Fantasy hockey rankings: The Erik Karlsson renaissance

Erik Karlsson rises up the rankings after scoring two goals and four assists in his first five games. Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire

We are still at the very difficult phase of the early season in which you need to balance your preconceived evaluations against a growing sample size from the season. I'm not gonna lie, it's not an easy task.

The easier part of the equation is definitely identifying early movers and shakers whom you would like to add to your roster. But there are more early successes than there are obvious failures. Five or six games is not enough to cut bait on a potentially elite player.

The trick is working the fringes. While you may have some attachment to particular players you acquired in the last third of your draft, they must be viewed as expendable if you want to try to catch lightning in a bottle with a free agent that's started hot.

But what should you look for when deciding whether it's safe to drop a player?

Let's look at two examples that I believe have different answers to the question of whether it's OK to set them free.

Jamie Benn had an ADP of 154.8 in ESPN leagues, meaning he was selected on average in the 13th round of a 12-team league. He's notched 7.1 fantasy points in six games while playing 18:37 per contest. So his fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is hovering around 3.80, which is well shy of fantasy relevance so far (4.50 FPP60 can be considered "in the mix" based on last season).

Obviously the hope here is that a healthy Tyler Seguin could help rejuvenate Benn on the attack. But, at the moment, the lines are being jostled quite a bit by the Dallas Stars and they've yet to settle on a consistent depth chart - not to mention Jason Robertson is still on the sidelines. But Benn is still clearly in the mix for a scoring line role in some capacity, and he is still getting ample time on the team's first power-play unit.

With a combination of a still-sorting depth chart and obvious role on the advantage, I do believe trying to hold onto Benn for a little longer is the move.

Phillip Danault, on the other hand, is a player you can part with. He was drafted on average in the 16th round of a 12-team league with the hopes that a move to the Los Angeles Kings and the downgrade in pressure (getting to play behind a superstar like Anze Kopitar) could help form a solid second line for the Kings with Danault at the center of it. There was also potential for some power-play time here, given that the Kings have some fresh blood available to rethink the equation.

But, as it stands so far, Danault has barely sniffed the advantage, sitting 12th on the team in power play time. It's also not clear that his current line with rookie Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Iafallo is as dangerous as we hoped coming into the season. Kaliyev has a lot of potential, but the currently injured Andreas Athanasiou and injured rookie Quinton Byfield take away some options that could have upgraded the line.

So, for now, it's probably safe to dump Danault.

To recap, you want to look at deployment, linemates and special teams before making your decision to toss aside a player you've already invested in. If there is still a glimmer of hope there for someone you've evaluated as having potential, see if you can hang on a little longer. But if a lot of the criteria you used to assign that potential seem to not have materialized, it's likely time to move on.

Forwards on the move

Zach Hyman, LW, Edmonton Oilers (up 40 spots to No. 54): As expected, the Oilers didn't leave the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl overkill line intact for too long. The scoring lines are now looking as they were forecast coming into the season, with Hyman at McDavid's side. And, wouldn't you know it, Hyman has two goals in each of the two games since he slid into the role. The sky is limit here.

Evan Rodrigues, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (enters ranks at No. 192): I wish I could tell you how to evaluate this rag-tag Penguins crew that is tearing up opposing offenses. No Sidney Crosby and no Evgeni Malkin, very little Bryan Rust and recent absences from Jeff Carter and Kris Letang ... that's almost every player that was on the fantasy radar aside from Jake Guentzel coming into the season. With Drew O'Connor, Miek Matheson, Danton Heinen, Rodrigues and Jason Zucker all posting 2.0 or better fantasy points per game (FPPG) so far, it's hard to separate the potential from the hot streaks. While O'Connor, the undrafted rookie that had a fantastic AHL debut last season, is also intriguing, Rodrigues is my favorite to potentially hold value as healthy players start returning. He's finding chemistry with Guentzel, who is the only top-six lock coming into the season that was healthy for the drubbing the Pens put on the Leafs over the weekend.

Trevor Zegras, C, Anaheim Ducks (down 17 spots to No. 232): While he's shifted down the rankings due to the results so far, this could be an opportunity to buy low on Zegras is deeper leagues. The Ducks have a lot of faith in the rookie and he's still stacking at the top of the team's depth chart on and off the power play. His linemates, Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell, are both putting up fantasy points, too. Hopefully this is the bottom of the canyon for a slow start and Zegras can find his groove from here.

