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Fantasy hockey rankings: Can these disappointing starters turn it around?

Jonathan Huberdeau of the Calgary Flames has taken some time to adjust to new linemates. Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

While they all probably deserve a deeper dive than the space I can afford them here, let's take a moment to collect and group the underachievers of the season for future analysis.

Injuries don't count, so Zach Werenski and Josh Norris get a pass. Rookies don't count either, so we aren't bothering with Marco Rossi and Shane Wright.

This is about established NHLers with a reliable baseline coming well short of expectations. They are arranged by how much they are missing the preseason projections I assigned to them. So, essentially, the difference between their preseason projections for fantasy points and what they are currently trending toward.

Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (preseason, 209.1; current, 140.0): I didn't want to admit it earlier this season, but Mikhail Sergachev's emergence is clearly having an impact on Hedman's day-to-day fantasy production. There are 49 defensemen with more fantasy points than Hedman right now.

Teuvo Teravainen, W, Carolina Hurricanes (preseason projection, 150.3 fantasy points; current projection, 81.4 fantasy points): I meant to say, long-term injuries don't count. But short-term ones are fine to include. Especially here with Teravainen, who may look like he's falling short due to time on the shelf, but in reality has been bringing nothing to the fantasy table in 15 games this season. Are things looking up now that he's back? Maybe not. It seems as though Martin necas used Teravainen's time on the shelf to elevate himself to Sebastian Aho's wing and a role on the top power play that Teravainen will have to win back.

Jonathan Huberdeau, W, Calgary Flames (preseason, 189.5; current, 123.0): The easy reason to point to is the one I was just reminded of when I started to type "Florida Panthers" next to Huberdeau's name; These new digs don't suit him yet. Some line shuffling to find a spark has seemingly come to an end with Hubderdeau back with Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm, but the trio still only has three goals at five-on-five in 117 minutes.

Michael Bunting, W, Toronto Maple Leafs (preseason, 157.1; current, 108.0): There was always going to be inherent risk to Bunting, a true star-dependent fantasy asset who generates all of his relevance through the players next to him. The five-on-five play of the top line has picked up significantly since William Nylander was slotted in next to Auston Matthews and Bunting, but it's still not at the rate it was last season. I think we all believe Matthews is still under-performing, so we should expect more to come from Bunting.

Tanner Jeannot, W, Nashville Predators (preseason, 144.3; current, 99.6): This one was, unfortunately, painfully obvious from when the puck first dropped on the season: The Predators weren't giving Jeannot the role he earned last season. He's seen minimal top-six minutes this season and that doesn't appear to be changing. It's not enough quality ice time for Jeannot to add points to his physical profile.

Ryan Strome, C/W, Anaheim Ducks (preseason, 132.6; current, 92.2): The Ducks, as it turns out, aren't ready to ice two quality lines yet. That's really bad news for Strome, who is always going to come second to Trevor Zegras when it comes to minutes at center.

Vladimir Tarasenko, W, St. Louis Blues (preseason, 179.0; current, 141.0): After the Blues finished second to the Avalanche with 65 power-play goals last season, their measly 15 at this stage is telling toward Tarasenko's fantasy production. It's mostly the same players taking the ice on the advantage, so one has to think it will turn around. That, or this team really, really misses David Perron.

MacKenzie Weegar, D, Calgary Flames (preseason, 149.9; current, 112.0): I've said it before and I'll say it again. Too many cooks. Rasmus Andersson is a better power-play quarterback, Chris Tanev is a better stalwart defender and Noah Hanifin is a better combination of the two. That leaves Weegar looking for scraps in this fantasy backfield.

Forward notes

Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks (up eight spots to No. 40): Will it ever stop? Maybe we should have taken Horvat's 31 goals in 70 games last season as a bigger sign of things to come, rather than just a temporary spike in production. He's up to 19 goals this season through 25 games, so a new career high is in the offing. Power-play work is doing some of the heavy lifting, but not all of it; he has nine goals at five-on-five and eight on the advantage. Making things even more encouraging, the Canucks have found a combination with J.T. Miller and Nils Hoglander that is producing top-tier possession metrics for Horvat's line.

