by Johnny Fantasy
Another fantasy week is in the books. While we are still very much in “start off on a streak” territory, we are getting a little bit more colour on whether some players are actually breaking out this year or not.
Ups and Downs
Many players have used week 2 to start to write their redemption story after a slow start, while others have had their hot start cool off already. Two goaltenders that fall into the latter category are Martin Jones and Mike Smith. Martin Jones showed some weakness with 2 sub-.900 performances this week, while Mike Smith went back to what we have come to expect out of Arizona with 4 sub.900 games in 4 losses. While Jones is still unproven, he’s bound to do better with a good Sharks team in front of him. Mike Smith has showed brilliance in the past, he is on the decline and the Coyotes’ last 4 games are probably going to be more typical of their season than their first 3 games.
Moving to forwards, the buzz around Evgeny Kuznetsov going into the season was that he’d have a hot start by centering Alex Ovechkin while Nicklas Backstrom was out. Well, that prediction turned out weirdly true. Although Kuznetsov started off reasonably quiet (2A in his first 4 games), he’s exploded this week with points in each of his last 3 games, including a hat trick and 5-point night against Edmonton on Friday. But, this breakout actually coincided with Backstrom’s return. Backstrom has been productive as well with 7 points in 4 games, even though he hasn’t gone back to his usual position centering Ovechkin at even strength. Backstrom usually isn’t given as much credit as he deserves, often being seen merely as ‘Ovechkin’s center’, but his talent is immense and this week we saw how productive he can be on his own. If Washington continues with this approach, they could have a very potent 1-2 punch, and that should mean a big year for Kuznetsov and a typical year for Backstrom (i.e. at about a point per game).
What is going on in Anaheim? They’ve gone 1-5-1 so far and are only ahead of the 1-8 Blue Jackets in the standings. Everyone is wondering whether Bruce Boudreau will keep his job, but fantasy-wise you have to wonder what’s going on with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Each has only 1 assist in the first 7 games. We’ve come to expect close to a point per game from these guys, but for now I’m sure they have plenty of fantasy owners cursing their names. This terrible pace can’t last all season, but we have to wonder how long this Ducks slump will last. On the bright side for Frederick Andersen owners, he has been doing his best to hold things together. He has a .938 save percentage and 1.86 GAA, although no wins (if your league counts that kind of thing) – Anton Khudobin was in net for the Ducks’ lone win. Andersen likely won’t keep up numbers this high, as they are well above his career average thus far, but it’s at least nice to see one bright spot in Anaheim.
On a struggling (relative to expectations) Pittsburgh team, Chris Kunitz continues to disappoint. He scored his first goal (and only point) on Saturday, but the Penguins have been shuffling their lines in an effort to get things clicking, and that has put Kunitz out of the top six at times. Kunitz’s production has been declining in recent years, and it seems he is no longer a lock to play on Crosby’s wing. As a result, it will likely be another tough year for Kunitz owners and, depending on the depth of your league (or how much hits are valued), he may not be worth owning at all.
While we’re still not sure what to make of the Bruins this season, David Krejci has continued his hot start and sits atop the NHL points leaderboard. Krejci has at least one point in each of the Bruins’ games this season. Some predicted that Krejci would bounce back this season after a disappointing injury-plagued campaign last year. Those people seem to have been right. I’m not sure that Krejci will be in Art Ross contention all year, but he certainly looks like he could hit close to (or above) his career high (73 points) this season.
While there are certainly plenty of Canadiens that no one is surprised are off to a fantastic start, one of the lesser expected candidates is Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec is always hard to predict year-to-year; he has produced anywhere from 40 to 70 points in a season, but without any particular trend (see 2006-2010). Thus, it’s always a risk to take him, but owners have to be happy so far – 10 points in his first 9 games. Granted, the Canadiens are on a historic winning streak, and when the losses come (which they will – the Canadiens are relying heavily on Carey Price and have a terrible 47.02% Fenwick), everyone’s numbers will even out a bit. But, Montreal is a good team and so long as they can even out the shot differential and keep winning, Plekanec looks like he’ll probably be closer to 70 points than 40 by the end of the year.
Finally, at the end of week 2 we have a new rookie scoring leader: Max Domi. Arizona had an unexpected 3 game winning streak to start the season, and then (as discussed above) promptly went out and lost the next 4 in a row, making us all comfortable that all was right with the universe. But, Domi has stayed productive even through those losses. The kids are not only the future for the Coyotes, but also the present, with no veteran stars on the team other than Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Domi won’t keep up the point-per-game pace, but he will certainly be fantasy-relevant this season. He’s getting decent ice time and more importantly he’s on the top power play unit. There is an uncharacteristically high amount of rookies that keeper owners will be targeting to hold on to this year, and Domi is certainly one of them.
 Well, maybe just that one time in 2011-12.
 With apologies to Marcus Johanssen and Justin Williams.
 Well, subject to whatever Connor McDavid does tonight against LA – he’s only one point behind.
 Who is actually only 24.