Defenseman Jamie Drysdale could conceivably compete in 92 contests this season if traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the New York Islanders in the next few hours. While there's essentially zero chance of this deal happening, it goes to illustrate the wide gap in the number of games played by different NHL teams to date. The Ducks and Nashville Predators have competed in 42 contests thus far. Another 10 clubs have played in 41 or 40. On the opposite end of the active spectrum, the Ottawa Senators have hit the competitive ice only 33 times. The Islanders trail everyone with only 32 games to their credit. That adds up to a significant number of postponements in which to roll out your favorite fantasy assets.
Now that the league has hammered out a calendar of COVID-related makeups, the schedule is about to get wacky, beginning in February.
Especially in February.
While Victor Hedman is one of the league's most prominent fantasy performers full-stop, the Tampa Bay Lightning play only six times next month. Ottawa's Thomas Chabot is slated to participate in twice as many February games, providing his managers with many more opportunities to rack up points. In that view, here's a round-up of teams and players that stand to be a lot busier than others in the second half of 2021-22.
The Islanders weren't going to average fewer than two goals/game all season long. Even under Barry Trotz's defense-first' tutelage, there's enough scoring talent on the roster to put pucks in the net at a somewhat healthier pace. They already are, leaping from 1.83 GF/GP to 2.93 since Dec. 4. That new rate ranking a wholly respectable 16th in the league.
Unsurprisingly, Mathew Barzal leads the renewed scoring charge with 1.27 points/game in that span, most of them counting as assists. Rostered in 91% of ESPN.com leagues, Barzal isn't likely to be freely available, but regular linemate Josh Bailey (11%) should be. Often skating on the top unit - if not with Brock Nelson (68%) on the second - Bailey has four helpers and two goals in his most recent six games. Top-line contributor Anders Lee (40%) banged out a point per game - most of them goals - from early December onward before skidding into a recent four-game cold streak. Serving as another widely available option, and as discussed in this week's Waiver Watch, young Kieffer Bellows (0.5%) is also worth a gander in deeper scoring leagues.
On the blue line, Noah Dobson has been a fantasy favorite of mine since season's launch. Averaging 2.1 points/game, the 22-year-old's lack of popularity (34.8%) continues to boggle. Plus all those extra games! Now listed as day-to-day, fellow defenseman Ryan Pulock (57.4%) is also certainly worth grabbing in most ESPN.com leagues (but not before Dobson). Of nine contests to make up, the Isles have six slated in February - in addition to another five already scheduled - plus two in March and another in April.
How about that Senators top line? Between them, Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, and Josh Norris are averaging 2.4 fantasy points/game in ESPN.com's standard competition. Of the three - all largely rostered already - Norris might be most acquirable via trade, depending on what's offered in return. Still only 22 years old and in his third full-ish season, the former Wolverine is on pace for a 40-plus goal campaign.
For the moment, Tim Stutzle (47%) remains much more accessible. Currently centering the Sens' second scoring unit, the Sophomore has five goals and five assists in his past 11 games. He won't be available in more than half of ESPN.com leagues for long. Stutzle's linemate Alex Formenton (0.5%) also has value in the deepest of scoring leagues.
The aforementioned Chabot isn't the only Ottawa defenseman who currently packs a solid fantasy punch. In leagues that reward blocked shots and hits, Artem Zub sports serious value, averaging 1.7 fantasy points/game. Leading the Senators' blue line in both, Zub also has three goals and seven assists to show for 33 contests. That he hasn't missed a game to date also speaks to his reliability.
Of their 12 postponed tilts, eight are re-scheduled for February, one for March and three in April.
Having played only 35 games, the Minnesota Wild also appeal to players with a busy February schedule and glut of under-appreciated fantasy opportunities. Available in more than 40% of ESPN.com leagues, Mats Zuccarello shines in averaging 2.2 fantasy points/game on a top line with Kirill Kaprizov. Third banana on that potent unit, Ryan Hartman (72%) is enjoying a career year with 16 goals and 14 assists.
The NHL's 13th ranked forward in hits, Marcus Foligno offers managers healthy fantasy helpings of both scoring a physical play. And of course, league newbie Matt Boldy (3.8%) is quickly enamoring himself to fans and fantasy managers alike. The Boston College alumnus has two goals and two assists through his first four NHL games.
Out since mid-December with a lower-body injury, defenseman Jared Spurgeon (56%) is expected back this weekend. The veteran defender makes for a solid fantasy addition in all but the shallowest of leagues. Backup netminder Kaapo Kahkonen (12%) serves as a solid streaming option when filling in for No. 1 Cam Talbot. The Wild are in for a busy February, as every one of their seven postponed contests are rescheduled for next month.