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 Thursday, January 23

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

Mikael Granlund, W, Nashville Predators (Available in 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Although he’s sitting at only 16 points through 41 games, Granlund offers some upside over the next few weeks given the Predators’ schedule (see below) and Granlund’s role on the team; Granlund has been playing on the “second” line for Nashville, but with the big line of Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson now broken up, Granlund’s line (with Forsberg and Matt Duchene) has the most scoring upside as a full unit.

At 5v5, the line of Granlund-Duchene-Forsberg have a 61% possession rate, a scoring rate of 4.03 goals per 60, and are generating a whopping 16 high-danger chances per 60 – all phenomenal metrics. That hasn’t yet translated to points for Granlund unfortunately, but a large part of that is that Granlund is only picking up a point on 50% of the goals scored while he’s on the ice. That rate is a career low – he was above 70% in five of the seven (full or partial) seasons he spent with the Wild – and should see a bounce-back. Granlund is after all a player who is coming off seasons of 69, 67 and 54 points.

Granlund gets power play time (albeit on the second unit), has seen an increase in TOI/game under new coach Jon Hynes, and gets enough hits/blocks/shots to not be a detriment in peripheral leagues. He makes a great short-term replacement for guys with poor schedules (Alex DeBrincat, etc.) or guys who will be suspended for missing the All-Star game (Alex Ovechkin), and is free to add in most leagues.

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

Phillip Danault, C, Montreal Canadiens (Available in 65 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Commonly known more as a two-way centre than as a tangible fantasy asset, Danault has taken a big step this year in part because he’s playing prime minutes – including the power play! – with good players, but also because he’s finally learned to shoot the puck. A career-best 133 shots in a full season in 2016-17 (1.62/game) should easily be beaten this year, as Danault has already taken 100 shots on goal in 50 games so far (2.0/game), and as a player who shoots just below 10% that should translate to an extra 6.4 goals before the end of the year if he maintains his pace. That pace may actually pick up, given Danault had only taken 36 shots in his first 25 games, so he’s been much more trigger-happy in his last 25 games.

Danault is averaging 19:03 per game, but he’s actually bested that number in 16 of his last 20 games and is trending up for the injury-riddled Habs; some of that time is on the penalty kill which is usually empty time in terms of fantasy production, but does help pump his block and hit numbers (24 and 91 respectively). At 5v5, Danault spends the bulk of his time with Tomas Tatar and one of Brendan Gallagher or Ilya Kovalchuk, and by most ‘advanced’ metrics – CorsiFor%, xGF% – are one of the best lines in the league. From a counting perspective, the unit have combined for 31 goals at 5v5 (490 minutes) and six on the power play (30 minutes).

It’s rare to be able to pick up a number one center this late in the season, but Danault offers that, and while his 12G-24A doesn’t jump off the page, the stats and opportunity are much better than much more popular players (Ryan Getzlaf, Matt Duchene, etc.) and Danault is well worth upgrading to.

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

Alex DeBrincat, W, Chicago Blackhawks (Owned in 91 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – With the Blackhawks’ awful schedule over the new couple of weeks (see below), DeBrincat should be sat down for that alone, but he’s actually a rapidly-depreciating asset who owners should be concerned about.

A total of 12G-23A on the season is pretty good on the surface, and as long as DeBrincat gets to play on the Hawks’ top power play with Patrick Kane et. al. he’ll be an asset – he’s picked up eight PP goals and three PP assists so far – but that scoring disparity can’t last, as 31% of his points so far (and 75% of his goals!) have come with the man advantage. If DeBrincat was still playing his 5v5 minutes with Dylan Strome (injured) and Patrick Kane (playing with success with Ryan Carpenter and Brandon Saad), it could be a different story in terms of his even-strength scoring, but unfortunately DeBrincat is playing third-line minutes with rookie Kirby Dach and two-way centre David Kampf. Since these lines have solidified over the past two weeks (eight games), DeBrincat has topped 18 minutes twice but played 16:33 or below in the other six games which is a troubling trend.

