It’s time to check in again on which players are doing the most for fantasy with the least amount of ice time – and have the capacity and opportunity for more.
Oliver Wahlstrom, F, New York Islanders: Considering his production of late, it’s almost hard to believe Wahlstrom was still having a game with fewer than 10 minutes of ice time earlier this month. But that has changed with his recent streak of seven points in seven games. His average for the season is still just 11:46 of ice time per game, but he’s playing closer to 15 minutes of late. His line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Beauvillier might be the best offensive trio the Islanders boast now that Anders Lee is done for the season. Wahlstrom’s fantasy points per 60 (FPP60) is absolutely elite, ranking seventh in the NHL (minimum 10 games) at 8.08. It’s probably not too late to hop on board, as he’s rostered in only 18 percent of ESPN leagues.
Eeli Tolvanen, F, Nashville Predators: Settled in on both the Predators top line and top power-play unit, the skilled Tolvanen appears to have finally found his footing in the NHL. He’s been trying to breakthrough in North America for a couple of seasons now after being one of the best young prospects for scoring out of the KHL. His scoring as an 18-year-old in the Russian league topped the previous record held by Evgeny Kuznetsov (Kirill Kaprizov and Vladimir Tarasenko are third and fourth on the list). Tolvanen has 10 points in his past 11 games and is available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues. Tolvanen ranks 39th in the league for FPP60 (6.87) and his ice time is rising from his current average of 14:19.
Marcus Foligno, F, Minnesota Wild: Out since March 12 and likely to miss at least a little more time, it’s becoming clear Foligno was the lynchpin for his line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway. Foligno was producing a borderline-relevant 1.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) through a very solid FPP60 of 6.86 in just 14:31 of average ice time. While he’s unlikely to see a boost in ice time, his return is still important. Eriksson Ek and Greenway were both among the top 150 for projected remaining fantasy points on March 12, but have both slipped out of the top 150 since then.
Jared McCann, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: Elevated in opportunity with injuries to the Penguins forward core, McCann is responding to his additional ice time with Sidney Crosby on the power play. But his average ice time is still just 13:00 per game, pushing his FPP60 (6.77) to 43rd in the NHL. McCann could maintain this elevated role even as injured Penguins come back, and a role with a healthy Evgeni Malkin at some point would be the ultimate reward.
Joonas Donskoi, F, Colorado Avalanche: It would probably take an injury among the Avalanche top six to push Donskoi into a relevant FPPG, but his FPP60 shows he would take advantage of such a chance. Donskoi ranks 45th in FPP60 while playing just 13:21 per game on the third line.
Wayne Simmonds, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: Currently getting the chance to play with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at both even strength and on the power play, Simmonds ranks just behind Donskoi with 6.67 FPP60. Averaging only 11:28 per game, Simmonds will end up getting more than that if he can hang onto the spot on the top line.
Fantasy Forecaster: March 29 to April 4
After a few weeks with minimal interruptions, COVID issues postponed out a few games last week. But, at the moment, next week is still on for all teams.
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.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs have been the hottest team in March and this schedule should allow them to have an explosive week on offense. They are home four all four games, taking on the Ducks and the Blues. While the Blues are the best road team in the NHL this season, they’ve been overall cold for the past three weeks. It’s the type of week where you can dip a little deeper than normal into the Avs pool of fantasy assets. Andre Burakovsky and Brandon Saad are arguably in the mix for their secondary power-play roles, while Ryan Graves and maybe even rookie Bowen Byram could be worth using on the blue line. We will probably get one or two starts from Jonas Johansson in relief of Philipp Grubauer, so he could be an option for a one-week stint in your lineup, too.
Gabriel Landeskog wraps up a big second period for Colorado as they dispatch Vegas 5-1.
Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov is likely to return from injury in time for the four-game schedule next week. It’s a two-game set with each of the Red Wings and Blue Jackets, so scoring and quality goaltending should be on offer for the Panthers. Assuming Barkov is back, Carter Verhaeghe needs to be back in lineups (available in 48 percent of leagues). MacKenzie Weegar has also had some hot streaks of late for fantasy production. As Aaron Ekblad‘s defense partner, he’s prone to picking up points when the offense is humming. Chris Driedger has been splitting time nicely with Sergei Bobrovsky, so both are options.
Calgary Flames: I haven’t specifically checked for this, but I suspect the Flames playing four games against four different opponents might be a first in this season of game sets. The Flames play the Jets, Canucks, Oilers and Leafs next week and the Forecaster is mildly optimistic for the offense. At the moment, any production from the Flames offense would be welcome, so it’s hard to suggest digging deeper. That said, Dillon Dube is getting a chance on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan of late, while Matthew Tkachuk has been playing fewer minutes since coach Darryl Sutter took over. I’m not saying to bench Tkachuk and start Dube, but it’s worth watching the offense evolve with the new coach and Tkachuk’s ice time is particularly concerning.
Jamie Drysdale, D, Anaheim Ducks: Accelerating through the Ducks system to quarterbacking the power play in his age 18 season, there is a very bright future for Drysdale in the NHL. He hasn’t scored in three games since his two-point debut, but he is getting plenty of key minutes.
Jason Robertson, F, Dallas Stars: This could be a short-term suggestion, as he’s likely replaced by Alexander Radulov when healthy, but Robertson is getting plenty of ice time and power-play time as linemate to Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz for the time being.
Alex Galchenyuk, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: He’s 27 years old and on his seventh NHL franchise. But the Leafs are interested enough to put him on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander. At least keep an eye on him.
Jimmy Vesey, F, Vancouver Canucks: Previously given the chance Galchenyuk is currently getting, Vesey is also being put in a position to succeed with the Canucks. The results haven’t come yet, but he’s skating with J.T. Miller on the regular and getting power-play time.
Daniel Sprong, F, Washington Capitals: We’ve been keeping an eye on Sprong for fantasy potential for a few seasons, but he’s never managed to capitalize on the situation. The Capitals have been playing him among the top six more often than not of late. It’s not huge, but he has six points in nine games and potted two assists in his last game on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.