Top 10 Underappreciated Starts

by Tom Collins on October 28, 2019

 

While much of the talk in the first few weeks of the fantasy season has revolved around big names, there have been plenty of players who aren’t receiving their much-deserved love.

Which is a shame, because there are plenty of leagues where there’s a lot of production being wasted on the waiver wire. There are plenty of players who are off to half-decent to excellent starts who are being overlooked.

Meanwhile, underachievers like Tyson Barrie is owned in 90% of Yahoo leagues and Joe Pavelski in 86%. Justin Faulk still has a 62% ownership, Ryan Pulock 60% and Kaapo Kakko 55%.

Below are 10 players who were available in at least 40% of Yahoo leagues as of Sunday.

 

10. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, owned in 10% of Yahoo leagues

I know when there is a team that everyone thinks is going to be awful, fantasy general managers tend to stay away from drafting pretty much everyone on the team, but there is still plenty of value to be mined from the bottom-feeders. There haven’t been too many standout fantasy performers in Ottawa, but going into Sunday’s game against the Sharks, Pageau was the highest fantasy-ranked Sens player in Yahoo pools (although that probably changed after Brady Tkachuk’s excellent game against San Jose). Pageau is averaging 2.4 shots per game, has six points in 11 games and is averaging just over a hit per game. He also carries extra value in leagues that count faceoff wins (103) and, surprisingly, plus-minus (plus-11 so far). The only worry is that Pageau doesn’t receive any time on the man advantage, so he won’t be getting you any power-play points.

 

9. Alexander Kerfoot, 34%

Kerfoot has slotted in nicely as a replacement for Nazem Kadri, as one of the newest Leafs is contributing in almost every category. Just compare the two players so far this season:

Kerfoot: Four goals, seven points, 12 PIM, 20 shots, 14 hits, two power-play points and five blocked shots.

Kadri: Five goals, seven points, 10 PIM, 25 shots, 18 hits, three power-play points and one blocked shot.

Kerfoot has played an extra two games than Kadri, but those are still some pretty similar numbers, yet one is owned in 58% of Yahoo pools and the other in 34%.

 

8. Pavel Buchnevich, 14%

Ranked 202nd in Yahoo pools going into Sunday’s action, it may seem strange to be recommending Buchnevich, but we have to remember that the Rangers have only played nine games so far this season, the lowest number in the league. Some other teams have played four more games so far, so the players on those teams should have more shots, hits, etc. Don’t sleep on Buchnevich though. He has eight points in nine games while averaging 1:30 more of ice time per game and is on the first power-play unit. He’s not going to help too much in shots or hits, but as long as he is getting top-six minutes, he will contribute offensively.

 

7. Tomas Tatar, 39%

I’m a little surprised how many Yahoo leagues have Tatar on the waiver wire, considering how valuable he was last season and how he’s matching that pace so far this year. For those that missed it, Tatar was the 75th-ranked player in Yahoo pools last year, thanks to 25 goals, 58 points, a plus-21, eight power-play points, 195 shots and 77 hits. Going into Sunday’s action, he was the 75th-ranked player in Yahoo pools, with on-pace numbers of 22 goals, 60 points, plus-seven, 30 power-play points, 231 shots and 60 hits. The biggest difference between the two years will be power-play numbers. With four man-advantage points this year, he’s already halfway to last year’s total of eight. The Habs’ power play has improved, and Tatar’s fantasy value should increase because of it.

 

6. Brock Nelson, 39%

It’s a shame that the Islanders’ second-best fantasy option continues to remain unowned in the majority of Yahoo leagues. All he’s doing is leading the Islanders in points and shots and is tied for second in goals. One amazing stat when looking at the Islanders as a team is the lack of power-plays. The Islanders have had just 18 power plays in 11 games. The next lowest was the Rangers at 28, while Buffalo and the Rangers lead the league at 45. The Islanders have converted on five of their power plays and have the league’s fourth-ranked power play. What does this all mean? That you should give the Islanders’ top power-play guys a little more leeway when considering who to pick off the waiver wire. They will start getting opportunities, and these guys, including Nelson and his two power-play points, will start to cash in.

 

5. Zack Kassian, 32%

When scanning through Yahoo’s list of players, I honestly believed Kassian would have been owned in at least half of the leagues. After all, his most frequent linemates are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, his ice time is up an extra two minutes per game over last year, and he does have eight points in 12 games to start the season. He’s also averaging 3.3 hits per game. He still isn’t getting any power-play time, but when you get to play with two of the best at 5-on-5, you don’t need power-play time to be able to be a fantasy asset.

 

4. Joel Armia, 7%

Armia checks off many of the boxes that you would be looking for in a waiver-wire pickup. He is averaging a career-high in both ice time (playing mostly with a resurgent Jonathan Drouin) and power-play time (playing mostly with Montreal’s best forward in Max Domi), is scoring at almost a point-per-game pace, is chipping in with power-play points, and is averaging almost three shots per game and  almost three hits per game. Even if his point production starts to drop, he’ll continue to get shots and hits, giving him an extra boost in value.

 

3. Ryan Getzlaf, 29%

Getzlaf’s point production is down this year (just seven points in 13 games, although five of them are goals), but he is making up for it in other categories. He’s averaging 2.4 shots per game, which would be his highest average in five seasons.  He’s also averaging just over two hits per game. Getzlaf also has extra value for blocked shots, as his 1.1 blocked shots per game from 2016-17 to Sunday is tied for highest among forwards. Just keep in mind that his ice time is more than two minutes less per game than last year, and his percentage of his team’s power-play is slightly under 50%, instead of hovering around 60-plus% like we are used to seeing.

 

2. James van Riemsdyk, 40%

JVR is a perfect example of people rushing to the waiver wire after a hot game, and why you need to get ahead of your fellow general managers before that game. On Saturday, he was owned in 34% of Yahoo leagues. Then he potted two goals and an assist Saturday night against Columbus, and his ownership jumped to 40% by Sunday. The guys who do the ramblings have been singing JVR’s praises for a while now, especially when he took 18 shots in two games, and it was just a matter of time before he exploded. Now that he’s come out of his shell (six points in his last three games), it may be too late to snag him in your pool.

 

1. Kevin Labanc, 40%

Labanc had a slow start to the season, but has been red-hot lately, but general managers are still making the mistake of dropping him. In his last eight games, Labanc has five goals, two assists, two power-play points, 20 shots and six hits. Sunday night, he played with Logan Couture at even strength and was also on the top power-play unit. That’s pretty much exactly what fantasy general managers would have wanted when they drafted him, and now he’s available on the waiver wire in the majority of Yahoo fantasy leagues.