Defensemen on the move

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (up 43 spots to No. 74): What is this, a 2015-16 throwback? Karlsson ranks eighth and Brent Burns ranks sixth in fantasy points among defensemen. Here's hoping this early renaissance can hold. But, in the meantime, there's reason to be a bit more bullish on Karlsson for the sake of efficiency. Karlsson's early fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is 8.11, while Burns is at 6.40.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (up 11 spots to No. 164): A fantastic early start by Dumba is encouraging for the coming campaign. He's got a balanced profile so far thanks to leading all NHL defensemen in shots on goal per game, plus some decent hits and blocked shots. And that is while he's not been playing on the first power-play unit. If Jared Spurgeon doesn't pick up the pace soon (one power-play point and just two shots in 21:27), then Dumba could ascend.

Goaltenders on the move

Elvis Merzlikins, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 110 spots to No. 118): By creating some massive separation between himself and Joonas Korpisalo, Merzlikins has kicked open the door to fantasy potential this season. He's leading the league in fantasy points per game among goaltenders and, so long as Korpisalo continues to struggle, Merzlikins will continue to get the workload to pay dividends. The frequency of high-danger shots against (per NaturalStatTrick.com) is a bit concerning, as both Blue Jackets goaltenders are near the top of league for that rate.

New to rankings

Andrew Mangiapane (a little concerned about the depth chart, but great start), Anthony Duclair (on the top line now), Lucas Raymond (rookie clicking with Dylan Larking and Tyler Bertuzzi), Evan Rodrigues, Andrew Copp, Jesper Kotkaniemi (top-six role for the Canes), J.T. Compher (playing the fourth-forward role on the advantage), Noah Dobson, Charlie Coyle, Oliver Wahlstrom, Jordan Staal, Zack Kassian and Brandon Saad.

Just missed

Kevin Shattenkirk, Yanni Gourde (healthy again, but the team needs to find lines that work), Devon Toews, Alexandre Texier, Rasmus Andersson, Jamie Drysdale, Phil Kessel, Jake Bean, Braden Holtby (pick him up wherever he's available), Matt Duchene, Danton Heinen, Jared McCann, Evan Bouchard, Anton Lundell, Philip Tomasino (underrated start for FPP60), Derick Brassard (clicking with Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson), Kevin Labanc, Jonathan Dahlen, William Eklund, Ville Husso and Ivan Barbashev.

Dropped out

Brendan Gallagher, Christian Dvorak, Owen Tippett, Alexander Edler, Cody Ceci, Matt Grzelcyk, Filip Hronek, Evgenii Dadonov, Chris Driedger, Casey Mittelstadt, Cole Caufield, Kaapo Kahkonen, Adam Boqvist and Tyler Motte.

