Fantasy Hockey Top-10: Early-Season Struggles

by Tom Collins on October 23, 2017

This is the time of year when it’s easiest to take advantage of a general manager who is freaking out over their superstars slow starts.

There are many players that are struggling. If you believe these players will rebound (as the majority of them will undoubtedly do), you may be able to get them for cheaper than what you could have three weeks ago when the season started.

Below are 10 players (plus a bonus 10) who are struggling. Please remember that it’s still early and there’s no need to panic. Unless you’re in one of my leagues. Then you should definitely panic and send these players to me.


10. Cam Atkinson

Dobber darling Atkinson is struggling despite having excellent opportunities. He’s on the top line with Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg and is also on the top power-play unit. He has three goals and no assists through eight games, and zero power play points. He’s close to his career average of 2.77 shots per game and is starting in the offensive zone 62.82 per cent of the time (a huge increase from the previous three years when he was below 50 per cent). Things will rebound for him in due time.


9. Cam Talbot

Talbot was the fifth goalie selected in one-year Yahoo pools, usually selected at the end of the second round. People were expecting Edmonton to be a power house team with a solid chance to win the division. Talbot has struggled, winning just two of six starts to go along with a 2.95 GAA and a .903 SV%. The wins will start coming. You just need to be patient.


8. Jordan Eberle

Eberle is example #382,746 why you should sell high when a player is traded or signs with a new team. There was a lot of hope that Eberle and John Tavares would be great together, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Never assume that two players will have instant chemistry together. Eberle has zero goals and four assists — including one power-play point — in eight games. The Islanders will keep putting Eberle with Tavares, but at some point, will have to go with Josh Bailey there instead if Eberle can’t provide some value.


7. Alexander Radulov

Radulov isn’t having the immediate uptick on his fantasy performance many thought he would have in Dallas. A goal and three assists in eight games isn’t horrible, but it’s not what many expected. There are some positive signs. While he has only one power play point, Dallas has had the second-fewest power play opportunities per game. While the league average is 3.95, Dallas is at 2.88. If Dallas gets closer to the league average, that means more power play goals and therefore more power play points for Radulov.


6. Max Pacioretty

Pacioretty himself is admitting that he is “the worst player on the ice.” So far, he has just one goal and no assists in eight games. He has always been an extremely streaky shooter. Last year, he scored 26 of his 35 goals in a 39-game span from Dec. 4 to Feb. 27. That means he scored just nine goals in his other 41 games. The goals will go in. You just may have to wait until December before that happens.


5. Torey Krug

Boston is a top-10 scoring team with a top-four power play, but Krug has been awful for fantasy purposes. In six games, Krug has two points, a minus-eight and a single power play point. By comparison, teammate Charlie McAvoy has seven points in seven games and is a minus-two with three power play points. However, Krug is getting 75 per cent of the power play time while McAvoy is at 37 per cent so he’s in a good spot to rebound.


4. Oscar Klefbom

Manning the power play for a team that has Connor McDavid, you would expect him to have more than a single assist in seven games. You shouldn’t worry too much. There’s no one to challenge him for his spot in the lineup, he’s averaging three shots a game and will continue to get every opportunity to succeed.


3. Devan Dubnyk

It’s been a trying season for goalies. There are 10 netminders that started the year as their team’s number one goalie who have a save percentage below .900. Dubnyk has one win with a .888 SV % and a 3.80 GAA in four games. The Wild have only played six games, tied with the Hurricanes for lowest in the league. So, Dubnyk’s season is an even smaller sample size than most.


2. Brent Burns

After posting back-to-back seasons of 75 and 76 points, there was a lot of hope for Burns as many fantasy general managers used a first-round pick on the Sharks defenseman. However, Burns has just four assists in seven games. The most frustrating aspect is his zero goals after seasons of 29 and 27. The goals and points will come. You just have to stay patient.


1. Carey Price

Suffice to say, no one is happy with Price’s starts this year. He’s gone from being the best goalie in fantasy hockey to being one of the worst goalies in the league with a 1-5-1 record, a 3.94 GAA and a .881 SV%. Much of the problem is the defense in front of Price, who has struggled this whole year. There are no quick fixes to that, but Price is a stud and could easily carry this team on his back again.  


Bonus top 10:

There have been a lot of players struggling to start the season. Here are another 10.

Sam Bennett: On the fourth line and zero points so far.

Louis Domingue: A rough start to his Coyotes career with an injury, zero wins, a 4.22 GAA and a .868 SV%.

Alex Galchenyuk: Could have made this list but I didn’t want too many Habs players. One point in eight games, moved around the lineup, off the top power play unit.

Victor Hedman: Four points in nine games is way off his expected pace.

Nick Leddy: Many expected 45-plus points. He’s on pace for 21 but is still quarterbacking the top power-play unit.

Steve Mason: Lost the starter’s job in Winnipeg after two games and is trying to give Antti Niemi a run for his money as worst goalie of the season.

Matthew Murray: The wins are there (five in seven games) but his peripherals are not (3.35 GAA and a .896 SV%).

Rick Nash: Shooting a puck a ton, but is on the second power play unit and has one point in nine games.

Kyle Okposo: He’s been demoted to the third line and has one point in seven games.

Shea Weber: Just two points in eight games to go with a minus-five and one power play point. But is on pace for higher-than-average seasons in shots, hits and blocked shots.