Fantasy hockey forecaster: Oct. 22-28


One of my favorite overlooked statistics for fantasy is missed shots, as tracked by the NHL. We look for talent and opportunity in the fantasy realm, and one of the best indicators of opportunity is shots on goal. After all, you need to take a shot to even have a chance at scoring. Technically speaking, though, shots on goal doesn't capture all of a player's opportunity. A missed shot can include shots that hit the post or crossbar, in addition to shots that sail just wide or high of the net. A missed shot is still an opportunity for the purposes of evaluating a player for fantasy hockey.
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Most of the early leaders in shots on goal plus missed shots (SOG+MS) aren't a surprise, as they shoot the puck a lot and we know it. Patrick Kane leads the league with 47, while Jonathan Marchessault and Evander Kane are tied for second at 44. All three of those players have double-digit missed shots, but Tyler Seguin sits fourth with only five missed shots this season, so he gets our accuracy award.
However, some of the guys that have a high SOG+MS have been sneaky in their opportunities to date.
Andreas Athanasiou, W, Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings winger sits first in the league in missed shots and 10th overall in SOG+MS. While he has only 22 shots on goal (Seguin leads the league with 38), Athanasiou has 16 missed shots in just seven games. Athanasiou has bounced between the second and third lines this season as the Red Wings seek a depth chart that allows them to stay more competitive in games. Athanasiou has caught our attention in previous seasons for short bursts, thanks in part to his breakaway speed. The first players to "step up" for the Red Wings are going to be rewarded with plum roles -- and Athanasiou is looking like an early candidate for more responsibility.
Timo Meier, W, San Jose Sharks: Expanded opportunities in San Jose's top-six this season have led Meier to a No. 21 spot in the NHL for SOG+MS at 32, with 12 of those being missed shots. Meier hasn't played a game outside the top-six for the Sharks so far this season, and he's getting steady work on the second power-play unit. Through seven games, he's on pace for 35 goals, 60 points and 230 shots on goal. Consider his missed-shots ranking and Meier looks to be a locked-in fantasy asset still available in 40 percent of leagues.
Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim Ducks: Montour needs to adjust his sights at some point, as he has more missed shots than shots on goal this season. His 13 missed shots, plus 10 shots on goal place him No. 9 among defensemen this season. As he did last season, Cam Fowler is holding down the fort on the top power-play unit for now. But, as he did last season, he'll cede the role to Montour at some point. Montour is another year wiser and playing an additional 90 seconds per game compared with last season. Hold tight if you drafted him because better times are ahead.
Teams playing four games: The Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are busy next week. ... The Blackhawks play three of their four games at home and have a back-to-back set in the mix. ... The Oilers have an unforgiving schedule, with visits from Pittsburgh and Washington, followed by a back-to-back set on the road in Nashville and Chicago. I don't think their offense is off the table, but I'd really consider my options before rolling out Cam Talbot. ... The Canucks also welcome the Capitals and Penguins, games that bookend a back-to-back set in the desert visiting Vegas and Arizona. I'm not overly enthused by the extra game here, especially with Elias Pettersson on the shelf. ... As for the Jets? Oh boy, the Jets schedule! We'll cover that below in team notes.
Teams playing two games: There's no reason to dig too deep into the Buffalo Sabres roster for help, as they only face Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky next week. This could be a good week to sit Conor Sheary or Rasmus Dahlin on your bench if you have other options. ... Conversely, the matchups for the Minnesota Wild look strong enough that you can play your regulars with confidence. They're home to the Kings and Avalanche. ... The New Jersey Devils' schedule remains light enough that we probably won't see Cory Schneider for their home games against the Predators and Panthers next week. Of course, we could be looking at the ideal moment to pick him up at this time next week. Of course, that depends on how strongly Keith Kinkaid plays between now and then. Was Thursday's loss to the Avalanche just a blip on the radar or the bloom falling off the rose? ... The Maple Leafs only play a home-and-home with Winnipeg next week. Two games against Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets offense isn't ideal for anyone, but I'm not sitting any member of this high-powered Toronto offense. That said, maybe moving away from Frederik Andersen for the week would be a wise decision.
Highlights from teams playing three games: If you play in a shallower league, consider picking up Arizona's Antti Raanta (31 percent rostered) and starting him. The three-game week features no back-to-back sets. ... The New York Islanders have a back-to-back set, so it may be another week before Robin Lehner's ascent to the starting gig properly dovetails with the schedule to make him start-worthy in fantasy. ... The Pittsburgh Penguins' road trip through Western Canada doesn't rate well on the Forecaster, but I think I'm still comfortable with rolling them as usual -- especially with how they looked shutting down Toronto on Thursday. ... The Tampa Bay Lightning have a back-to-back set on the docket, so it's probably only a two-start week for Andrei Vasilevskiy. Even the best in the business needs a rest sometimes.
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.
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Winnipeg Jets: As we hinted earlier, this could be a fun week for fantasy managers with multiple shares in the Jets offense. The Jets play the team that has allowed the most goals in the NHL once, the team that has allowed the third-most goals twice, and the team that has allowed the sixth-most goals once. For the record, those teams, in order, are the Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. On average, all three teams are worse than 3.00 goals against per game (GA/G), with the Red Wings stinking up the league at 4.57 GA/G. Bryan Little is usually a "bubble" fantasy start, but in a week such as this I'd deploy him with confidence. If you play in a league with hits, Brandon Tanev is an ideal short-term add here.
Washington Capitals: On a road trip through Western Canada that matches the schedule of the Penguins, the Capitals look much better on the Forecaster compared with their Pittsburgh rivals. If I'm looking for a forward on a deep-league roster, Chandler Stephenson is a nice pivot this week. He has settled onto the Washington top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, keeping the spot warm until Tom Wilson's suspension is over. While he has only a goal to show for his efforts through two games, this is an ideal week to be riding shotgun with "Ovie."
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks now have Corey Crawford back in the fold, and he played well enough in his return on Thursday to merit three of the four starts next week. Still available in 30 percent of ESPN leagues, Crawford was among the fantasy leaders for goaltenders at the time he went down with his head injury last December. Chicago plays the walking wounded Ducks, Rangers, Blues and Oilers next week, so it's possible Crawford gets three good matchups. This is probably your last chance to get him. ... The Blackhawks have two games this weekend ahead of next week and I'll be keeping a close eye on the roster to see who is playing with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz heading into next week. Brandon Saad is in the doghouse and Alexandre Fortin has failed to convert on his chance to fill the role. That means someone else could get an opportunity to cement the role heading into what should be a good week for offense. My dark horse is Dylan Sikura getting called up for a chance to do just that.