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Fantasy hockey: Forecaster for the week of April 12-18

The trades have started ahead of Monday’s deadline.

At the absolute best of times, Kyle Palmieri was a player with 2.1 fantasy points per game (FPPG). Those best of times were the 2017-18 season in which he shadowed Taylor Hall at all times as Hall went on to win the MVP award in what stands out as his best season.

Aside from that spike to Palmieri’s production, he has been a 1.7 to 1.8 FPPG player. Depending on the spot within that range and any time missed, that puts him somewhere between No. 80 and No. 120 among skaters in a season. He has produced 1.3 FPPG this season with the struggling Devils offense and will easily find himself back in the 1.7 to 1.8 range with the Islanders.

That makes him a better fantasy play, but not a game-changing one. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, whom Palmieri lined up with in his Isles debut on Thursday, has averaged 1.9 FPPG and remains the better fantasy play. That said, few players posting an FPPG in the range we hope for Palmieri are available in 40 percent of leagues, so grab him if he’s there.

Travis Zajac, on the other hand, hasn’t crested the fantasy landscape consistently in the past five years, posting a top FPPG of 1.4 in 2015-16. Even if he stays on a line with Palmieri and Pageau – which is doubtful as the plan has to be to put him with Mathew Barzal, right? – Zajac doesn’t pass muster as a potential add.

The other trade we’ve had involved the Florida Panthers clearing up some cap room in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. No fantasy pieces for this season changed hands, but keeper formats will want to tuck Henrik Borgstrom away for next season. His NHL debut with the Panthers was a bust over the past couple seasons, but he’s still a 23-year-old center with a lot of upside. The Hawks will look to bring him back from Finland, where he’s currently playing.

Fantasy Forecaster: April 12 to April 18

The shadow over the schedule is obviously the status of the Canucks. As we stand, next week’s games against the Oilers and Maple Leafs have not been cancelled, but it wouldn’t be a shock. The team is still very much in the thick of the COVID protocol, adding players as recently as Wednesday to the list.

If we get word the two-game series with the Oilers is a no-go early enough it might be the only week of the season you consider starting someone over Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in a head-to-head league. With the games against the Canucks, the Oilers would only play once.

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

New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers: We can lump them together because they have an identical schedule this week: they play four games against each other. You won’t find much available help on the already-rostered Rangers team, but the Devils are an interesting case with both the trade of Palmieri and imminent return of Nico Hischier. The trade means Jack Hughes and Hischier are the Devils offense now and, as such, should be on the ice for every key opportunity. Hughes slowed down tremendously from a strong start, while injuries have hampered Hischier’s campaign to date. They are both intriguing as the team looks to the future for the rest of the season.

And while the key Rangers are, as mentioned, already on rosters in your league, Jacob Trouba still has availability in a quarter of ESPN leagues. He’s averaging 1.9 FPPG on the season and for the past month, which is top 20 among defensemen.

Winnipeg Jets: There were hints at this when he came out of a game a couple of weeks ago against Toronto, but now Blake Wheeler is shelved indefinitely with what sure sounds like a concussion. The same is true now what I said back then when it looked like he might miss time (but didn’t): Andrew Copp is a must-add in a top-six forward role with the Jets. The other five guys in that crew are pretty darn good, so anyone spending time with them is in for some points. The Jets get the Senators twice next week for Copp to feed on.

Player notes

Michael Bunting, F, Arizona Coyotes: All of the fantasy points have come in two of his five games this season. With that in mind, Bunting doesn’t seem very exciting. But what the Coyotes have here is a 26-year-old that has slowly built himself into a point-per-game player in the AHL and is ready for the next step. The hat trick was an aberration and his FPPG is going to come way down – but so long as he’s getting 18 or 19 minutes per game with Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland, the fantasy production might be enough to be relevant.

Jeremy Swayman, G, Boston Bruins: I won’t profess to him being on my radar prior to this week and surely he steps aside at the return of Tuukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak. But in the meantime, I’m swayed. Rask and Halak are probably going to be back in the fold before this time next week, but it’s worth filing away this 22-year-old’s name after his strong debut and the stats he’s put up as a rookie in the AHL (8-1, 1.89 goals-against average).

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