Expectations vs production: Disappointing fantasy hockey picks

Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has averaged a mere 1.6 FPPG this season. Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

The anti-all-star team is an idea that struck me last week while assembling the fantasy version of the all-star squads announced by the NHL. The concept is simple, while the fantasy all-star team highlighted the players best combining production and expectations, the anti-all-star squad will do the opposite.

These are the players that are doing the least compared to the expectations we put on them prior to the season. That is all relative, of course. For example, you'll see Auston Matthews on the Atlantic Division team -- but that by no means implies he's a poor asset for fantasy. In point of fact, he's ninth in fantasy scoring this season and tied for sixth in fantasy points per game (FPPG). What makes him eligible for this team, however, is the expectation that he would be the only one capable of competing with Connor McDavid to be the best in fantasy this season. But there are seven other players doing better in that chase, while Matthews lags McDavid by more than 50 fantasy points.

This isn't necessarily an all-dud team. Many of these players are likely helping you achieve success in fantasy this season. It's just that they aren't helping as much as we hoped they would.

Once again, same rules as the NHL apply here: One player from each team (even if it feels forced at times) and one goaltender per division, but no need to balance forwards and defensemen.

Metropolitan Division

Artemi Panarin, W, New York Rangers: After posting 2.2, 2.4 and 2.5 fantasy points per game going back the previous three seasons, there is no question Panarin is not doing what fantasy managers drafted him to do this season. Was Ryan Strome a better center for him than Vincent Trocheck is turning out to be? Or have Panarin and Trocheck just not quite had enough time together? Or is Panarin, in his age-31 season, just starting to come out of his prime?

Ondrej Palat, W, New Jersey Devils: There weren't very many good candidates from the Devils, as overachieving has been the theme this season. So we'll be tough on Palat here, even though he's only been healthy for 11 games. His 1.5 FPPG isn't good enough considering the top-six talent he plays with.

Johnny Gaudreau, W, Columbus Blue Jackets: Did expectations get built up too much because of Gaudreau's enormous contract year and offseason drama? If you note that his FPPG this season is better than it was in both 2020-21 and 2019-20, it's a fair question. His 1.8 FPPG is a far cry from last season's 2.5 though, however you slice it.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals: He's outside the top 150 skaters for total fantasy points in a healthy season. This should have been a bounceback campaign for Kuznetsov with Nicklas Backstrom sidelined for the first half.

Jake Guentzel, W, Pittsburgh Penguins: After ranking in the top 25 skaters for FPPG in the previous two seasons and coming into his age-29 campaign, everything was primed for Guentzel to put it all together for a career season. His 2.1 FPPG isn't terrible, but it's more like top 75 as opposed to top 25.

Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers: This is made more disappointing because Provorov actually started strong. On Nov. 27, he ranked 10th among defensemen in fantasy points and had 2.2 FPPG. Now, he ranks 25th among defensemen and his plummet continues.

Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders: Cresting above 2.0 FPPG in two of the past three seasons, Pulock currently sits 48th among defensemen for fantasy points and has posted a lowly 1.6 FPPG.

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes: Sorry, Andersen, but someone has to get picked on from the division and no other goaltender has done significantly less than what was expected of them. This is a prime example of how this anti-all-star team works. While Elvis Merzlikins has the worst goals saved above expected mark in the NHL this season, nobody in fantasy was counting on him. So Andersen, even though he's been great when healthy, gets to represent the Canes on this team because he missed so much time.

Atlantic Division

Juraj Slafkovsky, W, Montreal Canadiens: Poor Slavkovsky ends up on this squad because no one -- anywhere -- expected too much out of the Habs this season. While Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have cooled after a hot start, their overall production has been solid. Slafkovsky, while a risk in fantasy drafts, has been disappointing relative to opportunity. If you told me he was a lineup regular with 12 minutes per game, I would have said he'd be fantasy relevant prior to the season. A 0.9 FPPG rate says otherwise.

Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: Again, we have a case of no one really playing below expectations for the Leafs. Maybe Michael Bunting, but we knew his star was tied to Matthews success. And Matthews has been far from disappointing, it's just that he's not neck and neck with Connor McDavid as the clear-cut top fantasy options.

Sam Reinhart, C/W, Florida Panthers: A drop-off of more than 35 fantasy points is what Reinhart is currently on pace for. With the talent on the Panthers, this shouldn't have happened this season. Rate-wise, it's a drop from 2.2 FPPG last season to 1.7 FPPG this year.

Victor Olofsson, W, Buffalo Sabres: Had to pick someone from this crew of overachievers. With everyone else on the team blowing past expectations, it's a touch disappointing to see Olofsson cruising along at the exact same 1.4 FPPG he posted last season. That said, the Sabres are a success story and no one was really drafting Olofsson this year anyway. But again, each team gets a representative.

Taylor Hall, W, Boston Bruins: The Bruins aren't even using Hall with regularity in the top six -- even with an injury among the ranks. Hopes that the future Hart Trophy winner could find a fantasy groove later in his career are proving to be fruitless.

Tyler Bertuzzi, W, Detroit Red Wings: Not too many underwhelmers from the Red Wings, so Bertuzzi gets the nod here despite his injuries. He's only managed 12 fantasy points in 12 games heading into Monday's action.

Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: He is rounding back into form again, but the fact that Mikhail Sergachev was the Lightning's top fantasy defenseman for two months of the season despite a healthy Hedman in the lineup was a troubling start to the campaign. Though he has posted 2.2 FPPG in the past month and is getting back to where we want him to be, there was a time in mid-December when Hedman was outside the top 50 defensemen; not top 50 skaters, that's top 50 defensemen.