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Bo Horvat's second goal wins it for Vancouver in OT

Bo Horvat's second goal wins it for Vancouver in OT

Travis Konecny, W, Philadelphia Flyers (up nine spots to No. 61): Back from a six-game injury absence, Konecny has two goals in two game since returning. And based on his nearly 25 minutes in the last game against New Jersey, he's healthy again. Could a soon-returning Cam Atkinson give him another weapon to work with?

Artemi Panarin, W, New York Rangers (down 19 spots to No. 71): The connection with Vincent Trocheck just doesn't seem to be working out. They are winning the Corsi battle when on the ice together, but losing the fight for goals (nine for and 15 against, per NaturalStatTrick). Until Filip Chytil hit the sidelines with an injury on the weekend, the Rangers had even shifted Trocheck to the third line to try yet another combination to get Panarin going at five-on-five. His 14 points are solid at even strength, but Panarin is supposed to be a game-changer -- he has the 14th-most five-on-five points in the previous two NHL seasons.

Boone Jenner, C/W, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 20 spots to No. 81): With Patrik Laine making another earlier-than-expected return from injury, the Blue Jackets top line can hit the reset button again and try to get some momentum. Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau have played more minutes with Gustav Nyquist this season than Laine, as injuries keep cropping up. For his part, Jenner is finding ways to get points; only three forwards in the NHL have more blocked shots.

Logan Couture, C, San Jose Sharks (up 25 spots to No. 90): A more physical Couture results in more overall production? Of course, the power-play time will be fine as the Sharks can stack the advantage. But Couture is also netting a decent number of fantasy points at even strength. What's different? His career high for hits is 92, but he's on pace for 144 this season.

Nazem Kadri, C, Calgary Flames (down 31 spots to No. 114): With six points in 15 games in November, Kadri made us remember his time in Toronto more than his time in Colorado last month. The Flames had a dismal month on the advantage with only seven goals, so maybe this turns around again soon.

Nicholas Paul, C/W, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 13 spots to No. 147): Paul survived the first test of the season: Keeping his spot on the second line with the return of Anthony Cirelli. He'll need to keep production going for Steven Stamkos in order to stay there on an ongoing basis, as Cirelli has proven a capable second-line pivot.

Dylan Cozens, C/W, Buffalo Sabres (enters top 250 at No. 195): And to think, this ranking was established before Cozens poured in another three points on Sunday. We've said it a few times this season: It was only a matter of time for him to start scoring given the Sabres commitment to using him on the advantage with the top line and Rasmus Dahlin.

Defense notes

Jeff Petry, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (up 30 spots to No. 101): We don't know how long Kris Letang will be out after suffering his second stroke, but we do know that for however long that is, Petry is the top defenseman on a team with a great power-play (on paper anyway; they were terrible in November).

Hampus Lindholm, D, Boston Bruins (down 18 spots to No. 157): His 1.6 fantasy points per game in the past four weeks is not unexpected. Charlie McAvoy runs this blue line and relegates Lindholm to the fantasy scrap heap.

Marcus Bjork, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 34 spots to No. 192): It's been 10 games since Zach Werenski was lost for the season. Bjork has played the role as the power-play quarterback, only being outpaced by Gaudreau and Jenner for power-play minutes. Would it be different if Jake Bean stayed healthy? Yes. Will it be different after Adam Boqvist returns from injury? Probably. But you use what you have, when you have it.

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Marcus Bjork nets power-play goal

Marcus Bjork nets power-play goal

Goaltender notes

Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers (up 62 spots to No. 82): Can we call it yet? Is Knight the No. 1 for the Panthers? Is that still a faux pas when the No. 2 would be making $10 million? Look, Knight has 51.4 fantasy points in 13 starts and Bobrovsky has -7.0 fantasy points in 12 starts. I think we can call it.

