A new season brings us new duos -- or new dynamics to established duos -- that are worthy of a closer look despite the minimal sample size available.
As any season fantasy player knows, players rarely put up fantasy stats in a vacuum. Linemates or special teams units are a major part in how a player will perform.
Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee, F, Philadelphia Flyers: Along with center Derick Brassard, this is the top-producing line of the early season. As a trio they've accounted for six goals, with Farabee and Atkinson potting another together without Brassard. While Farabee was an expected commodity coming into the season, Atkinson is available in 25 percent of leagues still -- despite a run on him on waivers. But I'm not rushing out to add Atkinson or Brassard yet. Per NaturalStatTrick.com, they've generated 15 shots on goal together, while allowing 20 against. That also means a shooting percentage currently hovering at 40 percent, which is going to be troubling to maintain.
Jordan Kyrou and Brayden Schenn, F, St. Louis Blues: This partnership isn't new, but it has a new dynamic now that Jaden Schwartz is gone. Schenn lined up with Kyrou and Schwartz last season, but it seemed more like Kyrou was just the third wheel. This year, the pair has traded off some different linemates with Pavel Buchnevich in the role before he was suspended and rookie Jake Neighbours stepping in after. But it's actually a different winger that has my interest piqued here: Vladimir Tarasenko has joined the duo for a lowly 3:13 of total playing time -- yet they have two goals in that time. I lamented Tarasenko's early season role on Tuesday in the fantasy rankings, but this success in limited action has to have the Blues at least thinking about giving Tarasenko a bigger role than the third line.
Logan Couture and Timo Meier, F, San Jose Sharks: Fact is, this duo didn't play much together last season. Meier has usually been paired with Tomas Hertl in recent campaigns. Last season, Couture and Meier spent fewer than 100 minutes together at five-on-five. They are already at 33 minutes as a duo this season, generating 22 shots and three goals -- all three of them with rookie winger Jonathan Dahlen on the ice. Since Couture and Meier are spoken for in most leagues, it's Dahlen I'm adding to rosters. The 23-year-old's offense blossomed in the second-tier Swedish league last season and this is a great spot in the lineup.
Fantasy Forecaster: Oct. 25 to Oct. 31
You should be spoiled for choice next week with seven teams playing four games, including the deep offenses of the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. The New York Islanders are the lone team playing only once.
Carolina Hurricanes: All six member of the Hurricanes top lines are worthy of rosters across the fantasy realm, and that means Jesperi Kotkaniemi is likely your last chance at access off the free-agent pile. Rostered in just 10 percent of ESPN leagues, Kotkaniemi doesn't get to join the top power-play unit, but that's OK, as he's skating at even strength with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The Canes play four games, with all of them at home. Given the ripe schedule, Tony DeAngelo should be added and started in leagues where he is available, which is still 57 percent of them.
In daily transaction leagues, you can even toy with the idea of stashing backup goaltender Antti Raanta for a spot start. The second of the Hurricanes back-to-back set is against the winless Chicago Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay Lightning: While it's fun to see the Buffalo Sabres start the way they have, it doesn't mean we should change our expectations of them yet. The Pittsburgh Penguins look decimated heading into next week, with Jeff Carter and Tristan Jarry in the COVID-19 protocol and no signs of imminent reinforcements from Sidney Crosby. The Arizona Coyotes are what they are. Who plays all three of these teams next week? The defending Stanley Cup champs do. If you were on the fence about adding Corey Perry in the wake of Nikita Kucherov hitting the long-term IR, this schedule should push you to action. I'd take things one further and suggest Alex Killorn is a viable start next week, too.
Los Angeles Kings: A four-game week -- including matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres -- is a good chance for Anze Kopitar to keep up his torrid pace. You can still get direct access to him via free agents with a pickup of Viktor Arvidsson, who is available in 83 percent of ESPN leagues, and/or Dustin Brown, who is available in 70 percent. Both have averaged better than 2.0 fantasy points per game in the early going.
Montreal Canadiens: If the Habs are going to break out of their doldrums, this isn't a horrible week for it. The team is on a four-game western road trip, with stops against the Seattle Kraken, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. I'm not daring to start Jake Allen, but seeing Nick Suzuki and Mike Hoffman on a line together and the top power-play unit might be enough to take a risk on the team finding its form.
Evan Bouchard, D, Edmonton Oilers: Blocking shots, taking shots and picking up points, Bouchard is off to a great fantasy start with his increase in minutes. After playing just 14:50 last season, Bouchard is averaging 19:17 this season. He has 2.6 fantasy points per game, but an even mor impressive 8.10 fantasy points per 60 minutes -- which is just a shade back of teammate Leon Draisaitl's rate.
J.T. Compher, F, Colorado Avalanche: I had Andre Burakovsky as a sleeper for this season for one reason and one reason only: Presumed access to the Avs to power-play unit. But, despite Burakovsky playing the part for much of last season, it's Compher that is joining Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar on the ice for the advantage. He's also one of the team's top penalty killers. The result here is tons of ice time, much of which has access to superstar teammates. Compher looks like a must-add in any league.
Adin Hill, G, San Jose Sharks: A great showing by not just Hill, but also backup James Reimer in all three of the team's games so far. Part of that success can be attributed to the Sharks defensive play. They are best in the league in shots against per game, limiting opponents to just 25.0. But, perhaps more encouraging, Hill and Reimer are ranked 54th and 55th out of 57 goaltenders for the number of high-danger shots they've faced per minute (per NaturalStatTrick). If the Sharks are going to protect their net like this, Hill is going to thrive.
If I need some roster room for next week, especially for goaltending stats, Marc-Andre Fleury can hit the free-agent pile. Given the early returns, it would be a bad decision to start him against the any of the offenses of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes or St. Louis Blues -- let alone all three. If Fleury turns things around at some point, which is far from a guarantee, he'll still be on the waiver wire for you to have another chance at him.
Jack Hughes' absence from the New Jersey Devils roster means we can probably skip them all together next week. Make sure you keep Hughes stashed for a return. In his 26 minutes of total ice time, he's managed to be among the top 10 skaters in fantasy points per 60 minutes, just edging out Alex Ovechkin.
Averaging 2.0 fantasy points per game is relevant, but not considered elite in the ESPN.com default scoring system. But averaging close to 7.00 fantasy points per 60 minutes is absolutely elite-level production - it's just a matter of a player edging up their ice time. Adam Henrique and Conor Garland stand out for this combination of stats in the early going. Both have played five games and both have averaged a decent 2.0 FPPG. But Henrique has averaged 7.52 FPP60 while playing only 15:45 per game. Garland has a little less room for growth in minutes, but has posted 6.97 FPP60 in 17:21 per game.
Yanni Gourde made his Seattle Kraken debut and, as expected, skated on the top line, bumping Jared McCann. But the offensive output from the team has been less than thrilling for fantasy purposes, so I don't know that you should rush out and check on Gourde's availability.