2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

by Justin Cheng
2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

With the month of October coming to a close, we are starting to collect enough data to draw some meaningful conclusions. Sit back and buckle up as we dive headfirst into the 2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players.

Every Thursday over the course of the season, we will be looking at different players each week who are front of mind for Fantasy GMs. Some players may be seeing their rostered percentage increase due to a recent hot streak. Others may be traded away or dropped across many leagues because of recent struggles.

Maybe the superstar player who was supposed to be the cornerstone of your team has been a bust. Or maybe there is a guy on the waiver wire who has strung together a few impressive performances.

This week has been a busy news week across the NHL. The Maple Leafs have been slow out of the gate. Nikita Kucherov is out 8-10 weeks following lower-body surgery. And the early standings are starting to take shape – and not at all as expected.

If you are looking for further add/drop guidance, click here to read Tyler’s most recent suggestions! Kyle also does a good job highlighting the trade value of different players here.

And as always, if you have any players that you want me to cover in future weeks, be sure to leave a comment down below or reach out to me via Twitter - @jchengWPG.

2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

Unsustainably High

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (82% rostered)

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Did someone say 2018-19? This week a fellow GM was looking at my team and commented that my team looked like a good team from three years ago. This observation was led in part by my recent waiver wire addition of the 31-year-old Sharks defenseman.

It’s been an incredible start to the year for Erik Karlsson. Through six games, he has two goals and four assists. This is the kind of point totals that the Sharks were looking for when they signed him to the massive $92 million contract.


I am a big Karlsson fan and as much as I would like to say that he is back, the signs suggest otherwise.

This year’s resurgence has been led by a 20.0% SH% and a 14.7% oiSH%. Add to that an IPP of 60%, and you have a prime candidate to fall off in the coming weeks.

For perspective, let’s compare these numbers to his most recent all-star caliber season in 2018-19 when he was on pace for 70 points. Over 53 games, Karlsson managed to put up three goals and 42 assists, for 45 points. Even during that incredible campaign, he only shot at a 1.7% SH% with an oiSH% just over 9%. His IPP that year finished at 47.4%.

While all of the underlying numbers suggest that he won’t be able to replicate his all-star performance from seasons past, I do think that Karlsson could have a bounce back. Even if his point totals pull back, I think Karlsson could still hit 50-55 points – worth a roster spot in almost all formats.

I also think we could see Karlsson finish with more goals this year than we have seen since his days in Ottawa. In the early going, it looks like Karlsson has transformed his game and is shooting more from more dangerous locations.

This change in style is reflected in his Expected Goals total of four. By comparison, Karlsson only managed a total of 14 expected goals all of last season.

All in all, while his current 82-point pace is unsustainable, I do very much like the former all-star going forward.

Cam Atkinson, RW, Philadelphia Flyers (63% rostered)

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Another old-not-so-old player that is having somewhat of a resurgence is Cam Atkinson.

Following the offseason trade that sent him to the Flyers in exchange for Jakub Voracek, Atkinson has been on fire. He has put up four goals and an assist for five points through his first four games.


Across the board, Atkinson’s performance reeks of unsustainability. He is currently shooting at 29% on the season, and 60% over the past week. He also has been a beneficiary of Philly’s incredible puck luck. His oiSH% is currently sitting north of 26% on the season.

This luck is bound to dry up sooner than later.

The red flags run much deeper than the unsustainable shooting percentages, though. Early on in the season, Atkinson is seeing over three minutes less ice time than last year. I don’t expect this to change much going forward as Konecny has the first-line right-wing spot locked up.

If you are an Atkinson owner, I would be making a few calls and trying to sell high. Once his underlying numbers fall back to earth, I expect Atkinson to settle in around a 60-point pace. If you can flip Atkinson for a 70-point player who is underperforming, you will be rewarded kindly.

