It’s not a shortened schedule like we saw last season, but the 2021-22 NHL schedule is a lot more condensed than in years past due to the inclusion of a long Olympic break in the new year.
This has created a much more unbalanced schedule than we’re used to, and some teams are more affected by it than others.
If you’re a veteran fantasy hockey manager, you will know how important it is to consider the schedule when drafting, trading, and making weekly pickups. If you’re new to this, allow us to give you a head start.
Let’s break down the schedule. Pull up our consolidated fantasy rankings as well to see which players gain and lose an edge based on the schedule.
Off days are days when there are fewer games on the calendar. In the past, off days have been Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Last season, we saw a shift in this trend, but it’s back to normal this season.
59% of NHL games will be played on just three days: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The remaining 41% will happen on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. This split is important to keep in mind so you don’t run into as many days where your entire roster is playing and you have to decide who to bench.
There is clearly a split between days league-wide, but there are some extreme cases for specific teams. The Capitals have the most even distribution of games by day, by far. They play 10 games on Mondays and Sundays, and 15 games on Saturdays. All other days fall in between, with an overall range of just five games.
On the other end, the Canadiens have a range of 21 games, over four times that of the Capitals. The Canadiens play on just three Fridays this season, and have 24 games on Saturdays. They will be a very interesting team to watch in fantasy this year.
Another past trend that is back this year is the Anaheim Ducks returning as the kings of off days. There are a few teams that are right up there with the Ducks and will have extra value this season.
|Team||Off Day Games|
|New York Rangers||44|
All seven teams listed above will play at least half their season on off days. Notably, the Rangers have just one fewer off day game than the Ducks, and have some of the best top-end players in fantasy. The Avalanche and Jets are also teams with lots of fantasy relevant players who will gain an edge here.
Teams with the fewest games on off days are:
|Team||Off Day Games|
|San Jose Sharks||22|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||24|
The Montreal Canadiens unsurprisingly have the fewest off day games. The spread between the Canadiens and Ducks is an incredible 24 games. Notables on this list are the Panthers and Lightning, both with a high number of fantasy relevant players who will make setting your lines difficult on busy nights.
It will be important to spread out your drafting to ensure you’re not forced to bench the same player over and over again. If it comes down to a middle-six forward from the Lightning or the Avalanche, lean Avalanche. What’s the point of having someone on your team if you can’t dress them?
Back-to-backs, or instances when a team plays on consecutive nights, are usually spread out fairly evenly between teams. This year however, there are some teams that definitely have an easier schedule than others.
Teams with the most back-to-backs are:
|# of Back-to-backs||Team|
|11||Colorado, Montréal, Winnipeg|
|12||Pittsburgh, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Vegas|
|13||Anaheim, Boston, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington|
|14||Calgary, Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Ottawa|
|15||Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Seattle|
|17||Arizona, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Philadelphia|
This is an interesting split to say the least. If the Oilers do decide to upgrade their truly horrific goaltending tandem and trade for a guy like Anton Khudobin, he will gain immense value due to the Oilers’ ability to ride their starter much more than other teams.
Just after the Oilers, there are a few teams with bona fide starters that gain even more value due to a low number of back-to-backs: Carey Price, Connor Hellebuyck, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Robin Lehner. This does bring down the value of these goalies’ backups, notably Jake Allen and Brian Elliott.
One team to keep an eye on is the Flames. With Jacob Markstrom fully healthy, he could end up leading the league in games played. New coach Darryl Sutter loves to ride his number one, and Markstrom loves playing every single night. With 14 back-to-backs it’s natural to think new backup Daniel Vladar will get into all of them, but don’t be surprised if Markstrom starts both sides of the back-to-back on multiple occasions.
On the other end, the Islanders have an insane 19 back-to-backs, almost guaranteeing that Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin will timeshare the net. This greatly improves Sorokin’s fantasy value and should be a mid-round draft target.
Games by week
Man games are always important in fantasy, and it’s key to ensure you have as many man games each week as possible. In the past, three games per week has been the average for teams, four games has been above average, and two games below. That holds true this season, but there are a few weeks with outliers on either end. As well, due to the Olympic break built into the schedule, there are three weeks that aren’t the standard seven days.
|Week #||Days in the Week||Average Games|
There are a maximum of 24 weeks in fantasy this season, but due to the start and finish of the season, plus the breaks during Christmastime and the Olympics, four weeks are not seven days long.
The first week is just one day shorter, but has quite a few teams that only play one game.
Week 11 will have a lot of games for each team, but only two teams play the minimum four games, so it’s not going to cause as big of an issue as the other weeks on this list.
Week 16 has all but four teams play three or four games, but two teams that play only two games and two teams that play five games. Definitely a good week to stream players from those two high count teams.
Week 24 is unlikely to be part of most fantasy leagues, but every team plays between five and seven games, so there isn’t a huge spread here.
On the whole, there are a few weeks you need to keep in the back of your mind until they come up. Starting with weeks that have teams with fewer games than the rest of the league.
|Week||# of Games||Teams with fewer games|
|Week 1||1||Boston, Calgary, New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Louis|
|Week 3||1||NY Islanders|
|Week 5||1||NY Islanders|
|Week 11||4||Minnesota, Toronto|
|Week 16||2||Carolina, Montréal|
The Islanders are a team of interest here. In Week 3 and Week 5, they only have one game, which is definitely something to keep in mind. No other team in the league has multiple weeks with just one game on the schedule. There are a lot of Islanders that will be good options in late rounds of the draft and because of how balanced their offense is, there will be lots of streaming options from that team as the year goes on. Best to avoid the Isles in those weeks.
Looking at the other side of this, there are far fewer weeks that have teams with many more games than the rest.
|Week||# of Games||Teams with more games|
|Week 16||5||Arizona, Edmonton|
Week 9 is a huge week for the Ducks. It’s a regular seven day week, but the Ducks have a whopping five games on the calendar. This is the week you want to target streaming options from the Ducks, and you should have lots to choose from with how star-deficient the Ducks are at this point.
Wingers from Edmonton will be a great pickup for Week 16, too.
Specific day oddities
Here are some fun tidbits we picked out of the schedule that might be valuable throughout the season:
- The team with the most Sunday games this season is the Islanders with 14, followed by the Rangers, Wild, and Ducks with 13. These are the teams you’ll want to look to in tight weekly matchups; huge week saving potential with these teams.
- On the flip side, the Kings lead the league with 11 games on Mondays this season, followed by the Capitals, Coyotes, and Avalanche with 10. Having players from these teams will help you get off on the right foot.
- The Rangers never play fewer than three games in any fantasy week this season. Players from this team will never let you down on the man game front.
- After Week 1, the Flyers and Devils are also teams that do not have any weeks with fewer than three games.
If you have noticed something interesting with the schedule that we haven’t, let us know on social media @wincolumnCGY or in the comments!