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Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Andrei Vasilevskiy is on pace for minus-168 fantasy points, while Anton Forsberg is on pace for 745. Ah yes, it’s the early season of a fantasy hockey year in which every little statistic has more power to attempt to influence you than it has any right to.

Vasilevskiy will be fine and Forsberg isn’t going to be a world beater. Just like Carter Hutton won’t be letting in eight goals per game for the Arizona Coyotes … Actually, wait, that one is possible. But, for the most part, there is no reason to worry about any of your predictions or rostered players just yet. Heck, we haven’t even seen seven NHL teams on the ice as of this writing and won’t see four of them until Saturday.

The New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild debut Friday, with the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks playing for the first time on Saturday.

There are still some key things to watch for from the teams yet to hit the ice:

  • Does Taylor Hall get to play on the top power-play unit to make it an absolute force, or do the Bruins opt to use him to power up the second unit? If they choose the latter, there will be a player on the top unit worth monitoring (Nick Foligno?).

  • Does Rasmus Andersson get to be the exclusive power-play quarterback for the Flames top unit again, or does the team also give Noah Hanifin a shot?

  • Will Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes power the best offensive line for the Devils? Can either do enough for fantasy?

  • Does Derick Brassard deserve some fantasy attention on the Flyers second line with Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson?

  • How do the Flyers divvy up power-play quarterback duties with Ivan Provorov, Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle all options?

  • Can Jonathan Dahlen and/or William Eklund break through on the Sharks offense with so many opportunities up for grabs?

  • Who is going to be the most productive for fantasy on a Blues team that is spreading offense three lines deep?

While we won’t be able to definitively answer those questions from a one- or two-game sample over the next couple days, we can start to get a better read on deployment. It’s key to remember that anything before the regular seasons kicks off was just speculation on how the players would line up. This is where the rubber hits the road for fantasy assessment.

Again, just don’t overreact to the small samples.

Fantasy Forecaster: Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

We have four-game weeks on tap from the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues.

Playing three games with all three at home are the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Vegas Golden Knights.

With only two games on tap, you can lean away from the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. Still start your studs here, but don’t go too deep on the roster.

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.

Team notes

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Anaheim Ducks: While that was a very nice NHL debut for Mason McTavish, expectations should be tempered until he moves up the depth chart a little. He’s on the third line and second power-play unit for the time being. Trevor Zegras has been placed in a better spot to succeed here, skating with Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique while also playing on the first power-play unit. That said, if Zegras doesn’t take off, McTavish could get bumped up. The Ducks play four road games next week in Western Canada and Minnesota, so the quantity on offer make Zegras, Rakell and Henrique appealing short-term pickups for shallow leagues — where they should all be available.

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Detroit Red Wings: Just because it’s the first season you didn’t make sure Tyler Bertuzzi was on all your fantasy teams since 2018-19 and he opened the season with a four-goal night doesn’t mean you should be depressed (I keep telling myself). But Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin are rostered in a majority of leagues, so unfortunately, the ship has sailed on adding them to your squad for nothing. But you can still get a piece of them by adding Lucas Raymond to your roster. The exciting rookie was the third member of the top line on Thursday and should get to stay there for several months now that Jakub Vrana is out. That’s plenty of time for Raymond to become a fantasy regular. The Red Wings are playing four times next week, with two of those contests at home. Now is the time to add Raymond, as well as Nick Leddy and/or Moritz Seider on defense (choice is between whether you like to gamble on veteran presence or rookie upside for that one).

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

New York Islanders: Ryan Pulock is still going to be a fantasy asset thanks to hits and blocked shots in ESPN leagues, but it was Noah Dobson on the blue line for the Isles power play on Thursday. While the Islanders man advantage likely won’t be at the top of the league for conversion rate, there should be enough opportunities here to help elevate Dobson’s stats profile into fantasy relevance. While the Islanders are on the road for all four games next week, they get to pick on the Arizona Coyotes for one of them. It may be too late to get Dobson at this time next week if things unfold as they should.

Player notes

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Jake Bean, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: Meet Zach Werenski‘s new defense partner, who skated 19:37 in his Blue Jackets debut, picking up a goal, plus-3 rating and four shots. Bean is a posthype sleeper, as a highly touted Carolina Hurricanes prospect who just never moved up the ranks over the years. It’s tough to read where to seek value overall, as most of the lineup popped off against the Coyotes on Thursday — but Bean is in a spot to succeed over the long term.

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Jesse Puljujarvi, W, Edmonton Oilers: I can’t promise the Oilers will keep Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line together for the foreseeable future, but they are playing together now and Puljujarvi is the third member of the unit. He should be on rosters in 100 percent of leagues at the moment.

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Vladimir Tkachev, W, Los Angeles Kings: He was down the depth chart at even strength, but Tkachev played the fourth forward on the top power-play unit for the Kings on Thursday, picking up two helpers in the process.

Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 18 to Oct. 24

Michael Bunting, W, Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s hard to say exactly how the lines will shake out after Auston Matthews‘ wrist heals up, but the best guess is that Matthews returns to a line with Mitchell Marner and Nick Ritchie, while John Tavares will slip back to William Nylander‘s side. Right now, that line is Nylander, Alexander Kerfoot and Bunting. I’m here to bet, now that Ilya Mikheyev is out for eight weeks, that Bunting is the one to stick in the prime spot.

Quick hits

  • It’s only one game, but if Shayne Gostisbehere continues to get twice as much power-play time as Jakob Chychrun, it would significantly elevate the Ghost Bear and possibly depress the value of Chychrun.

  • Probably just something to keep an eye on for now, as the roster is so deep with offensive options, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi played on the second line with Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas in his Hurricanes debut. He wasn’t predicted by most to crack the top six, so it’s a nice surprise.

  • ESPN.com had us make our picks for division winners and player awards this season. After seeing Aaron Ekblad play almost 28 minutes of ice time, six minutes of power-play time and score two even-strength goals on Thursday, I kind of want to rescind my Charlie McAvoy vote for the Norris Trophy.

  • If Mark Stone (undisclosed) is down for the count for any amount of time, Evgenii Dadonov makes a nice short-term play replacing him on the top line for the Vegas Golden Knights.

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