One of the reasons that owners are still clinging to hope for DeBrincat’s production is a low shooting percentage (8.4 this year vs. 18.6 and 15.5 the two previous seasons), especially after the Cat scored 41 goals last year and 28 in his rookie year. While that could bounce back up and settle somewhere in the 12-13% for the year, that would see DeBrincat finish around 24 goals based on his current shooting rate – a disappointment. The advice for now would be to hang on to him in every league except shallow leagues, but adjust expectations and keep him on the bench more often than not unless his role improves in Chicago.

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

Rickard Rakell, W, Anaheim Ducks (Owned in 67 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – After topping 30 goals in back-to-back seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18) without playing a full season, expectations were sky-high for Rakell last year and he failed in a big way: 18G-25A in a nice 69-game season. Part of the reason for the goal decline was a big drop in shooting percentage (from 18.6 to 14.8 to 9.3), so the expectations this year even on an Anaheim team that was expected to be very bad was that Rakell would bounce back.

It hasn’t turned out that way at all, unfortunately for Rakell owners: 12G-16A in 42 games, shooting 9.9 percent, and attempting half a shot less per game than last season (and .75 less than two seasons ago). The slick Swede is playing around the same time/game as last year – which was a drop of a full minute from his great 2017-18 season – and still mostly playing with Ryan Getzlaf at 5v5 (with a rotating cast of wingers in the other spot). The other issue for Rakell is how evenly coach Dallas Eakins rotates the power-play units, which means instead of the 1:15-1:25 PP shifts he would get previously are now down to 0:55-1:05 shifts; while 20 seconds/game doesn’t seem like much, that’s still 27 minutes of PP time gone over the course of a full season.

The only area where Rakell shows value is in leagues that greatly value shots on goal, because he’s still a 200+ shot on goal forward. He doesn’t add penalty minutes or blocks, gets a touch over one hit/game, and because of his team will be a minus player most years. He can most likely be moved for a reasonable return given the recent 30-goal pedigree, and he should be.

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

Ottawa – Counting on a bad Ottawa Senators squad for fantasy production isn’t a good sign, but for those shrewd drafters with Anthony Duclair or Connor Brown on their squads – not to mention Brady Tkachuk or Thomas Chabot – this period is a good one. Ottawa plays back-to-back coming out of the break against two awful teams in New Jersey and Buffalo, then gets three more games this period (January 24 to February 5), against Washington, Toronto and Anaheim.

Nashville – The Predators have about as cushy a schedule as the Senators do – and even overlap three opponents – with the added bonus of being a more fantasy-friendly team, AND the added bonus of getting to play Winnipeg. The Preds come out of the break with games against the Leafs, Caps, Devils, Knights and Jets, and should be able to pay off because of it.

Montreal – This week’s Love ‘Em could be re-titled “Love ‘Em (These teams play New Jersey and Buffalo)” because sure enough, Montreal also gets the benefit of playing the Devils and Sabres this period. The Canadiens will also play the Panthers which is a great matchup, as well as the Capitals and Blue Jackets, which aren’t great matchups but help push Montreal due to volume.

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

Colorado – The Avalanche are at full health and have been steaming along – 20 goals in their past five games – but face a horrific schedule thanks to the All-Star break and their bye week. Colorado doesn’t play a game until February 1, and even though their upcoming opponents are good matchups (Philadelphia and Buffalo), they only play twice during this period and both games come on the road. Tough to produce without any games to play!

Chicago – In a confusing Western Conference, Chicago has put themselves into a position where they probably won’t be buying at the deadline but probably won’t sell either, and it’s all thanks to winning five of their last six games; the Hawks also scored 26 times in those six games, so it looks like they can be counted on for production again! The bad news for ‘Hawks owners: Chicago doesn’t play until February 1 (at Arizona), and then plays a back-to-back against Minnesota and Boston, with the Bruins being the back half and the back-to-back is a road game-home game split which is even tougher.

Boston – Those same Bruins get to play four times in this period which isn’t awful, but given the way the games break for Boston – they have two separate back-to-backs including a home/road – they’ll be hard to count on. The Bruins play at Winnipeg and Minnesota on January 31 and February 1, and then play home to Vancouver on the 4th before travelling to play the Blackhawks on the 5th.

Breaks in the schedule (Christmas and the All-Star Break) play tricks on the schedule analyzer, so last week’s schedule portion was wrong – sorry! It’s fixed going forward.

