Power-play opportunities are the nitrous oxide of fantasy hockey value. They can take an already fast car and transform it into a virtual rocket. However, such opportunities can also take an otherwise ordinary vehicle and make it appear to be something special. So, like putting a tank of nitrous oxide into the trunk of a late-90s taxi, here are three deep (and widely available) fantasy options getting an unexpected boost on the man-advantage.
Matt Grzelcyk, D, Boston Bruins: With Torey Krug projected to miss at least the next couple of weeks, Grzelcyk is close to a must-add for the short-term fantasy manager hurting on defense. The Bruins know that Charlie McAvoy isn’t a typical power-play quarterback, so they are giving the opportunity to Grzelcyk. So far, he’s answering the bell. He’s manned the power-play point over the Bruins past two games, in which Boston’s man-advantage has gone 3-for-6 with Grzelcyk earning two power-play assists.
Anthony Duclair, W, Columbus Blue Jackets: With Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski double-shifting on the power play against the Florida Panthers on Thursday, both power-play units looked solid for the Blue Jackets — with both scoring. Duclair is also joined by Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno on the second unit. Duclair also saw time on Columbus’ No. 2 line on Thursday alongside Foligno and Alexander Wennberg. He’s now up to three points in four games and is starting to look like a player to add to your watch list.
Henri Jokiharju, D, Chicago Blackhawks: With five assists through four games, Jokiharju has quickly been elevated to being top dog on the Blackhawks blue line. He led all Chicago defensemen in power-play time on Thursday, holding down the fort on a unit with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz. I’m not completely writing off a resurgence from Duncan Keith just yet, but I’m also picking up Jokiharju where I can.
Fantasy Forecaster: Oct. 15-21
Teams playing four games: The Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild all have the extra game, though I’m not huge on the schedules for the Wild or Sabres. Buffalo has four road stops in Las Vegas, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Minnesota plays a pair of back-to-back sets that each include a road and home game.
Teams playing two games: The Carolina Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals all have only two games. None of these sides have back-to-back sets, so it’s possible fantasy managers with Sergei Bobrovsky, Martin Jones, Jake Allen, Marc-Andre Fleury or Braden Holtby will still get two starts out of their netminder.
Everyone else plays three times this week, including the Anaheim Ducks, who play in Las Vegas on Saturday and then fly back home to face Buffalo on Sunday in what looks like a tough back-to-back set. The Bruins play three games on the road in Western Canada, which was good for scoring last season. The New York Islanders have a tough California road trip on tap, similar to that of the Sabres. Ben Bishop, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist are all likely to be impacted by back-to-back sets on the schedule.
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.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Being rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, but this space will also include players below 10 percent whenever possible to try to cater to deeper formats.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Even though he was playing on the fourth line at even strength, J.T. Miller was still hanging around on the top power-play unit with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on Thursday. The Lightning used Ondrej Palat on their top line at even-strength. Through two games now, the Stanley Cup hopefuls have only managed to generate two goals. Still, it’s only been two games. This was a very slow start to the season in terms of scheduling for Tampa Bay, and things will turn around once they get some more reps in. Specifically, that’s next week when they play four times. Coach Jon Cooper could look for a boost with someone else, but I’m rostering Palat heading into the week and looking for a burst of offense from the top line.
Winnipeg Jets: With Mark Scheifele almost matching his penalty total from all of last season on Thursday, you know things went sideways for the Jets. The 3-0 loss should have been a lot worse, since the Jets killed off nine penalties. Coach Paul Maurice has his lines back to what we anticipated they would be before the season, with Nikolaj Ehlers back in the top-six on a line with Bryan Little and Patrik Laine. With three games at home against pliable opponents next week, consider sliding Little into your lineup for a one-week deployment. Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey are also available in more than half of ESPN leagues, if you need some help on defense.
Kevin Labanc, W, San Jose Sharks: That’s what I get for criticizing the Sharks’ depth chart on Tuesday in my rest-of-season rankings. That same night, coach Peter DeBoer blew up all his lines in the pre-game skate and rallied the troops for an eight-goal outing, including eight points by the new top line of Evander Kane, Joe Pavelski and Labanc. I still don’t like how Kane was buried to start the season, but the getting seems good for the moment. The lines stayed together for a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday, which wasn’t a terrible showing. So what fantasy action should you take? Stash Labanc now for this two-game week, then deploy him when the Sharks schedule ramps up again next week.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, New York Rangers: Making Shattenkirk a healthy scratch on Thursday seems both somewhat silly as well as forced by a new head coach — but it’s something we can take advantage of in fantasy. The Rangers need Shattenkirk as a catalyst on the blue line and he’s at zero long-term risk of losing his playing time. Float out a trade offer to the Shattenkirk manager in your league and see if you can make a move on him now. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a top-24 defenseman (a D2 for fantasy) this season.
Casey DeSmith is probably a better option than Tristan Jarry if you are a desperate Matt Murray owner. However, I don’t think there’s a reason to panic here. Murray was a full participant in practice on Thursday and is still a possibility for Saturday’s game. Yes, he has a history of concussions, and head injuries are tricky, but this particular incident doesn’t sound like a long-term issue.
Ryan Kesler is kind of a surprise return for the Ducks, while Ryan Getzlaf is still working his way back from an injury. Anaheim’s lines have been as fluid as any team’s in the NHL so far, but they are also having success. While players like Sam Steel, Max Comtois and Troy Terry are looking like they might be in play, I want to see a healthy Ducks team roll out the same lines for multiple games in a row before I start trying to reel in any of these fish.
Corey Crawford remains on track to potentially return to the Chicago crease on Oct. 18 against the Coyotes. He’s available in about one-third of ESPN leagues. Pick him up now, regardless of your goaltending situation.
Cory Schneider is practicing with the Devils and will be evaluated for a potential timeline in the next week or so. As good as Keith Kinkaid has been to start the season, if Schneider’s surgery has his hip back to full health, he’ll be a better long-term option. I wouldn’t attack him on the waiver wire like Crawford, but if I was even a little uncomfortable with my goaltending in a league with minimal options, I’d happily take him.