It's not too late to draft your team in ESPN's free fantasy hockey game. With puck drop this week, we get a chance to see every team hit the ice, with new looks and new divisions.
The trusty power play is always there in the early season for fantasy managers searching to complete their team. Without a preseason to get a better look at them, power-play units are on display for the first time in 2021 this week.
Some early observations:
Tyson Barrie is going to have an incredible season as the Oilers power play is as good as we all remember from last season. But what we might forget is that Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Barrie are only four players. Don't forget the fifth, which at the moment is Alex Chiasson.
Ondrej Palat gets first crack at taking Nikita Kucherov's spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning's top power play. The unit already has two goals, so if you needed an additional shove to consider Palat, consider this it.
Matt Grzelcyk should be universally rostered as the Bruins power-play quarterback. There was zero indication that Charlie McAvoy is going to play any additional power-play minutes than he has in the past.
Joel Farabee stood out, but the entire "second" power-play unit for the Philadelphia Flyers was smothering. Nolan Patrick's line makes up the bulk of the unit, with Farabee and Erik Gustafsson rounding it out. While Farabee is going to be the early waiver target (and should be), I'm eyeing up Patrick also. It's been a long time since we've seen him on the ice and the early returns are encouraging.
The Blackhawks picked up where they off off last season with Adam Boqvist as their power-play quarterback. It's probably because we aren't expecting great things from the Hawks this season, but I feel like Boqvist has been overlooked as an option. The power-play work should be enough to keep him fantasy relevant.
An unexpected crew took most of the power-play time for the Arizona Coyotes: Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland, Derick Brassard and Jakob Chychrun. It worked. They dominated play and picked up a goal. Chychrun and Brassard are of of mild interest based on their assignments off the power play. Brassard, in particular, had a good first game with Clayton Keller.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 18 to Jan. 24
No COVID-19 postponements are in effect as of Friday, with the Dallas Stars finally expected to start their season on Tuesday. Most teams play three or four games.
For those in daily leagues looking to max out games, the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild play the opposite days of the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. In other words, one player from each group of teams will together cover your roster spot for all seven days next week.
There are more such couplets that the forecaster table makes it easy to eyeball. Ha! Just spotted another one: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks. Add Nils Hoglander to your squad and then he and Jake Guentzel will fill your wing spot all week.
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.
Winnipeg Jets: A five-game week features three matchups with the Ottawa Senators that are bookended by games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. Paul Stastny is likely the only potential free-agent point of entry to the team's top six, but the five-game week is a little less appealing with 18 other teams playing four games each. That said, the three games against the Senators is arguably enough to tip the scales in favor of rostering Stastny for the coming week. Joshua Morrissey is another option after he actually played more power-play minutes than Neal Pionk in the season opener.
Arizona Coyotes: What a fun schedule the bubbles create! The Coyotes play the Vegas Golden Knights four times next week -- twice at home and twice on the road. It doesn't particularly pop on the forecaster chart, but may be worth noting given the Coyotes solid showing despite a loss in their opener. Conor Garland had a couple of points in his first game this season and scored three points in three games against the Knights last season. I could also argue a start for Clayton Keller for a start after his line looked dominant in the opener. He, Tyler Pitlick and Derick Brassard are among the early leaders in Corsi for percentage this season, with 21 shot attempts in just over 11 minutes together.
Detroit Red Wings: A pretty weak showing by the Red Wings in their season debut will, hopefully, not be a sign of things to come. If you want to keep the faith for another week, this one has potential. Two matchups against the Blue Jackets aren't great, but the other set is against the Chicago Blackhawks. It's worth noting Danny DeKeyser, not Filip Hronek, has the power-play quarterback role for now.
Nils Hoglander, F, Vancouver Canucks: If the Hoglander bus still hasn't left the free-agent station in your league, go get yourself a ticket now. Hoglander, Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat are going to offer exceptional secondary scoring for the Canucks this season. In fact, J.T. Miller will get his spot on the top power-play back when he's healthy, but based on Hoglander's showing this week, he better keep an eye out.
Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets: It's tough to recommend free-agent goalies this early, as not much has changed since drafts. That said, folks shied away from Korpisalo due to his timeshare -- evidenced by his sub-30 percent rostership in ESPN leagues. But the Blue Jackets are a good team to tend twine for and the matchup with the Red Wings balances out against the matchup with the Lightning next week. It should be worthwhile to take the stats from two Korpisalo starts.
Jonathan Drouin, F, Montreal Canadiens: Nick Suzuki was already a hot commodity and Josh Anderson will get a lot of attention with his two-goal Habs debut, but what about Drouin? Available in more leagues, the winger with the aforementioned players picked up three assists in the opener and has shown flashes of his potential before.
Jack Hughes, F, New Jersey Devils: Hughes two helpers puts him on the early-season pickup radar. An while Nico Hischier is a few weeks away from returning, it kind of looks like the Devils are holding a place for him on a line with Hughes and Kyle Palmieri. Of the line combinations used in the opener, Yegor Sharangovich playing with those two had the biggest feeling of being a placeholder. A lot can change before Hischier is back, but the idea of stacking these two first-overall picks together is appealing.
Advanced stats from NaturalStatTrick.com and LeftWingLock.com.