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Fantasy hockey forecaster: Jan. 15-21

Fantasy hockey forecaster: Jan. 15-21
From ESPN - January 12, 2018

Rare is the week in the NHL when there is an argument to start Timo Meier over Johnny Gaudreau, but here we are.

Bye weeks continue to make the schedule itself the biggest story heading into next week. While last week featured 13 teams on their five-day break from action, this week has more games on tap with only five teams on a bye.

However, the schedule is thrown out of balance even more with some heavy scheduling for some of the teams that are in action. Nine teams are due for a four-game week, while the San Jose Sharks boast the elusive five-game week.

As discussed last week, this is an ideal opportunity to stack your counting stats in head-to-head leagues or make up some ground on your games played limit in rotisserie. Fringe or bench assets on your roster that can live for a week or two on the waiver wire should be sent there in exchange for some help from the busy teams.

Going back to our lead example, Gaudreau is on fire and having an incredible season, but even with his 1.18 points per game, the Calgary Flames only play once next week. A player like Meier, who only has 0.33 points per game this season, could be the better fantasy play for your team next week because he gets to play five times with the Sharks.

This does not mean you should ditch a quality fantasy asset for one week of glory, but if you have a closer look at your roster and really think about who needs to be on your team, you should find yourself with a few replacement-level options that can be streamed to push your counting stats.

Really, that's one of the main purposes of this Forecaster through the season, and if you do not already implement this strategy, these byes weeks are a perfect opportunity to try it out. The schedule is hyper-unbalanced, so it really crystallizes what are usually subtle differences in potential output.

Team notes

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are the big fish in the free-agent pond this week. Load up on them for a five-game schedule that will kill your competition with counting stats. Meier was not just a random example above. The sophomore, who only played 34 games last season, has the size and skill to be a top-line forward in the future and actually saw a recent promotion to the top line. Playing with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton helped Meier net three points, including two goals, to kick off January. He's been held pointless in two games since, but has remained on the line with both Joes.

Second-line winger Tomas Hertl is also a solid option for the a five-game week. Currently on pace for career highs in goals and assists (25 apiece), Hertl is playing with Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc for the time being, but he's also the fourth forward on the top power-play unit that features Pavelski, Thornton, Couture and Brent Burns. Hertl is rostered in just 36.4 percent of ESPN leagues.

Los Angeles Kings

Although home has not been as kind to their overall record as the hotel life, the Kings get to stay in L.A. for three of four games on the docket next week. Tanner Pearson remains criminally underrostered in ESPN leagues. The recent addition to the Kings top line with Anze Kopitar has started January with two goals and five points in three games and is still available in 72.2 percent of ESPN leagues.

Deeper leagues can have a look at Marian Gaborik, who boasts a very respectable seven goals and 13 points, along with a plus-9 rating in just 20 games this season. Furthermore, that's all been accomplished while playing fewer than 15 minutes per game. Gaborik has been stationed with Tyler Toffoli and Adrian Kempe on the second line of late.

Anaheim Ducks

What is All-Star Rickard Rakell doing on the waiver wire in almost 20 percent of leagues? With Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf healthy again, Rakell should improve on what has already been a career-high pace for points. Though they did not start the game together for Perry's return on Jan. 6, the trio finished it as the reunited top line from last season. The Ducks play three of four games at home next week.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins are a four-game team for next week and boast some of the best depth for fantasy teams, all the way down on the third line. Danton Heinen and David Backes have been on fire in recent weeks. Heinen has eight points in his past six games, while Backes has 10 in his past seven. Both players are rostered in fewer than half of ESPN leagues.

Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 15-21

Goalie notes

Player notes

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