January 24 to January 30

Best Bets

NSH 2.955 – Away WSH NJD- Home TOR

BUF 2.31 – Home OTT MTL

SJS 2.205 – Away – Home ANH VAN

OTT 2.095 – Away BUF – Home NJD

NJD 2.09 – Away OTT – Home NSH

Steer Clear

BOS 0 – Away – Home

CAR 0 – Away – Home

CHI 0 – Away – Home

COL 0 – Away – Home

CBJ 0 – Away – Home

January 25 to January 31

Best Bets

OTT 3.0925 – Away BUF – Home NJD WSH

WSH 3.0875 – Away MTL OTT- Home NSH

STL 3.0875 – Away VAN CGY EDM- Home

NSH 2.955 – Away WSH NJD – Home TOR

ANH 2.945 – Away SJS – Home ARI TBL

Steer Clear

CHI 0 – Away – Home

COL 0 – Away – Home

CBJ 0 – Away – Home

FLA 0 – Away – Home

MIN 0 – Away – Home

January 26 to February 1

Best Bets

OTT 4.09 – Away BUF TOR- Home NJD WSH

NSH 4.005 – Away WSH NJD – Home TOR VGK

STL 3.99 – Away VAN CGY EDM WPG- Home

ANH 3.8 – Away SJS LAK- Home ARI TBL

TBL 3.7525 – Away DAL LAK ANH SJS- Home

Steer Clear

CHI 0.95 – Away ARI- Home

COL 0.95 – Away PHI- Home

FLA 0.9975 – Away MTL- Home

MIN 0.9975 – Away – Home BOS

CBJ 1.045 – Away BUF- Home

January 27 to February 2

Best Bets

MTL 4.1425 – Away BUF – Home WSH FLA CBJ

OTT 4.09 – Away BUF TOR – Home NJD WSH

WSH 4.0325 – Away MTL OTT – Home NSH PIT

NSH 4.005 – Away WSH NJD – Home TOR VGK

STL 3.99 – Away VAN CGY EDM WPG – Home

Steer Clear

FLA 0.9975 – Away MTL – Home

CHI 0.95 – Away ARI – Home

MIN 0.9975 – Away – Home BOS

COL 0.95 – Away PHI – Home

NYI 1.2075 – Away – Home VAN

January 28 to February 3

Best Bets

NYR 3.455 – Away DET – Home DET DAL

TOR 3.3025 – Away DAL – Home OTT FLA

CGY 3.1975 – Away EDM – Home STL EDM

BUF 3.36 – Home OTT MTL CBJ

DET 3.15 – Away NY Rangers – Home NY Rangers PHI

Steer Clear

CHI 0.95 – Away ARI – Home

COL 0.95 – Away PHI – Home

MIN 0.9975 – Away – Home BOS

NYI 1.2075 – Away – Home VAN

BOS 1.7575 – Away WPG MIN – Home

January 29 to February 4

Best Bets

ARI 4.1575 – Away ANH – Home LAK CHI EDM

MTL 4.095 – Away BUF NJD- Home FLA CBJ

DAL 4 – Away NJD NY Rangers NY Islanders- Home TOR

WSH 3.98 – Away OTT – Home NSH PIT LAK

EDM 3.9475 – Away CGY ARI- Home CGY STL

Steer Clear

CHI 1.805 – Away ARI MIN- Home

PIT 1.9525 – Away WSH – Home PHI

COL 1.995 – Away PHI BUF- Home

MIN 2.1525 – Away – Home BOS CHI

NYI 2.3625 – Away – Home VAN DAL

January 30 to February 5

Best Bets

NYR 4.5575 – Away DET – Home DET DAL TOR

MTL 4.095 – Away BUF NJD – Home FLA CBJ

BOS 4.01 – Away WPG MIN CHI- Home VAN

TOR 3.255 – Away NY Rangers- Home OTT FLA

ARI 3.255 – Away – Home LAK CHI EDM

Steer Clear

SJS 1.895 – Away CGY – Home TBL

PIT 1.9525 – Away WSH – Home PHI

COL 1.995 – Away PHI BUF – Home

MIN 2.1525 – Away – Home BOS CHI

CGY 2.205 – Away – Home EDM SJS