Already one month down in the National Hockey League, this opening month saw the usual suspects dominate once again, though in addition, new stars emerged. Goalies Frederik Andersen and Darcy Kuemper have both stolen number one spots on their respective teams. Andersen has been absolutely tremendous, going 7-1 to start the year, while Kuemper picked up 6 wins in his first 8 starts. The two goalies have a “goals against” under 2, and have a combined 4 shut outs (3 from Kuemper). Up front Jakub Voracek has been a pretty pleasant surprise, picking 13 assists and sitting second in league points behind Sid Crosby with 16. T.J. Brodie has been another great story in the month of October; the Flames defensemen signed on a new deal and was almost on a point-per-game pace in the NHL’s opening month. Then there is also the usual suspects who, to no surprise, had a great month of October. Some of these players include, the dynamic duos in Anaheim, Vancouver and Detroit, featuring Getzlaf and Perry, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and the twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Crosby and Malkin are off to blazing starts as well (a special thanks certainly goes to their powerplay, which operated at 41% in the month of October, wow). There were many great, notable performances in October, but I have only touched base on a couple. Today we will be looking at the other end of the spectrum, the busts of the month. Let us now begin with number 12 on this list of players who had an October they will quickly want to forget about.
12) Lars Eller: 1G, 1A, -7
After having a slow regular season last year, Lars more than made up for his performance, with an excellent post season, putting up 13 points in Montreal’s deep playoff run. His post season play earned him a new contract with the club worth $14 million, for over 4 years (an annual cap hit of $3.5 million per season). With this contract, the pressure is certainly on for the 25 year old center to excel this season, but unfortunately for the third line center, this hasn’t been the case so. Lars is pretty close to watching the games from the press box, his numbers haven’t been good, along with his plus minus ratings being amongst the worst in the league. Despite Montreal’s strong start, they hope to see more from not only Eller, but his entire line in the month of November, and add more scoring depth to the line up.
11) Ryan McDonagh: 0G, 3A, EVEN
Coming off a spectacular post-season run with the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh has started off the new season rather slowly. McDonagh was given some big responsibilities at the beginning of the season, being named the team’s captain. McDonagh got off to a rough start of the season, failing to register a point in his first 6 games. Thankfully for fantasy owners of Ryan, the captain of the Rangers picked up three assists in his final 3 games of the month. Fantasy owner’s are undoubtedly hoping McDonagh can carry this momentum into the month of November.
10) Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 2G, 5A, -11
Coming off a strong offensive season where Ekman-Larsson put up career numbers in goals, assists and points, the bar was set pretty high this season for the Coyotes defensemen. The former 6th pick overall was a very high pick as well amongst defenseman this season in fantasy leagues. The problem so far for the defensemen hasn’t been his offensive numbers, but instead, his defensive play. Ekman-Larsson currently sits last in the league in the plus minus category at a minus 11. Despite a tough first month for Oliver, don’t lose faith, the Coyotes defensemen averages 25 minutes a night and will get many opportunities to redeem himself this season.
9) Nail Yakupov: 2G, 2A, -5
Consistency continues to be an issue with Nail, after scoring a goal in his first week, Yakupov rooted back to his performances from last season, putting up zero points along with a minus 6 rating in week 2, ouch. Nail managed a couple of points after his horrible week 2, but continues to face problems with consistency and defensive play in his own zone. If you took a chance on Yakupov, I praise you for your courage, but further starts for the former first round pick may hurt your team immensely down the road.
8) Steve Mason: 0W, 3L, 3.83 GAA
After a tremendous year of resurgence for Steve Mason, the Flyers goalie put up career numbers last season, surpassing his numbers from his Calder Trophy winning season. Unfortunately for Mason though, this month has been a major disappointment, much like the 4 seasons following his Calder Trophy victory. Mason has yet to record a single victory in the month of October, picking up 3 regulation loses, along with an overtime loss. Mason’s poor play has relegated him to watching the game from the bench, losing his starting role to back up Ray Emery. My advice is, although many have already given up on Mason, it will take one good start for Mason to get his groove back, and he is a very streaky goalie. If he is available, Mason can be a sneaky pick up in the month of November, if indeed, his game finally picks up.
