Fantasy hockey is all about gaining an edge on your opponents. The revised NHL schedule will allow you to do just that. You can do all the prep-work you want in advance of your drafts in October, but let’s be honest, nobody has a crystal ball. Nobody can tell you that Igor Shesterkin would be the front-runner for the Vezina or that Elias Pettersson would be having a terrible season to this point. Knowledgeable minds can give their best guess, but nobody knows anything for certain.
What we do know is that every team will (hopefully) play an even number of games. Given all the postponements so far, the league was forced to play through what used to be the Olympic break and release a revised NHL schedule. There are some teams that will be very busy during that period and others that won’t be. Beyond the break, schedules have also been altered. The discrepancy in games played between teams provides an opportunity to increase your man-games moving forward.
Before we take a deeper look into the revised NHL schedule, it’s important to know your league format and how the changes in the schedule will be handled. On Yahoo! Sports, for example, Week 16 (which originally encompassed the break to be a week and a day-long worth of games), will run for two weeks. Consequently, two more weeks will be added, changing the head-to-head schedule. Leagues that are not in the head-to-head format are less affected by the revised schedule, but it still presents an opportunity to stream players who play more.
How The Revised NHL Schedule Can Affect Fantasy Hockey
Revised NHL Schedule for Canadian Teams
It’s well documented that Canada is handling the Covid-19 pandemic a little differently than the United States is. Given restrictions across Canada, Canadian teams have had a very light schedule since the Christmas break so that the NHL could put themselves in a better financial situation. Regardless of whether that will be the case or not won’t be debated here. What’s clear is that Canadian teams will be busy over what used to be the break.
The Ottawa Senators will play the most during the period of February 7-22. They have a total of 10 games over 16 days, eight of which are at home. The upper-end talent like Drake Batherson, Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris will likely be owned in your leagues. If they are, a great option is Tim Stutzle. He’s played much better recently with three points in his last three games. He also has nine shots and 14 hits over that span. In very deep leagues, Alex Formenton could be a great pickup. He’s playing on the second line with the Stutzle and Zach Sanford. He has five points in his last five games.
The Vancouver Canucks play the fewest of the Canadian teams with six games between February 7 and 22. The other five teams play between seven and eight.
Revised NHL Schedule for American Teams
Of the teams south of the border, the Carolina Hurricanes play eight times over the span, the most of any other American team. Based on the fact that the Hurricanes are one of the league’s best teams, pickup options are understandably limited. You can look at one of Seth Jarvis or Jesperi Kotkaniemi, depending on who is in a top-six role at that time.
Most other American teams play between five and seven times except for a few. The Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks play only four times over those 16 days. The Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning play only three times. If you have multiple players from any of these teams, it’s important to note that you may need to pick up some help for that period.
Beyond the month of February, March and April are slated to be very busy. The latter part of March and the entire month of April are usually reserved for the playoffs in fantasy hockey. If you’re a contender and expect to be competing during this time, it’s important to maximize your man-games. It can be the difference between winning and losing.
The New York Islanders play more than any other team over those two months. They have 17 games in March and 16 in April. Recommending players on a team that’s scored the fewest goals in the NHL isn’t easy, especially this far out. With the exception of Mathew Barzal, Islanders’ players will likely be available on your waiver wire or at the very least, attainable. Both Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov will both be busy as the Isles try to climb up the Metro division standings.
The Minnesota Wild play 16 games in each month, just one fewer than the Islanders. Of the 32 games, seven of them are back-to-backs. Kaapo Kahkonen can come in handy as a goaltending streamer or players like Matt Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin or even Joel Eriksson Ek that could be available depending on the depth of your leagues.
The month of April is busy for the aforementioned teams as well as the Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lighting who each play 16 times over the course of the month. The Los Angeles Kings play the fewest in April with 12.
Be Mindful of Your Trade Deadline
It’s important to remember these oddities in the NHL schedule as you continue making decisions on your rosters. With league trade deadlines fast approaching, you may want to consider making deals with the knowledge of the schedule at hand. Don’t get silly, but remember this as another factor to weigh in your judgment. You may like Drew Doughty more than Torey Krug right now, but when you consider that Krug plays four more games than Doughty over the length of your fantasy hockey playoffs, do you still have the same opinion?
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