Cam Talbot, G, Ottawa Senators: He just isn't a fantasy factor. Now in January, it's getting increasingly risky to still be waiting for the Sens to find their rhythm. Maybe this is the Sens? A mercurial offense despite a top-notch power play, but without the chops in the crease to make the playoffs. I don't think anyone drafted Talbot to be their No. 1 fantasy goalie, but he's not even a No. 2 at this stage.

Central Division

Matt Duchene, C/W, Nashville Predators: Regression from 43 goals was inevitable for the just-turned-32-year-old, but Duchene might see his goal total cut in half. I would have been all-in on him at least getting to 30 goals, but one cold streak and Duchene might struggle to get to 20. This Predators offense is on pace to score 37 fewer goals than they scored last season. I wonder where they all went. Mr. Duchene, I'm looking at you.

Tyler Seguin, C/W, Dallas Stars: There's a parallel universe somewhere with Seguin and Taylor Hall near the top of the leaderboards for scoring in the NHL. But it ain't this one. Will Seguin get back to his pre-leg-injuries form? Now two years removed, it's starting to look like this is the new base line. Which means he's only relevant when someone higher up the depth chart is injured.

Alex Newhook, C/W, Colorado Avalanche: Despite currently sitting outside the playoff picture, no one on the Avs is really doing less than we expected them to this season. That's means the anti-all-star team rep is the sleeper we hoped would step into Nazem Kadri's skates on the second line, but hasn't made much of an impact for fantasy this season at all.

Cole Perfetti, C/W, Winnipeg Jets: Perfetti didn't have lofty expectations set upon him this season, but he was a great sleeper because of the opportunity he might get. Well, he's received every bit of the expected opportunity and more, he just hasn't converted time in this talented top six to fantasy points.

Ryan O'Reilly, C, St. Louis Blues: Most other Blues are doing what we wanted them to this season or perhaps even more. O'Reilly wasn't expected to be a world beater or anything, but his contributions to date are completely irrelevant to fantasy. We were certainly expecting more than that.

Nick Schmaltz, C/W, Arizona Coyotes: With expectations for the club set so low, there aren't many good representation options from the Coyotes. That said, I wanted more of late-2021-22 Schmatlz, who was a top 50 fantasy forward in the NHL. We aren't getting that from him yet, but remember this was about the time he heated up last season.

Patrick Kane, W, Chicago Blackhawks: Mercy. Mercy, dear Blackhawks. While I am infatuated with the idea as an NHL fan of a player staying with an organization for the entirety of a career, this is painful to watch as a fantasy manager. Just 1.6 FPPG from Kane? Even in my worst-case scenarios for the Hawks, I still had Kane collecting more fantasy points.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Minnesota Wild: I almost went the Marco Rossi route here, as there were some hefty expectations the rookie winger would find a meaningful role. But he's been off the radar since October. Fleury just isn't passing muster as a fantasy goaltender; a fact made all the more stark by Filip Gustavsson performing exceptionally well in the very same crease.

Pacific Division

Jonathan Huberdeau, W, Calgary Flames: The inspiration for this anti-all-star team, Huberdeau is following up a 115-point, 212.6-fantasy point campaign in 2021-22 with a painful showing here. He is on pace for 60 points and 12 fantasy points. Just a shadow of what he earned in Florida last season.

Adrian Kempe, C/W, Los Angeles Kings: If you told me that Kempe would play virtually every moment of five-on-five with Anze Kopitar and be a lock on the first power-play unit in his age-26 season, I would have promised improvement in fantasy scoring from his 1.9 FPPG last season.

Phil Kessel, W, Vegas Golden Knights: Yeah. Well, it was a hope on a wing and a prayer built on a house of cards. But it was still some kind of expectation here. Instead, Kessel's only headlines this season are from his iron-man streak.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, W, Seattle Kraken: The arrival of Eeli Tolvanen is making it so even Bjorkstrand might start to meet the sleeper expectations placed upon him, as every member of the Kraken is going above and beyond this campaign. But after almost scoring 30 goals last season and moving to a stronger offense, seven goals is less than we hoped at the halfway point.

J.T. Miller, C/W, Vancouver Canucks: Miller is like Matthews inclusion on the Atlantic squad: He's not a poor fantasy investment by any means, he just isn't meeting the demands of last season. It's a drop from 2.7 FPPG to 2.3 FPPG, which is nothing to complain about unless you took Miller in the first two rounds of a draft -- which is something that happened.

Alexander Barabanov, W, San Jose Sharks: When no one outside four players is earning any fantasy value -- and no one was expected to -- it's hard to be disappointed with anyone here. For Barabanov, it's just a matter of playing the most minutes on the top power-play unit with the Sharks players who do move the needle, yet Barabanov is earning almost no fantasy value to speak of.

John Klingberg, D, Anaheim Ducks: Take your pick from the Ducks for this anti-all-star team. Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras are equally good candidates, but Klingberg's 1.6 FPPG is just terribly underwhelming given the formula for this season: He was just supposed to anchor the top power-play unit and earn enough value to be flipped at the deadline. It was supposed to be so simple.

Jack Campbell, G, Edmonton Oilers: Take your pick of Pacific Division goaltenders not named Logan Thompson or Martin Jones. Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have dropped off a cliff, but for Campbell to come into Edmonton on such a major deal and purport to be the answer in net only to lose his starting gig a month into the season -- that's anti-all-star team. But don't look now! Campbell has won four of five starts and maybe, just maybe is pushing for a larger share of the crease back.