Forecaster: Key players and teams for Jan. 9-15

The usually reliable Anze Kopitar is in the No. 206 spot on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater as of Jan. 6. Time to cut him loose? Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire

A new year is a chance for change; a chance for redemption, improvement and resolution.

In fantasy hockey terms, the new year is a chance to turnaround a woeful season of statistics so far. We've identified three forwards who were early-round picks this season in fantasy drafts, but who have fallen well shy of those lofty expectations.

After having a look at both sides of the coin, we'll offer up our thoughts on whether you should buy, sell or hold.


Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild

On pace for only 18 goals, Parise is on pace for his lowest full season point total since his rookie campaign in 2005-06. While injuries have certainly taken a little pep out of his step at the age of 32, Parise can still close in the offensive zone with the best of them when he's on his game. However, his current ESPN Player Rater ranking is 194th, right behind Anders Lee, Michael Frolik and Tanner Pearson. That is to say, he hasn't been getting the job done for fantasy owners this season. Parise had just his third multi-point game of the season on Thursday, showing some signs of life that he has left us sorely wanting.

Why he should succeed: This depends on your definition of success. For Parise to meet his scoring pace from last season, he barely has to show any improvement at all. He's on pace for 47 points this season, but he only had 53 last season. His shots on goal numbers are trending toward the same ballpark as last season, too. If you only paid for Parise what he contributed last season, as the 90th overall player on the ESPN Player Rater, you should have no trouble getting what you paid for. That said, most fantasy owners were looking for more. The positives from Parise at this point are that his shooting percentage is well below his career average, and a regression to his career average should result in a few more goals; furthermore, coach Bruce Boudreau is continually relying on him in a prime offensive role.

Why he might fail: This Wild team is deep on offense, sporting a fourth line that could make scoring lines on some other NHL teams jealous. Between Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund as catalysts and a supporting cast of Jason Zucker, Erik Haula and Nino Niedderreiter, not to mention the presence of Jason Pominville and Chris Stewart, Minnesota has a vast array of weapons. If Parise doesn't turn his season around, it will likely be because of his ice time and role. He's already down a full minute from his average time on ice last season, and his lack of power-play success could lead to a reduced role there, too.

Verdict: Hold. There aren't many signs of a big breakout on the horizon, but there is nothing suggesting Parise is on some massive decline either. If you paid a little more than it turns out you should have at your draft table, chalk it up to bad luck and make up the value elsewhere. Trading Parise now won't net enough in return to cover the risk that he finds his 30-goal form to close the campaign.


Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals

On pace for just 54 points, Kuznetsov's follow up to a 2015-16 breakout of 77 points has been disappointing on the whole. Drafted as an elite player on the rise, he could have gone as early as the second round in your draft. Kuznetsov has made some noise in January with six points in three games.

Why he should succeed: This is a trick statement, as Kuznetsov has genuinely turned his season around already. In the past month, Kuznetsov has 16 points in 15 games. Playing with Justin Williams on a regular basis was apparently just what the doctor ordered for a season that started with nine points in his first 23 games. This is also why on-pace numbers can sometimes be misleading. If Kuznetsov keeps up the pace he's shown for the past month for the remainder of the campaign, his on-pace total for 82 games would actually be 72 points, as opposed to the 54 points when you consider his whole season so far.

Why he might fail: He won't. Kuznetsov is an elite talent who had a slow start, but has found his form.

Verdict: Buy, buy, buy. Don't show a potential trading partner our fun conversion on Kuznetsov's on-pace numbers. Instead, highlight his total season on-pace total of just 54 points and offer up a player currently on pace for 60 points, such as Jeff Skinner, Mats Zuccarello or, heck, even John Tavares (in a season-long league). Kuznetsov should at least match their production for the stretch run, with the upside that he even does a little better.


Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar is on pace for just 39 points. This is a very rare occasion where we can actually say for a modern era player that they are on pace for a career low without qualifying the statement with regards to the lockout-shortened campaign of 2012-13. Usually we have to say they are on pace for a career low "in a full season." Not here. Kopitar actually managed 42 points in the 47 games he played during the lockout campaign. His pace of 39 points is devastatingly horrible.

Why he should succeed: The brightest ray of hope here is that Kopitar has done this kind of rope-a-dope with his fantasy value before. In fact, he did it last season. Through the first two months of the 2015-16 campaign, Kopitar had 0.57 points per game. He finished with 74 points in 81 games and fully redeemed himself to fantasy owners. One way to look at his season thus far would be to hope that he simply extended his slow start by a month. He has scored at 0.50 points per game through the first three months of the current campaign. While he is on pace for 39 points based on his total pace so far, if Kopitar closed out this season with the same scoring pace he managed from January to the end of last season, he would finish this campaign with 62 points.

Why he might fail: Perhaps the biggest roadblock to a major Kopitar turnaround is that it isn't essential to the Kings' success. Kopitar has been all but absent from the score sheet, Jonathan Quick has been out essentially the whole season and the Kings are still in the playoff picture. As they have done under coach Darryl Sutter for years, the Kings play a team game in all three zones that doesn't require a superstar to work. If Kopitar doesn't get things going at all this season, the Kings will probably still make the playoffs thanks to the impending return of Quick, and contributions from others.

