You’re as Cooooold as Ice

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Investigating which cold starts from various players are legitimate and how likely they are to continue this season.

All of us at FantasyPuck have emphasized over the past week that it is important not to panic and make drastic moves over a small stretch of games, especially not this early into the season. If you have kept up with us, you would notice I often respond to some questions in the FP Discord or on Twitter with a question back to the reader or follower. If this 5-6 game streak happened in the middle of January during a normal 82-game season, would you question it? That is something I cannot stress enough in fantasy hockey, or any fantasy sport for that matter. Athletes are going to have cold streaks and unlucky weeks brought on by a variety of factors, whether physical or mental. This is a given for everyone except maybe Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. If you are really high on a player on draft day, and have stats, data or evidence to prove this, why would you give up on him after two weeks? These are things to keep in mind, especially if you are new to the sport or to fantasy hockey. Look at cold streaks as opportunities to acquire them for below value or opportunities to give someone on your bench a chance in your starting lineup.

In this article I’ll cover a few players who are off to surprisingly slow starts and provide some advice as to how to handle them. Of course I give up on players too. I drop and add streaky players with the best of them, but only when I have evidence to support my decisions.

Jesse Puljujarvi, (10GP, 0G, 2A) EDM:

I’ll start off with the player that led me to write this article. Puljujarvi, as dramatic as his career has been between North America and Europe, has been quite underwhelming. Had Puljujarvi been playing on the third line still, like he was at the start of the season, I would’ve left him off this list because the opportunity just would not be there for him to produce. He has recently moved onto the top line alongside McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins, so surely the production will start to come. In his past four games, Puljujarvi has not played less than 15 minutes. Prior to his promotion onto the top line, he had never played more than 13 minutes. Clearly Dave Tippett and the organization is committed to giving him a fair opportunity. I’ve talked about luck, and how some players are straight up unlucky. This season, Puljujarvi is one of those players. Not only is his 27 shots #1 among players without a goal this season, but the shots are not poor quality ones. He currently ranks 7th in the NHL in xGF with 2.8. Based on his play, Puljujarvi should have at least three goals to show for his work. Unfortunately, he has zero. For reference, the leader in the NHL, McDavid (surprise, surprise) has 3.8 xGF. Just 1.0 goal higher than his line mate Puljujarvi, yet has seven goals this season. Obviously, there is a talent gap to explain for some of the difference, but I am very content with Puljujarvi on the top line. I am no rush to grab him in fantasy leagues, but I have a feeling once Jesse scores one, the confidence will return and the flood gates will open. Anyone is better than Zack Kassian playing with the best player in the NHL.

Rasmus Dahlin (9GP, 0G, 2A) BUF:

FantasyPuck loved Dahlin this season, myself included. After back-to-back 40-point seasons to start his NHL career, Dahlin seemed poised for another similar season in only 56 games. With the addition of Taylor Hall on the power play, surely Buffalo would see some more success offensively. So far, the production has not been there for Dahlin despite the solid contributions from Hall (9 pts. in 9 games) and Jack Eichel (9 pts. in 9 games). It was slightly harder to find some positives for Dahlin than it was for Puljujarvi, however, we are talking about a 20-year old defenseman who is being asked


to be an anchor on a subpar Buffalo team. Perhaps the Sabres are asking too much of Dahlin? He is only playing around 20:00 minutes a night, which is not an absurd amount and not any different than he has in his previous two years. Dahlin currently ranks 2nd on the team in shots (28), which may be a result of some desperation from the youngster. 15 of those 28 shots have come in his last four games as he seems eager to get the monkey off of his back. I would never complain about my defenseman shooting so until the production comes, expect to see Dahlin continuing this pace. As far as other positives go, Buffalo has not quit on Rasmus and I cannot see them doing so. There is limited options to replace him on the roster and as I am writing this, I am seeing Dahlin scored his first of the season today. On the power play nonetheless. Among regular D, Dahlin leads Buffalo in xGF/60. His 0.18 xGF is nothing exceptional among other D in the league, but the important thing is that he should continue to be given the opportunities to succeed, which is the main factor as to why I am holding onto him in fantasy leagues.

Evgeni Malkin (9GP, 1G, 3A) PIT:

Geno is likely the name on this list I am most worried about. At 34 years old, his best years are likely behind him. His name is still attractive in fantasy leagues and while I didn’t draft him in any of my pools, I would have had no problem taking him if it came down to it. Pittsburgh still remains a playoff threat despite some aging stars in Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. I always preferred a line with Malkin and Crosby together, but the trend recently seems to be splitting up your studs if they both can play center. On paper, Malkin has not been given any less opportunity than he has in previous seasons. He still sees around 19 minutes per game, power play time, and plays top-six every night. The stat that jumps out for me is his shooting percentage. Malkin has always had a feared wrister and snap shot, so to see a 5.6% for a player who has a career 13.6% is quite surprising. Unlike the other names on this list, Geno has a negative xGF, meaning he actually deserves 0.7 less goals than he currently has. Perhaps Malkin has begun his career decline and the strength, the shot power and the accuracy is just not there anymore. We saw this with several other veterans still in the game today. Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, James Neal and David Backes just to name a few. The aggressiveness and skill that once made them top power forwards in the NHL have left them with limited options to continue their professional career. Malkin may still be a couple of years away from Backes territory, but I would recommend trading him away while his name still holds value. Perhaps acquiring another veteran that hasn’t shown this decrease in skill is a good idea. Patrice Bergeron or Nicklas Backstrom peak my interest.

Mike Hoffman (7GP, 1G, 2A) STL:

Hoffman is an interesting topic. I was not big on him this season, nor have I been big on him for most of his career. Without a doubt, multiple 50, 60 and 70 point seasons is nothing to ignore, but following the drama that went on with him in Ottawa and the belief that he benefitted mostly from the talented forwards he played with in Florida, I was reluctant to give him any chances this season. My gut feeling so far has paid off. He has struggled mightily in St. Louis and has been


dropped to the third line with fellow struggling forward Robert Thomas. Many fantasy experts are already listing Hoffman as a drop candidate and while FP likes to be unique and different, I have to agree with them. He has shown nothing exciting this season and is road blocked in the Blues’ lines. St. Louis’ second line has been amazing so far and barring any injuries, Hoffman’s inability to produce against opposing third lines, will keep him in the bottom-six in the near future. Jordan Kyrou is a great option to snag to replace Hoffman as he has likely stolen his spot in the top-six. Hoffman has an unimpressive 0.38 xGF/60, which is 1.09 less than Kyrou currently. Rumours have been swirling about Tarasenko returning sooner than expected. It will be interesting to see St. Louis handles the return of him and where he will slide into an already thriving top-six. The strategy to sign Hoffman was impressive and I admire it, but the result is something St. Louis will likely end up regretting.

Thanks for reading another FP Don article. Let me know who else you think will bounce back from their slow start and why!

-FP Don

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