Fantasy hockey forecaster: Jan. 7-13

NHL News

The NHL All-Star teams were revealed on Wednesday, with six forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders selected from each division — with the added caveat that all 31 NHL teams had to have at least one representative named to the roster.

Using the same criteria, I’ve selected the fantasy All-Stars for each NHL division. This was based upon a combination of each player’s actual fantasy value, as well as his return of investment. ROI is given much more weight here. After all many NHL All-Stars are expected to be All-Stars. That’s why the fantasy version of these selections come to the conclusion that the low-investment surprises are much more deserving of a nod.

Fantasy All-Stars

Atlantic Division

Brayden Point, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
Dylan Larkin, F, Detroit Red Wings
Max Domi, F, Montreal Canadiens
Jeff Skinner, F, Buffalo Sabres
Mark Stone, F, Ottawa Senators
Mike Hoffman, F, Florida Panthers
Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa Senators
Jaroslav Halak, G, Boston Bruins
Frederik Andersen, G, Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Only Chabot appears on the actual Atlantic All-Star squad announced on Wednesday, with the rest of those picks largely filled out by star players who were expected to be stars this season. It’s notable that Skinner, Stone, Point, Larkin and Rielly are all on the “Last Man In” fan-voting ballot which will add one more player to each team.

  • You may quibble with the inclusion of Andersen based on the lofty expectations coming into the season. I would argue that, while we thought he would be good, we certainly weren’t expecting him to be the No. 1 overall fantasy goaltender.

  • Going forward, Point and Skinner are somewhat concerning. I feel a large portion of their value is linked to lineup deployment. If the Lightning or Sabres were to decide to separate Point or Skinner from their superstar linemates, things could go a little sour. Point, for example, is a top-20 fantasy player on a line with Steven Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov, but if Tampa Bay opt to see what Point could do on his own — as they did last season — he would drop down to top-60 fantasy value.

Metropolitan Division

Cam Atkinson, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
Sebastian Aho, F, Carolina Hurricanes
Kyle Palmieri, F, New Jersey Devils
Anders Lee, F, New York Islanders
Wayne Simmonds, F, Philadelphia Flyers
Tom Wilson, F, Washington Capitals
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Neal Pionk, D, New York Rangers
Robin Lehner, G, New York Islanders
Casey DeSmith, G, Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Aho and Atkinson both made the actual Metropolitan All-Star team, but they are the only repeats here. Letang, Palmieri and Lee all find a place on the “Last Man In” ballot.

  • I had to stretch a little to make this team work, mostly because no player on the Flyers or Capitals is really exceeding expectations to an All-Star level. Simmonds and Wilson both push up to “acceptable” status thanks to a nice mix of points and PIM for fantasy squads.

  • It looks like the bulk of DeSmith’s fantasy value for 2018-19 is already behind him, as Matt Murray has been rejuvenated since coming back from his latest injury. Still, he did enough in the first half to earn a nod here.

Central Division

Mikko Rantanen, F, Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, F, Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog, F, Colorado Avalanche
Ryan O’Reilly, F, St. Louis Blues
Zach Parise, F, Minnesota Wild
Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago Blackhawks
Josh Morrissey, D, Winnipeg Jets
Mattias Ekholm, D, Nashville Predators
Ben Bishop, G, Dallas Stars
Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators

  • MacKinnon, Rantanen, Rinne and O’Reilly are repeats from the actual Central All-Star team, while Toews and Parise are on the “Last Man In” ballot. Yes, expectations were high for MacKinnon and Rantanen coming into the season for fantasy, but we weren’t expecting MacKinnon to be No. 1 overall on the ESPN Player Rater, or Rantanen to be sitting at No. 3.

  • Toews deserves some credit here, as he’s on pace for his first 30-goal, 70-point campaign since 2010-11, while Parise is having an awesome bounce-back campaign of his own. Ekholm is an injury replacement for Matt Dumba, who would be a no-brainer for this team if he wasn’t going to be out for the bulk of the season.

  • The Morrissey pick was also somewhat forced to make sure I included the Jets. The star players are performing to expectations, so we have to go a little deeper. Back in the off-season, we surely weren’t expecting a 50-point campaign from Morrissey.

Pacific Division

Elias Lindholm, F, Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, F, Calgary Flames
Evander Kane, F, San Jose Sharks
Elias Pettersson, F, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Tuch, F, Vegas Golden Knights
Timo Meier, F, San Jose Sharks
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes
Mikko Koskinen, G, Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, G, Los Angeles Kings

  • Pettersson is the only one here on the actual Pacific All-Star team, with Ekman-Larsson and Giordano appearing on the “Last Man In” ballot. I still managed to get the Sharks a pair of representatives as the host team, but they are not the ones heading to the actual game. Meier and Kane are having fantastic fantasy seasons, better than the best expectations placed on them.

