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Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of Oct. 21 to Oct. 27

With the Devils struggling, Taylor Hall could make for an excellent buy-low candidate. Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

With 48 games scheduled, next week is a touch slower than this week. And that is evidenced by the New Jersey Devils only having a single game on the schedule.

That's not a bad thing for fantasy teams looking at the trade market.

For a team to have made so many offseason changes that were exciting and then to have none of it bear out through the first half-dozen games of the season, you can just call the Devils the Cleveland Browns of the NHL.

But like the Browns, the Devils are still tantalizing on paper and could still be worthy of investment from a fantasy perspective. That potential, perhaps, just needs a few more games to really get its engine going.

The Devils only have 18 goals through seven games, with Blake Coleman and Nikita Gusev counting for a full one-third of them. Taylor Hall leads the team with four assists, but only has one goal. Wayne Simmonds and Jack Hughes each have accounted for one assist. The Devils have struck just once on the power play this whole season. The team's minus-13 goal differential is only better than the also-struggling Minnesota Wild.

But there are positive signs - albeit muted - from the immediate past.

Thursday's 5-2 victory against the New York Rangers was the first by the 1-4-2 Devils this season. Mackenzie Blackwood had the first quality fantasy start in the team's crease. Jack Hughes played on the top line for the first time in place of an injured Nico Hischier and collected his first point (although it was from a puck bouncing off of him). P.K. Subban scored his first goal (although it was into an empty net) and fired nine shots.

It's one game, so we shouldn't read too much into the performance. But it was a showcase of why everyone was buying into the Devils during the offseason. What can you do about it?

First, if your league is on the shallow side, Blackwood is going to be in the free-agent pool. Pick him up. Cory Schneider said all the right things about his health and mounting a comeback this season, but he's just not getting the job done. Blackwood at least has youth and health on his side. I'm not starting Blackwood in my leagues just yet, but having him on the bench means you're ahead of the curve if the Devils start playing to their potential.

Second, Hall's trade value will never be lower, so go after him. We are talking about the league's MVP one year removed. On a team with the second-highest player recording only 52 points, Hall managed to score 93 in 2017-18. What will he (eventually) do this season with players around him that can also score?

Third, snag Nikita Gusev. The rookie has three tallies and four points despite being stuck on the team's third line. In goals per 60 minutes at even strength this season, Gusev is 20th in the league - just ahead of a fella named Leon Draisaitl and also leading David Pastrnak.

Fourth, maybe you can even make a move for Subban. This one might not be so easy, as his stats are actually decent enough for the first seven games - especially in leagues with penalty minutes, as he's collected 14 of them. I have no idea how you play the most minutes for the team with the second-worst goal differential in the league and manage to be plus-1, either; but here we are. This Devils power play will find its footing and Subban is the one who will explode statistically in tandem with it.

Fifth, and most importantly, wait until next weekend to make any trade offers or moves. The one-game schedule for the Devils offers an opportunity to let them marinate in fantasy purgatory a little bit longer. You can't start digging yourself out of a hole if you don't have any games scheduled. The Devils play once next week against the brick-wall defense of the Arizona Coyotes. Let the week play out, let things get a little worse before they start to get better, and strike while the iron is even hotter than it is now.


The Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights all have a four-game schedule next week.

I've already waxed about the Devils playing once, but the Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets also have light schedules with only two games.

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.

In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that are available for potential use. Ownership below 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff. I'll try to also include players below 10 percent ownership whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.

Team notes

Edmonton Oilers: Of goaltenders who have played at least five games, Braden Holtby, Devan Dubnyk and Sergei Bobrovsky have the three worst save percentages in the NHL. The Oilers, who have the best offense in the league to date, may get to pick on all three of them. Wow. The Oilers' Sam Gagner was the last NHL player to score eight or more points in a game back on Feb. 12, 2012. He scored 12 points that week. I'm not betting against Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl to hit those numbers.

But this also means to get some cheaper pieces of this offense where you can. Is Zack Kassian available in your league? He absolutely shouldn't be. A pick for leagues with a more competitive waiver wire might be Alex Chiasson. He's been taking shifts on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal. While the latter two have done most of their damage on the power play, this is an especially choice week for Oilers scoring.

Calgary Flames: If the Oilers get to feast on two of the weakest goaltenders in the NHL so far, the Flames get to face two of them. The Capitals and Panthers visit Calgary next week, which should make for some solid offensive showings by the Flames. Elias Lindholm went down to a pretty vicious slash at the hands of Darren Helm on Thursday. There are reports that the injury wasn't too serious, but it's worth keeping an eye on for next week. Especially because it was Milan Lucic that slid up for a couple shifts on the top line in Lindholm's absence. Much has been made of James Neal's breakout in Edmonton after he and Lucic were swapped in the offseason. Perhaps a game or two with the top line could get Lucic going for Calgary?

Buffalo Sabres: Despite playing fewer than 12 minutes per game, the Sabres line that features Casey Mittelstadt, Jimmy Vesey and Conor Sheary is getting the job done. In fact, Mittelstadt is scoring points at a better pace than Patrice Bergeron and Auston Matthews based on ice time. Sheary has been even better, sitting in the top five in the NHL for points per 60 minutes.

Player notes

Calle Jarnkrok, W, Nashville Predators (1.0 percent rostered): If Filip Forsberg continues to miss time for the Preds, Jarnkrok is worth a starting spot in fantasy. He was a direct replacement for Forsberg in the lineup on Thursday, playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and on the top power-play unit.

Alexander Kerfoot, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (16.6 percent): The Leafs have a lot of decisions to make on how to deploy the offense with John Tavares sidelined for a couple weeks. While separating Auston Matthews and William Nylander is an option, it's not a great one given how fantastic the duo have been to start the season. This leaves Kerfoot as the replacement down the middle, moving to a line with Mitch Marner. Kerfoot has been solid as a third-line center for the Leafs so far and should get a boost in play with Marner as a linemate for the short term. If it's not Kerfoot and the Leafs opt for another option, that player would also be on the radar for fantasy - especially if it's Ilya Mikheyev, who has six points through his first eight NHL games.

Corey Perry, W, Dallas Stars (40.9 percent): Perry made his Stars debut on the second line with Roope Hintz and Mathias Janmark on Thursday. If the Stars were rolling along as they should be, I wouldn't have any interest in Perry. But with the offense floundering and pieces moving lines on a steady basis, there is a chance Perry could land a plum role for at least a little while. He should be on the radar in deep leagues for the off-chance he starts skating with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn - or some other fortuitous combination.

Sam Lafferty, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (25.6 percent): Sure. Why not? The Penguins are the walking wounded and Lafferty is taking advantage of the opportunities. With Evgeni Malkin, Jared McCann, Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Bjugstad all sidelined, the path to a top-six role was an easy stride and Lafferty has pushed his way there. He played with Patric Hornqvist and Dominik Kahun on what can be described as the Penguins second line on Wednesday. He's a plus-7 in the past three games and has three goals and five points.