Top 10 under-the-radar hot starts
Much of the focus so far this season has focused around some of the great surprise players, and with good reason.
While much of the attention is on these guys and a few others, there are some players that are having great starts to the league that many fantasy hockey general managers aren’t paying as much attention to.
Below are 10 players whose great start to the season may be lost in some of the hype of fellow league mates.
Honourable mention: Patrice Bergeron
I’m listing Bergeron as an honourable mention because it seems like he isn’t getting his due. Most people are talking about the Bruins’ top line as a whole, or just about David Pastrnak leading the league in goals with 16. However, going into last night’s action, Bergeron led the league in points. Truthfully, no one should be that surprised. He was a point-per-game producer last year, but missed 20 games due to injury. If people were projecting 80-plus points for his linemates, it would only make sense Bergeron would rack up the points as well. Leading the league in points is the shocking part.
10. David Krejci
While much of the focus has been on the Bruins’ top line, lost in the shuffle is the hot start of Krejci, who has 15 points in his first 17 games. This is not new territory for Krejci, who had 17 in his first 21 games a year ago. A lot of his underlying numbers suggest this year’s start can’t last (a decrease in shots-per-game, shooting percentage, offensive zone starts and 5-on-5 shooting percentage) but enjoy the ride while it lasts.
9. Zach Parise
Parise was under the radar because of his age (34), his injury history (too numerous to list) and the fact he had just 24 points in 42 games last year. Just remember that a season ago, he had 17 points in his final 21 games despite having just two power-play points. This year he’s pretty much kept up that pace, with 16 points in 17 games but only four power-play points. His ice time is 80 seconds higher over last year (up to 18:21 this year), and as long as he stays healthy, you can peg him in for at least 65 points.
Here we are again with Pominville. When he plays with elite talent, he puts up points. When he doesn’t play with elite talent, he doesn’t get points. It’s that simple. He has 15 points in 17 games, thanks mostly to Jack Eichel as Eichel has picked up a point on 10 of Pominville’s points. With little in the way of power-play time, Pominville is one of those guys you pick up when he’s hot and drop as soon as he’s away from Eichel.
7. Tomas Tatar
Four seasons ago, Tatar was a 23-year-old, 56-point player with big upside. Going into this season, he was fantasy irrelevant and considered a risk to even get to 40 points, especially on a Habs team many projected would have trouble scoring. Tatar has fit right into the Habs’ new system, posting 15 points in 17 games (a 72-point pace). He could actually be doing better if the team had a better power play. Despite being on the top unit, he has just two power-play points.
Much ink has been spilled about the great starts of some of his teammates, but Tierney’s start is being somewhat overlooked. He’s been helped by the fact Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been out with an injury since the start of training camp, meaning Tierney’s role as the second-line centre is solidified. A little surprisingly, he’s having a good season without scoring goals. Just two goals so far on 5.7 shooting percentage. For his career, he averaged 11.6 shooting percentage going into this year and was as high as 14.4 per cent last year.
5. Dylan Larkin
There’s not much fantasy relevance with the Red Wings these days, but the 22-year-old Larkin is taking that next step to becoming fantasy elite. With 17 points in 17 games, Larkin is on pace for 82 points. However, for whatever weird reason, Larkin is not being used on the Wings top power-play unit, and it shows with just three power-play points. Until he moves up onto that top unit, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything more than a 60-point guy.
4. Josh Bailey
This easily could have been Anders Lee in this spot, but I went with Bailey simply because he has three more points than his Islander teammate. Regardless, many expected both Islanders to struggle with the loss of John Tavares. At 17 points in 16 games, Bailey has easily surpassed expectations so far. Bailey looks to have a good shot at matching last year’s total of 78 points. It helps that he is on the top power-play unit, where he has picked up seven points so far.
We’ve been waiting for a breakout season from Zibanejad for years, but many fantasy general managers would be forgiven if they had given up hope. He’s never really proven to be anything more than a 50-point player, and that’s only when everything goes right and he stays healthy. This year he has 15 points in 17 games and is on pace for 72 points. He’s averaging 20:30 per game (2:30 more than he’s ever had) and is on the top power-play unit.
O’Reilly finishing with 55-65 points was something you could always count on, but this year he is on pace to almost double that. With 21 points in 15 games, he’s on pace for 115 points. Sixteen of those points have come in the last nine games. He’s found excellent chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko and is on the Blues’ top power-play unit, which is the fourth highest in the league after being second worst a year ago. Maybe even more amazing, he’s a plus-player, something he hasn’t done since his rookie season in 2009-10 when he was a plus-four.
Lost in all the talk about young defensemen like Morgan Rielly and Thomas Chabot is that no one seems to be talking about the 35-year-old Giordano. With 16 points in 18 games, Giordano is fifth in the league for points by a defenseman. While his time on ice is slightly below last year, he’s averaging almost four minutes on the power play and is routinely playing at even strength with Calgary’s top guns.
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