Kyle Connor, LW, Winnipeg Jets (99% rostered)

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Coming off of a week for which he was named the NHL’s first star, it’s no surprise that Kyle Connor makes it onto the list as unsustainably high.

Through six games, the 2015 17th-overall pick leads the league in goals with six and has added four assists. He has also seen his hits pace increase slightly, making fantasy owners all the more satisfied with his performance.


There are a lot of things to like about Connor’s game. He has been playing nearly 22 minutes per night over the last week and has been averaging just under five shots during that span.

However, there are also some concerning signs that suggest Connor may fall back to earth in the near future.

Currently, Connor is outscoring his expected goals by nearly double. While one would expect Connor to outscore the model slightly due to his exceptional finishing ability, this rate is unsustainable.

2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

Further, Connor’s PDO over the last week and on the season is sitting at 117% and 109%, respectively. PDO is calculated by adding a player’s team shooting percentage and save percentage while he is on the ice. This number always approaches 100% in the long run, even for the best players. Connor’s exceptionally high PDO suggests that he has been getting very lucky.

Even though his current pace is unsustainable, I wouldn’t be quick to trade Connor away. I still think he is an elite fantasy player that will finish right around the point-per-game mark. Just don't expect him to finish with 65+ goals.

Unsustainably Low

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW, Winnipeg Jets (96% rostered)

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Fresh off clinching an Olympic berth for his native country of Denmark this offseason, Nikolaj Ehlers has had a tough start to the season. Despite playing well, he has been unable to catch a break (or catch COVID-19 like teammates Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele).

Through the first five games of the season, despite playing two minutes more per game than last year, Ehlers had only registered a single assist. He had a little bit of a bounce-back last game, scoring a couple of goals and adding an assist to lift the Jets past the Anaheim Ducks late in the game.


There are so many reasons to like what Ehlers has been doing this year. As mentioned, his ice-time has increased significantly from last year (in part, due to the COVID-related absences) and as a result he has been shooting more.

Like, way more.

He is currently shooting over four times per game and is on pace for nearly 400 shots this season. If he comes anywhere near his 11.2% SH% from last year, he easily scores 35-40 goals.

Currently, his oiSH% is pretty close to last year (13.2% vs. 11.4% last year), but his IPP is unsustainably low. Last year, Ehlers factored into over 80% of the points scored while he was on the ice (which makes sense as he is an offensive play-driver).

This year, his IPP is sitting at 44.4%, even after factoring in his game on Tuesday. Expect that to increase closer to last year’s number.

If you drafted Ehlers early, take a deep breath. The points will come, as they did last game. In the meantime, enjoy the shots that he has been giving you.

Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks (48% rostered)

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Through six games this season, the Blackhawks have looked awful. The team that was regarded highly after offseason additions of Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury has started 0-5-1 and is tied for dead-last in the league. Though the season is young, Chicago has only been able to score 12 goals as a team. There just hasn’t been a lot of offense to get in on, and all of the Blackhawks’ stars have been hurt by it.

Jonathan Toews, though he has looked good since returning from an illness that cost him all of last season, has only registered two assists.


Despite the slow start, Toews is bound to turn it around soon. He has been shooting at a decent clip (2 shots/game), most of which have come from the dangerous area near the bottom of the right circle. These chances have translated into two expected goals, despite Toews' lack of finishing thus far.

2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

The other thing that makes me optimistic that Toews can turn it around is the fact that he is still playing nearly 75% of the team’s powerplay time. He is enjoying excellent deployment on the top unit stacked with talent, including Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Seth Jones. As long as he remains on that unit, Toews is likely to see his point totals increase.

His IPP and oiSH% both have some room to improve, which would add another couple of points to his current totals.

While I do believe that Toews' current struggles are unsustainable and he is bound to start scoring more, I would weigh carefully whether he is worth a roster spot on your team.