Spencer Martin, G, Vancouver Canucks (enters top 250 at No. 214): Thatcher Demko is expected to be sidelined until mid-January. The Canucks have no choice but to roll Martin most nights, as third-string Collin Delia hasn't put up sustainable starting numbers in 32 NHL games in four seasons and five years. Martin has been better than Demko in limited action this season, but hasn't been tested enough to think he's your best replacement option for an injured Demko. He's more of a desperation add for those of us who like to play the goaltender carousel through the season.

ESPN fantasy NHL top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edm (F1)
2. Leon Draisaitl, LW, Edm (F2)
3. David Pastrnak, RW, Bos (F3)
4. Auston Matthews, C, Tor (F4)
5. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB (F5)
6. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Col (F6)
7. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Min (F7)
8. Cale Makar, D, Col (D1)
9. Roman Josi, D, Nsh (D2)
10. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Col (F8)
11. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Wpg (G1)
12. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buf (D3)
13. Brad Marchand, LW, Bos (F9)
14. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G2)
15. Jason Robertson, LW, Dal (F10)
16. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Fla (F11)
17. John Carlson, D, Wsh (D4)
18. Jake Oettinger, G, Dal (G3)
19. Elias Pettersson, C, Van (F12)
20. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G4)
21. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D5)
22. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G5)
23. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D6)
24. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (F13)
25. Brady Tkachuk, LW, Ott (F14)
26. Mitchell Marner, RW, Tor (F15)
27. Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (F16)
28. Timo Meier, RW, SJ (F17)
29. Linus Ullmark, G, Bos (G6)
30. Tage Thompson, C, Buf (F18)
31. Charlie McAvoy, D, Bos (D7)
32. Alexandar Georgiev, G, Col (G7)
33. Jack Eichel, C, Vgk (F19)
34. Aaron Ekblad, D, Fla (D8)
35. Logan Thompson, G, Vgk (G8)
36. Aleksander Barkov, C, Fla (F20)
37. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Wsh (F21)
38. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D9)
39. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (F22)
40. Bo Horvat, C, Van (F23)
41. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (F24)
42. J.T. Miller, C, Van (F25)
43. Dylan Larkin, C, Det (F26)
44. Roope Hintz, C, Dal (F27)
45. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vgk (D10)
46. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D11)
47. Jake Guentzel, LW, Pit (F28)
48. Josh Morrissey, D, Wpg (D12)
49. Juuse Saros, G, Nsh (G9)
50. Kyle Connor, LW, Wpg (F29)
51. John Tavares, C, Tor (F30)
52. Elias Lindholm, RW, Cgy (F31)
53. Tim Stutzle, LW, Ott (F32)
54. Jakob Chychrun, D, Ari (D13)
55. Sebastian Aho, C, Car (F33)
56. Filip Forsberg, LW, Nsh (F34)
57. Moritz Seider, D, Det (D14)
58. Tristan Jarry, G, Pit (G10)
59. Nick Suzuki, C, Mon (F35)
60. Vitek Vanecek, G, NJ (G11)
61. Travis Konecny, RW, Phi (F36)
62. Seth Jones, D, Chi (D15)
63. Andrei Svechnikov, LW, Car (F37)
64. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Col (F38)
65. Nico Hischier, C, NJ (F39)
66. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bos (F40)
67. Alec Martinez, D, Vgk (D16)
68. Alex DeBrincat, LW, Ott (F41)
69. Joe Pavelski, RW, Dal (F42)
70. Ville Husso, G, Det (G12)
71. Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR (F43)
72. Darcy Kuemper, G, Wsh (G13)
73. William Nylander, RW, Tor (F44)
74. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D17)
75. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Cgy (F45)
76. Brayden Point, C, TB (F46)
77. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Wpg (F47)
78. Mats Zuccarello, RW, Min (F48)
79. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D18)
80. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Cls (F49)
81. Boone Jenner, C, Cls (F50)
82. Spencer Knight, G, Fla (G14)
83. Troy Terry, C, Ana (F51)
84. Brock Nelson, C, NYI (F52)
85. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dal (D19)
86. Ivan Provorov, D, Phi (D20)
87. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D21)
88. Martin Necas, C, Car (F53)
89. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edm (F54)
90. Logan Couture, C, SJ (F55)
91. Zach Hyman, LW, Edm (F56)
92. Mark Scheifele, C, Wpg (F57)
93. Carter Verhaeghe, C, Fla (F58)
94. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (F59)
95. Justin Faulk, D, StL (D22)
96. Cole Caufield, RW, Mon (F60)
97. Jesper Bratt, RW, NJ (F61)
98. Tomas Hertl, C, SJ (F62)
99. Jacob Markstrom, G, Cgy (G15)
100. Quinn Hughes, D, Van (D23)
101. Jeff Petry, D, Pit (D24)
102. Dominik Kubalik, LW, Det (F63)
103. Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Col (F64)
104. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (F65)
105. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Min (G16)
106. Alex Tuch, RW, Buf (F66)
107. Claude Giroux, LW, Ott (F67)
108. Jordan Kyrou, C, StL (F68)
109. Rasmus Andersson, D, Cgy (D25)
110. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, StL (F69)
111. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (F70)
112. Nick Schmaltz, C, Ari (F71)
113. Pavel Buchnevich, RW, StL (F72)
114. Nazem Kadri, C, Cgy (F73)
115. Devon Toews, D, Col (D26)
116. Anders Lee, LW, NYI (F74)
117. Jake DeBrusk, LW, Bos (F75)
118. Jamie Benn, LW, Dal (F76)
119. Thomas Chabot, D, Ott (D27)
120. David Krejci, C, Bos (F77)
121. Frederik Andersen, G, Car (G17)
122. Patrik Laine, RW, Cls (F78)
123. Matt Murray, G, Tor (G18)
124. Darnell Nurse, D, Edm (D28)
125. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Ari (D29)
126. Clayton Keller, C, Ari (F79)
127. Kevin Fiala, C, LA (F80)
128. Vincent Trocheck, C, NYR (F81)
129. Jeff Skinner, LW, Buf (F82)
130. Kevin Hayes, C, Phi (F83)
131. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (F84)
132. Mathew Barzal, C, NYI (F85)
133. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Min (F86)
134. David Perron, RW, Det (F87)
135. Mark Stone, RW, Vgk (F88)
136. Filip Hronek, D, Det (D30)
137. Karel Vejmelka, G, Ari (0)
138. Brandon Montour, D, Fla (D31)
139. Drake Batherson, C, Ott (F89)
140. Brent Burns, D, Car (D32)
141. Martin Jones, G, Sea (G19)
142. Ilya Samsonov, G, Tor (G20)
143. Andre Burakovsky, LW, Sea (F90)
144. Tony DeAngelo, D, Phi (D33)
145. Robert Thomas, C, StL (F91)
146. Neal Pionk, D, Wpg (D34)
147. Nicholas Paul, C, TB (F92)
148. Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Van (F93)
149. Sam Reinhart, RW, Fla (F94)
150. Trevor Zegras, C, Ana (F95)
151. Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA (F96)
152. Owen Tippett, RW, Phi (F97)
153. Bryan Rust, RW, Pit (F98)
154. Matty Beniers, C, Sea (F99)
155. Shea Theodore, D, Vgk (D35)
156. Rickard Rakell, C, Pit (F100)
157. Hampus Lindholm, D, Bos (D36)
158. Chandler Stephenson, C, Vgk (F101)
159. Jordan Binnington, G, StL (G21)
