Per-game statistics tell us only so much of the story. Dividing points by games played does help us get a better idea of a player's production, but it still doesn't account for a major factor: ice time. In order to truly assess the players who have been providing the most value, we need to account for how much time each player is spending on the ice.
Enter per-minute statistics. By breaking down the points produced by each player on a minute-by-minute level, we get a great glimpse at which players are doing the most with limited minutes on the ice.
Now dividing points by minutes can create a pretty ugly decimal number that isn't fun to work with. So what we will look at here is a statistic we will call Expected Points in 20 Minutes of Ice Time. Why 20 minutes? Because that's what the top forwards in the NHL play. It's a healthy barometer for finding out what a player could do if he had elite ice time. First we calculate a player's per-minute points, multiply that by 20 minutes of ice time, then multiply that by his games played this season. Voilà, we have a number that allows us to compare all players if they played in a socialist league in which every forward earned exactly the same ice time, regardless of role, skill or team need.
These statistics include all NHL games this season through Wednesday night. That applies only to this opening section of the column though. The Fantasy Forecaster will, as always, include Thursday's games in its formulas.
Benoit Pouliot, Tampa Bay Lightning: At his current points-per-minute pace, Pouliot would be among the league leaders in the NHL if he played 20 minutes per game; he'd currently have 20 points, which would tie him with Evgeni Malkin, just inside the top 10. The biggest change for Pouliot has been a chance to play in the top six while Ryan Malone recovers from injury. Most recently, Pouliot has been skating with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, but any combination that also includes Teddy Purcell, Steven Stamkos or Cory Conacher is equally as potent. Pouliot showed his ability to skate with top six forwards while filling in for injured players with the Boston Bruins last season. He may have even done enough to stick around after Malone returns.
Ryan Garbutt, Dallas Stars: Garbutt took the long road to the NHL and earned his opportunities with hard work. He may be skating as a depth forward right now, but he has been showing some flashes of brilliance. Both of his goals this season have come on beauty offensive plays not typical of a fourth liner. His points per minute have him at 11.8 points if he had played 20 minutes of ice time per game this season. Although he has only five right now and doesn't look to have any wiggle room for more minutes, he is a name to keep in mind if the Stars need to promote from within to reinforce their top six forwards.
Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens: After Pouliot and Garbutt, the biggest increase from actual points this season to our EP20MIT statistic are rookie linemates with the Montreal Canadiens. Galchenyuk's pace would put him at 16.6 points and Gallagher's would have him at 14.4 points. Both players have been doing wonders with limited minutes this season and are, slowly, earning more responsibility with the Habs. Gallagher is currently day-to-day with a concussion, but is expected back soon. Fantasy owners have largely left these two alone this season, as they are available in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues. Once Gallagher returns, it might be time to consider stashing them if you have room. It will be hard to keep their minutes down if they keep scoring the way they have been.
Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals: Being moved from the fourth line to the third shouldn't make a huge difference for most players. But since Fehr began averaging more than 10 minutes of ice time, he has six points in six games. His expected points in 20 minutes of ice time per game would be 12.21. Not a huge number, but that's about a point per game for Fehr, who has been in the press box a couple of times. Fehr didn't have a contract coming into this shortened season but earned the Capitals' attention by piling on points in the Finnish elite league during the lockout. The offense has always been there, it just needs more ice time to show up in a significant way.
Matt Frattin, Toronto Maple Leafs: Still another week or so away from a return, Frattin has one of the more impressive points-per-minute accumulations this season. His EP20MIT would have him at 15.53 points in 10 games this season. As it stands, he has seven goals and 10 points in 10 games and will continue to be a scoring threat when he returns. Nazem Kadri and Frattin didn't look too far away from forcing coach Randy Carlyle to make them the second line at the time Frattin got hurt; Don't be surprised if Frattin get an increase in ice time when he returns.
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers: The EP20MIT didn't highlight a lot of already elite players. In fact, it dragged down some top players because they already play more than 20 minutes per game. Voracek has been among the elite fantasy players this season, but he has done it in surprisingly few minutes. When his points per minute are extended to 20 minutes of ice time per game, Voracek would have 22 points this season. That would have him just behind Thomas Vanek, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos for the NHL scoring race. Guess what? He's still not universally owned in ESPN leagues. His ownership has increased by 25 points to 94 percent of ESPN leagues. He is still available in 6 percent of leagues and wasn't acquired until recently in a lot of leagues. That means Voracek's owner might be willing to sell high.
If you want to pore over the per-minute statistics as of Feb. 21, give me a shout on Twitter and I can share the Excel file with you.
Admission time: We couldn't wait any longer for the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings to play enough games to allow us to use only this season's statistics in the Fantasy Forecaster. Regular readers will know that we've been supplementing the Forecaster with last season's NHL statistics to beef up the ratings, but enough is enough. We have a large-enough sample size to let the Forecaster consider only stats from the current NHL season. So we peeked behind the curtain this week and gave the Bruins a goal at home on the power play and the Red Wings a goal on the road on the power play. Just keep that in mind when looking at the Bruins' and Red Wings' numbers. They have been given a one-goal supplement to make the formulas work.
Looking for offense
Washington Capitals: As we've just mentioned, last year's statistics have now been pulled from the Fantasy Forecaster calculation and we are rolling with just the current season's statistics. That means when we see three O:10 ratings for the Capitals next week, it's probably best we listen. Eric Fehr already got some love in this column, but in deeper leagues Fehr, Joel Ward and Mathieu Perreault might be worth considering for the coming week. All will be widely available and have been scoring at a near point-per-game pace for the past two weeks. Those in shallower leagues should look at Troy Brouwer. Playing with Nicklas Backstrom and Wojtek Wolski, Brouwer has nine points in his past nine games. He contributes in most categories as well, bringing shots on goal and power-play points to the table to go with 12 penalty minutes in the past six games.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers have a four-game week and rate as an O:8 on the Forecaster for the week. Only Brian Campbell is universally owned in ESPN leagues, leaving plenty of options for fantasy owners who can buy into the Panthers' having a good week on offense. Jonathan Huberdeau is available in 22 percent of ESPN leagues, Peter Mueller is available in 52 percent of leagues and Drew Shore is available in 99 percent of leagues. Those three form the team's top line and are the first three you should look at for adding to your team for next week. They had a big night against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday to bring Huberdeau to seven points in his past seven games. Shore has five points in his past five games. Mueller has been quiet, but had two goals and seven shots on Thursday. Deep leagues should consider that Mike Weaver has quietly accumulated six assists this season, with five of them in the past seven games. Weaver doesn't have a ton of offense to his game, but playing with Campbell makes up for that significantly. Also keep an eye on Kris Versteeg's status through the weekend. His return could be enough to ignite Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss at any time.
Chicago Blackhawks: One player to keep an eye on as the Blackhawks head into a four-game week with an O:8 is Andrew Shaw. Although Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland fill out the top six at even strength, Shaw has been spending time anchoring the unit getting the most power-play ice time and it features Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The results haven't shown yet, but the potential is certainly there. Shaw's time on the power play could be short-lived, though. Daniel Carcillo is expected to make a return from a knee injury in the next few games. Carcillo hasn't even played a full game this season, but has an assist and a plus-3 rating. He skated with Toews and Hossa to open the campaign before hurting his knee in the first game of the season. Don't forget, this is a guy who could very well end up leading the NHL in penalty minutes (even after missing so much time). There is great potential value with Carcillo if he can slot back in on a top line when he returns. Since Shaw (on the power play) and Saad (at even strength) haven't done a whole lot, he should fall right back into place.
Looking for goaltending
Los Angeles Kings: While Jonathan Quick definitely gets bonus points for facing tougher competition, Jonathan Bernier has the better statistics during the past two weeks. Starting three of seven games, Bernier has a 1.00 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. Starting the other four games, Quick has a 2.51 GAA and .906 SV%. The key statistic is Bernier's three wins compared to Quick's one victory. The Kings are languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings and need wins. Bernier gets some street cred for beating the St. Louis Blues during the recent stretch, but he doesn't get any favor for wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets or Calgary Flames. The Kings don't have a goalie controversy on their hands, but Bernier may be leaned on more often for starts against lesser competition. While it may only be one start, Bernier could be the goalie of choice to face the Detroit Red Wings next week. Sometimes one start can make a difference during a week for head-to-head matchups.
Toronto Maple Leafs: We knew James Reimer's absence was an opportunity for someone to rise to the occasion in the Maple Leafs' net. We just didn't think it would be Ben Scrivens (at least to the extent that he has risen). Starting four games in the past week, Scrivens has three wins, a 1.32 GAA and .957 SV%. Reimer is still taking baby steps to a return, so Scrivens is a strong option for next week. His availability in ESPN leagues is shrinking, but remains at 27 percent. Just be aware that the Leafs' schedule is front-loaded for the week, so he may not start all three games.
This chart shows you the top and bottom teams in the NHL in goals and shots, for and against, during the past 21 days.
Anaheim Ducks: Only the Tampa Bay Lightning have scored more goals than the Ducks during the past 21 days. Coach Bruce Boudreau continues to fiddle with his line combinations and the latest depth chart is a very good arrangement for Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano has been displaying some of his speed this season with Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik, but he has shown marked improvement since Winnik was swapped out for Bobby Ryan. Cogliano's breakaway speed was very apparent in one of his two goals against the Red Wings last Friday. He has been blanked for two games, but had four goals in three games before that. Matt Beleskey has also finally started picking up some points. He has been skating with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf for a while now, but has collected four of his five points this season in the past three games. Maybe he is finally finding some chemistry with his star linemates.
Each week the Fantasy Forecaster will also include some advice for the ESPN Hockey Challenge. This is the salary cap game that allows you free rein over your fantasy hockey decisions within a $100 million fantasy budget. For more on the game and to sign up, click here.
The skeds: A lot of four-game weeks should make it easy to fill out a lineup with both quantity and quality this week. The Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators all have a four-game week. Of those teams, the Hurricanes, Hawks, Panthers, Ducks and Sabres have the best offensive rating in the Fantasy Forecaster. The only two-game schedule to avoid is that of the New Jersey Devils. Unless you've been enjoying a discount on Ilya Kovalchuk since the first week of the season, all Devils can be moved from your lineup.
The Carolina Hurricanes have a good week for the second week in a row. If you added Eric Staal ($9.0M), Alexander Semin ($8.0M) or Jiri Tlusty ($7.0M) to your lineup last week, keep rolling with them. The Chicago Blackhawks are also a top source for offensive points for the coming week. Patrick Kane ($8.0M) and Jonathan Toews ($8.8M) are the safest bets considering Marian Hossa ($8.1M) took a pretty rough shot this week and may be banged up.
The duo of Dion Phaneuf ($7.3M) and Cody Franson ($5.8M) has been strong for the Toronto Maple Leafs lately. Franson comes at a very attractive price tag. Ryan Suter ($7.4M) is one of the better overall choices for the coming week, given his total production this season and a four-game schedule. Raphael Diaz ($4.7M) and Andrei Markov ($7.0M) also have four games, but have been slowing down.
Goaltending: This week seems pretty straightforward from a goaltending perspective. Carey Price ($12.2M) is the top-scoring goaltender in the Hockey Challenge and has a four-game schedule. Tuukka Rask ($12.4M) and Viktor Fasth ($10.3M) are tied for third in the Hockey Challenge and also have a four-game schedule. Take your pick from the three, leaning toward Fasth if you need to save some coin.
My roster for next week:
I have been utterly unsuccessful in picking goaltenders almost every single week of this season. I hope I am not cursing Rask and Price for the coming week. I decided to grab one cheap forward (Jonathan Huberdeau) and one cheap defenseman (Cody Franson) in order to afford some top goaltending. Otherwise I am riding with my All-Star lineup.
Tuukka Rask, G ($12.4M)
Carey Price, G ($12.2M)
Kevin Shattenkirk, D ($6.7M / $7.2M on market)
Cody Franson, D ($5.8M)
Alex Pietrangelo, D ($7.1M / $7.4M on market)
Lubomir Visnovsky, D ($6.1M / $6.4M on market)
Sidney Crosby, F ($8.8M / $9.8M on market)
Evgeni Malkin, F ($8.7M / $9.3M on market)
Steven Stamkos, F ($8.7M / $9.5M on market)
Thomas Vanek, F ($7.4M / $8.4M on market)
Patrick Kane, F ($8.0M)
Jonathan Huberdeau, F ($6.5M)