The fantasy hockey season is still very young. As of this writing, teams have only played between six and eight games. Do you really think that you should be making drastic changes to your roster based on one-tenth of the schedule? In most cases, the answer to that question should be “No”. You don’t want to be the guy that dropped Mika Zibanejad last year. In other cases, however, there are reasons for concern with top NHL players. Let’s take a deeper look at the most owned fantasy players (80%+ ownership) who have struggled out of the gate and answer the question – is it time to panic?
Top NHL Players Struggling in Fantasy
Marner, Matthews and Tavares
The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a poor start and at the forefront of it is Mitch Marner. He has just two assists in eight games to start the year. John Tavares (four points in eight games) and Auston Matthews (one goal and one assist in five games) haven’t fared much better. So, what’s up with these guys and why aren’t they contributing to your fantasy teams? The answer is luck. The Maple Leafs are at the bottom of the league in team shooting percentage at 5.8%. They also lead the league in shot attempts, slot shots, cycle chances and rebound chances. The team and its top players are generating offense. Points will come in bunches soon. No time to panic here.
Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski
The Dallas Stars don’t have the same expectations that Vegas or Toronto have, so relatively speaking, their 3-3-1 start isn’t surprising. What may be surprising owners right now is the production from Roope Hintz (one assist in seven games) and Joe Pavelski (two points in seven games). Is it time to panic here? Absolutely.
Hintz broke out last year. Despite being in-and-out of the lineup with injuries, Hintz had an incredible 43 points in 41 games. Prior to last season, he was a 45-point player. He’s only 25 years old and he obviously possesses incredible talent but expecting another point-per-game season from a player that’s only done it once was always too much to ask.
At 37-years-old, Pavelski’s regression was always a season away. This could be that season. He had 25 goals last year thanks to an inflated shooting percentage. Through seven games, he’s averaging less shots (1.42 vs 2.85 career) and averaging four fever minutes of ice time. Owners can give him a week to see if the return of Jason Robertson sparks him, but it’s likely time to move on.
Nick Suzuki and Jeff Petry
The Montreal Canadiens have scored only 11 goals in eight games. They rank at the very bottom of the league with 1.57 goals for per game. By comparison, the Anaheim Ducks finished last in the league with 2.21 goals for per game last season. Point is, Montreal is going to snap out of this. Their top-nine is too talented not to. Nick Suzuki (four assists in eight games) and Jeff Petry (zero points in eight games) highlight this group of underperformers.
Suzuki is coming off back-to-back 41-point seasons to start his career and was pegged (and paid) as the number one centre. Fantasy poolies bought into his hype as the go-to guy, drafting him in waves. But, he doesn’t deserve his high ownership because he hasn’t proved that he can score 60 points in the league. The Habs will start producing, but don’t expect Suzuki to put up superstar numbers just yet.
Petry on the other hand has a proven track record as a 40+ point defenceman. When he’s not producing, he provides a great floor of peripheral stats that few offensive d-men can provide. The Canadiens also don’t have other options to turn to as they do up front. No reason to panic on Petry.
Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore
Alex Pietrangelo and the Vegas Golden Knights have already been faced with adversity. They lost their top two offensive players in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty just two games into the season. Both injuries have caused a significant ripple effect throughout the lineup. An effect that defencemen Pietrangelo (zero points in seven games) and Shea Theodore (three points in seven games) are feeling two-fold. First off, with Stone and Pacioretty leading the way, the Golden Knights have done a lot of their damage off the rush at even strength. Take your top rushing threats out of the lineup and that great first pass from your elite defenceman doesn’t result in a goal, which doesn’t result in an easy assist. Secondly, the Golden Knights are currently the only team in the National Hockey League that have yet to score on the power play. Every other team has scored at least twice. They will figure out their power play woes and their stars will return to action in the not-so-distant future. It’s not time to panic here.
Jakob Chychrun led all defencemen in goals last season with 18. A 10.2% shooting percentage fueled that output, but still, this guy can score goals. Fast forward to this season. The Arizona Coyotes bring in Shayne Gostisbehere and play him in Chychrun’s spot on the power play. Through seven games, the Coyotes haven’t won a game and yet, Gostisbehere continues to get more ice-time with the man-advantage. This is a headache you don’t need to deal with. If you can trade him to someone that thinks they’re buying low, pull the trigger and get what you can. It’s time to panic.
Ivan Provorov’s ownership is simply too high for a player that has been pushed down the lineup. The Philadelphia Flyers have revamped their d-core, bringing in offensive pieces like Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle making Provorov less relied on offensively. He’s still an amazing player, but through six games, Provorov has only one assist and 21 blocked shots. That sounds like a player with a new role, doesn’t it? He’ll get you the banger stats, but don’t expect him to hit 40 points again.
It goes without saying that the Chicago Blackhawks are a mess from top to bottom right now. The on-ice product is terrible, starting between the cage with Marc-Andre Fleury. The fact is, the reigning Vezina trophy winner isn’t this bad, and he’s not going to be this bad for that much longer. He hasn’t had a sub .900 save percentage since the 2005-2006 season in Pittsburgh and the good news is he can only go up from here. His value is too low to trade and he’s too good to drop in deeper leagues. You’re allowed to be concerned but let him work through it.