The NHL returned to a normal 82-game schedule last season, but with a scheduled Olympics break and the pandemic affecting the game schedule for almost every single team, the calendar was heavily condensed and extremely volatile. Finally, the 2022–23 season will see a return to normalcy in the NHL calendar and each team will be back to a regularly operating schedule for the first time since 2019–20.
Veteran fantasy hockey managers 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.
Off days in the NHL
Off days are days when there are fewer games on the calendar. In the past, off days have been Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. This year is no different.
63% of NHL games will be played on just three days: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is a 3% increase from 59% last year. The remaining 37% 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 Ducks have the most even distribution of games by day, by far. They play 14 games on Tuesdays and nine games on Mondays. All other days fall in between, with an overall range of just five games. The only team that comes close to this tight of a distribution is the Coyotes that have an overall range of nine games.
On the other end, the Oilers and Kings have a range of 20 games, over two times that of the Ducks. The Oilers play on just six Fridays and just two Sundays this entire season, and have 22 games on Saturdays. The Kings have eight or fewer games on off days, and 19 or more games on busy days.
The Oilers will be an especially interesting team to watch this year as their players will have almost zero appeal for weekend streaming options and clutch Sunday adds to try and flip close categories on the last day of the week.
The Ducks have been the kings of off day games for years now, but there are a few other very solid teams to invest heavily in due to their heavier off day schedule this season.
|Team||Off Day Games|
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Only the Ducks will play over half their season on off days, but this group of teams trail as valuable off day investments. The Avalanche, Rangers, Wild, Flames, and Oilers will all have a long list of fantasy relevant players who all get a boost due to this schedule quirk.
Teams with the fewest games on off days are:
|Team||Off Day Games|
|Los Angeles Kings|
Tampa Bay Lightning
|Vegas Golden Knights||27|
|San Jose Sharks|
St. Louis Blues
Three of the biggest markets currently in the league unsurprisingly have the fewest off day games: the Kings, Canadiens, and Lightning. The spread between the Ducks and the Kings/Canadiens/Lightning is an incredible 23 games. Notables on this list are the Lightning, Predators, and Golden Knights, all 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. For example, 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|
|10||CGY, EDM, DAL|
|11||ANA, WSH, LAK|
|12||ARI, MIN, OTT, FLA, NJD, NSH|
|12||WPG, COL, VAN, BUF, MTL|
|14||CHI, TOR, CAR, BOS, DET, SJS, STL, TBL|
|15||NYI, PIT, PHI|
It isn’t as bad as last season where the number of back-to-backs ranged from eight to a whopping 19, but this is still quite a range. The Golden Knights losing Robin Lehner is definitely a huge blow, but they do have the best schedule when it comes to back to backs this season. The Rangers will need to find some reliability from their backup this year to help out Igor Shesterkin.
There are a few teams with bona fide starters that gain even more value due to a low number of back-to-backs: Jacob Markstrom, Jack Campbell, and Jake Oettinger. This does bring down the value of these teams’ backups, notably Daniel Vladar with Calgary.
One team to keep an eye on is the Flames. If Markstrom stays healthy, he could easy lead the league in games played and put up crazy fantasy numbers once again. With only 10 back-to-backs, we could see Markstrom start north of 65 games easily this season with Darryl Sutter making the starting goaltender decisions.
On the other end, the Islanders have 15 back-to-backs, giving a bit more value to Semyon Varlamov who should be even more of a backup than a 1B to Ilya Sorokin. As well, the Leafs have 14 back-to-backs which boosts the fantasy value of their tandem in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
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.
|Week #||Average Games|
There are a maximum of 26 weeks in fantasy this season, assuming the first week runs from October 7 to October 16.
Only two weeks have an average of two games (below average) and another two with four games (above average). It will be a very even schedule for man games this year so the above sections on off days becomes even more important to maximize your adds.
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 more games than the rest of the league.
|Weeks with > Average GP||Teams|
|9||STL, ARI, NSH, ANA|
Unfortunately, the teams with the highest frequency of weeks with more games than average aren’t very good teams. The class of this list will be the Jets, Blues, and Predators.
|Weeks with < Average GP||Teams|
|2||NYI, CAR, DET, TBL, OTT, NJD, LAK, DAL|
On the other side, there are several extremely fantasy relevant teams that gain more value due to having very few weeks with fewer than average games. The Lightning and Hurricanes headline this list. Both teams will be valuable for picking up streaming options as you’re almost guaranteed to have enough man games for a pickup to be worth it. Depth options on these teams will be solid pickups in the draft and on the waiver wire.
If you have noticed something interesting with the schedule that we haven’t, let us know on social media @wincolumnCGY or in the comments!