Anaheim DucksArizona CoyotesBoston BruinsBuffalo SabresCalgary FlamesCarolina HurricanesChicago BlackhawksColorado AvalancheColumbus Blue JacketsDallas StarsDetroit Red WingsEdmonton OilersFlorida PanthersLos Angeles KingsMinnesota WildMontréal CanadiensNashville PredatorsNew Jersey DevilsNew York IslandersNew York RangersOttawa SenatorsPhiladelphia FlyersPittsburgh PenguinsSt Louis BluesSan Jose SharksSeattle KrakenTampa Bay LightningToronto Maple LeafsVancouver CanucksVegas Golden KnightsWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets

FANTASY HOCKEY: The Week Ahead – October 16th to 23rd

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: Toronto Maple Leafs Center Auston Matthews (34) (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)

The first week of the season is in the books and it was certainly interesting. While I hesitate to read too much into such a small sample size, the Oilers’ goaltending situation is concerning after being outscored 12-4 over two contests versus Vancouver. Jack Campbell is coming off a rough 2022-23 campaign and Stuart Skinner had just 64 regular season contests worth of NHL experience going into the season, so neither is a safe bet and to see them both struggle out of the gate is worrying.

Then of course there’s Auston Matthews, who opened the season with back-to-back hat tricks. Again, it’s just the start of the campaign, but he is a genuine candidate for 50-in-50, and I don’t say that lightly. During 2021-22, he scored 50 goals in 49 outings from Nov. 26-April 9, and while that technically doesn’t count because it wasn’t from the start of the campaign, it does highlight what Matthews is capable of when he’s healthy and at his best.

On a macro level, one average I’ll be very interested in keeping an eye on is goals per team per game. In recent years, we’ve seen a steady increase in offense, to the point where the average team scored 3.18 goals per game in 2022-23 – the highest level since 1993-94 when Pavel Bure led the league with 60 goals and nine players reached the 50-goal milestone. Will that upward trend continue? Through Saturday’s action, the average team has scored 3.22 goals per game this season, but we’re still way too early in the campaign for that to mean anything.

What further highlights the unreliability of these early numbers is power-play opportunities, which stand at 3.86 per team per game. In other words, the average team has been receiving nearly one extra power play a game compared to last season, which probably speaks more to the referees establishing themselves and sloppy early season play than any actual long-term trend. Still, these macro numbers will be interesting to monitor as the campaign progresses.

Arizona Coyotes

Mon 10/16/2023 ARI NYR
Tue 10/17/2023 ARI NYI
Thu 10/19/2023 ARI STL
Sat 10/21/2023 ANA ARI

The Coyotes begin the week with three road games against the Rangers on Monday, Islanders on Tuesday and Blues on Thursday. They will then host Anaheim on Saturday to wrap up the week. With four games on the schedule, including a contest against a rebuilding team in the Ducks, this is a pretty solid week to take some Coyotes players.

I would avoid taking Arizona’s goaltending because the defense isn’t good enough to support the netminders, but this could be a good week for top prospect Logan Cooley. The 19-year-old forward registered a pair of assists in his NHL debut while logging 19:02 of ice time, including 5:05 with the man advantage. Shining offensively out of the gate is nice, but what matters more for his prospects for the rest of the season was how much the Coyotes were willing to lean on him. They should continue to give Cooley every opportunity to succeed.

Defenseman Sean Durzi, who provided a power-play goal in Arizona’s opener, is another player who appears to be on the rise. He established personal bests in 2022-23 with nine goals and 38 points in 72 contests, including 16 power-play points, as a member of the Kings. He averaged a respectable 2:06 with the man advantage during that campaign, but Arizona is using him on the first power-play unit, which could lead to the 24-year-old reaching new career highs.

For Jason Zucker, this week could be a big test. He had 27 goals and 48 points with Pittsburgh last year and joined the Coyotes on a one-year, $5.3 million contract. It was thought the move to a rebuilding squad might lead to Zucker playing a bigger role, but instead he logged a modest 14:10 of ice time in Arizona’s season opener. Zucker did see time on even strength with Cooley though, so there is still an opportunity here for Zucker to put up solid numbers.