Top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, F, EDM (F1)
2. Leon Draisaitl, F, EDM (F2)
3. Auston Matthews, F, TOR (F3)
4. Nathan MacKinnon, F, COL (F4)
5. Mikko Rantanen, F, COL (F5)
6. Alex Ovechkin, F, WSH (F6)
7. Roman Josi, D, NSH (D1)
8. David Pastrnak, F, BOS (F7)
9. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G1)
10. Mika Zibanejad, F, NYR (F8)
11. Brad Marchand, F, BOS (F9)
12. Aleksander Barkov, F, FLA (F10)
13. Andrei Svechnikov, F, CAR (F11)
14. Darnell Nurse, D, EDM (D2)
15. Mitch Marner, F, TOR (F12)
16. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D3)
17. John Carlson, D, WSH (D4)
18. Robin Lehner, G, VGS (G2)
19. Mark Scheifele, F, WPG (F13)
20. Tyler Seguin, F, DAL (F14)
21. Kirill Kaprizov, F, MIN (F15)
22. Sebastian Aho, F, CAR (F16)
23. Patrik Laine, F, CLS (F17)
24. Juuse Saros, G, NSH (G3)
25. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D5)
26. Kyle Connor, F, WPG (F18)
27. Jonathan Huberdeau, F, FLA (F19)
28. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (F20)
29. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G4)
30. Artemi Panarin, F, NYR (F21)
31. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D6)
32. Sidney Crosby, F, PIT (F22)
33. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, STL (F23)
34. Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA (D7)
35. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G5)
36. Cale Makar, D, COL (D8)
37. Darcy Kuemper, G, COL (G6)
38. Brady Tkachuk, F, OTT (F24)
39. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (F25)
40. David Perron, F, STL (F26)
41. Alex DeBrincat, F, CHI (F27)
42. Taylor Hall, F, BOS (F28)
43. Patrick Kane, F, CHI (F29)
44. Seth Jones, D, CHI (D9)
45. Gabriel Landeskog, F, COL (F30)
46. Elias Pettersson, F, VAN (F31)
47. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI (D10)
48. Philipp Grubauer, G, SEA (G7)
49. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (D11)
50. Sean Couturier, F, PHI (F32)
51. Elias Lindholm, F, CGY (F33)
52. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G8)
53. Ryan Ellis, D, PHI (D12)
54. Zach Hyman, F, EDM (F34)
55. Brayden Point, F, TB (F35)
56. Vince Dunn, D, SEA (D13)
57. Frederik Andersen, G, CAR (G9)
58. Logan Couture, F, SJ (F36)
59. Mark Stone, F, VGS (F37)
60. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D14)
61. Roope Hintz, F, DAL (F38)
62. Timo Meier, F, SJ (F39)
63. Alex Pietrangelo, D, VGS (D15)
64. Jake Guentzel, F, PIT (F40)
65. Jordan Binnington, G, STL (G10)
66. Zach Werenski, D, CLS (D16)
67. Tyler Bertuzzi, F, DET (F41)
68. Joel Farabee, F, PHI (F42)
69. Sam Bennett, F, FLA (F43)
70. Dylan Larkin, F, DET (F44)
71. Teuvo Teravainen, F, CAR (F45)
72. Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, WSH (F46)
73. John Tavares, F, TOR (F47)
74. Erik Karlsson, D, SJ (D17)
75. Ryan O'Reilly, F, STL (F48)
76. Ondrej Palat, F, TB (F49)
77. Jesse Puljujarvi, F, EDM (F50)
78. Bryan Rust, F, PIT (F51)
79. Neal Pionk, D, WPG (D18)
80. MacKenzie Weegar, D, FLA (D19)
81. J.T. Miller, F, VAN (F52)
82. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D20)
83. Nikolaj Ehlers, F, WPG (F53)
84. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, EDM (F54)
85. Conor Garland, F, VAN (F55)
86. Drake Batherson, F, OTT (F56)
87. Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (G11)
88. Patrice Bergeron, F, BOS (F57)
89. Kris Letang, D, PIT (D21)
90. Nico Hischier, F, NJ (F58)
91. Mathew Barzal, F, NYI (F59)
92. Matthew Tkachuk, F, CGY (F60)
93. Jakob Chychrun, D, ARI (D22)
94. Jordan Kyrou, F, STL (F61)
95. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F, NYI (F62)
96. Jaden Schwartz, F, SEA (F63)
97. Alec Martinez, D, VGS (D23)
98. Jack Hughes, F, NJ (F64)
99. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL (D24)
100. Brayden Schenn, F, STL (F65)
101. Joel Eriksson Ek, F, MIN (F66)
102. Sam Reinhart, F, FLA (F67)
103. Ryan Strome, F, NYR (F68)
104. Jack Campbell, G, TOR (G12)
105. Moritz Seider, D, DET (D25)
106. Mats Zuccarello, F, MIN (F69)
107. Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN (D26)
108. Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (D27)
109. Filip Forsberg, F, NSH (F70)
110. Thomas Chabot, D, OTT (D28)
111. Vincent Trocheck, F, CAR (F71)
112. Bo Horvat, F, VAN (F72)
113. Tristan Jarry, G, PIT (G13)
114. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (F73)
115. Jordan Eberle, F, SEA (F74)
116. Travis Konecny, F, PHI (F75)
117. Nick Suzuki, F, MON (F76)
118. Elvis Merzlikins, G, CLS (G14)
119. Adam Henrique, F, ANA (F77)
120. Tyson Barrie, D, EDM (D29)
121. Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH (G15)
122. Viktor Arvidsson, F, LA (F78)
123. Oliver Bjorkstrand, F, CLS (F79)
124. Martin Necas, F, CAR (F80)
