Fantasy hockey schedule hack you should take advantage of
They can’t net you valuable fantasy points if they’re stuck on your bench. A blindingly obvious statement, of course, but still worth remembering. Any manager with a reasonably large roster and the ability to make daily lineup adjustments — the overwhelming majority of competitors in the ESPN.com NHL fantasy universe, as it happens — can speak to the frustration of being forced to choose between this skater/goaltender and another when today’s slate is full of an overwhelming number of games. So why not hack the schedule, so to speak, by investing in players who actually play more often when others don’t? Everything else is relatively equal, of course.
Each year, a handful of teams are on extra light schedules more often than others. Just as an almost equal pack of clubs (by mathematical necessity) play heavier schedules more often. Investing in fantasy commodities from the former over the latter immediately gives your roster a boost. Simply by being on the ice when others are not. You can bench them on the busiest days when they are idle and seemingly everyone else is playing.
In that view, and setting the standard at six games – when well over half the league is inactive – I tabulated which clubs are booked to compete on such so-called slower nights, from December 12 until the season ends on April 13. is common, there is a big gap. While one team (more on them below) competes in 25 such lighter dates, the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blues Jackets account for just eight. It doesn’t matter what type of fantasy league you compete in; as long as you’re able to make daily adjustments, being able to maximize your lineup every calendar date can make the difference between wearing the crown at season’s end and falling short.
Anaheim Ducks: They don’t need to win a lot of games, or even keep the puck out of their own net much, for some Ducks to still have significant fantasy value. Outside the board anyway. Forward Troy Terry — listed in 84.2% of ESPN.com leagues — is a star, fantasy and otherwise. With 11 goals and 16 assists on 88 shots through 27 contests, the 25-year-old is averaging 2.1 fantasy points/game in standard ESPN.com leagues. More than Artemi Panarin, Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri.
Trade for him. Really. Offer an asset of the same size and make the deal. The bonus games on drier nights will more than make a difference. The same goes for Sophomore Trevor Zegras (89.3%). The previously hinted 25 games on less busy dates blow the rest of the NHL out of the pond.
Beyond Terry and Zegras, the fantasy pack thins out a bit in Anaheim. But look for scoring trends. Is Adam Henrique (6.3%) on a heater, along with the two young stars? Stream him. Keep track of how Mason McTavish (8.1%) is doing. The rookie has a bright future. Defenseman Cam Fowler (19.0%) is useful when anchoring the top power play, which he is right now.
Colorado Avalanche: Just another reason to check the availability of Valeri Nichushkin – who will be back healthy any day now – and/or Artturi Lehkonen – who is easily listed as day-to-day. Or, as with Anaheim’s Terry, send a trade offer to a league mate. Both Avalanche forwards serve as relatively underrated top-level fantasy commodities. While he played just seven games before getting injured, Nichushkin launched 2022-23 averaging a whopping 4.2(!) fantasy points/contest in ESPN’s standard contest.
Not in the same offbeat hour league as the Ducks, Colorado competes in 20 dates when far less than half the NHL is active between now and the season’s conclusion. Which allows a favorite Avalanche asset to earn valuable fantasy points without beating out another coveted commodity for a lineup spot.
As for trades, what does your fantasy goaltending corps look like these days? If the answer is “could be better, Victoria, to be honest”, then consider throwing out an offer to Alexandar Georgiev (91.3%). Beyond the advantageous schedule bump, Georgiev has stumbled a bit lately. That’s helpful, as some managers can get impatient. Such matches feel entirely temporary while the cream of the club’s crop remains in the infirmary. Georgiev is a No. 1 netminder for a top team in the West. When almost everyone — Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Evan Rodrigues, Nichushkin, Lehkonen — is healed, Georgiev will settle back to his winning ways.
Arizona Coyotes: As with the Ducks, the rebuilding Coyotes aren’t exactly loaded with precious fantasy talent. Still, their 19-game off-stride schedule adds that much-appreciated extra shine to the deep leaguers who pitch, reasonably, here and there.
Like 25 year old forward Lawson Crouse and Sophomore defenseman JJ Moser. Both demonstrate the ability to not only contribute to the NHL stat sheet, but in other fantasy facets (ie hitting). If you’re at all concerned about Moser’s recent decline in minutes, you know that number should go back up once the Coyotes trade Jakob Chychrun. (Can’t last long now.)
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are tied with the Coyotes in rounding out the league’s “Top-Four” in playing 19 contests when only six or fewer other games are scheduled from Dec. 12 onward. Just another reason to monitor who can pitch outside of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman.
Forward Kailer Yamamoto is one such candidate, back healthy and playing on RNH’s line. He was in just 5.7% of ESPN.com’s standard contests and dished out a pair of assists against the Coyotes on Wednesday. On the blue line, Tyson Barrie is an underrated fantasy gem, available in 43% of leagues. The offensive defenseman is already up to 10 power-play points and another seven at even strength.
In net, Stuart Skinner is trainer Jay Woodcroft’s current favorite ahead of a self-doubting Jack Campbell. Stuart is 6-3-0, averaging 2.5 fantasy points/contest since Nov. 12, including a blistering dud that put him well in the red against the Devils (Nov. 21). A generally usable move that goes away when it’s enough outside.
Even if none of the above specific personnel fit your list, keep in mind their respective clubs. Along with the Calgary Flames, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild. Anyone who plays more often when others don’t. A useful tidbit to consider, especially when discussing fantasy investments in one player over another.
Then there are the teams that play more when most others are also in competition. At the opposite end of the desired busyness spectrum, the following are booked on 10 or fewer easily scheduled (six or fewer) dates between December 12 and April 13: