What are your needs at this stage? That's the question you need to ask and answer as you look at your fantasy team with just a couple weeks left in the season. In fact, it's just two weeks until the season was supposed to end, but now we have one more week and a half we will fondly refer to as "Canucks Week" for postponed games. The ESPN.com fantasy game will still capture games through May 13, which doesn't include half of "Canucks Week." With the latest schedule adjustments, this does mean five regular season games will not count in fantasy.
The Canucks are in four of those games, the Calgary Flames in three of them and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets in one each.
The Canucks advantage has been basically erased with the current schedule, as the team now only has 12 games remaining in the fantasy schedule. The Los Angeles Kings actually now lead the way with 13 games remaining. The Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues are tied with the Canucks at 12.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings have only seven games left on the schedule, with the Flames, Leafs, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers only playing eight more times for fantasy.
Back to the question: What do you need? It could be as simple as getting as many fantasy points as possible, but it could also include nuances to how you get those points. Maybe you need a particular position, maybe you play in a category-based league rather than points.
But it all comes back to production and that production needs to be happening now. So, as I usually try to do in the twilight of fantasy seasons, let's focus on who's hot and available.
Jason Robertson is available in 38% of ESPN leagues and is an essential addition in the leagues in which he is available. In the past two weeks, he is fourth in the league in points and 10th in the league in shots on goal thanks to deployment with Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. Just be careful in case Tyler Seguin returns and takes his post, as Seguin has been eyeing a return on Monday.
Available in 68% of ESPN leagues, Matt Grzelcyk is back on the ice and running the power play for the Bruins. He should be a lock for rosters going forward with the improvement to then offense thanks to Taylor Hall.
With Petr Mrazek sidelined for the moment, Alex Nedeljkovic has mass appeal again. He actually has the eighth most fantasy points for goaltenders in the past month despite getting just 46.3% crease share. He's available in 73% of ESPN leagues.
The Florida Panthers have found a combination that works with Jonathan Huberdeau, as Anthony Duclair and Sam Bennett look like a perfect fit. Duclair is available in 60% if leagues, while Bennett is available in 83%. I prefer Bennett, as he is using his physical play with the Panthers, throwing 21 hits in his past five games.
Tied for 13th in scoring during the past two weeks, Josh Norris is available in two-thirds of ESPN leagues. He's rolling on the top line and top power play for the Senators.
The four-goal outburst on Thursday says Jakub Vrana could have some value in those final seven games for the Red Wings. He's available in one-third of leagues.
As expected with the trade deadline dispersal by the Devils, all the offense is flowing through Jack Hughes. He's second to Alex Ovechkin for shots on goal in the past two weeks and available in 58% of leagues.
Also for the Devils, P.K. Subban and Ty Smith are both sidelined, leaving Will Butcher as the go-to option on defense. He's available in 98% of ESPN leagues and a fine choice as long as the other two are out of action.
Could Matt Murray be giving us a preview of what the Sens might look like as a more developed team next season? Two of his four starts since coming back from injury have been shutouts. You could do worse if desperate for extra goaltending - just approach with caution.
It looks like Mikko Rantanen could be out of COVID protocol for next week, but if not you want Andre Burakovsky. Replacing Rantanen on the top line would mean more two-goal games like Thursday.
If games played maximums in your league for defensemen aren't a barrier and you play in a deeper league, look to Tyler Myers and Travis Hamonic for the Canucks. Thanks to a their heavy schedule and their peripheral points, they project to be among the top 50 skaters for fantasy points from here out.
Based on his fantasy points per game FPPG for the season, blended with the last month, Kevin Fiala projects to be among the top 25 skaters going forward. He's available in one-third of ESPN leagues.
Fantasy Forecaster: April 26 to May 2
All teams play between three and four games next week with the exception of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who just play twice. Though it's not like you are loading up on the Jackets for your championship, so you can probably treat the week as if there were no schedule advantages.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense), which is on the left for each game, and "D" (defense), on the right, 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 to 10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
Carolina Hurricanes: Facing shaky defenses for all four games, the Hurricanes should go off next week. As mentioned already in this space, Petr Mrazek is banged up and Alex Nedeljkovic is the choice in net. Even if Mrazek is healthy again, Ned could get two of the four starts and continue his 4.98 fantasy points per 60 (FPP60) from the past month.
On offense, deeper leagues will not show Martin necks as available, but shallower ones should check. He's available in 28% of ESPN leagues and is top 70 among skaters for FPPG in the past month. Linemate Nino Niederreiter is the choice for deeper leagues, as he's available in 50%.
Los Angeles Kings: The time is now to start riding the Kings to the finish line. As mentioned, the team has the most fantasy games left with 13 between now and when the ESPN game finishes on May 13. There are some fantasy options here. Alex Iafallo has had stretches of fantasy relevance this season, but overall sports a 1.5 FPPG - which doesn't make him a roster-lock. But with the games advantage, his 1.5 FPPG on the top line with Anze Kopitar becomes more appealing. Andreas Athanasiou, meantime, has had some big games lately and could be a gamble for the upcoming four-game week all against the Anaheim Ducks.
Minnesota Wild: Speaking of four-game weeks with the same opponent, the Wild get to pick on the Blues four times next week. Kevin Fiala has already featured here today, but Nick Bonino, Zach Parise, Jonas Brodin, Marcus Johansson and Mats Zuccarello are all available in most leagues, and also present as quality pickups for next week. All four lines for the Wild are clicking lately, so if you are looking to focus your attention, look to the power play. Bonino and Zuccarello are getting the most time on the man advantage, while Johansson is the one going the most damage there with limited minutes.