All fantasy owners need help in the short term AND the long term. The Looking Ahead feature identifies one player to plug into lineups in the short term, a second to invest in for the long term, a third to bench for the coming week, and a fourth who will struggle to meet expectations for some time. All players discussed are selected based on their upcoming schedule.

Stats updated through Wednesday, December 18

The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)

Jesper Bratt, W, New Jersey Devils (Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – With a strong upcoming schedule for the Devils (see below), Jesper Bratt offers a lot of potential production this holiday season as he’s currently playing in the now-vacated Taylor Hall role for the Devils (top line with Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri).

Over the past three seasons, the top line of Bratt-Hischier-Palmieri had an expected scoring rate of 2.67xGF/60 – better than the 2.59xGF/60 without Bratt – although a very low on-ice shooting percentage (OiSH) of just 6.76% which should see some positive regression.

On the season, Bratt’s stat line doesn’t jump off the page with just 6G-3A in 27 games on 37 shots, but in the past three games with Hall either sitting out or traded, Bratt has taken eight shots and added an assist. His TOI will be a concern as he’s averaging just 13:12/GP this season, but that should see an increase and he’s a great add in the short term.

The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)

Filip Hronek, D, Detroit Red Wings (Available in 75 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – After scoring at a half point-per-game pace in his rookie season (5G-18A in 46 games), it’s a surprise that Hronek wasn’t a more popular pick coming into the season on a decimated Red Wings blue line. It’s even more of a surprise that Hronek is still so widely available given his stat line of 7G-12A in 34 games so far (0.55 pts/GP) and his whopping 23:12/GP.

Hronek plays on the first-unit power play of the Red Wings – which means skating with Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi, who combined have been on the ice for 79 goals this season (736 minutes) vs. just 19 goals with none of those four on the ice (1085 minutes). Playing the bulk of his minutes with those forwards is so valuable to point production given how poor the rest of the Wings’ offense is, so Hronek’s role as PP1 quarterback is a big boon to his production as he’s grabbed 1 PPG and 5 PPA so far.

In leagues that track plus/minus, Hronek obviously loses value given the horrible team he’s on – Hronek is a minus-13 on a team with a minus-61 goal differential – but given how much ice he sees, he manages to collect a combined 2.58 HIT+BLK per game while averaging 2 SOG/GP. He’s not much of a tough guy, but he does take enough minor infractions that he’s not invaluable in PIM leagues either. He’s a must-add in deeper leagues and should already be owned in keeper leagues, but for the people still clinging onto P.K. Subban, he makes a great replacement.

The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)

Jamie Benn, W, Dallas Stars (Owned in 91 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Any player that skates primarily with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov at 5v5 and the power play will obviously have value and shouldn’t be dropped, but Benn can definitely be put on the shelf until the new year given the weak schedule the Stars have.

Playing just 16:55/game, Benn’s seen a big drop from the 19:49 he was playing just two seasons ago and a decent drop from the 18:14 he was playing last season, which helps explain why his scoring has been so muted: only 7G-9A in 35 games, five of which were power-play points.

The other explanation for the lack of scoring is that Benn is shooting only 8.0% (which is 5.3% lower than his career average), which would be the first time Benn has shot below 10.9% in his career if the season ended today. That’s definitely a good sign that the scoring will come back to form at some point – he’s also scoring only 0.39G/60 at 5v5 although his individual expected goal rate is 0.81G/60, which is the highest it’s been since the 2014-15 season – but with a poor schedule, that can’t be counted on.

In points-only leagues, Benn’s lack of scoring is a bigger concern than ones that track peripherals given Benn’s usually-strong contributions in the hits, penalty minutes, and blocks categories. Points-only owners should consider dumping Benn completely, but in more robust Yahoo leagues, just let him hang out on the bench until the Stars’ schedule improves.

The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (Owned in 72 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Entering the season, much was expected of Dumba after his magnificent 32-game 2018-19 season that was cut short by injury. When Dumba went down, he was leading defensemen in points and goals (12G-10A in 32) and firing the puck endlessly (2.9 SOG/GP).

