Sometimes, ice time trends change, and sometimes they don't. I know that's a lazy statement, but the amount of time a player gets on the ice is strictly at the whim of his NHL coach. Therefore, it is difficult to predict any positive or negative changes based on any indicator or trend.
However, there is an inevitability at work when a player is scoring significantly more points per minute than everyone else. Naturally, over time, the coach will have no choice but to expand the minutes a player is receiving.
Points per minute gives us a deeper breakdown of expectations than points per game because they can change. Players can't earn more games played based on performance, but they can certainly earn more minutes.
Your league leader so far for points per minute (PPM) is Steven Stamkos at 0.089, with his 36 points coming in just over 405 minutes of ice time. Surprisingly, the next player on the list is not Nikita Kucherov. Johnny Gaudreau edges him out with a PPM of 0.078 versus Kucherov's 0.075. Johnny Hockey is playing almost two full minutes less than Kucherov per game.
Next we come to Josh Bailey, who is our first actionable player on this list. He's available in just shy of a quarter (23.7 percent) of ESPN leagues and sits fourth in the league with 0.071 PPM. Bailey has exploded on offense since the New York Islanders ditched Jordan Eberle from the top line, allowing Bailey to join back up with John Tavares. In the calendar year of 2017 (since Jan. 1, 2017, of last season), Bailey has 58 points in 67 games. His pace is a little high at the moment, but his scoring is very much legitimate as long as he remains with Tavares.
Tied for fifth in the league with 0.069 PPM are St. Louis Blues linemates Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, as well as Vancouver Canucks rookie Brock Boeser. Boeser's second consecutive two-goal game in Pennsylvania on Wednesday should be a wake-up call to all fantasy players that this kid is absolutely for real. He's still available in more than 30 percent of ESPN leagues. Watch out if his ice time starts rising from his current average of 16:03 per game.
Nathan MacKinnon is eighth in the league with 0.065 PPM, followed by three players tied for ninth. Phil Kessel and Jakub Voracek are no surprise here, but Teuvo Teravainen and his 0.063 PPM make for a pleasant addition to the list. Teravainen is a tangible example of a player getting a boost in ice time and responsibility. Although impacted by an upper-body injury that forced him to leave a game early on Oct. 27, his average ice time in October was still lower than it has been in November by more than a minute. Since being elevated to the top line with Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho, Teravainen has 13 points in eight games.
Tied for 13th in the NHL with 0.060 PPM are Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg and Auston Matthews. It is Matthews who offers downright scary potential here, but that isn't news to anyone. However, it is surprising that Matthews is the first player I've listed here who is playing less than three minutes of power-play time per game (2:23). If coach Mike Babcock ever decides to give his budding superstar a proper amount of time on the man advantage, his stats would look even more impressive.
Jumping down the PPM ranks a bit, Alexander Kerfoot is tied for 22nd in the league with 0.056 PPM and is playing only 13:29 per game in average ice time. Obviously, there is significant room for growth in his minutes, and the Colorado Avalanche are slowly warming up to the idea of playing him more. His average ice time in November is up by 90 seconds per game.
Tied for 26th in the league with 0.054 PPM are Toronto Maple Leafs teammates James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri, while Vegas Golden Knights teammates David Perron and Jonathan Marchessault are tied for 28th with 0.053 PPM. What is interesting is that the Leafs, Golden Knights and Canucks are the only three teams in the NHL that don't have at least two players averaging more than 18 minutes of ice time per game. In other words, they are the three teams that shy away the most from a top-heavy attack and spread out the love among their forward ranks. If that were to change, players such as van Riemsdyk (averaging 14:17 in ice time per game) or Marchessault (16:48) should be expected to start collecting more points.
Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 27-Dec. 3
Is the moon blue? Because we have our first five-game week of the season. We ended up with a lot of five-game weeks last season, but that was because of the condensed schedule around the World Cup of Hockey, combined with the implementation of "bye" weeks. The Chicago Blackhawks are our first team to enjoy a week with five games this season and should, obviously, be your first stop for waiver-wire assistance.
We have another nine teams playing four games and only four teams playing just two games, keeping the week on the busier side for action.
Note: 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.
In the notes -- team, goalie and player -- below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Rostering less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, and I'll try to include players below 10 percent whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
It's not the easiest schedule for five games in seven days, but the extra contests are still worth taking advantage of in your league. Artem Anisimov should be among your first considerations. Available in 62.1 percent of ESPN leagues, Anisimov has gotten over an extended dry spell with six points in his past four games. He has stepped up his game while playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz (six points in four games, available in 89.5 percent). Richard Panik had his ice time cut back in Wednesday's loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Panik has been useful for fantasy owners on the top line, be aware that Alex DeBrincat has been pushing for an opportunity on a scoring line with nine points in his past 10 games and could be the beneficiary of any shake-up aimed at getting Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad back on track. This is also a good week to kick the tires on Gustav Forsling. The defenseman has just as many power-play points as Duncan Keith to date and has been on the fringe of fantasy value all season thanks to seven points in 18 games.
