With three weeks of hockey left, it’s getting harder and harder to boost your fantasy production. There is no more “wait and see” approach with players as you can no longer afford some leeway with underperforming players.
There are also a limited number of players available who can be a contributor to your team for the stretch race. But with an available threshold of 65 percent, here’s a starting lineup of free agents that you could potentially use.
Mathieu Joseph, W, Ottawa Senators (95 percent): Even when Drake Batherson is healthy, Sens’s offensive divides into two lines – one of which has Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Joseph. The results are startling: four goals and six assists in four games for Joseph. Tkachuk and Norris drive offense, so Joseph should collect a lot of points as long as he runs with a shotgun.
Brendan Gallagher, W, Montreal Canadiens (available in 66 percent of ESPN leagues): Back from injury on a solid two-way line with Joel Armia and Christian Dvorak, Gallagher is also part of the Habs power-play unit that had five strikers in its return. Gallagher still has some bad goals this season, but his play in those two games left is similar to vintage Gallagher.
Brendan Gallagher scores goals against senators
Robert Thomas, C, St. Louis Blues (70 percent): No healthy player with 60 points is available in more than 25 percent of the ESPN leagues – with the exception of Thomas. Look past his total 1.7 fantasy points per. match (FPPG) this season and watch his 2.2 FPPG since February 11th. Thomas is locked on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and a rotating winger – who is currently Pavel Buchnevich.
Sean Durzi, D, Los Angeles Kings (84 percent): Now it was a little harder to find some defenders for this exercise. And I do not love this Durzi call for one reason: Kings have only nine games left compared to as many as 13 games for others. But with Drew Doughty arguably finished for the season, Durzi gets anchored the power play. On top of that, he contributes lots of peripheral statistics to fantasy. Durzi is eighth among defenders with total fantasy points since March 18.
Brayden McNabb, D, Vegas Golden Knights (75 percent): I choose McNabb over Cody Ceci here because I’m just not convinced Ceci can keep up with his latest pace. But if you are a risk-taker or need to take one, take Ceci over McNabb or Durzi. Only Roman Josi has more fantasy points than Ceci from the blue line in the last three weeks. Back to McNabb, who has been back from an injury in four games now. He has a season-long track record of fantasy contributions and has stacked 2.9 FPPG up in his four fights back. He is reliable and available.
Martin Jones, G, Philadelphia Flyers (98 percent): The Flyers play the string out, and Jones gets just a little less than 50 percent of the folder share. That said, he has more often than not posted a solid save percentage in every outing and has a net positive fantasy outcome. (Yes, the bar is a little lower to find goalie help, as usual). But just for the frame of reference, Jones has more fantasy points than Tristan Jarry and Thatcher Demko in the past three weeks, and has almost as many as Frederik Andersen and Jacob Markstrom. And no, I do not want a piece of Logan Thompson now that Robin Lehner is back in the mix. The Flyers have the Ducks, Sabers twice, the Canadiens, Blackhawks and Senators among their remaining 11 games, so I like this schedule and Jones best from the pool of widely available goalkeepers.
Fantasy Forecaster: April 11 to April 17
This is the second half of the first playoff week in standard head-to-head settings and the third-to-final week of the regular season. The schedule is three or four matches for all 32 teams. It minimizes the impact of the four game weeks and pushes you to start your best players. That said, there are a few nicer schedules.
Nashville Predators: Preds have the offensive running on all cylinders, powered by the engine that is Roman Josi. Next week features matches against the Sharks, Oilers, Blackhawks and Blues, none of whom are known for their superstar goalkeeping. Ryan Johansen is available in far too many leagues and is in the ideal place right now, flanked by Filip Forsberg. Mattias Ekholm is also widely available and on a particularly hot streak for fantasy points that have rolled in 2.5 FPPG over the last 15 days. And do not forget to start here the machine Tanner Jeannot.
Detroit Red Wings: It’s not the best schedule for the Wings, but it’s four games and the forecaster has decent hopes for matchups with the Senators and Panthers. While Lucas Raymond should be a part of your plans given his role alongside Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin, I’ll also argue for Jakub Vrana this week. Although he has not managed to elbow his way to the top line, Vrana still gets things done imaginatively on the other device. He has posted 2.0 FPPGs during his last eight fights and is still widely available.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets need to earn some wins in their four games this week. While that may be a high order for their two games in Florida, we must expect good things against the Canadiens and the Kraken. Paul Stastny, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehler’s line have been perfectly dominant in the offensive at 110 minutes together. They boast seven goals on five-on-five, while allowing only three against. Stastny is available in 94 percent of the ESPN leagues and may be the best choice here of available assets. Also, keep an eye out for Blake Wheeler’s injury next week.
Max Domi, W, Carolina Hurricanes: It is worth noting that Domi spent the match with Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen on Thursday. The match came after a loss to the Sabers and this was a win against the Sabers. Domis’ line surpassed the opponents 8-4 at five against five. Maybe he can make something out of this chance.
Bowen Byram, D, Colorado Avalanche: While he is back in line for the first time since early January, the dynamics of the blue line have changed a lot. Josh Manson’s presence means Byram will be hard pressed to do better than the 15 minutes he skated on his return. This probably means he is not getting enough counting statistics for fantasy relevance.
Marian Studenic, W, Dallas Stars: Denis Gurianov is likely to get his top-six role back when he is over his current illness. But keep an eye on Studenic in deeper leagues. He looked solid when given the opportunity to play with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and his scoring at lower levels suggests he has some skills.