Unfortunately, that hasn’t panned out at all this year, as Dumba has just 3G-7A in 35 games and only four power-play points (vs. the 12 PPP he had when he got injured last year). He’s still playing around the same minutes he played in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 years – around 23:30/GP – and firing the puck at a comparable rate to last year, but the Wild’s power-play setup has changed enough this year that Dumba is almost useless with the extra man. Minnesota is running a 3F-2D on both of their power-play units, and because Dumba is paired with Brad Hunt, he’s no longer the shot option. That’s been great for Hunt (2PPG-5PPA), but is a nightmare for Dumba owners.

There are some signs that Dumba could bounce back this year: he’s only shooting 3.8%, the time on ice is steady, and Minnesota has been improving over the past month from a scoring perspective which should translate to more points by proxy. That’s mostly playing devil’s advocate though, as Dumba couldn’t even take advantage of the seven games that teammate Jared Spurgeon missed, with Dumba picking up a lone assist (his first since November 16) with Spurgeon gone.

Keeper league owners should consider trying to buy low on Dumba for the future – Spurgeon is a UFA next year and Ryan Suter surely can’t continue playing 25+ minutes/game at the age of 35 – but current Dumba owners within spitting distance of fantasy success should ditch him as soon as possible.

Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)

Toronto – Toronto manages to squeeze in three games over the four days prior to the Christmas break, and three games in the four days after the Christmas break. While that can’t be great for morale, it’s great for Maple Leaf fantasy owners – especially given Toronto’s opponents: The Rangers, Red Wings, Devils and Red Wings again are the highlights, as well as games against Minnesota and Carolina.

Florida – The Panthers’ nine-game homestand comes to an end after Friday night’s game against the Stars, but they still have a very strong schedule heading into the New Year as they play the maximum possible number of games (six). Florida will face Dallas, Detroit and Montreal at home, and Carolina, Tampa and Columbus on the road.

New Jersey – Even without Taylor Hall, the show must go on for the Devils, and they’re the third and last team that get to play six games this stretch. With Hall gone, there are still fantasy-viable players on New Jersey who suddenly have 20+ minutes of prime ice time opened up, so adding some NJ depth is a fine idea given their schedule. The Devils will play Washington, Toronto and Boston at home, and Columbus, Chicago and Ottawa on the road.

Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)

Ottawa – The Senators have actually been a very good team for fantasy this year with strong seasons from J.G. Pageau, Anthony Duclair and so on, but their holiday stretch sees them play only four times. The four games are all strong matchups for Ottawa (vs. PHI, BUF, NJD, PIT) and three of the four are home games, but just on a lack of volume Ottawa players can be ignored.

Dallas – The Stars are in the same boat as the Sens are with a weak four-game schedule. The Stars play twice before Christmas and twice after, playing in Florida before heading home for the holidays and games against Calgary and Colorado. Their remaining game is against the new-look Coyotes in Arizona. Dallas has struggled mightily recently – they scored four in a win against Nashville last week, which was the first time they hit that number in ten games.

Montreal – With a seemingly never-ending road trip, the Canadiens have to finish their West Canadian road trip before Christmas with games against the Oilers and Jets, and then immediately go back on the road to play Tampa, Florida (on a B2B) and Carolina. Montreal’s been a one-line team recently so unless you’re a Tomas Tatar or Brendan Gallagher owner, this schedule does no favours.

