It’s two weeks into the NHL season, which means it’s a time of uneasiness for fantasy hockey GMs. Certain draft picks you thought were diamonds in the rough aren’t producing, or high draft picks aren’t meeting your lofty expectations.
It’s tough for managers to not be attached to their originally drafted squad; we’re a stubborn group who’ll ride out extended cold streaks for the one chance to say ‘see? I was right’.
Holding onto a player with potential usually isn’t a winning formula. You’ll have to accept it – sometimes your draft picks will flop. Recognizing who to cut bait with early not only improves your team, but gives you an edge on other GMs scouring free agency for free value.
Here are some guys who’re most likely on a fantasy roster near you, but have no business being there.
Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg Jets, D
8GP – 0G, 0A, 0P, 0 PIM, 14 SOG
I start with the aforementioned sophomore defenceman since I recently dropped Winnipeg’s talented youngster from my own team, and have zero regrets. After an incredible rookie year, and the move of Dustin Byfuglien from defence to forward, many like myself tabbed Trouba for a big follow up campaign. The mature 20-year-old plays a steady two-way game and was in prime position for lots of ice and PP time on a lowly Jets blue line. He looked poised to hit 40-points, with his potential ceiling higher than that.
Unfortunately, the sophomore slump has seemed to have claimed another victim. He’s yet to register a point in eight games, and isn’t shooting the puck that much. He picks up second PP time scraps off the tail end of the man-advantage, so he’ll be hard pressed to produce any meaningful stats for the Jets or you fantasy team. Like Ryan Suter, he’s a better reality asset than fantasy one. And it’s too bad, as he had multi- category potential; his rookie numbers from last year extrapolated over 82 games would be 13G, 24A, 37P, 54 PIM, 120 hits, 167 blocks, 153 SOG. With expected growth from that stat line, he was a guy who should be rostered.
Cut him loose, but keep him on your watch list. Solid replacements that could be available might be Boston’s Dougie Hamilton (ride Zdeno Chara’s absence), Tampa’s Anton Stralman (ride Victor Hedman’s absence), Nashville’s Ryan Ellis, or New Jersey’s surprising rookie Damon Severson.
Chris Stewart – Buffalo Sabres, RW
9 GP – 0G, 1A, 4 PIM, 26 SOG
One of the few players you might consider from the Sabres for fantasy production seems to have lost his way. The move to Buffalo hasn’t worked well for the power forward, who still hasn’t scored a goal for the club since his arrival late last year (14 games over the course of two years). Stewart is one of the biggest fantasy teases, as his gaudy all-around stats shows his potential as a very valuable fantasy player. Many, myself included, thought he’d take all the powerplay time and score at a decent rate, with Buffalo having few offensive weapons to deploy.
But Chris Stewart has been looking more like his brother Anthony, a former first round pick turned NHL journeyman. Expecting him to revert to his 30G, 30A, 60P, 100+PIM, 200+SOG days in Colorado is optimistic, but no one expected him to be this bad (and goal-less). His peripherals across the board have declined, and there’s no indication he’ll return to his former self.
There’ve been rumblings that the Bruins have interest in him as their Jarome Iginla clone, but it’s tough to sit on a useless player with the slight hope he might be moved. What if he’s moved at the deadline? You’re stuck with an unproductive player for months.
Look past his potential and give Stewart the boot. If you need some brawn and scoring, some available guys could be Anaheim’s Patrick Maroon (playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry before his injury), Columbus’ Nick Foligno, San Jose’s Tommy Wingels, or New York’s Chris Kreider.
Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers, RW
0 GP – 2G, 2A, 4P, 2 PIM, 13 SOG
After accruing quality draft picks for years, the Oilers were supposed to be the next fantasy rich team to harvest players from. So far it hasn’t worked out for Edmonton or fantasy owners, with only Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle as reliable fantasy assets.
While their high picks have struggled, none have been more scrutinized than Nail Yakupov. His defence is always in question, and after an electrifying start to his career, Nail has failed (sorry) to produce and perform like a number one pick.
There’ve been rumors the Oilers want to get rid of the 21-year-old, and that’s what fantasy owners should be thinking about as well. There are lots of options on the wing that will produce comparably, who’ll likely have better peripherals than Yak’s almost non-existent ones.
Potential replacements could be Columbus’ Cam Atkinson, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, New York’s Ryan Strome, or San Jose’s Mat Nieto.
Other drop considerations: Matt Moulson, Christian Ehrhoff, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brian Campbell, Brad Richards, Alex Hemsky.
Freelance sports writer. Ex-intern at The Hockey News and 680 News.