Admittedly, five to seven games is still too small of a sample size to get too excited about an emerging fantasy asset. But what about 60 to 100 minutes? If we switch what we are evaluating from a per-game basis to per minutes, can we have more confidence in players that are succeeding for our fantasy teams?
Maybe a little. At the very least, we can get a few more takeaways in looking at how players are producing.
With at least 50 minutes of ice time so far this season, the leader in fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is ... drum roll ... Connor McDavid. So, no surprises at the top as McDavid is generating 13.57 FPP60 so far this season. For reference, he finished last season as the league leader with 9.41 FPP60, so his current pace is a bit on the spicy side.
Andrei Svechnikov (thanks in part to three empty-net goals), Vladimir Tarasenko (thanks in part to some reduced ice time) and Alex Ovechkin (because he's Ovie) are the next three leaders in FPP60 this season, with 13.19, 12.69 and 12.04, respectively.
From here, we start to get some unexpected names worth taking a closer look.
Andrew Mangiapane, W, Calgary Flames: With 11.30 FPP60 and 14:43 in average ice time, Mangiapane has been explosive to start the season. All seven of his points are goals, with five of them coming at five-on-five. Dillon Dube has assisted on four of the seven goals, while Brett Ritchie is the other member of this third line. Mangiapane and Dube are also a part of the Flames secondary power-play unit. While the access to the power play should help a little, I would argue it's already too late to capitalize on Mangiapane's early season. He plays most of his minutes a bottom-six forward and a 35 percent shooting rate won't hold water long.
Cam Atkinson, W, Philadelphia Flyers: As we went over in last week's forecaster, Atkinson is part of one of the best lines in the NHL so far this season with Joel Farabee and Derick Brassard. Atkinson has 10.81 FPP60 thanks to the trio scoring nine goals in just shy of 70 minutes total ice time. But, as pointed out last week, they are generating fewer chances than the other lines at the top of the list. The other four lines in the league with nine goals have tallied 47 or more shots, while this Flyers trio has just 35 -- meaning, one again, we have a difficult shooting percentage to maintain. Don't get me wrong: it's still worth adding any member of this line to your fantasy team. I just expect them to settle into being very good, not elite.
Zack Kassian, W, Edmonton Oilers: On the lower end of ice time among this group, Kassian has only skated 66 minutes so far, but he's managed 10.45 FPP60 thanks to some opportunistic points and a consistent body-check count. Kassian has dropped 26 hits, while collecting five points -- three of them with his regular linemates, Derek Ryan and Warren Foegele. While his 2.3 fantasy points per game despite minimal ice time might look attractive, the floor will collapse once he stops producing at a point-per-game pace. Hie overall ice time isn't enough to maintain fantasy relevance through hits alone.
Brandon Tanev, W, Seattle Kraken: But if you take Kassian's profile, give it a few more minutes per game and access to scoring lines on occasion, and you do have a recipe for fantasy success. Tanev has six goals in eight games with a mixed bag on their source; three at even strength with no player assisting him more than once, one on the power play and two into an empty net. But he has also dished out 29 hits to help fuel a FPP60 of 9.93 in 116 minutes of ice time. Unlike Kassian, Tanev does get enough ice time both in quantity and quality to potentially maintain some fantasy value once the floor gives out on his early-season scoring.
Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 1 to Nov. 7
The Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights hold four-game weeks in hand, so it's not exactly a who's who of fantasy stars with extra games. Still there is some value to be found among them if you are looking to scoop up some extra counting stats.
The Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins only play twice. For the most part, you'll want to keep the top players active from those teams though, as it's not a great week for trying to capitalize on games played -- given the dearth and quality of the four-game teams. .
Buffalo Sabres: Dare we hope for continued success? The Sabres are set up for it next week with the San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken and Detroit Red Wings on the docket. Rasmus Aplund's two-goal performance on Thursday only highlights the fact that he's been rocking on the team's top line this season. Skating with Victor Olofsson and Tage Thompson, the trio has five goals together and are dominating play. In fact, Asplund has been on the ice for nine goals this season with only four against. And if there was ever a time to use Craig Anderson, it would be now -- we have enough games to not call it a fluke start, but not enough to expect the inevitable regression is imminent.
Winnipeg Jets: Pierre-Luc Dubois has done an excellent job of holding down the fort in Mark Scheifele's absence, but the Jets should be back to full strength next week. Scheifele and Blake Wheeler should return from COVID absences, which means the Jets will have to figure out their attack. Dubois has been a bit of a revelation in the meantime, showing that Kyle Connor can be elite with a different center. With this group back together again, it's worth making sure all six of the top forwards are spoken for in your fantasy league, which likely means checking on the availability of Dubois and Andrew Copp. A long shot to keep an eye on would be Andrei's brother, Evgeny Svechnikov, sticking on a scoring line. He's been the third linemate to Dubois and Connor of late, but there likely isn't room with Wheeler and Scheifele back.
Florida Panthers: Schedule-wise, it's helpful for fantasy that the Panthers only have two games this week -- and both of them on the tougher side against the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. It means you can pump the brakes on using some of the peripheral players to see how new coach Andrew Brunette runs the offense in the wake of Joel Quenneville's resignation. Given how successful the team has been, we should expect very little change in the depth chart. But you never know.
Alexander Edler, D, Los Angeles Kings: It's been a couple seasons since Edler was asked to be a power-play quarterback, but he has two months in the role now with Drew Doughty sidelined. Edler produces when he gets big minutes, combining hits and blocked shots with scoring. He's worth an add in any league size to see if he still has the chops to revisit the stat profiles he used to post with the Vancouver Canucks as their No. 1 defenseman.
Artem Zub, D, Ottawa Senators: If we strip away all the other fantasy factors and just look at hits and blocked shots, it's what I like to refer to as the grinder fuel. These are the fantasy points that get awarded for hard-nosed play that can help build the baseline for a defenseman that isn't a power-play quarterback to earn his spot on fantasy teams. Connor Murphy with the Blackhawks and Adam Larsson with the Oilers were prime examples last season (though neither is doing as well as they did last year so far). This season, Brayden McNabb is back on the leaderboard here, earning 5.39 fantasy points per 60 minutes from hits and blocks alone. A little further down for rates is Zub, earning 4.65 FPP60 from just hits and blocks. But Zub, while matching McNabb's three assists, also plays way more ice time. Zub has averaged 23:37 so far and, with his baseline in grinder fuel, sits 14th among all defensemen with 14.8 total fantasy points. He's going to be one of the unsung fantasy heroes on the blue line this season.
With a full practice in, Sidney Crosby's return should be imminent. With some varying success from the forward group in his absence, keep a close watch on which players get to line up with Crosby when he's back.
A healthy Jason Robertson is back on the Dallas Stars line that was dominant last season. A speculative pickup may be in order to see if Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz can get their engines going now that Robertson is back on the wing.
Related to the discussion of Zub and grinder fuel above, check out some of these defensemen to fill out the back-end of your depth chart. Gustav Lindstrom has 17 blocked shots for the Red Wings, earning 6.94 FPP60 and sitting among the top-50 defensemen for fantasy points despite minimal minutes. Robert Hagg is earning 4.72 FPP60 from just hits and blocked shots alone, for an average of 2.0 fantasy points per game and a fantasy total that has him tied with Cale Makar at 20th among defensemen.