We are on the cusp of the final scoring period for ESPN.com fantasy hockey leagues. In leagues with weekly roster moves, the final lock will happen on Monday.
But, while the roster will lock on May 3, the week actually extends to Thursday of the following week, May 13. The season was originally supposed to end next week, but has been extended by more than a week to accommodate the many games postponed due to COVID protocols.
ESPN.com extended the fantasy game to May 13 – but no further. So it is important to remember that there are five games that, for all intents and purposes, do not exist for the ESPN fantasy universe. The season will close on your fantasy league without counting those five North Division games, four of which feature the Vancouver Canucks.
But weekly roster moves or daily roster moves, it’s best to look at the big picture for this final stretch.
Schedules range from a lowly two games to a maximum of seven games remaining.
With only two or three games left, weekly-lock leagues can go ahead and drop any Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and maybe even Florida Panthers from their lineup. Yes, in a weekly format you might be better served from a third-line forward from the Avalanche playing seven times over Aleksander Barkov playing three times. Think about your league’s format, remember to check potential games-played limits at positions, and go ahead and make big moves. There’s no shame in parking Barkov on the bench (he’s undroppable) for the final scoring period if you can get more counting stats out of a lesser asset.
One thing we don’t need to worry about as much – thanks to the revamped playoff format for this season will – is the top teams resting on their laurels once they clinch their position for the playoffs. Because the last two rounds of the playoffs will have home advantage decided by regular season standings, we can expect very few “NFL Week 17” style games toward the end of the season, with teams resting the top players ahead of the postseason. We’ve had a few of the NBA’s “maintenance days” start to creep in to the league this week and last (Nick Foligno, Patric Hornqvist for games, Patrick Kane at a practice), but it’s likely teams will decide that every point counts and not have too many of them.
Fantasy Forecaster: May 3 to May 13
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense), which is on the left for each game, and “D” (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs not only have the maximum seven games on the schedule, but show red advantageous ratings almost across the board on the Forecaster. The only tricky game of the seven is a single matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Avs should get Philipp Grubauer, Mikko Rantanen and Joonas Donskoi back from COVID protocol on Friday, which would put them back in top gear again. Donskoi is of particular interest as he is available in fantasy and was holding down the fourth-forward role on the power play before his time off. It’s not a lock though, as Andre Burakovsky has done well in his stead and could stay there.
St. Louis Blues: While not as delicious as the Avs schedule thanks to two games against the Knights and two against the Minnesota Wild, the Blues do have seven games as well. The power play has been particularly hot lately, going 11 for 25 over the past nine games to lead the NHL in conversion during that period. It may be too late even in shallow leagues to get Mike Hoffman and Torey Krug back on rosters, as they fell off many fantasy teams through a slow start, but both are driving the success on the power play. Be careful with Vladimir Tarasenko, who is out with a lower-body injury. Robert Thomas gets more ice time in Tarasenko’s place and is dangerous when he gets an opportunity.
Boston Bruins: With the power play going zero for 12 on the road and three for 18 at home during the past three weeks, it’s a little bit of a surprise that the Bruins aren’t trying Taylor Hall on the top unit more. While Hall isn’t an option to add to your team, Matt Grzelcyk is available in two-thirds of leagues. He doesn’t have value when the power play isn’t converting, but is a great addition when it is. Watch the Bruins power play closely this weekend ahead of setting lineups Monday.
Cole Caufield, W, Montreal Canadiens: The explosive Caufield is getting every opportunity to find his goal-scoring touch at the NHL level. The 20-year-old, fresh off his NCAA career, is getting ice time with Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli at even strength and plenty of power-play opportunity to boot. The Habs have six games left and deeper leagues will want to take a look at him as an option for the final scoring period.
Quinton Byfield, C, Los Angeles Kings: Another important prospect making his debut late in the season, Byfield held down the Kings second line and was given time on the man advantage with Anze Kopitar for his NHL debut. Potting 20 points in 30 AHL games, the 18-year-old has seven games to make an impact on the roster. The second-overall pick from this year’s draft, unfortunately, has to face the Avalanche in four of those seven games, so don’t expect too much from a fantasy perspective.
Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers: Let’s continue the theme of top prospects making a late-season push. With Chris Driedger injured and Sergei Bobrosvky still struggling to show consistency, we could see more of Knight. It’s a complicated overall picture with Bobrovsky’s massive contract, Driedger being the team’s best goaltender this season and Knight showing he’s NHL ready as the team’s top prospect. That said, the Panthers are looking to win games now and into the playoffs. If Knight continues to shine in every opportunity, we could see more of him. For fantasy, unfortunately, it’s too little, too late. The Panthers only have three games left on the Forecaster, so even if he got full-time duty it wouldn’t be enough to move the needle in fantasy.
Grigori Denisenko, W, Florida Panthers: A future top-six winger, the 20-year-old Denisenko is finding himself in that role now thanks to injuries to Patric Hornqvist and Carter Verhaeghe (in combination with Nikita Gusev not making an impact). He picked up his first NHL assist skating with Aleksander Barkov on Thursday. If you do have daily transactions in your league, he could be worth slipping onto your roster for those nights the Panthers do play in the final scoring period.
Alex Barre-Boulet, C, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts have an ongoing knack for finding unheralded AHL studs, and Barre-Boulet might be another. With the injury to Steven Stamkos dragging on and on, Barre-Boulet is now a top-line presence for the Lightning with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point -while also joining them on the power play. While the showing at the NHL level isn’t quite fantasy-friendly yet, there is potential here. He has 136 points in 144 AHL games over the past three seasons, with the majority of those points coming as goals. The Lightning have four games left, so there is potential to give him a look in some leagues.
Mason Appleton, C/W, Winnipeg Jets: Andrew Copp, as expected, is getting time on a scoring line consistently now that Nikolaj Ehlers is injured. But with Copp also came Mason Appleton from the bottom six. The two have been skating with Mark Scheifele, with Appleton also playing on the top power play and topping 20 minutes in each of the past two games. We haven’t seen the Appleton that potted 66 points as an AHL rookie in 2017-18 emerge in the NHL yet, but here’s a late-season chance for him. The Jets have five games remaining in the final scoring period.
Marcus Foligno, W, Minnesota Wild: One of the sneakier possible additions for the final scoring period, Foligno has been just as good for fantasy since he got back from an injury as he was before it. He’s maintained his 1.7 fantasy points per game while skating on a solid line with Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek. The Wild have six games left and four of them are bright red for offense on the Forecaster. In deeper leagues, Foligno could be a quality addition for the final scoring period.