With three weeks of hockey left, it's becoming increasingly difficult to boost your fantasy production. There is no more "wait and see" approach with players, as you can no longer afford some leeway with underperforming players.
There are also limited players available that can be a contributor on your team for the stretch run. But, with a 65 percent available threshold, here is one starting lineup of free agents that you could potentially use.
Mathieu Joseph, W, Ottawa Senators (95 percent): Even when Drake Batherson is healthy, the Sens are dividing up the offense among two lines - one of which features Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Joseph. The results are stirring: four goals and six assists in four games for Joseph. Tkachuk and Norris drive offense, so Joseph should pick up plenty of points as long as he's riding shotgun.
Brendan Gallagher, W, Montreal Canadiens (available in 66 percent of ESPN leagues): Back from injury on a solid, two-way line with Joel Armia and Christian Dvorak, Gallagher is also a part of the Habs power-play unit that featured five forwards in his return. Gallagher still has some bad metrics this season, but his play in these two games back look like vintage Gallagher.
Brendan Gallagher tallies goal vs. Senators
Brendan Gallagher tallies goal vs. Senators
Robert Thomas, C, St. Louis Blues (70 percent): No healthy player with 60 points is available in more than 25 percent of ESPN leagues - that is, with the exception of Thomas. Look past his overall 1.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) this season and see his 2.2 FPPG since Feb. 11. Thomas is locked in on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and a rotating winger - which at the moment is Pavel Buchnevich.
Sean Durzi, D, Los Angeles Kings (84 percent): Now, it was a little more difficult to find some defensemen for this exercise. And I don't love this Durzi call for one reason: The Kings only have nine games left compared to as many as 13 games for others. But with Drew Doughty arguably done for the season, Durzi gets to anchor the power play. On top of that, he is contributing plenty of peripheral stats for fantasy. Durzi is eighth among defensemen in total fantasy points since March 18.
Brayden McNabb, D, Vegas Golden Knights (75 percent): I'm choosing McNabb over Cody Ceci here because I'm just not convinced Ceci can keep up his recent pace. But if you're a risk-taker or need to take one, grab Ceci over McNabb or Durzi. Only Roman Josi has more fantasy points than Ceci from the blue line in the past three weeks. Back to McNabb, who has been back from an injury for four games now. He has a season-long track record of fantasy contribution and has piled up 2.9 FPPG in his four games back. He's reliable and available.
Martin Jones, G, Philadelphia Flyers (98 percent): The Flyers are playing out the string and Jones is only getting a little less than 50 percent of the crease share. That said, he has more often than not posted a solid save percentage in each outing and has a net positive fantasy outcome. (Yes, the bar is a little lower to find goaltending help, as usual). But just for frame of reference, Jones has more fantasy points than Tristan Jarry and Thatcher Demko in the past three weeks, and almost has as many as Frederik Andersen and Jacob Markstrom. And no, I don't want a piece of Logan Thompson now that Robin Lehner is back in the mix. The Flyers have the Ducks, Sabres twice, Canadiens, Blackhawks and Senators among their remaining 11 games, so I like this schedule and Jones the best from the pool of widely available goaltenders.
Fantasy Forecaster: April 11 to April 17
This is the second half of the first playoff week in default head-to-head settings and the third-to-final week of the regular season. The schedule is entirely three or four games for all 32 teams. That minimizes the impact of the four-game weeks and pushes you to start your best players. That said, there are a few better looking schedules.
Nashville Predators: The Preds have the offense running on all cylinders, driven by the engine that is Roman Josi. Next week features games against the Sharks, Oilers, Blackhawks and Blues, none of which are known for their superstar goaltending. Ryan Johansen is available in far too many leagues and is in the ideal spot right now, flanked by Filip Forsberg. Mattias Ekholm is also widely available and on a particular hot streak for fantasy points, pouring in 2.5 FPPG during the past 15 days. And don't forget to start hit machine Tanner Jeannot.
Detroit Red Wings: It's not the best of schedules for the Wings, but it's four games and the forecaster has decent hopes for the matchups with the Senators and Panthers. While Lucas Raymond should be a part of your plans given his role next to Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin, I'll make an argument for Jakub Vrana this week, too. Though he hasn't managed to elbow his way to the top line, Vrana is still getting things done fantasy-wise on the second unit. He has posted 2.0 FPPG during his past eight games and remains widely available.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets need to earn some wins in their four games this week. Though that may be a tall order for their two games in Florida, we have to expect good things against the Canadiens and Kraken. The Paul Stastny, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers line has been perfectly dominant on offense in 110 minutes together. They boast seven goals at five-on-five while only allowing three against. Stastny is available in 94 percent of ESPN leagues and might be the best choice here of available assets. Also keep an eye on how Blake Wheeler's injury fares into next week.
Max Domi, W, Carolina Hurricanes: It's worth noting that Domi spent the game with Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen on Thursday. The game came after a loss to the Sabres and this was a win against the Sabres. Domi's line outshot opponents 8-4 at five-on-five. Maybe he can make something of this chance.
Bowen Byram, D, Colorado Avalanche: While he's back in the lineup for the first time since early January, the dynamics of the blue line have changed a lot. Josh Manson's presence means Byram will be hard pressed to do better than the 15 minutes he skated in his return. That probably means he doesn't get enough counting stats for fantasy relevance.
Marian Studenic, W, Dallas Stars: Denis Gurianov likely gets his top-six role back when he's over his current illness. But keep an eye on Studenic in deeper leagues. He's looked solid when given an opportunity to play with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and his scoring at lower levels suggests he has some skill.