Head-to-head leagues will be barrelling toward the playoffs at this stage, while there is barely a month left to go in rotisserie and points standings. That means everything is going under the microscope for those in the running for a league title; every point, every save, every shot ... they all count.
With that attitude in mind, let's take a look at who needs to be on your roster for the stretch run.
Dominik Kubalik, W, Chicago Blackhawks: He won't be rostered everywhere, but Kubalik needs to be in lineups. Since Jan. 1, he trails only Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in points per 60 minutes at even strength. That's not a typo; at 5-on-5, Kubalik is working with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad to terrorize opponents. And he's been doing most of that damage in 2020. At the end of December, Kubalik had nine goals. His next one will be his 30th of the season. You'll find availability ranging from 40 to 60 percent of leagues, so it's worth having a look. Consider yourself extremely lucky if he's there.
Andre Burakovsky, W, Colorado Avalanche: Burakovsky won't be easy to get your mitts on either, as he ranges up to 80 percent rostered. But, the timing is right to consider him. He's on the shelf and might be an easy drop for a fantasy manager trying to keep an active lineup. But he's on the current road trip with the team and will slot back in alongside Nathan MacKinnon when he returns (thanks to the continued absence of Mikko Rantanen). Burakovsky leads all NHL players in primary assists at even strength per 60 minutes. He is making the most of his opportunities, which should continue to be provided.
Zach Sanford, W, St. Louis Blues: While he tends to put up the points in bunches, Sanford is more than making up for any goose eggs along the way. He has scored nine goals in February (with all of them coming in just four games). For context, he came into the month with six. Since Jan. 1, his goals per 60 at even strength rank fifth in the league. He will be more readily available, as he shows as rostered in fewer than 20 percent of leagues.
Patric Hornqvist, W, Pittsburgh Penguins Available in 40 to 50 percent of leagues, Hornqvist is doing what he does best whenever he's healthy: taking pucks and putting them on the opposing goaltenders. He's among the top 25 in shots on goal since Jan. 1, despite just 16:09 in ice time (which puts him in the 300s for ranking in that category). He's settled into a role with Evgeni Malkin at even strength and is still rolling out with the top power-play unit. Hornqvist should be universally rostered at this stage.
Corey Perry, W, Dallas Stars: Some of you still have to chase those PIM. While leagues are evolving, the penalty minutes are still a default category - and Perry is raking them in. He leads the NHL in penalties taken per 60 minutes, and sits second in total PIM since Jan. 1. He's available in any and every league, and is also currently skating on a line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. I wasn't sure it would come to this, but Perry is a fantasy asset as the season winds down. He's picking up the minor penalties, while also chipping in the occasional point. When a player can collect minutes in the box, while not hurting your roster elsewhere, he's worth considering.
Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers: Overshadowed by Tony DeAngelo and Jacob Trouba in many ways, Fox is a sly addition. His plus-16 rating is sixth in the league since Jan. 1, as he's been on the ice for 28 goals (11th in league). But it doesn't stop there, as Fox also plays on the man advantage (1:44 per game) where he's been on the ice for another seven goals in 2020. You'll find him on the free-agent pile in 30 to 50 percent of leagues.
Roope Hintz, W, Dallas Stars: When it comes to efficiency on the power play, Hintz is No. 1. He leads the league with 12.60 power-play points per 60 minutes since Jan. 1. In practical terms, that's eight power-play points as Hintz doesn't play big minutes on the power play. But eight is pretty good, as the league leader since Jan. 1 has 13 PPP. You'll find Hintz available in 60 to 70 percent of leagues, and he adds some specialist power to your team for PPP.
Juuse Saros, G, Nashville Predators: In 2020, Saros has played 827 minutes compared to Pekka Rinne's 685 minutes. Saros has started 13 games to Rinne's 12. Saros owns a 9-3-1 record, while Rinne is 5-6-1. And, of course, Saros trumps Rinne in both ratios. Saros is available in 70 to 80 percent of leagues, while Rinne is rostered in 90 percent.
Anton Khudobin, G, Dallas Stars: While Khudobin is still clearly the backup to Ben Bishop, and the difference isn't nearly as stark as Saros vs. Rinne, the Stars second netminder deserves some love in fantasy leagues. Khudobin's .946 save percentage at even strength ranks first in the NHL since Jan. 1, while his goals-against average in that span only trails that of Pavel Francouz (who you should also look at), Tuukka Rask and Elvis Merzlikins. Khudobin has started 10 games in that span, compared to Bishop's 14, but that is still enough work to be in lineups. Khudobin will be available in between 65 and 80 percent of leagues.
Fantasy Forecaster: March 2 to March 8
There are 49 games on tap for the coming week, and we are back to more imbalance to the schedule. That means targeting the four-game weeks and avoiding the two-game schedules will have more of an impact to your roster's output.
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.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are the best place to attack in head-to-head leagues, as they have both the four-game schedule and games on the less-busy days of the week. The Avs play Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, meaning you can offset their deployment with the rest of your roster.
Pavel Francouz is a no-brainer, as he's been lights out of late and the opponents (Red Wings, Ducks, Canucks and Sharks) are far from imposing. Plus, none of the games are back to back, so if Philipp Grubauer is still out, Francouz will start all four. On offense, Burakovsky is a must-start if he's back in the lineup, but Valeri Nichushkin is a great option if Burakovsky is out - and still solid if he's back.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks have two tougher games (Oilers, Blues) and two softies (Red Wings, Ducks). Kubalik and Brandon Saad are solid additions, as they've been having success with Toews.
But how about the long-lost Duncan Keith? He's been handed back the top power-play unit for the past four games and has five power-play points to show for it. In the past six games, he's posted one goal and six helpers. For the record, that's more points in six games than he totalled in all of October and November. Get him into lineups.
Minnesota Wild: Putting up a seven-spot on the Red Wings is one thing, but the Wild have some confidence on their side and a helpful schedule that includes the Predators, Sharks, Kings and Ducks. AHL scoring leader Gerald Mayhew is up with the team and on a line with Eric Staal and Kevin Fiala. That's the first place I'm looking. But Ryan Donato, Alex Galchenyuk and Mats Zuccarello are also widely available options to pickup for a week.
Given the matchups, I'm also considering a spot-start week for Alex Stalock here. He's won his past three starts and posted a 6-1-1 record in February (1.98 GAA).