December 20 to December 26

Best Bets

TOR 5.3075 – Away NYR NJD – Home DET CAR NYR

FLA 5.27 – Away CAR TBL – Home DAL DET MTL

NJD 5.1875 – Away CBJ CHI OTT- Home WSH TOR

N.Y. Rangers 5.0975 – Away PHI TOR – Home TOR ANH CAR

WSH 4.7975 – Away NJD BOS CAR – Home TBL CBJ

Steer Clear

OTT 3.255 – Away – Home PHI BUF NJD

STL 3.705 – Away SJS LAK WPG – Home WPG

MTL 3.7525 – Away EDM WPG TBL FLA- Home

NSH 3.7525 – Away BOS PIT – Home ARI PIT

DET 3.8525 – Away TOR FLA TBL- Home ARI

December 21 to December 27

Best Bets

TOR 4.31 – Away NJD – Home DET CAR NYR

TBL 4.2625 – Away WSH – Home FLA MTL DET

PIT 4.2 – Away VAN NSH – Home NSH OTT

BOS 4.195 – Away BUF – Home NSH WSH BUF

NJD 4.19 – Away CBJ CHI OTT – Home TOR

Steer Clear

DAL 3.1025 – Away ARI – Home CGY COL

EDM 3.245 – Away VAN – Home MTL CGY

STL 3.705 – Away SJS LAK WPG – Home WPG

MTL 3.7525 – Away EDM WPG TBL FLA – Home

NSH 3.7525 – Away BOS PIT – Home ARI PIT

December 22 to December 28

Best Bets

CGY 5.3075 – Away DAL MIN EDM – Home VAN CHI

ARI 5.0975 – Away DET NSH VGK – Home DAL STL

N.Y. Rangers 5.04 – Away PHI TOR EDM- Home ANH CAR

VGK 5.0025 – Away SJS ANH – Home COL ARI ANH

TBL 4.405 – Away BUF- Home FLA MTL DET

Steer Clear

NSH 2.85 – Away PIT – Home ARI PIT

VAN 3.05 – Away CGY – Home EDM LAK

OTT 3.06 – Away PIT – Home BUF NJD

DAL 3.1025 – Away ARI – Home CGY COL

PIT 3.1075 – Away NSH – Home NSH OTT

December 23 to December 29

Best Bets

TBL 4.405 – Away BUF – Home FLA MTL DET

CGY 4.2625 – Away MIN EDM – Home VAN CHI

NJD 4.2375 – Away CHI OTT – Home TOR BOS

MIN 4.2 – Away COL – Home CGY NYI TOR

BOS 4.1475 – Away BUF NJD – Home WSH BUF

Steer Clear

DAL 3.05 – Away ARI – Home COL NSH

DET 2.855 – Away FLA TBL – Home SJS

VAN 3.05 – Away CGY – Home EDM LAK

ANH 3.05 – Away VGK – Home VGK PHI

OTT 3.06 – Away PIT – Home BUF NJD

December 24 to December 30

Best Bets

CGY 4.51 – Away EDM – Home VAN CHI NYR

FLA 4.3525 – Away CBJ OTT- Home DET MTL

BOS 4.2 – Away BUF NJD – Home BUF CBJ

TBL 4.3525 – Away BUF MTL- Home MTL DET

PIT 4.1575 – Away NSH – Home NSH OTT SJS

Steer Clear

NSH 2.845 – Away PIT DAL – Home PIT

DET 2.855 – Away FLA TBL – Home SJS

OTT 2.955 – Away PIT – Home NJD FLA

DAL 3.05 – Away ARI – Home COL NSH

VAN 3.05 – Away CGY – Home LAK CHI

December 25 to December 31

Best Bets

TBL 4.3525 – Away BUF MTL – Home MTL DET

FLA 4.3525 – Away CBJ OTT – Home DET MTL

DAL 4.2575 – Away ARI – Home COL NSH DET

ARI 4.1 – Away VGK – Home DAL STL ANH

DET 3.9 – Away FLA TBL DAL- Home SJS

Steer Clear

NSH 1.9 – Away PIT DAL – Home

LAK 2.1425 – Away VAN – Home PHI

EDM 2.1475 – Away BUF – Home NYR

MIN 2.1525 – Away – Home NYI TOR

N.Y. Islanders 2.8075 – Away MIN WSH – Home NJD

December 26 to January 1

Best Bets

TBL 4.3425 – Away BUF MTL OTT- Home DET

BOS 4.31 – Away NJD – Home BUF CBJ EDM

ARI 4.2 – Away – Home DAL STL ANH PHI

FLA 4.19 – Away CBJ OTT BUF- Home MTL

CBJ 4.1575 – Away BOS – Home CHI FLA SJS

Steer Clear

NSH 1.9 – Away DAL LAK- Home

WSH 2 – Away CAR – Home NYI

LAK 2.0475 – Away – Home PHI NSH

CAR 2.1 – Away – Home MTL WSH

TOR 2.8075 – Away MIN WPG – Home NYI