Calgary Flames

Mon 10/16/2023 CGY WSH
Thu 10/19/2023 CGY BUF
Fri 10/20/2023 CGY CBJ
Sun 10/22/2023 CGY DET

The Flames will be on the road this week, but at least they’re among the teams set to play four games with their trip taking them to Washington on Monday, Buffalo on Thursday, Columbus on Friday and Detroit on Sunday. The Capitals, Sabres and Red Wings are middle of the pack squads at best while the Blue Jackets are a rebuilding team, so Calgary also isn’t facing the stiffest of competition.

With the busy schedule, we should see the season debut of Dan Vladar. He wasn’t great last year with a 2.91 GAA and an .892 save percentage in 27 contests, but if he ends up starting versus Columbus – which seems plausible given it’s the second half of the back-to-back – then he’d be worth using. The Blue Jackets ranked 30th with 2.60 goals per game last campaign.

Calgary’s first line of Andrew Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau is red hot with the trio combing for four goals and 11 points over the Flames’ first two contests. It’s encouraging to see that start out of Huberdeau in particular, after he dropped from 115 points in 2021-22 with Florida to just 55 points last year as a member of the Flames.

In terms of depth players who might have a good week, Adam Ruzicka is worthy of consideration. Though he had just 20 points in 44 games in 2022-23 and has averaged a modest 11:47 of ice time over the Flames’ first two contests this year, Ruzicka is getting even strength time with Nazem Kadri and Dillon Dube, which is solid, and he’s being employed on the second power-play unit.

Rookie Matthew Coronato, who scored his first NHL goal Saturday, should also make for a solid selection this week given his usage on the first power-play unit.

Dallas Stars

Tue 10/17/2023 DAL VGK
Thu 10/19/2023 DAL ANA
Sat 10/21/2023 PHI DAL

Dallas will play just three games this week and the first one is on the road Tuesday versus the defending champion Golden Knights. After that, though, Dallas’ schedule gets far easier with a contest in Anaheim on Thursday and a home game versus Philadelphia on Saturday. In other words, the Stars will face two of the worst teams in the league with a day of rest in between.

Roope Hintz unfortunately missed Dallas’ opener because of an upper-body injury, but he was a full participant in Friday’s practice, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the lineup versus Vegas. With him presumably available, Dallas has three great lines with Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski making up the top unit, Jamie Benn, Wyatt Johnston and Evgenii Dadonov serving as the second line, and Mason Marchment, Matt Duchene and Tyler Seguin being the third grouping

That forward group should be extremely effective against Columbus and Philadelphia, which ranked 31st and 23rd in terms of goals allowed per game last season. Most of those Dallas forwards are already fairly highly regarded and thus not cheap, but Marchment and Dadonov are fairly affordable points of entry, and both have strong enough linemates to boost their value.

Detroit Red Wings 

Mon 10/16/2023 DET CBJ
Wed 10/18/2023 PIT DET
Sun 10/22/2023 CGY DET
Sat 10/21/2023 DET OTT

The Red Wings will play four games this week and none of those contests will be against teams that made the playoffs last year. More specifically, they’ll be in Columbus on Monday, host the Penguins on Wednesday, play in Ottawa on Saturday and then conclude the week with a home game versus the Flames.

It’s a great set for Alex DeBrincat, who has hit the ground running with Detroit, scoring three goals and four points in his first two contests. He’ll face his former team, the Senators, on Saturday, so that one should be a fun game.

Another new addition to the team, J.T. Compher, has also shined with a goal and three points over his first two contests with the Red Wings. One of his linemates, Michael Rasmussen, has never recorded more than 30 points in a single campaign. However, Rasmussen is averaging a healthy 16:22 of ice time in 2023-24 and with that top-six role, we might see the 24-year-old do a bit more offensively. If nothing else, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on him this week to see how he responds with both a favorable assignment and favorable competition.

The other X-Factor is Robby Fabbri, who is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. He did skate Monday, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the lineup soon. When he does play, Fabbri will likely serve on the third line and second power-play unit. He’s not a major offensive threat, but on a week like this, there’s a decent chance he’d chip in if healthy.

