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Fantasy hockey forecaster: March 7 to March 13

Josh Norris of the Ottawa Senators has returned to action, but should you wait to pick him up? Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Some potentially impactful forwards for fantasy depth are back in action the next week or have a return on the horizon, but there are reasons to approach each of them with a different mindset.

Anthony Mantha, W, Washington Capitals: I think the situation is just right for Mantha to have a nice fantasy run for the rest of this season. The Caps need the boost and he showed enough in his limited time with the Capitals last season that there is some reason to believe. In his 14 games after the trade deadline, Mantha posted a respectable 5.56 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) despite being the new guy on a team with plenty of offensive assets. He played those games on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, which is exactly who the was lined up with in his return on Thursday. It was also the first time this season all three of them were healthy at the same time. Available in 90 percent of leagues, he's probably worth stashing if you have large rosters or more than 12 teams.

Nikolaj Ehlers, W, Winnipeg Jets: Out snce Jan. 18, Ehlers could be in the lineup Friday. The Jets have had some chemistry building on their top two lines, but Ehlers is too good to keep off of them for too long. So even if he returns in a bottom-six role, it won't be long before he bumps out either Evgeny Svechnikov or Paul Stastny to get on one of the top lines. But I don't know that a return to the 2.1 fantasy points per game (FPPG) or 7.31 FPP60 that Ehlers posted last season is in the cards. Ehlers gives the Jets five forwards that are deserving of a role on the top power play, so the odds are that the team will split them up into two decent units, rather than one overpowering one. The power-play production was what pushed Ehlers to the next level last season, so any reduction to that could hurt his chances. Still, anyone that posted 46 points in 47 games last season is worth having on your team. The injury layoff saw him dropped in 20 percent of leagues.

Josh Norris, C, Ottawa Senators: It's a good start, but I think we still want Drake Batherson back before we get to excited about anyone not named Brady Tkachuk in this offense. It was the trio together that was having a significant fantasy impact this season, not Norris on an individual level. Norris' Corsi For percentage with Tkachuk is 56.9 and with Batherson is 52.7; without them it's 45.0 and 45.1, respectively. There will still be at least a month of hockey to play after Batherson is supposed to return, so I think we can wait on Norris for now.

Jakub Vrana, W, Detroit Red Wings: Having not played yet this season, the only numbers we have for Vrana with the Red Wings are the 11 games he played last season after the trade deadline. But those games were fantastic: eight goals, 7.89 FPP60 and 2.3 FPPG. It does feel like the Wings have been preparing for his return for some time, having long ago moved Tyler Bertuzzi off the top line and leaving a placeholder there in the form of Vladislav Namestnikov. I do expect we'll see Vrana lining up with Dylan Larkin and rookie Lucas Raymond when he's back. With a strong potential assignment awaiting his return, I think you can justify grabbing him now. Vrana is available in 80 percent of leagues.


Fantasy Forecaster: March 7 to March 13

A lot of four-game weeks on the schedule, pushing next week to the busier side of the equation. It does make the Flames five-game schedule next week a little less valuable than it would be otherwise, but a five-gamer is never something to sleep on in head-to-head formats.

The Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks can get a rest from your lineup to find more four- or five-game options. As the only teams playing twice, you can probably find some lesser fantasy options with four games that will net you more points than most players on these clubs (Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns might be the exceptions).

Team notes

Calgary Flames: As mentioned already, the Flames have the elusive five-game week for head-to-head formats and should be stacked in lineups accordingly. Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin and Blake Coleman should be roster locks, rather than options. It's not an easy schedule though, so as much as Jacob Markstrom has the third-most fantasy points in the NHL this season, I don't know that I'm locking him in for facing three of the Oilers, Capitals, Lightning, Red Wings and Avalanche in five days. It has the potential to be ugly for the defense. But stack away offensively. Even Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan could be options in deeper formats.

Boston Bruins: Are you a part of the fantasy community currently engaged in the criminal act of not starting Jeremy Swayman on your team? There's 59% of leagues where this act is taking place. Don't let your league be one of them. He has 57.6 fantasy points in the past three weeks - and no one else is even close to that. The Kings, Blackhawks and Coyotes should only help him expand the chasm. And don't forget that the trade deadline is still a few weeks away, so Jake DeBrusk remains a viable start until at least then, as he's playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

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Jeremy Swayman makes incredible diving save to rob Mika Zibanejad

Jeremy Swayman makes incredible diving save to rob Mika Zibanejad

Toronto Maple Leafs: Assuming they can shrug off the disaster against the Sabres from this week, the Leafs are in for a solid run next week. Four games include the Blue Jackets, Kraken and Coyotes, capped off by the outdoor game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont., against the Sabres. Unfortunately, there aren't many wedges to squeeze yourself into the offense if you don't already have the key players here in your lineup. Perhaps Alexander Kerfoot is available in your league, but that is probably the only point of entry to the offense. In the crease, however, you can make an argument for starting Petr Mrazek. With Jack Campbell struggling, Mrazek has been steady enough to perhaps get two of next week's four starts.

Player notes

Alexis Lafreniere, W, New York Rangers: Quietly at first, but louder of late, Lafreniere has been playing on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider regularly since Jan. 24. On the whole, six points in 12 games isn't enough to take notice, but three goals and an assist in the past four contests certainly warrants consideration.