His best years are behind him, and at best Toews is a 65-point player with little-to-no peripheral coverage. If this is valuable in your league, you can hold out. In all of my leagues, a streamer spot is more valuable than the upside Toews brings.

Mitch Marner, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (99% rostered)

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When you are making $10.9 million a year, people are going to expect a lot from you. So far, Mitch Marner has been disappointing fantasy GMs and Toronto fans across the board. Many are calling for his head.

The Leafs are 2-4-1 to start the season, and during that stretch, Marner has only recorded one assist. That puts him on pace for a 12-point season.


To add insult to injury, Marner is shooting even less than last season, averaging less than three shots per game.

Despite the rocky start, Marner will turn things around sooner or later.

For starters, superstar goal scorer Auston Matthews has returned from off-season wrist surgery which sidelined him for the first three games of the season. His return should spell more time and space for Marner when they do play together. It should also mean more goals to get in on as Matthews gets up to speed.

And despite the fact that fans have already worn out the panic button, the Leafs have genuinely been getting impressively unlucky.

While Marner has been on the ice, the team has not converted a single shot over the past week. That mark is at 2.2% on the season. Compare that to 12.9% last year and 12.7% over the past three years. When we see this on ice shooting percentage correct closer to years past, Marner should see his point totals increase substantially.

I think it is unrealistic at this point, given his slow start, to expect Marner to finish on the 100-point pace he was on last year. That would require him to put up 99 points in the final 75 games of the season, which I just don’t see happening, especially in a tough Atlantic division.

However, I do believe that Marner will finish right around the point-per-game mark by the time the season is wrapped.

At this point, if I were a Marner owner (which I am not in any of my leagues), he is my ride or die. Unfortunately, I don’t think any GM will give you enough value to part with Marner’s upside. On the flip side, it will get increasingly difficult to attribute the Leafs struggles to bad luck as the season drags on.

Sustainably High

Zach Hyman, LW/RW, Edmonton Oilers (89% rostered)

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Perhaps some the aforementioned struggles of the Leafs can be explained by the departure of this next guy, Zach Hyman.

Hyman, a sandpaper player who signed a monster of a contract with Edmonton this offseason, is currently exceeding expectations. Through five games, he has five goals and an assist while spending a lot of his time on a line with Connor McDavid.


While Hyman won’t continue to score at an 82-goal pace, there are a number of factors that I considered before I ultimately decided to consider him sustainably high.

For starters, over the past couple games, Edmonton has opted to split up McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, shifting Hyman up to that top line instead. Hyman has also been skating on the top powerplay unit. Over the past week, he has seen 72.0% of the team’s total powerplay time.

Additionally, Hyman is doing exactly what he was expected to do when Edmonton signed away for $38.5 million over seven years. Nearly all of Hyman’s shot attempts have come from that dangerous area right around the blue paint. Parked in front of the net, he has been able to capitalize on rebounds created by the Oilers’ other superstars.

2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

There is no doubt that his goal totals will slip back in the coming weeks – he has been shooting at nearly 42%. But playing on a line with McDavid will see him benefit, and he should start to rack up some assists.

Rest-of-season I really like Hyman, but at 89% rostered he is likely unavailable in your league. If you are a Hyman owner, I would hold on to him tight. You aren't selling high on an asset that is bound to depreciate. Hyman is the real deal and should continue to perform as long as he is playing with McDavid or Draisaitl.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes (16% rostered)

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If there is one bright spot in the darkness that is the Coyotes season, it would have to be the acquisition of Shayne Gostisbehere. The Coyotes received a second-round pick in the 2022 draft to take on the last couple years of his $27 million contract. If he continues playing as he has been, the Coyotes could flip him again before his contract expires. They might acquire even more draft capital and accelerate their rebuild further.

Through six games, Gostisbehere has recorded four assists on a Coyotes team otherwise devoid of offense. He is also blocking more shots than last year, averaging just over a block per game.