7) Alexander Semin: 0G, 2A, -7
Much like his entire team, the month of October has been a struggle for Semin and the Hurricanes. Not only has the team not picked up a single win to start the season in the entire month of October, to add insult, their star sniper has not scored a goal yet on the season. Semin has picked up 2 assists in the entire month of October, not even close to his previous 40 goal pace. The return of Eric Staal may help Semin finally get going offensively, but if the production does not begin to increase, Bill Peters may be forced to make his superstar Russian watch from the stands for a couple of games.
6) Patrick Kane: 3G, 4A, -1
Kane’s numbers certainly aren’t the worst, but much more is expected out of the former 1st pick overall. The Blackhawks forward was selected as fast as the first round in many fantasy hockey pools, and the bar for him to produce every night is quite high. So far, the Hawks forward has endured a very up and down month of October. Particularly during week 2, when Kane went pointless for the week. To add insult to his situation, Kane was demoted to the team’s 4th line, playing with Marcus Kruger and Jeremy Morin. After signing his new mega $84 million dollar deal, fantasy owners of Patrick Kane are hoping his production will increase tremendously in the month of November.
5) Tuukka Rask: 4W, 4L, 2.81 GAA
Putting up almost 60 starts last season, along with 36 wins, Rask looked like a sure reliable pick for fantasy teams. On the contrary though, so far this season, Tuukka has not won that much, and has also not started as much as fantasy team’s hoped he would. Week 2 particularly saw Rask start only 2 of the team’s 4 games that week. In one of those starts, Rask got shelled for 5 goals against the Habs, continuing to struggle at the Bell Center and getting pulled from the net. It may be a bumpy road for fantasy teams with Rask, dealing with all sorts of injuries at the back, it may actually be a while before Rask starts producing. My advice, the Bruins may make a huge run at some point of the season, keep Rask for that phase, it may be worth it.
4) Nathan MacKinnon: 2G, 4A, -5
Coming off a spectacular regular season, and winning the honors for rookie of the year and following that with an electrifying playoff series against the Wild, putting up 10 points in 7 games, the bar was sky high for Nathan heading into the season. Unfortunately for the Avalanche and for MacKinnon, it’s been a tough month of October. Nathan had a really tough week 2 and 3, going goalless in both weeks along with a minus 3 rating. Nathan finally found the score sheet in the 11th game of the season, scoring 2 against the Islanders. MacKinnon managed to salvage his month of October with 2 goals at the end of it. Fantasy hockey teams with Nathan are hoping the end of the month will spark MacKinnon’s play into the month of November, and turn the usually stud player into the form many thought he would be in for the season.
3) Anze Kopitar: 2G, 1A, -1
Coming off the best stretch of his entire career, Anze lead the playoff points list with 26 points in 26 games. This season, Kopitar seems to be feeling the effects of a “playoff hangover”, starting off the season rather slowly. The Kings have relied heavily on the play of “That 70’s line”, featuring veteran Jeff Carter and young studs Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. This line has lead the way so far this season for the Kings offensively, scoring 17 of the team’s 24 goals in October, good enough for 70% of the team’s goals, truly remarkable. Anze has been consistent in years past, look for the Kings top center to pick up and get rid of his playoff blues real soon.
2) Patrice Bergeron: 1G, 5A, -1
My oh my, did Bergeron put up some sexy fantasy numbers last season, scoring 30 goals for the first time in his career, along with a tremendous plus 38 rating, one of the league’s best. Some fantasy teams got excited about his recent offensive success and bit on the Bruins’ stud center quite early. Sadly, this has not paid off so far. Bergeron has struggled to find his groove early on in the year. Patrice has been flopped on different lines and is now currently playing with Chris Kelly and Simon Gagne. With many injuries on the back end, the Bruins have focused on team defense as of late, hurting the possibility of Bergeron’s numbers to rise. Bergeron’s 30 goal expectations may be an impossibility to reach for the former 30 goal getter.
1) Alex Ovechkin: 5G, 1A, -1
After starting the season guns blazing, scoring 5 goals in his first 4 games, Ovie has gone missing, failing to register a point in his next 5 games, a sour way to end the month of October for Ovechkin. The concern amongst fantasy teams that drafted Ovechkin was how the forward would react under the defensive system of Barry Trotz. Ovechkin has admitted that he is spending a great amount of time paying attention to detail on defense, more so than any other year in his career. This may be a season where Ovechkin focuses on wins as opposed to stats, so fantasy teams with Ovie may be in for a very risky season. My advice, keep Ovechkin as a starter, he is due to continue his beast-like ways, especially on the power play. Don’t give up just yet.