Fantasy Hockey: 8 players likely to cool down after a hot start

Steven Psihogios
·7 min read

Everybody loves when the players they drafted in fantasy hockey start the season on a heater. It makes you feel like a genius and you’re probably banking some wins in the process. As we know though, even during a 56-game sample size, only a select few go pole-to-pole without regressing.

Here are eight players who are likely to experience a cold spell in the upcoming weeks.

Joe Pavelski has been on a heater to start the season. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Joe Pavelski has been on a heater to start the season. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

1 - C/RW Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars (85% rostered on Yahoo)

Joe Pavelski, along with other key offensive players for the Stars, have certainly made up for time lost at the start of the season. In six games this year, Pavelski has notched five goals and 10 points, extraordinary production that made him one of the top waiver wire adds in the early going.

The issue with the 36-year-old’s production is that it has been extraordinary. Pavelski is currently rocking a 35.7% shooting percentage, a mark significantly higher than his career total of 12.5%. Additionally, the veteran’s individual expected goals created (ixG) in all situations this season is 2.65, according to Natural Stat Trick, a number that suggests he has been granted a decent amount of puck luck. Now seems like the perfect time to sell high on Pavelski in fantasy hockey.

2 - LW/RW Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (88% rostered on Yahoo)

Tyler Toffoli has settled in nicely for the Canadiens. The 28-year-old has scored seven goals — six of which came against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks — and 10 points across seven games. While his production has helped Montreal achieve early-season success, there’s ample reason to believe he will begin to slow down.

Before Monday’s game against the aforementioned Canucks, Toffoli owned an absurd 25.0% shooting percentage, a number even more outlandish when you consider the winger hasn’t shot over 10% in any of the last four seasons. His all-strengths ixG also sits at 3.48. Since 2018-19, Toffoli has 43 goals with an ixG of 44.16, showing he typically doesn’t outpace what is expected from him. Both stats are decent indicators that the 2010 second-round pick is due to cool off.

3 - RW Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks (92% rostered on Yahoo)

After a sub-par performance in 2019-20, Brock Boeser has bounced back phenomenally in 2021. The young winger has potted eight goals through 12 games while adding three assists to his total. The rate he’s been scoring at, however, is historically unsustainable, but unlike the other two forwards listed above, you would be wise to hold on to Boeser.

His 24.24% shooting percentage will come down as the season progresses and he’s even outproducing his impressive 4.15 ixG mark, but contrary to the players listed above, Boeser doesn’t have an extensive track record. In just his fourth true NHL season, Boeser’s average means less because there’s a smaller sample size. So while his numbers aren’t likely to sustain at their current rate, how much he is likely to slow down is hard to gauge. As a 2015 first-round pick who has two 25-plus-goal campaigns in three years, it’s fair to believe that Boeser’s average numbers may settle in sizeably higher than the typical player’s average.

4 - LW James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers (48% rostered on Yahoo)

Often underrated for how consistently he has produced over his career, James van Riemsdyk is off to a strong start this season. He has five goals and an impressive eight assists, but even for someone who’s known for his elite net-front presence, JVR is likely going to take a step back.

His current 25.0% shooting percentage far exceeds his career total of 12.1%, a decent indicator that he’s going to slow down. Additionally, van Riemsdyk is currently seeing less than 15:00 of time on ice per game, another factor that’ll make it more difficult for him to continue his pace.

5 - RW Patric Hornqvist, Florida Panthers (63% rostered on Yahoo)

As his former team in Pittsburgh struggles, Patric Hornqvist and his 5-0-1 Panthers are off to an unbelievable start. Through six games, the 34-year-old has potted five goals and two assists.

Hornqvist, however, is rocking an unsustainable 23.8% shooting percentage, especially when you consider that his career mark is 9.8%. Additionally, his ixG is just 2.16 and since 2015-16 he has actually finished with a goal total (112) lower than his ixG (132.3), which indicates that maybe he’s not the most polished or efficient goal-scorer. Hornqvist is an excellent sell-high candidate in fantasy hockey.

6 - LW/RW Tyler Motte, Vancouver Canucks (39% rostered on Yahoo)

If you’re looking for blocked shots and hits, Tyler Motte is an excellent player to have on your team. If you’re expecting high-end goal production, you shouldn’t get used to what you’ve seen from him so far.

Motte has an interesting stat line this season with five goals and one assists. Owner of a career 9.4% shooting percentage, Motte’s current total of 19.23% is likely going to fall hard. The 25-year-old doesn’t play on either of Vancouver’s power play units and there’s no real path for him to join the Canucks’ top-six, so he’s not likely going to be on the ice in many offensive-friendly situations. He’s a fine hold because he can contribute to the defensive categories, but the offense is bound to dry up.

7 - G Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (99% rostered on Yahoo)

Fantasy managers have gotten exactly what they expected from Jordan Binnington so far this season. He’s playing behind a great defensive team that is going to pick up a lot of wins. With Binnington, however, there is one major red flag that should make fantasy managers a little nervous.

For the first time in his career, Binnington doesn’t have a solid backup goalie to rely on. Blues backup goalie Ville Husso has played poorly to start this season, owning the third-worst expected save percentage of any goalie at -3.072%, according to Money Puck. Having appeared in all games except one for the Blues, how Binnington is able to hold up is a major concern. With a jam-packed schedule for all teams in the NHL, it wouldn’t be shocking if Binnington hit a wall at some point this season.

8 - D Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (99% rostered on Yahoo)

Just two seasons ago, Morgan Rielly posted an incredible 20 goals and 72 points. Last year, however, the Leafs blueliner took a major step back, producing just three goals and 27 points across 47 games played. This season, on the surface, his numbers appear to be great. The 26-year-old has one goal and seven points across 10 games, but if you look a little closer, there’s something fantasy hockey managers should be a little concerned about.

Of the six assists Rielly has registered this season, none of them have been primary helpers. Additionally, three have come on the power play. To compare these rates to his 52-assist campaign in 2018-19, 25 of Rielly’s assists were primary and just 18 came on the man advantage. Rielly had good draft value entering the season, but fantasy managers would be wise to shop him around as he’ll likely be overvalued on the trade market.

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