So far into the season, it looks like Gostisbehere is making the most of his opportunity as the go-to offensive defenseman. While he is seeing just under 20 minutes a night, a lot of that time is spent in the offensive zone. With Jakob Chychrun taking the harder defensive minutes, Gostisbehere has been starting over 56% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

Additionally, Gostisbehere has snatched top powerplay duties away from Chychrun. As a result, he is seeing over three minutes on the man-advantage every night.

And if the deployment alone wasn’t enough, Gostisbehere is also generating scoring chances himself. Through the six games, he already has an impressive four expected goals. If some of those start to go in, we could see Gostisbehere return to the 20-goal pace he was on last year.

With three(!) more games this week, Gostisbehere is a sneaky pickup that could push you over the edge late in the week.

Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings (66% rostered)

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The Red Wings have been the second biggest surprise of this young season (behind the 4-1-1 Buffalo Sabres of course). This hot streak to start the season has been propelled by their top line of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and rookie Lucas Raymond.

Through five games, Larkin has recorded a couple of goals and added five assists. Despite the hot start, Larkin is actually underperforming relative to his expected goals. He already has five expected goals, a third of his total of 15 from all of last season.


Larkin is undoubtedly Detroit’s best player. While young guns like Raymond and Filip Zadina have a bright future, they aren’t quite there yet. This is why it is a little bit puzzling to see Larkin skating less than 16 minutes per game and seeing less than half of Detroit’s powerplay time.

Both of these numbers have increased over the past week (17:05 ATOI, 55.8 PP%), and I expect to see them rise further as the season drags on.

I was really high on Larkin going into this season, especially after an abysmal 2020-21 season. He is shooting at 13.3% on the year, which is perhaps a tad high. It is, however, much more representative of Larkin’s finishing ability than the 6.7% shooting percentage that he finished last year with.

The other thing that makes me high on Larkin rest-of-season is the fact that his oiSH% isn’t astronomical. It is currently sitting just a tad high at 15.4%. His IPP is also very reasonable, sitting at 70% on the season. Even if his oiSH% drops slightly, his increasing ice time should be enough to negate any negative regression.

Larkin’s value is dampened in leagues that place a high emphasis on peripherals. He really doesn’t bring much to the table aside from points. However, points he will continue to bring. This season we are more likely to see 2018-19 Larkin who put up 73 points over 76 games. I would not be at all shocked to see Larkin finish this season at a point-per-game pace.

Sustainably Low

Cole Caufield, RW, Montreal Canadiens (69% rostered)

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Many experts expected Cole Caufield to finish the season in the Calder conversation and lead all rookies in goals. This couldn’t be farther from reality.

While Lucas Raymond is busy racking up the goals in Detroit, Caufield only has one assist in seven games. After a strong playoffs last year, his performance thus far has been a disappointment.


Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Caufield is about to turn it around anytime soon. Over the past week, Caufield has seen a steady decrease in ice time to under 14 minutes per game. He has also been seeing less of the team’s powerplay time. Furthermore, he is now skating on the third line centered by Mathieu Perreault.

I am a big Perreault fan from his days in Winnipeg (we shared the same car dealership), but he is no offensive juggernaut.

In addition to the concerning decrease in ice time and deployment, Caufield also has been unable to create time and space to create chances. Through seven games, most of his shots are coming from far out near the top of the left circle. Unless your name is Alex Ovechkin, you are not going to regularly beat an NHL goalie from that distance. As a result, he only has one expected goal through seven games.

2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players

When you compare where his shots are coming from this year to last year in the playoffs, the difference is stark. This year, defenders are not giving Caufield the time or space to get shots off from the dangerous areas of the ice.

While it is still way too early in his career to panic, the trend so far this season is concerning. Especially for a player who biggest criticism was that he was too small to get to the dirty areas of the ice.

Unless you are in a deep keeper league where the 20-year-old can provide more value in the future, it is safe to drop Caufield. He is costing you a valuable roster spot.