Verdict: Buy. Kopitar is going to be just fine. Even if he doesn't ramp up his offense for the final months of the season, better luck would be enough to put him back in the fantasy mix. If Kopitar's shooting percentage this season (a miserable 4.1 percent) was at his level from last season (14.1 percent, slightly above his 12.1 percent career average), he would have 10 goals and 24 points and there wouldn't be too many complaints from fantasy owners. If you buy Kopitar at his ultra-low value, you should at least get a middling version of him for the remainder of the season, with the upside that he goes on another tear.

Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 9-15

On a "bye" this week are the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, though all four teams still manage to have two games on the docket for next week. While it's not technically their "bye" week, the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning also only have two games.

Download the forecaster chart PDF here

For those new to the Forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense) and "D" (defense) 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 1-10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.

Team notes

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets' four-game set includes some beneficial matchups for the offense. Your first stop should be Jacob Trouba, who has finally kicked his game into gear during the past couple of weeks. The defenseman, who started slowly following a contract holdout, has a five-game point streak with seven points and an uptick in his shots on goal. Your second stop should be Bryan Little, who continues to fly under the radar in a prime offensive position as the Jets' No. 2 center on a line with Blake Wheeler.

Anaheim Ducks: The schedule makers continue to smile on the Ducks, as they land in our team notes section for the third consecutive week. If you're not already using Jakob Silfverberg, this could be an excuse to try him out. Despite a more than respectable 25 points in 40 games, Ryan Kesler's winger is available in 40 percent of ESPN leagues. The same logic applies to Rickard Rakell, who remains owned in just 69 percent of ESPN leagues. Rakell gets the added bonus of top-unit power-play time while Ryan Getzlaf is on the mend.

Goalie notes

  • Owners of Frederik Andersen, Henrik Lundqvist and, to a lesser extent, Mike Smith will need to make alternate arrangements. With their respective teams on a "bye" they might only play one game next week. For all three teams, their only games are part of a back-to-back set.

  • The same is also true for Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning, but it should be clear to all that Vasilevskiy gets relegated to the fantasy bench for the foreseeable future. Clearly, he's not ready to handle the load on his own as an NHL starter. Since Ben Bishop was injured, Vasilevskiy owns a 3.38 goals-against average and .874 save percentage.

  • Those looking for a starter next week might not want to be roped in by Jared Coreau's recent success. The Detroit Red Wings backup notched a shutout on Thursday, but coach Jeff Blashill also praised Petr Mrazek's recent start. Playing in the background is the fact the Red Wings play the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars next week, none of which are friendly offences.

  • Those playing in the 46 percent of ESPN leagues where Brian Elliott is available will want to get him in their lineups now. The Flames have a favorable four-game slate on tap and Elliott is dialed in.

Player notes

  • Switched to a line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon turned in a hat trick on Thursday. Grab him now and ride him until the next McDavid line switcheroo.

  • James Neal was sidelined with an upper-body injury on Thursday and has been cold for a couple of weeks now. Filip Forsberg, however, has been heating up and is on the top line with Ryan Johansen again in Neal's absence.

  • Brendan Gallagher left Wednesday's game, adding to the Montreal Canadiens' injury woes. Nikita Scherbak was among the callups and could make his NHL debut soon. He's shown offensive growth in the AHL this season, with 20 points in 27 games.

  • Justin Faulk is coming off the injured reserve earlier than expected. Get him back into your lineups, as he was playing like a No. 1 fantasy defenseman again before he was hurt.

  • Spencer Abbott is definitely an interesting late candidate to the job as Jonathan Toews' other winger, along with Marian Hossa. The Blackhawks haven't found the right fit yet, and Abbott is currently getting a chance. After wearing out his welcome as a prospect with the Toronto Maple Leafs in his third AHL season, the Hawks scooped him up and watched him go on a late-season tear in the minors. He then spent a season honing his game in Sweden before returning to the Hawks' AHL affiliate this season, where he is tied for the team lead in points. There are certainly worse places to try to earn your NHL stripes than on a line with Toews and Hossa.

  • Speaking of AHL stars who haven't translated their game to the pro ranks, Ty Rattie joins the Carolina Hurricanes after being waived by the St. Louis Blues. A scoring dynamo in junior, especially in 2011-12 on a line with Sven Baertschi for the Portland Winterhawks, Rattie has never made good in his WHL pedigree. In fact, his AHL numbers have dropped since he tied for the league scoring lead among rookies in 2013-14 with 31 goals. Still, there is a lot of potential in this package and Rattie gets to hit the reset button for the first time in his pro career. Plus, he debuted on a line with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner, meaning the Hurricanes want to see what he can do.

  • Jamie Benn hitting the injured reserve shouldn't be as scary as it looked. It was a necessary evil so the team could activate Antoine Roussel. Benn could still return from his foot injury in time for next week and he sounded positive about doing just that. In the meantime, Patrick Sharp is finally back in the lineup and drew top-line duty in Benn's absence. Keep an eye on Sharp's role as he could still have gas in the tank for a late-season run.