Now that we’re two months into the NHL, many fantasy general managers assume that what you see from a player at this point is what you get.
Not so fast. NHL history is littered with players who disappointed in the first couple of months of the season only to come storming back. Just last year, Brent Burns had seven points in his first 19 games, but had 60 in his last 62.
This year, we’ve already seen quite a few guys rebound. Anze Kopitar had six points in his first 17 games, but has 11 points in his last eight games heading into Sunday night’s game. Max Pacioretty had only two points in his first 14 games, but has 13 in his last 10.
Below are 10 players that will, or are at the start of, coming out of their funk.
10. Dylan Strome
After tallying a power-play goal Sunday night, Strome has three points in four games since being traded to the Blackhawks. There’s a lot to like about Strome after that move. For starters, going to a new team can be good for lighting a fire under a player who is determined to prove his old team wrong. Secondly, he’s lining up with better players (including Alex Debrincat, whom he had a lot of chemistry with in juniors). And finally, advanced stats just scream regression (most importantly, low five-on-five shooting percentage). He’s also improved his shot rate per game. These are all good signs.
Schenn surprised many last year, notching 70 points for the first time and having excellent chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko. So naturally, the team decided to put them on different lines most of the time this year and have them both struggle. Tarasenko has been on the ice for only 33 per cent of Schenn’s five-on-five ice time. Schenn’s power play and overall ice time are down from a year ago, but with the Blues continuing to struggle, you have to figure the team will at some point reunite the two. If not, Schenn will be hard pressed to rebound.
Keller is on pace for 59 points, which is only slightly off last year’s 65 points. However, many fantasy hockey general managers were hoping the Coyote would take the next step and flirt with at least 70 points. After a slow start (the whole team struggled to score at the start of the season), Keller has started to turn it around with six points in his last six games. He’s also starting shooting the puck more recently, which is always a good sign.
7. Devan Dubnyk
While a few of the Wild are experiencing a resurgence, Dubnyk and his 9-8-2 record with a 2.72 GAA and 0.909 SV % is not. However, this isn’t unchartered territory for Dubnyk. Last year, he started 4-6-1 with a .903 SV % and a 3.04 GAA. He then went 31-10-6 with a .922 SV % and a 2.40 GAA the rest of the season. Dubnyk has been one of the most consistent fantasy goalies the past few years. He won’t lose the number one job any time soon, so look for him to soon get back to the Dubnyk of old.
It seems as all the offensive-minded defenseman needed was a defensive-minded coach. Klefbom has done a 180 since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the Oilers bench. In those six games, Klefbom has two goals, four assists, 26 shots, three power-play points and 17 blocked shots. He has played at least 70 per cent of the team’s power play in five of the six games, so he’s not in danger of losing that spot anytime soon. Safe to say, he is on the way out of his funk.
It amazes me that the Flyers defenseman has only 11 points and is on pace for 36. Every time I see the Flyers in action, he’s involved in the play, takes a ton of shots and is on the top power-play unit. To make it more head-scratching, three of his top five linemates at 5-on-5 are Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Goals are being scored with him on the ice, he’s just not picking up any points on those goals. That will change.
I feel like this will be a normal thing for the Jets. They have so much talent, but the points can only be spread around so much and guys have to live with less ice time for a while. For instance, a few weeks ago, there was talk about how underwhelming Patrik Laine had been and he was stuck on the third line, but now he’s the NHL goal leader. Ehlers has posted back-to-back 60-point seasons and many were hopeful for a fourth-year breakout this year. However, he averaged just 15 minutes per game in the first 18 games of the season. He’s now up to 17 minutes in his last eight games, and has eight points to show for it. The window is closing if you wanted to make a move to buy low.
Hellebuyck was the top goalie drafted in many one-year leagues, but so far, that has been a waste of a high pick. He’s barely above .500 (10-7-1), with a .904 SV % and a 3.09 GAA and no shutouts. It doesn’t look good that backup Laurent Brossoit has much better numbers in almost every category. Hellebuyck is on a powerhouse team, so you have to expect at least the win totals to get back in line with what you would expect.
Karlsson easily has to rank up as one of the most disappointing players this season. His 16 points are mediocre for him, and he’s on pace for 47 points, which would be his lowest since his rookie season in 2009-10. Let’s just remember that he’s still getting used to a new city and a new structure after an offseason that would have distracting for anyone. While his ice time is down, he’s still at 24:30 per game and is still on the top power play. He’s shooting the puck more than normal, is starting in the offensive zone 60 per cent of the time and has tremendous advanced stats. Let me put it this way. If you went into the season thinking Karlsson was the greatest offensive defenseman in the world, why would that change after 30 games?
1. Tuukka Rask
Rask has always been a bit of a slow starter, and this year is no exception with a 6-5-2 record to go with a 2.59 GAA and a .915 SV %. Last year, in his first 13 games, Rask was 3-8-2 with a .899 SV % and a 2.91 GAA. The rest of the year, he was 31-6-3 with a .923 SV % and a 2.19 GAA. Even though he has only won two of his last five starts since coming back from a leave of absence for personal reasons, in those five games he has a .934 SV % and a 1.97 GAA.
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