Artemi Panarin, LW, New York Rangers (100% rostered)

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Despite the Rangers’ hot start that has them sitting third in the Metro, Panarin has yet to find his stride.

Playing on the second line, Panarin has only scored one goal and added three assists. This simply doesn't cut it for a guy who was drafted in the first round ahead of Brad Marchand and Alex Ovechkin.


It may be surprising to see someone of Panarin’s caliber make my list as sustainably low. Perhaps this needs to be prefaced by a “Hot Take” warning.

And to be fair, I don’t expect that he will continue to score at a 47-point-pace. If you stop reading here, don’t go about dropping Panarin or panic trading him away for scraps.

What is concerning is that this year Panarin has not been generating the dangerous chances he has in years past. Last year he was on pace for 80 expected goals over an 82-game season. This year, he is on pace for only 35.

He also isn’t shooting the puck as much as last year. He is currently shooting fewer than two times per game and is on pace for less than 150 shots. Even if his shooting percentage increases closer to his 16% SH% from last year, he will barely break 20 goals.

The return of Ryan Strome should help Panarin regain some of his form from last year. However, I still don’t see him outperforming some of the wingers drafted after him.

Even if he starts to pick up his performance, I don’t see him finishing above a point-per-game. While that is by no means a bad fantasy season, owners are bound to be left with a sour taste in their mouths. Especially those that drafted him based on the 113-point pace that he was on last year.

If there are still any GMs out there willing to give you first-round talent in a trade for Panarin, I would at least consider what is available. I, however, wouldn’t be quick to buy low on Panarin, especially because it is still likely to cost you elite talent.

Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders (48% rostered)

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When it comes to defensemen, there are two ways they can generate value in fantasy. You can be a player like a Radko Gudas, racking up shots, hits, and blocks, while the forwards do the heavy lifting when it comes to putting up goals and assists. Alternatively, you could be a quarterback on a team’s top powerplay, generating points from the backend.

Going into this season, a lot of models and analysts were very high on Ryan Pulock because it looked like had PP1 time locked up. With the departure of Nick Leddy, it looked like Pulock was finally going to get his shot.

However, early in the season, Noah Dobson has emerged as a very good puck-moving defenseman and has stolen PP1 duties away from Pulock. In fact, Pulock is seeing even less time on the powerplay than last year.

Through six games, Pulock has yet to register a point. He has, however, put up 16 hits and 19 blocks, giving him solid peripheral value.


With Dobson taking over PP1 duties, its hard to see where Pulock’s points are going to come from. He has also been demoted to the second paring with grizzled veteran Zdeno Chara.

I have Pulock on this list, not because I think he is a bad player. In fact, I think in a lot of leagues, Pulock has a lot of value given that he has been getting over two hits and three blocks per game. I do have Pulock on this list, however, because I don’t see him putting up the points that he was expected to, going into the season.

I am also watching his ice time closely this season. Already he is seeing almost a full minute less ice time than last year.

It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Pulock to continue racking up hits and blocks. But if his ice time decreases further, it will get that much harder.

If you are in a league where goals and assists are heavily weighted, you are safe to drop Pulock (perhaps for Dobson). The points upside just isn’t there since he isn’t skating on PP1. In leagues that have hits and blocks, I would have a short leash. If Pulock starts to see his ice time fall even more, or see his peripherals decline because of a lack of ice time, I wouldn’t be afraid to cut him loose for better options on the waiver wire.


There you have it - the 2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Week 3 Unsustainable Players.

Every Thursday throughout this series we will be looking at the hottest and coldest players in the league. If you have any players that you want me to cover in future weeks, be sure leave a comment down below or reach out to me via Twitter @jchengWPG.

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2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Planner Week 4 - Fantasy Six Pack October 30, 2021 - 9:31 am

[…] dives further into Marner in his 2021-22 Week 3 Unsustainable Players […]


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