20 Fantasy Thoughts: No need to panic about Karlsson’s slow start


San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson shoots against the Calgary Flames. (Tony Avelar/AP)

Every Sunday during the NHL regular season, I’ll share my 20 Fantasy Thoughts. They’re based on the latest news, findings, trends and themes in the fantasy hockey world.

1. It’s early but you can’t help but chuckle at the fact that the most consistent producers from the Erik Karlsson and Max Pacioretty deals have been Chris Tierney and Tomas Tatar, respectively.

2. The 24-year-old Tierney has flourished in a top-six role for Guy Boucher’s squad playing on a line with rookie Brady Tkachuk and sniper Mark Stone. With Tkachuk now sidelined, insert Ryan Dzingel. Tierney’s domination isn’t sustainable but expect him to notch career highs this season.

3. Small sample size but Tatar is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now. Through seven games, the 27-year-old is operating at over a point-per-game clip (3 goals, 5 assists). Amazingly, he’s found consistent chemistry on Montreal’s top line with Philip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. Grab him!

4. After all that hype, can you believe that the San Jose Sharks didn’t get a goal from a defenceman until game eight? Karlsson has four measly assists so far. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer recently tweaked the power play units splitting up Karlsson and Brent Burns. Early returns — smart move.

5. To be fair, it’s been a slow start for the majority of the off-season’s big-time acquisitions. My advice: RELAX. No time to panic! It’ll come.

6. Speaking of Pacioretty, as if it couldn’t get any worse, he recently lost his centerman, Paul Stastny, for up to two months due to a lower-body injury. Pacioretty’s new linemates: Erik Haula and Tomas Hyka. While it’s clear most of his damage will have to come via the power play, Pacioretty will explode eventually.

7. Is it 2009? Zach Parise looks completely rejuvenated. He’s fantasy relevant again. Provided he continues to produce at a steady pace and can stay healthy, the 34-year-old is worth owning. He’s arguably been Minnesota’s top offensive performer so far.

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8. Micheal Ferland is proving that he doesn’t need Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau to be an effective NHLer. The 26-year-old has found a home on Carolina’s top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. I’m a believer. When Ferland is on top of his game, he provides multi-category coverage. Get him.

9. For all the talk about what the next contract will look like for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in Toronto, what about Kasperi Kapanen? The 22-year-old has four goals and eight points since being promoted to Matthews’ wing. Conveniently enough, Kapanen is in a contract year and is currently on pace to destroy his career highs. He’s a must-own winger right now.

10. I wonder what it is about a contract year that brings the best out of a professional athlete ($$$). Unsurprisingly, Semyon Varlamov is off to a blazing start in Colorado. If all goes according to plan, he’ll hit the market and get a massive payday somewhere. That likely won’t be in Colorado. Philipp Grubauer is likely to be handed full reins to the starting job.

11. By signing a one-year deal this summer, William Karlsson bet on himself. Early returns suggest he’ll continue to hover around a point-per-game again this season. To those concerned about possible regression this season, it also took Karlsson seven games last season to tally his first goal. He went on to pop in 42 more. I’ve seen enough — Karlsson is legitimate.

12. Kyle Palmieri is another guy who deserves more respect. With seven goals and one assist, the 27-year-old currently is in the lead for the NHL’s version of the Cy Young Award. I consider him one of the most underrated players in fantasy puck. Mark him down for 25-30 goals and 55-60 points. You can use pen. Hidden gem. That being said, this pace won’t continue. He’s a really solid sell-high option.

13. My goodness — was that Justin Schultz injury gruesome or what? The blue liner will be sidelined for up to four months with a broken left leg. We’ve never seen this in Pittsburgh before. Olli Maatta and Juuso Riikola could benefit the most, fantasy wise, from this situation. They’re likely to get some legitimate time on Pittsburgh’s second power play unit. Worth a stream.

14. Great to see Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, L.A.’s Jonathan Quick and Chicago’s Corey Crawford back from injury, especially the 33-year-old Crawford. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has been brilliant for the Blackhawks since returning from a brutal concussion that sidelined him for 10 months.

By the way, you can see Casey DeSmith, Jack Campbell and Cam Ward back to the waiver wire now.

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15. Pekka Rinne is the latest star netminder to wind up on injured reserve. While the Predators have been tight-lipped on what’s happening, get familiar with the name Juuse Saros. He’s the best backup goalie in the NHL right now and poised for Nashville’s number one job. All he did was post a 31-save shutout in Edmonton on Saturday night. Unimaginably, Saros is currently only 44 per cent owned in Yahoo! Leagues. Why?

16. Scott Darling is very close to returning for the Hurricanes. It’ll be interesting to see if Carolina runs with a three-goalie system for a while due to the fear of losing someone on waivers. Mark my words: Darling will be better this season and I think he ends up as the number-one guy too. The Panthers could use a goalie, if you know what I’m saying.

17. If you’re in the business of nightly streamer plays, look to Washington’s Brett Connolly, Edmonton’s Kailer Yamamoto or Buffalo’s Jason Pominville. All three currently have plum assignments on the topline. It’s worth a shot.

18. Nolan Patrick scored his first goal of the season in his return from injury on Saturday afternoon. Despite the rough start, I think Philadelphia’s sophomore centre will build upon last year’s second half. I’m high on him this year.

19. When it comes to Sportsnet’s Fantasy Hockey Pool, there are five teams you may want to zone in on this upcoming week. Chicago, Colorado, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg all have four games.

20. In the meantime, Buffalo, Minnesota, New Jersey and Toronto will have ample time to iron out some deficiencies. They play just twice.


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