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Fantasy Hockey Head-to-Head: Week 1 Primer

Jason Chen takes you through which players to pick up for the start of the fantasy hockey season.
Kaapo Kahkonen

Update: The Senators announced on Oct. 3 that Cam Talbot would be out 5-7 weeks with an upper-body injury, meaning he is expected to return around mid-November. The Backups section has been updated to reflect this news. 

Welcome to the 2022-23 fantasy hockey season.

The Hockey News’ head-to-head primer is back, including the handy schedule matrix and a beefed-up write-up to go along with it.

Officially, Opening Night this season is Tuesday, Oct. 11, but Week 1 on Yahoo will be 10 days long to account for the two-game Global Series between the Sharks and Predators in Czechia on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 to kick off the 2022-23 regular season. Two more Global Series games will be played later in the season on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 between the Avalanche and the Blue Jackets in Finland, so set your clocks and schedules accordingly. It is the first time in three years the NHL is playing regular-season games outside of North America.

The Global Series games mean both the Sharks and Preds will play a league-high four games in Week 1. The Preds return to action on Thursday, Oct. 13 in a home-and-home series against the Stars, whose top scorer Jason Robertson remains unsigned. The Sharks resume play on Friday, Oct. 14 for their second straight back-to-back, both in San Jose against the Canes and Hawks.

Ten teams will play three games in Week 1, eight of whom will play back-to-backs. That means at least eight backup goalies will make an early appearance in the season, so make sure you’re quick to pick them up off the waiver wire should you need goalie starts. The Blues and Jets are the laggards in Week 1, playing just one game apiece.

Legend:
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P%
Green is good. Red is bad. All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com.

Week 1

Backups:

Kaapo Kahkonen, SJ – Kahkonen should get two starts early on, at least one in Czechia and then one of either the Canes or Hawks later in Week 1. Obviously, the preference is for Kahkonen to draw the Hawks.

Kevin Lankinen, NSH – His sophomore campaign was horrific (8-15-6/.891/3.50) and a lot of that can be attributed to an even worse Hawks squad. Some caution is warranted, but note the Preds added Ryan McDonagh over the summer. A good start in Czechia might earn Lankinen another start during a four-game week to help take some early-season pressure off Juuse Saros.

Ilya Samsonov, TOR – If Matt Murray gets the season opener in Montreal, that means it’ll be a spicy matchup with Samsonov getting the home opener against his former team. Bad news: the Leafs will be without John Tavares and perhaps a few bodies on the blue line.

Adin Hill, VEG – It seems unlikely Logan Thompson will play all three games, and it’s a home date against the Hawks and on the road against the Kraken in their second and third games. There’s at least one win in there.

Brian Elliott, TB – The Lightning have a pretty tough schedule to start, and Elliott will likely draw the Jackets on Oct. 14, a team that generally gives them fits. In his only appearance against them last season, Elliott allowed four goals on 34 shots in a loss. He’s on the lower end of the available backups due to his age and declining play, and he should be avoided unless necessary.

Charlie Lindgren, WSH – Lindgren was excellent in the AHL last season (24-7-1/.925/2.21), and if Darcy Kuemper gets the season opener, Lindgren will face the Leafs. That’s a tough matchup, even if the Leafs are unlikely to have John Tavares (oblique) and a couple of defensemen in the lineup. It’s too early to take a chance on Lindgren, especially against a tough team, but keep an eye on his performance to see if there’s potential later in the season.

Jaroslav Halak, NYR – Tempting streamer against the Jets, who enter the season with all sorts of question marks. I do expect their offense to get dialled back a bit by Rick Bowness, but Halak wasn’t very good last season, so let’s see what happens first.

Alex Stalock, CHI – Hard pass. All season.

Martin Jones, SEA – The Kraken expect their goaltending to improve and it’s a reasonable expectation after a disastrous inaugural season. A spot start against the Kings is worth considering – Jones tends to play his best hockey early in the season (.915 SV% in Octobers) and he’s 19-7-3/.925/2.34 in his career against the Kings.

Joonas Korpisalo, CLB – He will likely get Saturday’s road game against the Blues, which will be the Jackets’ third game of the season but the Blues’ first. Maybe the Jackets surprise because they’re more in sync, but not worth the risk so avoid this one.

Samuel Montembeault, MTL – Presumably, Montembeault will be the backup since Cayden Primeau is exempt from waivers. But look at that Habs roster and the possible matchups – the improved Red Wings or Alex Ovechkin’s Caps – and quickly tell yourself there are better things in life.

Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, DET – The Wings play only two games, but they’re back-to-back, so Husso and Nedeljkovic will likely split duties. Both matchups against the Habs and Devils are worth taking advantage of since the Wings are improved (on paper, at least) and providing goal support shouldn’t be a big problem.

*new* Anton Forsberg, OTT –With Talbot slated to miss at least the first month of the season, look for the Sens to turn to Forsberg as their starter with either Mads Sogaard or Magnus Hellberg, whom they recently claimed off waivers from the Kraken, to be the backup. Forsberg was their best goalie last season, going 22-17-4/.917/2.82 and filled in admirably for Matt Murray. With the Sens' improved roster, Forsberg is a very attractive add off the waiver wire, and should he continue where he left off last season, he will certainly push Talbot for more playing time. There's an outside chance Forsberg is worth rostering for the full season. 

Short-Term Streamers (under 75 percent rostered on Yahoo):

Mario Ferraro, D, SJ – One of 46 defensemen last season to record at least 100 hits and 100 blocked shots. He will be No. 1 in even-strength minutes among Sharks defensemen with Brent Burns gone. Ferraro has some long-term value in banger leagues as well.

Alexander Kerfoot, LW/RW, TOR – Is there any position Kerfoot can’t play? He looked good on defense on a battered Leafs blue line and might step in as the No. 2 center with John Tavares out for at least the first week of the season. Potential faceoffs from the wing and time on the power play. I don’t believe there has ever been a C/LW/RW/D-eligible player.

Sean Kuraly, C, CLB – Injury to Boone Jenner might open the door for Kuraly to play more minutes. Ranked eighth last season among forwards in hits (240) and wins a lot of draws (628).

Long-Term Pickups (under 75 percent rostered on Yahoo):

Tanner Jeannot, RW, NSH – Last season’s hits leader (318) among forwards and gets four games this week. Should be rostered in all banger leagues as the new Tom Wilson.

Gabriel Vilardi, LW/RW, LA – A former 11th overall pick, Vilardi has battled back from some tough injuries and he has the inside track for a top-six role next to Philip Danault. Potential for some power-play points here.

Anthony Mantha, LW/RW, WSH – May end up playing the right side on Ovechkin’s line. The competition is Connor Brown or T.J. Oshie. Mantha’s a fearsome goal scorer when healthy.

Alexis Lafreniere, LW/RW, NYR – The “Kid Line” has made appearances in the pre-season to good reviews, and Lafreniere also has a chance to move into the top six. He played very well in the post-season, and this really could be his breakout year. One thing to watch is to see if he’s become more willing to shoot the puck.

Thomas Bordeleau, C, and William Eklund, LW, SJ – Both are still jostling for roster spots as they head to Europe, and if they dress, expect them to see time on the power play. Eklund has the higher offensive ceiling, but Bordeleau may play more even-strength minutes.

Matty Beniers, C, SEA – I suspect Beniers will be a very popular add in the first month. Slated to play top-six minutes showing solid play at both ends of the ice and ahead of Shane Wright on the depth chart. 

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