Time to Drop Andrei Kuzmenko in Fantasy Hockey Puck

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Erik Gustafsson has been dropped to the second line and his numbers show it, making him droppable in fantasy leagues. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Special to Yahoo Sports

As the Christmas break is only three weeks away, there are likely some moves you should be making at this time to maintain your lofty ranking, or to try to get back into the race. We have a couple of goaltenders who aren’t playing at the NHL level and two others who have had their playing time reduced. The beauty of an NHL pool is that there are so many good players who never get drafted as most fantasy leagues select less than 200 players and goalies in a league that has over 700 players active or injured.

Let’s consider some players who are rostered in ample Yahoo leagues who could be easily dropped.

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes (73% rostered)

Andersen is out indefinitely with a blood-clotting issue. He has missed the last month and there is no guarantee he will return this season. This will make three seasons in the past four that Andersen will have missed a huge chunk of the year due to injury or illness. Andersen did play well in his last three starts, after beginning the year with three mediocre performances. He was 4-1-0 in six starts, giving up 15 goals on 142 shots. You really can’t count on Andersen to return this season, and if he does, it may be too late as Pyotr Kochetkov could steal his job as the No. 1 netminder with the Hurricanes.

Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Vancouver Canucks (71% rostered)

Kuzmenko has four goals and 15 points in 22 games this season. Normally these totals would be more than good enough to keep him in your fantasy lineup, but a closer look reveals that he could be benched or released. Kuzmenko got off to a great start with three goals and 14 points in his first 16 games, but has only picked up one assist in his last six games. He missed one game with a facial injury and another two as a healthy scratch. He has dropped from the first line to the second in even-strength situations as well as the power play.

You may want to hold on to Kuzmenko based on his 2022-23 rookie season in which he had 39 goals and 74 points in 81 games, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be starting at this time.

Erik Gustafsson, D, New York Rangers, (37% rostered)

Gustafsson lost his job quarterbacking the first power play this week as Adam Fox returned from a lower-body injury and picked up four assists in three games, including two with the man advantage. Gustafsson was relegated to the second unit. Gustafsson has yet to pick up a point in the three games since Fox’s return after picking a goal and 10 assists in the 10 games Fox missed. Gustafsson is a nice player, but there are likely better defensemen available at this time.

Devon Levi, G, Buffalo Sabres (33% rostered)

Levi was sent to the minors a week ago, and it was the right move. The Sabres signed Levi right out of Northeastern University in March of 2023 and immediately made him their No. 1 goaltender at the end of last season without any games in the minors. Levi was 5-2-0 with a 2.94 GAA and .905 save percentage last season, and came into this season as the presumptive first-stringer with the Sabres. But a tough start (3-4-1 with a 3.73 GAA and .876 save percentage) made it obvious that he needed to regain his confidence at the AHL level.

Levi went 1-1-0 this weekend, giving up six goals on 76 shots. He was outstanding in a 3-2 shootout win Friday in Belleville, stopping 40 shots, but he gave up four goals on 21 shots in the last two periods in Saturday’s loss. Levi will eventually make his way back to the NHL, but he may not have any fantasy value this season.

Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Colorado Avalanche (32% rostered)

I don’t think that Lehkonen is ready to return as he is still on long-term injured reserve. He suffered a neck injury Nov. 10 and while the brace has come off, Lehkonen has yet to return to practice. He lines up on the first unit when healthy and if you really like him, grab him back a week or so before he is ready to be activated. Lehkonen does have three goals and eight points in 12 games — with half his points coming on the power play. I just don’t see him returning to action soon.

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