This is a juicy week for the Jets' offense, playing three of four games at home against a slate of opponents that includes the Avalanche (25th in goals against per game) and Ottawa Senators (23rd). Get Kyle Connor primed up for a week in your lineup, as the rookie has held on to his spot on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler through the return of Mathieu Perreault to the lineup. With 11 points in 16 games this season, Connor probably shouldn't be available in 89.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Those looking for a boost on defense will want the Jets' leader in shots from the blue line this season. No, I'm not talking about Dustin Byfuglien. Jacob Trouba has 51 shots on goal to pace the defense and has shown that the coaching staff has faith in him to jump into the play on offense when he needs to.
So, this is awkward. Is Khudobin the starter now? At the very least, he is the hot hand head coach Bruce Cassidy keeps coming back to. Heading into a Friday afternoon start against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Khudobin had started three straight games on the road for three wins, while allowing a total of four goals. Tuukka Rask has an .897 save percentage and has only three wins this entire season. This is going to continue until Khudobin runs out of steam, so take advantage while you can. That said, be warned that the Bruins play only twice this week, and the first date next week is with the Lightning.
Bobby Lou has clearly seized the reins back from James Reimer, who started the season out in a bit of a timeshare with Luongo. Throw out his first start back from a trip to the injured reserve in early November and Luongo has a .955 save percentage in six games since Nov. 7.
Anton Forsberg, G, Chicago Blackhawks (1.0 percent)
Five-game weeks are this enticing for fantasy owners. Think about it: The Hawks have gone to Forsberg in back-to-back sets four out of five times this season. With two back-to-back sets on tap for next week, Forsberg is likely to get two starts despite his role as the clear backup to Corey Crawford. October wasn't pretty for Forsberg, but in one start and two relief appearances this month, he has stopped 47 out of 51 shots.
Honorable mentions: The door might be closed on acquiring Carey Price at low value with the announcement that he will be starting on Saturday. His first full week back has four winnable games on the docket, so we should know better by this time next week if the time off was enough to shake his terrible start to the season. Either way, a healthy Price means Charlie Lindgren can go back on the waiver wire.
Mitch Marner, C/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (rostered in 86.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
I highlighted Marner in the Nov. 20 rest-of-season rankings for earning his way back to a scoring line role. Who knew that two nights later, he would be elevated again, this time to the top line with Auston Matthews. The trio of Matthews, Marner and Zach Hyman was buzzing Roberto Luongo all night despite their lack of success on the scoresheet. Based on the eyeball test, this combination should stick for at least a while. They combined for 15 shots on goal and would have had a couple goals if not for Luongo's brilliant performance.
That's three games in a row for Caggiula on a line with Connor McDavid. For those counting at home, he has three goals and one helper in those games despite the Oilers' getting crushed in the first two contests. The most recent game was a victory, so there is a chance this combination continues for at least a little while.
With all four of Montour, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm in the lineup together for the first time this season during the past two games, the power-play time given to each isn't overly revealing. It ranged from a high of 5:09 over two games for Fowler to a low of 4:28 for Vatanen. What's clear is that Montour, who had 99 points in 118 games in the AHL during his development, is going to be in the mix in a big way. He certainly earned it, bridging the injury-depleted Ducks through the first month and a half of the season. Montour has always had a nose for the net (trust me, I've been covering him a while) and the wherewithal to jump in on offense at the right moments. Although the other three defenseman had the résumé at the NHL level, don't be shocked if Montour finishes the season as the team's clear power-play quarterback.
Honorable mentions: Pierre-Luc Dubois played 19 minutes on a line with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson on Wednesday. Head coach John Tortorella is proving much more fluid with his lines this season, which could help explain the muted overall fantasy contributions from the forward group. Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and the injured Alexander Wennberg aren't coming close to last season's numbers. The best advice is to follow the bouncing of Panarin through the Columbus Blue Jackets' lineup and attempt to draft off him as the catalyst. For now, that could mean short-term value for Dubois and/or Anderson. ... Henrik Haapala made his debut with the Panthers against the Leafs on Wednesday. His line with Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad looked good and was responsible for the lone Panthers goal. A 23-year-old import from the Finnish league, Haapala had seven points in 11 AHL games before joining the big league club.
To the bench: How about those Bruins? Just as we expected them to be during the offseason, right? Wednesday's game against the New Jersey Devils could have been scripted in September: Anton Khudobin earning the win with 40 saves, Matt Grzelcyk leading the team in power-play time as the quarterback, top-six minutes from Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen and, of course, contributions from Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller and Rob O'Gara. OK, that's enough sarcasm for one column. In all seriousness, the Bruins are winning with all these unexpected bodies in the lineup, but it's not doing much for fantasy players. Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are holding their value, but almost anyone else could be on the bench for now. The Bruins play only two games next week, so hopefully they can get Brad Marchand back in the lineup for the following week.