Fantasy Poll: Slow Starts or Time to Revise Expectations?

by Rick Roos on October 23, 2019

 

Much of the buzz during these first few weeks of the season has rightfully focused on players who’ve had unexpectedly hot starts. The focus of today’s poll, however, is the other end of the spectrum – that is, underperforming players……at least thus far. The poll question is a simple one – which of these 20 currently disappointing players do you think will right their ships. In other words, which players, despite their poor starts, will still end up with a final point total that is no less than what was their projected full season scoring expectation (according to the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide).

You can vote for as many or as few players as you believe will reach their predicted scoring total. The choices are listed below, in alphabetical order along with their current 82 game scoring pace (through October 20th) and their preseason projected scoring total according to the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide. As always, although these polls are meant to be enjoyable, please vote objectively so your fellow Dobberites can count upon the results to shape decisions in terms of trades or roster moves.

 

Sebastian Aho (Current Scoring Pace = 27 points; Projected Scoring Total = 86 points)

Not only does Aho have a mere three points on the seasons thus far, but two have also come with the other team’s net empty and he’s yet to produce even a single point with the man advantage. And although his SOG rate is even better than it had been in his prior seasons, his ice time is down by a minute and his PP time by 30 seconds, which is not a recipe for better than a point per game production. While it’s difficult to rule out a player as talented as Aho, he’s never scored more than 24 points in a quarter, so it might be tough for him to dig out of this hole and still reach his projected 86 points.

 

Tyson Barrie (Current Scoring Pace = 36 points; Projected Scoring Total = 61 points)

Although it was made clear before the season that Morgan Rielly would still be the PP1 QB for Toronto, the team’s potent offense was thought to be more than enough to keep Barrie above the 60 point mark for the third straight season. So far though, despite seeing over 22 minutes of action per night and still taking the ice 57% of the time in the offensive zone (down only slightly from his 62% average from his prior two seasons), Barrie sits below the point per every other game mark. While we can’t rule out Barrie reaching 61 points due to the high scoring team he’s on, it looks like his production might suffer more than was initially expected.

 

Kyle Connor (Current Scoring Pace = 33 points; Projected Scoring Total = 67 points)

Although the season is still young, Connor has spent nearly all of it off the top line, where Patrik Laine has been situated and, more importantly, has produced. Can Connor still do well on the second line? In truth, we don’t know, as he’s never really been apart from Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele for more than a few games during his young career.  One saving grace is he’s still on PP1, although with Nikolaj Ehlers having a solid start to his campaign, perhaps Connor’s hold on that spot might be tenuous.

 

Jake Gardiner (Current Scoring Pace = 18 points; Projected Scoring Total = 39 points)

After taking eons to sign a deal this summer, Carolina seemed like the perfect landing spot for Gardiner, whom poolies presumed would receive the same favorable deployment as Justin Faulk had for several seasons, especially on the PP. But whether that was the plan or not, Dougie Hamilton had other ideas and has seized the reins as the top defensive dog in Carolina, leaving Gardiner with scraps which thus far have amounted to less than 18:00 per game and taking the ice for barely a third of Carolina’s total PP Time. It could be a long season for Gardiner, and poolies who own him.

 

Shayne Gostisbehere (Current Scoring Pace = 0 points; Projected Scoring Total = 55 points)

Most poolies believed the Ghost of old would be what we’d see in 2019-20; however, he’s looking even more lost now than he was during his very disappointing 2018-19, failing to register even a single point thus far this season. Normally the expectation would be that as a 65 point scorer just two seasons ago he’d play his way out of the slump; but with a new coach at the helm and other options for blueline offense, including Ivan Provorov, who’s at least for the time being has taken over PP1 duties, Ghost might be hard-pressed to equal last season’s total, let alone climb back to the 55 point mark that was expected of him.

 

Bo Horvat (Current Scoring Pace = 31 points; Projected Scoring Total = 58 points)

If a GM was starting a team, Horvat would be someone he or she would love to have on the squad, as Horvat produces well while eating up tough minutes and playing in all situations. With him being named as captain this season and the Canucks a team that finally might “do things,” it could be that Horvat is prioritizing aspects of the game that don’t translate into high scoring. If so, reaching 58 points could be a tall order.

 

Jack Hughes (Current Scoring Pace = 20 points; Projected Scoring Total = 72 points)

When the spotlight is squarely on you as the first overall pick in the draft, a slow start seems all the more concerning. And there’s also the fact that – if anything – rookies tend to start fast before they hit a wall late in the season. There’s still reason to hope now that Hughes has started to score the floodgates will open; however, climbing to 72 after the early hole in which he put himself might be a tall order.

 

Kaapo Kakko (Current Scoring Pace = 13 points; Projected Scoring Total = 54 points)

Much of what was said above about Hughes can be said here about Kakko, although in fairness he’s yet to receive the kind of cushy deployment that Hughes has. With the innate talent that Kakko undeniably possesses and the Rangers still in need of scoring, chances are Kakko should eventually get chances to play with some of the better New York forwards, in which case 54 points could remain within reach.

 

John Klingberg (Current Scoring Pace = 24 points; Projected Scoring Total = 58 points)

Many had visions of Klingberg and super-sophomore Miro Heiskanen forming a dynamic duo of sorts, with both racking up points. So far Heiskanen is on pace to better his total from last year; however, the bottom seems to have dropped out from Klingberg’s production. Indeed his best seasons occurred when there were no other offensive options from the blueline, so perhaps Heiskanen’s presence is hurting Klingberg more than helping him?