  • The Flames are no-brainers here, as Lindholm, Giordano and Tkachuk are all among the top-15 skaters on the ESPN Player Rater.

  • Ekman-Larsson and Campbell are forced inclusions because the Coyotes and Kings didn’t leave me much from which to choose.

Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 7-13

Highlights from teams playing four games: Similar to last week, it’s a busy NHL schedule with 14 teams playing a four-game week and only one team playing a reduced schedule of two games. … Of those four-game teams, the Flames are the only squad with no back-to-back set. David Rittich‘s injury is minor enough, so he should be back in the mix to split time with Mike Smith. As a result, there’s no big advantage in the Calgary crease. The second line has looked more fantasy-friendly of late, so Michael Frolik or Mikael Backlund could be on your radar.

Teams playing two games: The Canucks are the lone team playing a schedule of only two games. After Pettersson was forced from Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, I don’t know that there are any “must-start players” on Vancouver heading into next week, but I wouldn’t fault anyone who rolled out Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat or Alexander Edler for lack of better options.

Highlights from teams playing three games: The Coyotes, Sabres, Avalanche, Red Wings, Senators and Penguins are all teams with three games and a back-to-back set in the mix, which takes a three-start week off the table for their goaltenders.

For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense) and “D” (defense) matchup ratings are based on 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, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its 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.

Every week, the focus in the notes below will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. The generalized cutoff is that a player is rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, but this space will also include players below 10 percent whenever possible to try to cater to deeper formats.

Team notes

San Jose Sharks: Outside of the “automatic” strong ratings for the Lightning and Jets, the Sharks have one of the better Forecaster ratings for the upcoming week. Their four-game schedule starts with a back-to-back set at home, hosting the Kings and Oilers, followed by a visit to Vegas and then back home against the Senators. Certainly, on paper, that should be good for both the offense and defense. Lukas Radil is a top addition in deeper leagues, as he’s skating on the top line with Meier and Logan Couture following a recent shakeup. Radil has goals in two straight.

New York Islanders: Home games against the Hurricanes and Lightning bookend a home-and-home set with the Rangers next week. Given how hot Mathew Barzal has been of late, I’m interested in the likes of Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier as possible targets for the week. Nelson is on the top power-play unit and has points in three-straight games. Meanwhile, Beauvillier is on Barzal’s line at even-strength and has taken 12 shots over his last two games. Fantasy All-Star Lehner is very much in the mix here as he continues to lead the NHL in GAA and is available in more than 99 percent of ESPN leagues.

Player notes

Evan Rodrigues, C, Buffalo Sabres: I don’t see this lasting, since finding out what Casey Mittelstadt can bring to the table in a featured role would be the smarter roster move, but Rodrigues was moved up as the direct replacement for an absent Jack Eichel. Yes, it was a straight swap, as Rodrigues took Eichel’s usual place next to Skinner and Sam Reinhart both on and off the power play. Use him at your own risk.

Brandon Pirri, C, Vegas Golden Knights: Between this season and last, Pirri has played just nine NHL games, spending most of his time in the AHL. In those nine games, he has nine goals and three assists — only once failing to record a point. It was way back in 2014-15 when Pirri burst onto the scene with a torrid finish for the Panthers, scoring 19 goals in a 26-game stretch between January and April. He faded the next season, then had stints with the Ducks and Rangers before landing in the AHL for Vegas. Despite now being up with the Golden Knights, he still leads the AHL in points this season (41 in 28 games) and he also won the AHL’s scoring title back in 2012-13. Look, I’m not saying he won’t just be a flash in the pan again, but there’s enough evidence here to take the risk. Get him rostered and see what happens over the coming week or so. Pirri has earned that much.

Michael Hutchinson, G, Toronto Maple Leafs: I feel like you don’t need to get this desperate with some of the other goaltenders available in fantasy, but there is a chance Hutchinson will be forced to play all three games for the Maple Leafs next week, as Andersen nursing a groin injury and Garret Sparks is in the league’s concussion protocol. I’m not super excited about Hutchinson facing the Predators, Devils and Bruins, but Toronto can win any game with offense.

Quick hits

  • Filip Forsberg practiced on Thursday with the Predators. He’s getting close.

  • Semyon Varlamov is nursing a lower-body injury, but that could be a saving grace for fantasy managers. Colorado is on the road in Winnipeg and Calgary for a back-to-back set early in the week.

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