The all-star break complicates things for the fantasy Forecaster, but we'll find a way to make this work and assess the fantasy hockey landscape for the next couple weeks here.
ESPN treats the coming two weeks as a single scoring period for the purposes of the fantasy game. There are a total of nine games next week, and 41 games the following week for a total of 50. So taking both weeks as a single entity makes perfect sense from a fantasy game perspective.
Schedules are relatively balanced, too. Three NHL teams play only two games, while 10 teams get the boost to four games. Once again, that's perfectly in line with what we've been seeing most weeks this season.
It does mean, unfortunately, that we have to suffer four games without any regular season hockey from Thursday to Sunday next week.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 20 to Feb. 2
How to change your deployment with this two-week long scoring period?
That depends on your league.
If you have weekly roster locks, you don't change much. The teams with four games are the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets. The teams with only two games are the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders. Just because the lock period for your lineup is a full 14 days, doesn't mean you treat the setup any differently.
If, however, you get to make daily roster changes to your team, there are several opportunities here with the split weeks. Load up on the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers, who all play two games between Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 before the all-star break. (The Red Wings do, too, but what are you going to do? Pickup Dylan Larkin? Attack the other teams first and resort to Detroit if desperate.) Then, swap out those additions for some available players from the Habs, Preds, Blues, Bolts or Caps, who play all four of their games in the scoring period after the all-star break.
January 20 - 26 Forecaster Chart
January 27 - February 2 Forecaster Chart
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.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that 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.
Nashville Predators: New coach John Hynes has been experimenting with some different line combinations since taking over. Not wholesale changes, but some tinkering that could play into the hands of some role players. Calle Jarnkrok is chief among them, consistently playing a top-six role and staying on the first power-play unit throughout the changes implemented by Hynes. Jarnkrok has been around a while and is 28 years old, so a big breakout is unlikely. But he could move into fantasy relevance with the expanded role. He's already on pace to decimate his previous career highs.
Yakov Trenin has also been squarely on the fantasy radar since being summoned from the AHL. He still leads the AHL in points per game among players with at least 20 contests this season. In the NHL, he's dishing out hits on a per-minute basis among the top 25 in the league, while also recording four points in seven games this month. Then there's fellow AHL call-up Jarred Tinordi. The journeyman defenseman hasn't been in the NHL since 2015-16, and seems to have a chip on his shoulder. If you play in a hits league, Tinordi has also been on beast mode since jumping into the NHL. He has 26 hits in just seven games (14:12 in average ice time).
If you are eyeing up any Predators for your lineup, they have zero games next week, but then four in the following week to remain among the more active teams in this scoring period.
Vegas Golden Knights: It's hard to pass to much judgement on a coaching change after just one game against the Ottawa Senators, so we'll reserve assessment of Peter DeBoer for another time. The bigger impact for now is the loss of William Karlsson on a week-to-week basis. Paul Stastny has been elevated back to the scoring line with catalysts Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, while Chandler Stephenson slipped up to fill in between Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Stastny and Stephenson, in that order, offer help for fantasy. Stastny will be available in three-quarters or more of leagues, while Stephenson should be an option in almost any format.
Also keep an eye on Nicolas Hague for a possibly expanding role. He has offense to his game as a defenseman and DeBoer has been used to rolling out two defensemen on the power play. Sure enough, in the teams only chance on Thursday, Hague was on the ice with Shea Theodore on the blue line.
New York Rangers: Though they only play three games over these two weeks, two of them are against the Detroit Red Wings. If you missed out on the Tony DeAngelo train, Adam Fox is still available and continues to contribute from the blue line. Don't forget Jesper Fast is a top-six forward of late, too.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have four games in the scoring period, but they are all the week after next. Ilya Kovalchuk is doing as well as hoped on a line with Tomas Tatar and Philip Danault. Kovy is up to seven points in seven games and should be locked back into lineups at least until Brendan Gallagher returns.
St. Louis Blues: All four of the Blues games in the scoring period come on a four-game road swing through Western Canada that begins on Jan. 27. Alexander Steen and Robert Thomas should be the targets. On a line with Tyler Bozak, the trio have picked up a lot of the scoring slack for the Blues of late. The trio has 22 combined points in seven games this month.
Jaroslav Halak, G, Boston Bruins: This is why the Bruins have carried Halak, a perfectly capable NHL starter in his own right. The team shouldn't miss a beat with Tuukka Rask possibly concussed. In fact, it was a bit surprising to note that Halak has played 1,336 minutes this season to Rask's 1,637. A few extra starts while Rask recuperates should further cement Halak as a fantasy option that is often overlooked because of his cohort in the crease.
Jake Gardiner, D, Carolina Hurricanes: Dougie Hamilton left Thursday's game with an apparent leg injury on a crash into the boards. Gardiner is the next man up if Hamilton has to miss an extended period of time. He can hold his own on a power play if called upon and the Canes have some skill to surround him. If Hamilton's injury does turn out to be a bad one, jump at the chance to add Gardiner.
Rasmus Sandin, D, Toronto Maple Leafs: While Tyson Barrie becomes a no-brainer No. 1 fantasy defenseman while Morgan Rielly is out for eight weeks or more, he's already spoken for in any fantasy format. But Sandin, who won't get as many opportunities as Barrie, is skilled and available. His recent coming out party at the World Juniors underscored his 15 points in 21 games in the AHL so far this season.