Underperforming stars out of the gate

Something seems to be holding back the fantasy production of Max Pacioretty at the start of the 2018-19 season. AP

Should you panic or practice patience? Now that we're a few laps out of the 2018-19 gate, here's a look at some of the conventionally popular fantasy figures who happen to have gotten off to a slow start, along with a recommendation as to whether or not invested fantasy managers should wait out the sluggishness or perhaps simply temper expectations moving forward.

Cause for concern

Max Pacioretty, LW, Vegas Golden Knights (92.3 percent rostered): The ex-Canadiens captain can't be in the brightest mood right now. While Pacioretty endeavors to develop chemistry with new linemates on the Golden Knights' second scoring unit, his former club is off to a shockingly rip-roaring 4-1-1 start. The habitual 30-plus-goal scorer of old has just one goal (and no assists) in seven contests thus far. While that pace is likely to quicken -- it's not like Pacioretty is only going to score a dozen goals this season -- a significant increase might not be in order until center Paul Stastny returns from the serious injury that is expected to keep him out until mid-December.

William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (89.7 percent): The unsigned winger and the Maple Leafs might be continuing negotiations, following GM Kyle Dubas' meeting with Nylander and his people in Switzerland, so a deal might -- might -- not be far off. So, why the negative outlook on the skilled winger's fantasy potential? First off, Kasperi Kapanen is more than holding his own in Nylander's spot on Auston Matthews' wing. Even if a new contract is signed in short order, coach Mike Babcock won't be in any hurry to shuffle his guys around. Plus, there isn't a deal yet. This could still drag on until the end of November, when, presumably, both sides will further ratchet up efforts to work something out -- or perhaps broker a trade.

Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues (89.7 percent): By no means a fantasy dud, as he still plays a pile of top-pair minutes every night, Pietrangelo appears to be passing the baton, in some respects, to both Colton Parayko and young Vince Dunn -- particularly with the man-advantage. After racking up 54 points in 2017-18, Pietrangelo has nada (minus-six) in his first half-dozen contests.

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins (82.5 percent): While the Bruins' No. 1 goalie is off to a stumbling start, accentuated by a 4.08 GAA and an .875 save percentage, new backup Jaroslav Halak is rocking out a 1.18 GAA and a .961 save percentage through two starts -- both victories. Perhaps more concerning though, Rask hasn't looked great in action. Don't think for a minute that coach Bruce Cassidy won't offer Halak additional opportunities should this trend continue. Fantasy managers invested in Rask should already start exploring other options, in case Boston's veteran netminder doesn't turn it around soon.

Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers (81.6 percent): He isn't shooting the puck, for one. A mere five shots through six contests, along with zero points (minus-five), is both concerning and uncharacteristic. Remember, no other defenseman scored more goals than Provorov (17) last season. If the 21-year-old, third-year player is focusing on his defensive play over scoring, that's a concern for managers. Outside of average time on ice, Provorov has provided little fantasy fanfare so far. For contrast, fellow Philly blueliner Robert Hagg has two goals, two assists, and a league-leading 24 hits.

Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim Ducks (80.9 percent): It's Cam Fowler, and not Montour, who is seeing top-pair minutes to start Anaheim's season. It's also Fowler, and not the 24-year-old, third-year skater, who is anchoring the Ducks' No. 1 power play. Yet Fowler is only rostered in 53.6 percent of ESPN leagues. Never even mind Hampus Lindholm (45.3 percent), who is leading the charge with two goals and five assists, including two power-play points, on 12 shots. The point is, Anaheim's most popular blue-line asset currently ranks third in fantasy potential on his own blue line -- and that might not change anytime soon.

Anthony Mantha, RW, Detroit Red Wings (70.9 percent): Off to a disappointing start (three points, minus-10) the young power forward has already been relegated to Detroit's bottom-six. Although that designation won't last, it's still bothersome, since the 24-year-old was expected to further bust out after last year's 24-goal, 24-assist output. Plus, the Red Wings aren't really that good. Outside of forward Dylan Larkin, fantasy managers might explore available options elsewhere, or at least bench Mantha until he shows signs of resurgence.

Give it a minute

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes (81.7 percent): What is it with such awful October hockey in the desert? The Coyotes have one win (in overtime) and just four goals to show for their opening five games. Go on and blame a puzzling lack of finish, despite solid scoring chances. The dam will crack open soon enough -- hopefully sooner than last year -- benefitting the likes of Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan, and hopefully, Arizona's top defenseman. Getting a healthy Alex Galchenyuk back will also help the situation. Fantasy managers counting on Ekman-Larsson should just hang tight.

Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo Sabres (74.9 percent): Some illustrious rookies bust out with little hesitation, but for others it's more of a work in progress. For Mittelstadt, thus far this fall, it's the latter. Buffalo's most recent tilt with Vegas appeared to be, however, a distinct step in the right direction. Despite suffering the 4-1 loss, Mittelstadt -- along with linemates Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo -- created several quality scoring chances. He'll get there. Hang tight. The No. 8-overall draft pick of 2017 earned five points in only six NHL games last season.

Kevin Fiala, C/LW/RW, Nashville Predators (70.3 percent): Poor puck luck is all that's to blame for Fiala's goose egg to start 2018-19. Nonetheless impressed with the top-six winger's play, coach Peter Laviolette assures us it's "just a matter of time." His linemates, Kyle Turris and Craig Smith, also expect a severe spin of the spigot at any moment. Fiala's fantasy managers should relax and wait for the flow to begin.

All members of the San Jose Sharks: From goalie Martin Jones to defenseman Erik Karlsson and up to forward Logan Couture, this skilled San Jose squad will be just fine. This is true, despite the fact that, aside from one 8-2 demolishing of the Flyers, it hasn't been pretty to date. Playing on the road for five games in a row after their home opener has been one factor. Losing Joe Thornton is another. Yes, there's incredible talent here, but Karlsson and Burns are still figuring each other out on the power play. Expect this gaggle to cobble it all together before you know it. Meanwhile, forward-looking fantasy managers might want to take advantage of their frustrated league-mates who might be lacking such foresight.