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Fantasy: Early buy-low options likely to bounce back

Propose trades now for slumping Evgeny Kuznetsov, Patrice Bergeron

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Senior Fantasy Editor

In fantasy hockey, patience can be important in weathering the storm of slumps. Entering Friday, teams have played between 12 and 15 games, giving us a decent sample size to begin judging players based on expectations. Certain proven players have yet to find their groove, but one or two games are all it could take to dismiss any negative perception.

Just look at Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. Gaudreau, a preseason top 15 player, is ranked outside the top 250 and has a minus-10 rating, but the buy-low chatter is calming down after he scored points in back-to-back games, including two goals Thursday against the Stars.

Couture is in a similar boat, ranked outside the top 100 with eight points, two on the power play, in 14 games. He scored a goal on four shots on goal at the Florida Panthers on Thursday and has points in back-to-back games. His spot on San Jose's top power-play unit and high SOG volume are especially encouraging; he has three or more SOG in each of his past eight games. Benn, a preseason top five player, is minus-6 on the season and ranked outside the top 50, but scored two goals Thursday to spell his fantasy owners some relief. As the Stars' forward group gets healthy, he should return to his elite standing of previous seasons.

The buy-low window may have closed on the players above, but it remains wide open on the players below.

Here are some skaters who should bounce back and are worth buying low at a discounted rate. For players of this caliber, the shots should eventually fall and their fortunes should even out in the days and weeks to come. It never hurts to make a trade proposal to try to take advantage of a potentially impatient fantasy owner in your league.

Video: WSH@FLA: Kuznetsov redirects puck past Luongo

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH

Preseason Yahoo rank: 17; Current: 316

Kuznetsov has been on and off Alex Ovechkin's line and does not play on the Washington Capitals' first power-play unit. He has started slow with one goal and six points, none on the power play, in 12 games. Fantasy owners need to keep the faith; Kuznetsov was the third-best even-strength point producer (59) last season and had 20 goals and 18 power-play points. His shooting percentage (5.6) is barely over half of what it was last season (10.4), a sign that he should rebound in the days and weeks to come.

Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS

Preseason: 35; Current: 289

It's shocking to see Bergeron slumping to this degree (four points in 11 games) with each of his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, among Yahoo's performance-based top 20. Bergeron was among the top 20 power-play producers in the League last season (25 PPP), but somehow has no PPP despite 3:30 per game in those situations. Expect that, as well as his low shooting percentage (two goals on 43 SOG; 4.7 percent) to change in a matter of time.

Filip Forsberg, LW, NSH

Preseason: 50; Current: 195

Forsberg has been fine on the assist front with nine in 13 games, but has a minus-3 rating and no goals on 24 SOG. For an elite wing with a combined 59 goals in his first two NHL seasons (T-14th in NHL), this poor shooting percentage should revert to normal in the near future, especially for the talented Nashville Predators, who have yet to hit their gear offensively.

Video: STL@CGY: Giordano fires a slapper past Allen

Mark Giordano, D, CGY

Preseason: 70; Current: 189

Giordano, sixth among defensemen in points (104 in 143 games) in the past two seasons, has been quiet with one goal, four assists and one PPP in his first 15 games. The Flames offense has underachieved big-time, from Gaudreau to Sean Monahan to T.J. Brodie, but Giordano is still generating more than two SOG per game (32 in 15) and has a respectable plus/minus (minus-3) compared to some of his teammates. Once Gaudreau and Monahan get going, Giordano should return to top 15 'D' status.

Mark Stone, RW, OTT

Preseason: 107; Current: 407

Stone had multipoint outings in two of his first four games, but has gone ice-cold since with no points in seven of his next eight games. The Senators are still getting acclimated to new coach Guy Boucher's system, but don't expect the adjustment period to continue much longer. Stone had more than 60 points in each of the past two seasons and is on a line with proven point producers Bobby Ryan and Derick Brassard and on the first power-play unit with Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman. That's way too much talent to be a bottom-five team in scoring (2.31 goals per game, 26th) and power-play efficiency (11.1 percent, 26th) for much longer.

Other buy-low skaters to target: Anze Kopitar (C, LAK), Aleksander Barkov (C, FLA), Tyson Barrie (D, COL), Aaron Ekblad (D, FLA), Andrew Ladd (LW, NYI)




Five players owned in fewer than 40 percent of leagues that warrant consideration in all formats:

Video: ANA@CBJ: Rakell's redirect sneaks past Bobrovsky

Rickard Rakell, C/LW, ANA (26 percent owned): Rakell has gained left wing eligibility in Yahoo's latest position update, giving fantasy owners all the more reason to invest in this 23-year-old sleeper. He has stormed back since signing his new contract and rejoining the Anaheim Ducks, with seven points, two on the power play, with 18 SOG in six games.

Charlie Coyle, C/RW, MIN (22 percent owned): Coyle had a career-best 21 goals and 42 points last season, and appears poised to top those totals under Bruce Boudreau on the Minnesota Wild's top line. He had a multipoint outing Thursday at the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving him nine points in 12 games with two PPP, a plus-3 and 26 SOG. When Zach Parise returns from injury, Coyle likely will be on his line.

Mark Streit, D, PHI (37 percent owned): So much for Shayne Gostisbehere stealing the fantasy show among Philadelphia Flyers defensemen. Streit, 38, has had a scoring rebirth with 10 points, five on the power play, and 25 SOG in 14 games and is currently the 16th-best defenseman in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. He's still out there in nearly two-thirds of leagues.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TBL (36 percent owned): Vasilevskiy has outperformed Ben Bishop to this point in the season, and could close the starts gap the longer this continues. He has started five of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 14 games thus far, going 3-1-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. We've been preaching about his sneaky fantasy value for months, especially with Bishop in a contract year, so make room for him regardless of league format.

Pavel Buchnevich, LW/RW, NYR (5 percent owned): Buchnevich has been productive when healthy, regardless of where he's fallen in the New York Rangers lineup. He has seven points, three on the power play, with solid peripherals (plus-3, 16 SOG) through his first nine NHL games. He is riding a three-game point streak for the highest-scoring offense in the League, and is fresh off his best game yet with one goal and two assists against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

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