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Fantasy hockey forecaster: Dec. 3-9

Forecasting the week ahead in fantasy hockey? Perhaps you should take a closer look at the Winnipeg power play. NHLI via Getty Images

Judging power plays by conversion percentage is a good measure of success, but not a great one. There are situations in which a power play can have a level of success which is overblown by the use of a simple calculation of power-play goals divided by opportunities. A 5-on-3 power play or a 4-on-3 power play both give the team on the man-advantage a larger leg up on the competition. If we want to really drill down on the success of a power play, we should really boil it down to what is, by far, the most frequent situation -- the standard 5-on-4 power play.

The Florida Panthers appear to be sitting pretty in the power-play department with an overall success rate of 25.8 percent which ranks seventh in the NHL. But, when we drill down on only 5-on-4 power plays, there are some underlying statistics that suggest the Panthers man-advantage has some issues.

Don't get me wrong, Florida's power play is still a good one. After all, they have 23 power-play goals so far this season. However, only 18 of those power-play goals have come while on the traditional 5-on-4 situation. Furthermore, the Panthers have allowed a league-worst five goals while playing at 5-on-4. On a per-minute basis at 5-on-4, the Panthers rank only No. 13 in the NHL with 18 goals in 138 minutes and 28 seconds in this situation. While the number of goals they have scored still ranks in the top 10, the lower efficiency drops them out.

You may wonder why you should care. If the results are still there, then what does efficiency matter? Over an 82-game schedule, 5-on-4 action is what is going to drive power-play success across the finish line. The Panthers only had five power-play goals all of last season that weren't at 5-on-4, which is the same number they've already had this season through 23 games. The Panthers may not be in for many more advantageous power-play goals this season, which means their conversion rate is going to come down.

The team with the largest number of power-play goals last season in situations other than 5-on-4 was the Montreal Canadiens with nine. Generally speaking, scoring on the power play when it is not a 5-on-4 situation is simply not a driver of stats. You want to invest in teams that are scoring most of their power-play goals during the traditional 5-on-4 scenario.

Based on goals-per-minute while skating with a 5-on-4 advantage, here are some squads that jump up the rankings, compared to using simple power-play percentage:

Winnipeg Jets: Instead of the Colorado Avalanche leading the league in power-play conversion, it's the Jets who are truly best with the man-advantage. At 5-on-4 this season, the Jets easily lead the league in goals-per-minute and only one of their 22 power-play goals wasn't at 5-on-4. The fearsome foursome of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are deadly up front and Dustin Byfuglien has been holding down the fort on the blue line. But, remember, Byfuglien is 33 years old, has already missed three games this season, and is currently on the sidelines with concussion-like symptoms. Josh Morrissey should be on a lot more fantasy teams as the "next man up."

St. Louis Blues: The Blues are also a standout at 5-on-4, with all 19 of their power-play goals coming in that situation. While they sit No. 9 in power-play percentage, they are actually No. 5 in the NHL in goals-per-minute at 5-on-4, just a hair behind the Boston Bruins. The Blues have also been doing this with a cobbled together power-play unit that hasn't been healthy. Both Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn have been on the ice at the same time for just 11 games this season, with eight of those contests coming in October. Schenn led St. Louis in power-play points last season, while Schwartz was tied for second in power-play goals -- despite missing 20 games. What has already been a "better than it looks" power play could be even better if these two can get together on the ice. Bonus observation: Pickup Vince Dunn now. He's locked down the power-play quarterback job and should start paying better dividends going forward.

Edmonton Oilers: With all 18 of their power-play goals coming at 5-on-4, the Oilers sit just behind the Blues in goals-per-minute at 5-on-4, which places them at No. 6. That makes the Edmonton power play look a lot better than their No. 10-overall ranking using simple conversion rate. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are obviously part of the success here, but Oscar Klefbom and Alex Chiasson need to be a part of the fantasy conversation, too. Klefbom is vastly under-appreciated in the fantasy realm, currently on fewer than 50 percent of rosters -- despite sitting just one shot-on-goal behind McDavid for the team lead. He's also playing a big part of the power play. We've seen him start to come on this week with five points in his past three games (including three on the power play). Chiasson was in the "right place at the right time" when new coach Ken Hitchcock arrived and he has remained the No. 4 forward on the power play so far. He has 11 goals this season and three of them (all in the past six games) have come with the man-advantage.


Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 3-9

One-game alert: The New York Rangers have the bulk of the week off, only playing this Saturday, on the road, in Florida. Given that the Rangers are 3-7-2 on the road this season, it's not a bad play to leave all of them on your bench, assuming you have other options. No one on this team transcends a massive scheduling disadvantage like this for fantasy purposes.