160. Carter Hart, G, Phi (G22)
161. Tyler Johnson, C, Chi (F102)
162. Matt Boldy, LW, Min (F103)
163. T.J. Oshie, RW, Wsh (F104)
164. Sam Bennett, LW, Fla (F105)
165. Alex Iafallo, LW, LA (F106)
166. Brock Boeser, RW, Van (F107)
167. Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (D37)
168. David Savard, D, Mon (D38)
169. Phillip Danault, C, LA (F108)
170. Adam Larsson, D, Sea (D39)
171. Alexander Romanov, D, NYI (D40)
172. Jason Zucker, LW, Pit (F109)
173. Reilly Smith, RW, Vgk (F110)
174. Matt Duchene, C, Nsh (F111)
175. Adrian Kempe, C, LA (F112)
176. Noah Hanifin, D, Cgy (D41)
177. Blake Wheeler, RW, Wpg (F113)
178. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Cgy (F114)
179. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D42)
180. Brayden McNabb, D, Vgk (D43)
181. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (F115)
182. Jake McCabe, D, Chi (D44)
183. Cam Talbot, G, Ott (G23)
184. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Wpg (F116)
185. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Wsh (F117)
186. Brandon Hagel, LW, TB (F118)
187. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Vgk (F119)
188. Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Car (F120)
189. Vince Dunn, D, Sea (D45)
190. Shane Pinto, C, Ott (F121)
191. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D46)
192. Marcus Bjork, D, Cls (0)
193. Michael Bunting, LW, Tor (F122)
194. Torey Krug, D, StL (D47)
195. Dylan Cozens, C, Buf (F123)
196. Ryan O'Reilly, C, StL (F124)
197. Lawson Crouse, LW, Ari (F125)
198. J.J. Moser, D, Ari (D48)
199. Ben Chiarot, D, Det (D49)
200. Radko Gudas, D, Fla (D50)
201. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D51)
202. Jake Sanderson, D, Ott (D52)
203. Jordan Eberle, RW, Sea (F126)
204. Kirby Dach, C, Mon (F127)
205. Stuart Skinner, G, Edm (G24)
206. Jamie Oleksiak, D, Sea (D53)
207. Jack Campbell, G, Edm (G25)
208. Joel Edmundson, D, Mon (D54)
209. Nick Perbix, D, TB (0)
210. Pyotr Kochetkov, G, Car (G26)
211. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Cls (D55)
212. Anthony Cirelli, C, TB (F128)
213. Lucas Raymond, LW, Det (F129)
214. Spencer Martin, G, Van (G27)
215. Viktor Arvidsson, RW, LA (F130)
216. Mike Matheson, D, Mon (D56)
217. Adam Henrique, C, Ana (F131)
218. Tyson Barrie, D, Edm (D57)
219. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Fla (G28)
220. Marcus Pettersson, D, Pit (D58)
221. Luke Schenn, D, Van (D59)
222. Justin Schultz, D, Sea (D60)
223. John Klingberg, D, Ana (D61)
224. Ryan Hartman, RW, Min (F132)
225. Dmitry Kulikov, D, Ana (D62)
226. Calen Addison, D, Min (D63)
227. Mason Marchment, LW, Dal (F133)
228. Bowen Byram, D, Col (D64)
229. Ethan Bear, D, Van (D65)
230. Ian Cole, D, TB (D66)
231. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Phi (F134)
232. Rasmus Sandin, D, Tor (D67)
233. Dylan Strome, C, Wsh (F135)
234. Max Domi, C, Chi (F136)
235. J.T. Compher, RW, Col (F137)
236. Jarred Tinordi, D, Chi (D68)
237. Jared McCann, LW, Sea (F138)
238. Ryan Johansen, C, Nsh (F139)
239. Jani Hakanpaa, D, Dal (D69)
240. Zach Parise, LW, NYI (F140)
241. Chris Tanev, D, Cgy (D70)
242. Gustav Forsling, D, Fla (D71)
243. Colton Parayko, D, StL (D72)
244. Alexander Barabanov, LW, SJ (F141)
245. Mark Giordano, D, Tor (D73)
246. Travis Sanheim, D, Phi (D74)
247. Alex Killorn, LW, TB (F142)
248. Cam Fowler, D, Ana (D75)
249. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI (F143)
250. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (G29)

Just missed

Dropped out