125. Carter Hart, G, PHI (G16)
126. Nicklas Backstrom, F, WSH (F81)
127. Rickard Rakell, F, ANA (F82)
128. Cam Atkinson, F, PHI (F83)
129. Tyler Toffoli, F, MON (F84)
130. William Nylander, F, TOR (F85)
131. Alexander Radulov, F, DAL (F86)
132. Adin Hill, G, SJ (G17)
133. Brock Boeser, F, VAN (F87)
134. Tony DeAngelo, D, CAR (D30)
135. John Gibson, G, ANA (G18)
136. Mike Smith, G, EDM (G19)
137. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D31)
138. Colton Parayko, D, STL (D32)
139. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, FLA (G20)
140. Blake Coleman, F, CGY (F88)
141. Victor Olofsson, F, BUF (F89)
142. Anders Lee, F, NYI (F90)
143. Jamie Benn, F, DAL (F91)
144. Carter Verhaeghe, F, FLA (F92)
145. Nick Ritchie, F, TOR (F93)
146. Ryan Graves, D, NJ (D33)
147. Kevin Fiala, F, MIN (F94)
148. Blake Wheeler, F, WPG (F95)
149. Max Pacioretty, F, VGS (F96)
150. Jake Muzzin, D, TOR (D34)
151. Boone Jenner, F, CLS (F97)
152. Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, WPG (F98)
153. Brent Burns, D, SJ (D35)
154. Keith Yandle, D, PHI (D36)
155. Dylan Cozens, F, BUF (F99)
156. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (F100)
157. Brock Nelson, F, NYI (F101)
158. Josh Norris, F, OTT (F102)
159. T.J. Oshie, F, WSH (F103)
160. Tom Wilson, F, WSH (F104)
161. Johnny Gaudreau, F, CGY (F105)
162. Clayton Keller, F, ARI (F106)
163. Jakub Voracek, F, CLS (F107)
164. Mathew Dumba, D, MIN (D37)
165. Alex Nedeljkovic, G, DET (G21)
166. Spencer Knight, G, FLA (G22)
167. Andrew Mangiapane, F, CGY (F108)
168. Jonathan Marchessault, F, VGS (F109)
169. Anthony Mantha, F, WSH (F110)
170. Pavel Buchnevich, F, STL (F111)
171. Anthony Duclair, F, FLA (F112)
172. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (D38)
173. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR (D39)
174. Kailer Yamamoto, F, EDM (F113)
175. Joe Pavelski, F, DAL (F114)
176. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (G23)
177. Lucas Raymond, F, DET (F115)
178. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF (D40)
179. Nikita Kucherov, F, TB (F116)
180. Jason Robertson, F, DAL (F117)
181. Alexis Lafreniere, F, NYR (F118)
182. Connor Brown, F, OTT (F119)
183. Brandon Tanev, F, SEA (F120)
184. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, ARI (D41)
185. Ryan Johansen, F, NSH (F121)
186. Alex Iafallo, F, LA (F122)
187. Tim Stutzle, F, OTT (F123)
188. John Klingberg, D, DAL (D42)
189. Claude Giroux, F, PHI (F124)
190. Dominik Kubalik, F, CHI (F125)
191. Jeff Petry, D, MON (D43)
192. Evan Rodrigues, F, PIT (F126)
193. Mike Hoffman, F, MON (F127)
194. Artem Zub, D, OTT (D44)
195. Jeff Carter, F, PIT (F128)
196. Andrew Copp, F, WPG (F129)
197. Shea Theodore, D, VGS (D45)
198. Lawson Crouse, F, ARI (F130)
199. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, CHI (G24)
200. Torey Krug, D, STL (D46)
201. Paul Stastny, F, WPG (F131)
202. Jonas Brodin, D, MIN (D47)
203. Adam Larsson, D, SEA (D48)
204. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, F, CAR (F132)
205. Jonathan Toews, F, CHI (F133)
206. William Karlsson, F, VGS (F134)
207. Justin Faulk, D, STL (D49)
208. Jason Zucker, F, PIT (F135)
209. J.T. Compher, F, COL (F136)
210. James van Riemsdyk, F, PHI (F137)
211. David Savard, D, MON (D50)
212. Andre Burakovsky, F, COL (F138)
213. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D51)
214. Eeli Tolvanen, F, NSH (F139)
215. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D52)
216. Kirby Dach, F, CHI (F140)
217. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJ (G25)
218. Alexander Wennberg, F, SEA (F141)
219. Charlie Coyle, F, BOS (F142)
220. Esa Lindell, D, DAL (D53)
221. Nikita Zaitsev, D, OTT (D54)
222. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, VAN (D55)
223. Petr Mrazek, G, TOR (G26)
224. Tyler Myers, D, VAN (D56)
225. Jack Roslovic, F, CLS (F143)
226. Semyon Varlamov, G, NYI (G27)
227. Oliver Wahlstrom, F, NYI (F144)
228. Pavel Francouz, G, COL (G28)
229. Anthony Beauvillier, F, NYI (F145)
230. Joshua Morrissey, D, WPG (D57)
231. Hampus Lindholm, D, ANA (D58)
232. Noah Hanifin, D, CGY (D59)
233. Trevor Zegras, F, ANA (F146)
234. Jordan Staal, F, CAR (F147)
235. Gustav Nyquist, F, CLS (F148)
236. Zack Kassian, F, EDM (F149)
237. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, PHI (D60)
238. Christopher Tanev, D, CGY (D61)
239. Kyle Palmieri, F, NYI (F150)
240. Jeremy Swayman, G, BOS (G29)
241. Calvin de Haan, D, CHI (D62)
242. Maxime Comtois, F, ANA (F151)
243. Brian Dumoulin, D, PIT (D63)
244. Cam Talbot, G, MIN (G30)
245. Alex Killorn, F, TB (F152)
246. Mark Giordano, D, SEA (D64)
247. Calvin Petersen, G, LA (G31)
248. Mario Ferraro, D, SJ (D65)
249. Brandon Saad, F, STL (F153)
250. Max Domi, F, CLS (F154)