Teams playing two games: The Carolina Hurricanes are the only team with a two-game schedule next week. The matchups are fine, with visits to San Jose and Los Angeles, but it reduces you to using just the top-line in weekly formats. Just make sure to monitor who is actually on that top line. Micheal Ferland may miss Friday's game due to a concussion issue. If this lingers, it could be the opening Andrei Svechnikov has been waiting for to ply his offensive game with the Hurricanes' other most talented players (Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen). Temper expectations, however, as it looks like Jordan Staal is getting the bump to the unit for Friday.

Highlights from teams playing four games: With only six teams playing a four-game schedule this week, making a few back-end roster moves to stack your games played could be a difference-maker in head-to-head matchups this week. ... Colby Cave is a great target that should be available in all leagues. The new Bruins No. 1 center is in line to play four games between David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand next week. Cave could carve out a role here over the next couple of weeks while Patrice Bergeron remains sidelined. ... The aforementioned Klefbom and Chiasson are both in play. Even if you think your league is too shallow for them, the four-game schedule is an excuse to get them on your team and kick the tires. Here's betting you keep them afterward. ... Brady Tkachuk is still available in about half of fantasy leagues and certainly in some shallower formats. There is no reason to sleep on him any longer. His overall stats may be muted from his injury, but he has 16 points in 15 games, gets power-play time and is a boon to the hits and shots categories. ... If you've been trying to squeeze some value out of Louis Domingue with Andrei Vasilevskiy on the shelf, just make sure you aren't doing so in leagues with weekly roster locks. After a not-so-scary back-to-back set to open the week, the Lightning close against the Avalanche and Bruins -- not matchups you aim for with your goaltending.

Highlights from teams playing three games: Back-to-back sets that could rain on your fantasy parade include sets for the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks. A three-game schedule plus a back-to-back set arguably caps Carter Hutton, Devan Dubnyk and Martin Jones at a maximum of two starts each.

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.


Player notes

Mikko Koskinen, G, Edmonton Oilers: He's the starter for the Oilers now, relegating Cam Talbot to backup duties. November statistics will back up this claim, as Talbot has gone 0-5-0 with a 4.38 GAA, while Koskinen is 6-2-1 with a 2.18 GAA. New coach Hitchcock has no allegiances to Talbot and will go with the superior goaltender. That's Koskinen.

Nick Ritchie, W, Anaheim Ducks: After an injury delayed his 2018-19 debut, Ritchie has spent the month of November working his way into a consistent scoring-line role for the Ducks. He appears to have locked it down. Currently skating with Adam Henrique on the second line, but occasionally getting bumped to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf, Ritchie now has eight points in his last seven games. He profiles as a 30-30 power forward in a healthy season, so he may not reach those totals this year after already missing 15 games. That said, he gets points and offers very healthy hit numbers for leagues that use that statistic.

Shea Theodore, D, Vegas Golden Knights: While I'm pleased as punch to finally see some production from Theodore, I'm still concerned about it lasting. Why? Theodore's bread and butter should be the Golden Knights power play, but only two of his 12 points in November came with the man-advantage. He trails only Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith for power-play ice time, but sits eighth on the team (third among defensemen) for power-play points. His run of success this month means you should add him, but let's hope we see some power-play points in December.

Quick hits

  • The Chicago Blackhawks remain a bit of a hot mess, but that doesn't mean picking up Dylan Strome is a bad idea. It's not his fault they've allowed 14 goals in his two games since joining the team. Well, not entirely his fault anyway. After scoring a goal and assist in his debut, he was a minus-4 in his second game. That said, Strome played with superstar Patrick Kane and former junior linemate Alex DeBrincat, so there is a high ceiling here.

  • Can you drop Jake Gardiner now? Yes, probably. But if I was in a deeper league, I'd hold on a little longer. His October was fantasy-relevant and his November was not. What was the difference? The presence of Auston Matthews to deepen the Maple Leafs attack. Matthews is now back and scored twice in his return on Wednesday.

  • Brian Elliott, Anthony Stolarz, Cal Pickard and Alex Lyon have not been the answer, so maybe Michal Neuvirth has something up his sleeve in the Flyers net? Neuvirth was hurt to start the season, came back on Oct. 27 and was immediately shelled for six goals. He then went back on the shelf until Thursday. Elliott is still hurt, so the door is wide open here. Can we skip all this and just see how Carter Hart does? No? Fine. Add Neuvirth in deep leagues if he looks good on Saturday (or whenever he finally gets his next start).