Fantasy Top-10: Fast Starters

by Tom Collins on October 30, 2017

It’s never a good thing to overreact to early-season returns in fantasy hockey.

Every season is littered with players that start off hot before quickly fading. Remember when Sven Andrighetto started the season with six points in five games? He went pointless in his next five games and was a minus-eight in the span before putting up two points on Saturday. Or think of last year when Richard Panik had 10 points in his first 10 games and didn’t get another point until the end of November.

But other times it pays off. People who believed Zach Werenski was the real deal a year ago when he started with 10 points in 10 games was laughing for most of the season.

Here are 10 players off to hot starts this year and whether this is a sign of things to come or just a flash in the pan.

 

10. Anders Bjork

Bjork could be the surprise rookie of this campaign. With seven points in nine games, Bjork finds himself in a favourable position playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He is on the second power play unit, which will limit his production. As long as Bjork can hold onto that top-six role, he’s a serious candidate for the Calder.

 

9. Mike Green

Don’t get too excited about Green’s fast start. Sure, 11 points in 12 games sounds great for the Wings defenseman. He did nearly the same thing last year (10 points in the first 14 games) and finished with only 35 points. He’s pointless in his last three games and the Red Wings have been playing over their heads this year. Green doesn’t shoot the puck enough and is almost guaranteed to miss 10 games at some point.

 

8. Mikhail Sergachev

One of the hottest defensemen in fantasy hockey, although it won’t be long until Sergachev is being dropped in one-year leagues. No rookie defenseman has ever recorded a 30-point season while averaging less than 14 minutes a game. Sergachev is averaging 13:20 minutes per game, and that includes 1:42 on the power play. It’s hard to have long-term success without the ice time. He also leads the league in offensive zone starts at a whopping 71.43 per cent.

 

7. James Neal

It’s amazing how the first nine games of the season can have such an impact on a player’s fantasy relevance. Neal has been tremendous with the Golden Knights with seven goals and 10 points. However, there are plenty of concerns. He’s shooting an extremely high 31.8 per cent (his career average is 12.3 per cent). He’s also not getting a lot of power play time (seventh on the team among forwards in PP TOI per game) and has just two power play shots total. None of this is conducive to long-term fantasy production.

 

6. Will Butcher

It feels like we were in the same situation last year with a different Devils defenseman when Damon Severson started off with nine points (five of them power-play points) in his first 10 games. Butcher is off to a similar start. He’s already got seven power-play points and 11 points overall in 10 games. He’s being protected in his usage as he’s starting in the offensive zone on two-thirds of his shifts and he’s rarely being used at even strength (his 11:54 even strength ice time is eighth among all Devils dmen although he leads the squad in power play time). Overall, he’s a risky fantasy option in leagues that count more than points. He has zero goals, 10 shots, two PIM, five hits and nine blocked shots. If he’s not getting power play points, he’s pretty much useless.

 

5. Evander Kane

Kane’s goal-scoring has never been in question but he’s picking up the assists this year because of his linemates. Playing mostly with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville, Kane’s underlying numbers are normal. His time on ice is in line with his five-year average, and his power-play usage is only 30 seconds more than his five-year average. His shooting percentage is down slightly from last year (although his five shots a game is about a shot more per game than normal). His PIM and hits are on line with what he’s done in previous years. Expect him to set a new high in power play points and overall points this year.

 

4. Dustin Brown

Brown used to be a fantasy darling because he could score, hit and shoot the puck at consistently high rate. He’s fallen off since 2012-13, but a new coach has worked wonders for Brown. John Stevens is giving Brown four more minutes a night and twice the amount of power play time than Brown had a year ago. A market correction is already happening as Brown has no points in his last four games. I wouldn’t expect a career year, but there’s a chance he can get back to 50 points with high peripheral numbers.

 

3. Derick Brassard

Brassard should be exhibit A on why you never give up on a fantasy asset after one poor season. After posting back-to-back seasons of 60 and 58 points, huge expectations for Brassard last year fell flat as he netted just 39 points. He’s having a comeback year with 11 points in 11 games so far. Expect the points to be dialed back somewhat. He’s shooting 22.2 per cent, double his career average. Things will go back to normal for Brassard soon enough. As long as you think that normal is somewhere between 55 and 60 points.

 

2. Vladislav Namestnikov

You can say he’s riding the coattails of his two elite linemates (Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos) but Namestnikov is helping his own cause by taking a shot per game more than his career average. It also helps that 60.6 per cent of his shifts start in the offensive zone. Sometimes linemates simply click. That’s what’s happening here, and unless the three of them go in some crazy funk, bet on them staying together for the majority of the season.

 

1. Sean Couturier

With 13 points in 11 games, Couturier is already a third of the way to his career high. There are a lot of things to like about his start. He’s playing regularly with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and his 2.91 shots per game is almost a full shot more than his previous high. He won’t finish with 80-plus points, but It all adds up to a career season. 

 

2 responses to “Fantasy Top-10: Fast Starters”

  1. chimp82x says:

    Interesting Butcher stat….8 of his 11 points are secondary assists.

  2. Rick Roos says:

    Kane’s play will stay elevated – never underestimate the power of having to actually show up in order to earn your next contract.

    And what a coincidence – I’d already decided to do a Couturier vs. Namestnikov cage match for next week, so folks can read about them in more detail.