 

Kevin Labanc (Current Scoring Pace = 31 points; Projected Scoring Total = 61 points)

After he signed a one year deal for only $1M this summer and with this season marking his “breakout threshold,” most figured Labanc would come out firing on all cylinders to at least equal – if not improve upon – the 32 points he posted in his final 39 games last season. But thus far despite a major uptick in ice time and even more PP minutes he’s not producing. Given his proven ability to finish strong we can’t write him off completely; however, this is not a promising start to what was supposed to be a true breakout campaign.

 

Jonathan Marchessault (Current Scoring Pace = 45 points; Projected Scoring Total = 70 points)

Vegas’ offense has been doing just fine; however, somehow Marchessault has not been racking up the points like his fellow Knights teammates. Might Marchessault have lost his scoring touch, or is this just a case of the type of bad luck that sees a player on the ice when goals are scored yet not managing to nab a point on those goals? With a healthy IPP, it’s likely not the latter that’s the cause, so maybe his magic 2017-18 was the outlying season, which would leave 70 points a longshot.

 

Timo Meier (Current Scoring Pace = 31 points; Projected Scoring Total = 64 points)

Last season Meier started red hot and worked his way into prime deployment. Now this season, with him firmly entrenched in the top six from the get-go and with more PP Time than he saw in 2018-19 he’s somehow struggling. They are positive signs though, as he’s still shooting the puck a ton and seeing more than a minute extra ice time as compared to last season, giving him a good chance of digging out of this early slump and still hitting his projected total.

 

Joe Pavelski (Current Scoring Pace = 10 points; Projected Scoring Total = 62 points)

Those who purchased the Fantasy Guide and read my piece on outliers saw there were several factors that individually and collectively pointed toward a poor output from Pavelski this season. Then again, he started 2018-19 very slow as well before catching fire. With each passing year, however, digging out of early holes becomes less and less likely, and in this case, could lead to Pavelski finishing sub-60 points.

 

Ryan Pulock (Current Scoring Pace = 10 points; Projected Scoring Total = 45 points)

The once highly touted Pulock is yet again struggling to score and, thanks to the presence of Devon Toews, has seen his PP minutes shrink further and his offensive zone starting percentage crater. Pulock likely is capable of more; however, if things continue to unfold as they have thus far then even 40 points would be a stretch.

 

Alexander Radulov (Current Scoring Pace = 33 points; Projected Scoring Total = 71 points)

Due to his prolonged absence from the NHL, many forget that Radulov is 33 years old, which is well past prime for forwards. This season his minutes are lower for the second campaign in a row and his flashy play seems to be MIA, making it unlikely he’ll be able to claw his way past the 70 point threshold.

 

Rasmus Ristolainen (Current Scoring Pace = 27 points; Projected Scoring Total = 47 points)

With Rasmus Dahlin lighting up the scoresheet, Risto is being deployed in even less of an offensive role than he was toward the end of last season, which saw him score at below a 35 point full season pace. The only saving grace might be that Dahlin’s play could leave Risto expendable, and if Risto lands on another team he’d be looked upon more for offense and perhaps could salvage his season. Even still, it seems like a stretch that he’ll be able to claw his way to 47 points when all is said and done in 2019-20.

 

Eric Staal (Current Scoring Pace = 20 points; Projected Scoring Total = 59 points)

It’s not a pretty picture for the now 34-year-old Staal, whose ice times are down and who’s not even firing two SOG on net per game after being near or above three per game for most of his career. Couple that with him playing for a team that has challenges of its own and won’t be a rising tide that lifts all boats, and it looks like Staal will be hard-pressed to reach even his 52 points that he posted last season.

 

Jonathan Toews (Current Scoring Pace = 27 points; Projected Scoring Total = 71 points)

For many years poolies drafted Toews hoping he’d prioritize scoring, yet invariably Toews would instead focus on intangibles and helping his team win ways other than stuffing the score sheet. Last season, however, Toews seemed to sense the team needed his scoring, so score he did. Is what we’re seeing now a return to the Toews of previous years, or just a slow start? Time will tell, as it always does.

 

James van Riemsdyk (Current Scoring Pace = 0 points; Projected Scoring Total = 60 points)

Now 30 and having a lot of power forward mileage, it could be that JVR’s best years are behind him. What’s especially troubling is his ice time and PP usage are both up as compared to last season. And with the Flyers in need of a spark and having enough other talent, JVR could find himself losing his cushy deployment, in which case it could be a very trying season for him in real and fantasy hockey.

 

Keith Yandle (Current Scoring Pace = 31 points; Projected Scoring Total = 59 points)

In fantasy hockey, there were two virtual guarantees – that Yandle wouldn’t miss any games and he’d put big smiles on the faces of poolies who owned him. So far this season he’s one for two, as the points are not piling up like they were in 2018-19 when his 39 PPPts would’ve alone been enough to put him 31st in d-man scoring. The good news is Yandle’s PP Time is still as high as they come; however, with the addition of Anton Stralman and emergence of Mike Matheson, his overall ice time has cratered, enough so that 59 points could be a longshot.

 

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Note that I was limited to only 20 choices in the poll. Some players who arguably could’ve also made the list include Jake Debrusk, Phil Kessel, Ryan McDonagh, Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Seguin, and Mats Zuccarello, to name just a few. As for the players for whom you can vote, you can cast your ballots by clicking here. Remember, you can vote for as many or as few of the players as you think will be able to hit their projected scoring total despite their slow start.

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Questions for Mailbag column

The next mailbag column will be posted in a week, and I could still use questions. You can get them to me either by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.