via trade, but in the nine games since the trade, Laine has 15 points in nine games. Better yet, he had a minus rating in only one game (which Stastny sat out due to an ailment). If nothing else, Stastny is doing wonders for Laine’s plus/minus rating.

But, for his part, Stastny is more than deserving of a role on fantasy squads, as his nine points in eight games with the Jets would suggest. Just be cognizant that he doesn’t contribute in many categories.

Patrick Maroon, LW, New Jersey Devils (81st)

Maroon has settled into a specialist role with the Devils, but he could offer some of that specialist value to your fantasy squad if you need it. Four of his six points with his new club have come on the power play. The Devils continue to role him out with the top unit, and just by being present on the ice with them, he should continue to offer very specific value in that category. He’s no longer bringing other categories to the table with him, so use Maroon wisely.

Rick Nash, LW/RW, Boston Bruins (115th)

Nash’s pace hasn’t changed since switching to the Bruins at the deadline, which still leaves him outside the realm of must-start fantasy commodities. It hasn’t helped that the Bruins suffered a flurry of injuries following the deadline, but Nash’s role was going to be the same regardless. He has five points and a minus-4 rating in 10 games with the Bruins; that’s about the same pace he was on with the New York Rangers. He’ll bring positive value in shots on goal and power-play points, but not much else.

Other notes: Ian Cole, Ryan Spooner and Evander Kane rank 145th, 146th and 150th, respectively. Cole is earning some value with all-around contributions, including penalty minutes. Spooner, of course, has a ridiculous amount of assists, but doesn’t show up in other categories yet. Kane has fewer counting stats for games played and is currently hurt (though he does have a good role with the San Jose Sharks when he returns).


Fantasy Forecaster: Mar. 19-25

Zero teams play fewer than three games this week. Eleven teams get a slight boost from playing four times, but all told, the playing field is pretty even. With weeks like this, you are using the Forecaster to help break ties for roster decisions, as opposed to actively hunting out free agents with a schedule advantage.

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 include players below 10 percent whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.


Team notes

Boston Bruins

The Bruins offense, likely still without Patrice Bergeron, takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild next week. Riley Nash needs to be a part of your planning, as he’ll take shifts with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak until Bergeron returns. As mentioned earlier, Gionta and Rick Nash also offer enough fantasy value to make them good starts when the schedule allows.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are starting to look comfortably playoff-bound in recent outings, and next week should help them solidify their status with games against the Bruins, Rangers, Panthers and Blues. If it’s not too late in your league (he’s available in 33 percent of ESPN leagues), get Cam Atkinson into your lineup. A disappointing start to the season is well in his rear-view mirror at this point. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Wennberg are even more widely available and offer comparable potential.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Patric Hornqvist is settling into one of his hot streaks, with four goals, five points and 27 shots on goal in his past four games alone. Playing with Evgeni Malkin on and off the Penguins’ top power play, Hornqvist remains available in 23 percent of ESPN leagues. But if that’s too shallow a recommendation, consider Bryan Rust. Playing with Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard, Rust returned from a two-game absence to tally three points and notch a plus-3 rating in his past two games. The Penguins face the New York Islanders, Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers during a four-game week.


Goalie notes

Antti Raanta, G, Arizona Coyotes (rostered in 25.6 percent of ESPN leagues)

If it looks like Raanta will be suited up for next week, he could be among the best fantasy goaltenders to start. The Coyotes remain on a roll to close out the season and have a very favorable four-game schedule on tap with the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers. Of course, this is all incumbent upon his return to health, which is not a guarantee.

Other notes: As the season winds down, it seems like I’m talking about the same goaltenders on a weekly basis. Roberto Luongo, Antti Niemi, Philipp Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov all remain solid pickups heading into next week. … Beware that Braden Holtby is going to get a chance to re-establish himself for the Washington Capitals this weekend, though, so Grubauer doesn’t come without some risks. He’s still probably guaranteed at least one start next week, but if Holtby can show some form, that could be it for Grubauer. … Niemi’s week has some landmines in the form of the Penguins and Capitals, so pick your spots if you have him rostered. … This would also be a good time to roster Matt Murray if you are in one of the 12.5 percent of ESPN leagues with him available. He’s on track to return to the club at some point next week.


Player notes

Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres (88.4 percent)

He’s available in leagues and possibly playing as soon as this weekend. You know what to do.

Mika Zibanejad, C/RW, New York Rangers (62.2 percent)

Not widely available by any means, but Zibanejad is available enough to highlight the fact that he’s catching fire again. With six points and 15 shots in his past three games, Zibanejad may be trying to bookend his season that also featured a ridiculously hot start (13 points in 13 games in February).

Neal Pionk, D, New York Rangers (3.3 percent)

If Zibanejad is unavailable to you, consider Pionk. Kevin Shattenkirk had a setback in his recovery this week, which should leave plenty of blue-line prime time available on the Rangers. At the moment, with Anthony DeAngelo also hurt, Pionk is getting big minutes and making them count. He’s leading in power-play time and is on the top pairing at even strength with Marc Staal. Pionk topped 25 minutes in his past two contests and has five points in his past three.

Artturi Lehkonen, LW/RW, Montreal Canadiens (1.7 percent)

Is it the Habs’ top line? Maybe. Either way, Lehkonen, Alex Galchenyuk and Jacob De La Rose are turning in some solid performances of late. Lehkonen has four goals in his past four games, heading into a week that gives the Canadiens four games and a positive offensive Forecaster rating.

Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (17.3 percent)

With Auston Matthews‘ continued absence, the Bozak-James van RiemsdykConnor Brown line has picked up its game this week. While van Riemsdyk has five goals in his past two games, Bozak (who plays with JVR at even strength and on the power play) has four points and eight shots in his past three games.



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