Fantasy Nuggets Week 2

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Ryan Dadoun
·5 min read
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Early in the season, it’s all about trying not to overreact to any teams or players who are hot or cold. Tristan Jarry had two abysmal showings so far, but obviously his 7.57 GAA and .727 save percentage aren’t a fair indication of what he’s capable of. Nor do I think Bobby Ryan, who has four goals in three games, is likely to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, though his strong start is still a great story given everything that happened last season.

That said, when cold starts reinforce concerns that existed before the season, it’s harder to completely shrug off the struggles as nothing more than a small sample size. For example, the Boston Bruins’ mediocre 1-1-1 start probably isn’t a fair assessment of what they’re capable of. After all, they only scored four goals in three games and their offense isn’t that bad. But they had a lackluster offseason and their team is getting old, so even though Boston posted a 44-14-12 record in 2019-20, there was already debate about if their window to win the Cup was truly still open and their slow start only adds fuel to that speculation.

There are also slow starts that have a bit more context too them, which helps make those early season struggles carry more weight. The fact that Jesse Puljujarvi has just an assist and a minus-four rating in five games is worrying on its own, but you could try to dismiss it as a small sample size if not for the fact that he’s averaged only 11:51 minutes. Whether he’s played five games or 50, he’s not going to have much fantasy value as long as his role stays that small. There was hope that his time in Finland would lead to a change in his fortunes, but so far it seems like he still is having trouble finding his role with the Oilers.

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This isn’t a case of him being gradually eased in after a while out of the NHL either. If it were, we’d be seeing his role gradually tick up, but he set a season-low on Wednesday with just 9:02 minutes. His season-high in minutes was actually the first game of the season when he logged 13:13 minutes, so we’re trending in the wrong direction. Puljujarvi, who was the fourth overall pick in 2016, is still worth keeping an eye on, but I wouldn’t recommend having him on single season fantasy teams at this time.

His struggles are also making the Blue Jackets’ scouting department look stronger in retrospect. Back in 2016, the Blue Jackets weren’t in love with Jesse Puljujarvi, who was projected to go third overall, so they instead took Pierre-Luc Dubois, which allowed Edmonton to grab Puljujarvi with the fourth pick. Dubois was a surprise at third overall, but he’s turned into a pretty good center. Unfortunately, even that bit of good drafting doesn’t seem to be working out for Columbus in the end.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella confirmed just before Columbus’ first game that Dubois wants to be traded. It hasn’t happened yet, but in the meantime, Dubois is off to a slow start with just a goal and a minus-two rating in four contests. I can’t help but wonder if the distraction of playing for a team after requesting a trade is impacting his play and it might be best for all involved in the trade happens sooner rather than later.

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It’s got to be a tough pill for the franchise and Blue Jackets’ fans to swallow though. Dubois is just 22-years-old and was supposed to be a big part of their future. Fans are told to be patient with young teams and eventually that patience will be rewarded, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Dubois wanting to leave is a morale blow to the franchise, but depending on what they get, it’s not necessarily a true setback. Think back to when the Boston Bruins traded a young Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs and got back two first-round picks that turned into Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins ended up trading Hamilton and Seguin, so it gets complicated from there, but still, strictly speaking, the Bruins ended up with the better end of that deal. The point is that it’s too early to say if trading Dubois will truly be a bad thing for Columbus even if it wasn’t what they wanted.

Let’s close this out on a positive note: Namely a hot start I think will lead to a strong season overall. Jack Hughes has two goals and six points in three games and while that points-per-game pace is obviously unsustainable, I do expect this to be a breakout season for Hughes. He wasn’t really ready for the NHL last season, but he took full advantage of the prolonged offseason to bulk up and the results speak for themselves. He’s playing like an NHL star now and he has the potential to be one of the league’s top players for years to come. There will be cold stretches in his future, but they will be outweighed by general high level of play. If you took a chance on Hughes in a draft before the season, you should end up getting rewarded for that decision.