Minnesota Wild

Tue 10/17/2023 MIN MTL
Thu 10/19/2023 LAK MIN
Sat 10/21/2023 CBJ MIN

The Wild will play on the road against the rebuilding Canadiens on Tuesday before hosting Los Angeles and Columbus on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. It’s only three contests, but they’re well spread out and two of them are against squads not expected to reach the postseason.

Matthew Boldy has a goal and two points in two games, but he exited Saturday’s game versus Toronto with an undisclosed injury and might end up missing some time. If that’s the case, we might see Frederick Gaudreau slide into a top-six role. Gaudreau had 19 goals and 38 points in 82 contests last year. He hasn’t found his way onto the scoresheet yet in 2023-24, but he’s also averaged just 12:44 of ice time. If Gaudreau does move up to the second line, then he’d be worthy of a short-term pickup.

This will also be a week to keep an eye on Marco Rossi. The 22-year-old forward has significant offensive upside, but Minnesota used him sparingly over the first two contests – an average of just 12:26. Still, he did find the back of the net against Toronto and his role could expand as the campaign goes on.

Finally, we should get Marc-Andre Fleury’s first start this week. Although the schedule is spread out enough to allow Minnesota to lean exclusively on Filip Gustavsson, it would be surprising to see Fleury be made to wait much longer, especially after Gustavsson allowed seven goals on 33 shots Saturday. Even at the age of 38, Fleury is a solid goaltender and given the Wild’s upcoming competition, his first start of the campaign should be a favorable one.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Mon 10/16/2023 CHI TOR
Thu 10/19/2023 TOR FLA
Sat 10/21/2023 TOR TBL

The Maple Leafs are a bit of a stretch to include here. Only three games and the final two are road contests against Florida and Tampa Bay on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Still, Toronto will host the lowly Blackhawks on Monday, and the Leafs’ offense is hot enough that I felt I needed to highlight them.

If you’re interested in daily leagues, it’s hard not to grab Auston Matthews on Monday. Sure, he’s expensive, but the Blackhawks are a particularly weak team defensively, and as mentioned at the top, Matthews couldn’t be hotter after scoring back-to-back hat tricks.

Matthews strong play has made some other stunning performances fly a bit under the radar. In particular, William Nylander has an incredible three goals and five points over his first two contests. Nylander can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this campaign, so he has all the motivation in the world to demonstrate his worth this year and make Toronto – or failing that, another team – pay him what he feels he’s due.

If you’re looking for a cheaper entry point to the Maple Leafs’ offense, Calle Jarnkrok is a potential answer. He’s off to a strong start with a goal and an assist, and practiced alongside Nylander on Sunday, so there’s a good chance we’ll see the two together Monday.

Two forwards who haven’t gotten going yet are rookies Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten. The youngsters have seen time together on the third line and that’s likely an arrangement that’s going to continue for now. They’re not great pickups this week, but Knies has enough upside that he’s worth monitoring.

Washington Capitals

Mon 10/16/2023 CGY WSH
Wed 10/18/2023 WSH OTT
Sat 10/21/2023 WSH MTL

The Capitals are set to host Calgary on Monday, then play on the road against Ottawa and Montreal on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. None of those teams made the playoffs last year, though to be fair, the Flames and Senators are both expected to be in the running this time around.

Regardless, this could be a big week for the Capitals, which should be hungry to bounce back after opening the campaign with a 4-0 loss to the rival Penguins. Connor McMichael is a somewhat under the radar player who might have a solid week. The 22-year-old has just nine goals and 18 points in 76 career NHL contests, but he is a former first round pick (25th overall in 2019) and served on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson in the opener. McMichael averaged just 10:20 of ice time at the NHL level going into this campaign, so that partially explains his poor offensive numbers. Now that he’s getting top-six minutes, he’s worthy of consideration.

We could also get a strong week out of Rasmus Sandin. After scoring four goals and 20 points in 52 contests with Toronto last season, he was dealt to Washington on Feb. 28 and excelled with the Capitals, contributing three goals and 15 points in 19 contests over the remainder of the campaign. In part, his jump in production was due to Washington giving him a far bigger role. He went from averaging 17:59 with Toronto before the trade to 22:59 with the Capitals. Now set for his first full campaign with Washington, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sandin exceed the 40-point mark for the first time in his career.