I used to call this annual fantasy-hockey column “The top 10 Bust Picks,” but that wasn’t accurate. To me, a bust pick is a player I’m avoiding in drafts at all costs. Many players on this list, which I’ve renamed the Top 10 Overvalued Picks, are perfectly draftable, and I’d even consider scooping them if they were available late enough. In each case, the problem isn’t the player exclusively. It’s the average draft position (ADP). The guys on this list have warts that make me wary of picking them as early as they are flying off the board in typical Yahoo drafts at the moment.
I define overvalued fantasy picks as:
1. Players whose production won’t match their average draft positions
2. Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them
3. Players with falsely inflated value because of real-life success, playing in popular markets or other emotional attachments
Here are my top 10 overvalued players, in alphabetical order, cross-referenced with my top 250 fantasy rankings for 2019-20.
Tyson Barrie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Yahoo ADP: 57.5. My rank: 99th)
Beware the Toronto hype train. Don’t get me wrong – Barrie was a good get for the Leafs. He’s one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the game, essentially a better, right-handed Jake Gardiner. Barrie ranks eighth among all NHL defensemen in points over the past six seasons. There may be a perception that, because he’s joining the high-octane Leafs, he’s about to explode for career-best production. Morgan Rielly busted out for 72 points last season, after all.
But we need to pump the brakes on Barrie a bit and pay more attention to his deployment. He was The Man in Colorado, unchallenged for the job of first-unit power-play quarterback. Over the past three seasons, Barrie ranked second only to the Philadelphia Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere in power-play minutes per game among D-men at 3:37, and Barrie shared the ice with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog in the process. Barrie ranked tied for seventh in PP points over that three-year stretch.
As a Maple Leaf, he’ll pile up even-strength points, but it doesn’t appear that Barrie will displace Rielly, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner or Andreas Johnsson on the first power-play unit. Barrie’s ADP has him going off the board before Seth Jones and Mark Giordano, suggesting drafters think Barrie will set new career highs, but he’s more likely to stay at his same 50-plus-point level, making him excellent but not elite.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Yahoo ADP: 31.0; my rank: 50th)
When Bergeron’s in the lineup, he’s undoubtedly elite. He’s long been one of the greatest two-way forwards of all-time but, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak flanking him on hockey’s greatest line the past few years, Bergeron has tapped into his long-underrated offensive ability. Over the past two seasons, among forwards with at least 1,000 minutes played at 5-on-5, Bergeron ranks 23rd in points per 60 minutes, sandwiched between Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.
Bergeron, though, isn’t an 82-game player or even a 72-game player. He’s missed 18 and 17 games, respectively, over the past two seasons. He’s 34, and the Bruins know they need to keep him fresh for the post-season, so he’s one of the safest bets in the league to miss double-digit games again. Bergeron is great if you can wait on him in your draft, but he’s currently being picked of Sebastian Aho, Mark Scheifele and Claude Giroux, who are much more likely to give you full seasons of high-end production. Bergeron’s price reflects his ability but not his brittleness.
Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars (Yahoo ADP: 13.0; my rank: 67th)
With five or 10 more games, Bishop probably would’ve won the Vezina Trophy last season. He was the league’s best goaltender on a per-game basis. He led the NHL in save percentage and goals saved above average. Playing with an excellent D-corps in front of him, Bishop will likely post outstanding rate stats again in 2019-20.
But, holy moly, that ADP. Bishop is going off the board as a borderline first-round pick, ahead of guys like Brent Burns, Mitch Marner, Steven Stamkos and Johnny Gaudreau. WHOA. Anyone picking Bishop that high – not to mention as the No. 2 goalie on average – is forgetting to price in Bishop’s small workload. The Dallas Stars have one of the league’s toughest travel schedules and thus consistently play their backups a ton. On top of that, Bishop’s 6-foot-7 frame is prone to breakdowns. He started just 45 games last year, with Anton Khudobin starting 37. Starting 50 would be a stretch for Bishop, and even if he does, it doesn’t justify him being picked before bellcows Sergei Bobrovsky and Frederik Andersen. If Bishop’s ADP stays this high, he’ll wind up on zero of my teams this season.
Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins (Yahoo ADP: 163.0; my rank: 243rd)
Meh. Charlie Coyle has a nice, rangy frame, a first-round draft pedigree and a bargain contract, but the result has never matched the hype. In his seven seasons, he’s topped 20 goals and 50 points once each. He averages 15 goals and 41 points per 82 games. So why are poolies picking him ahead of Bo Horvat and Pierre-Luc Dubois? Coyle likely won some people over with an impressive 2019 playoffs in which he sniped nine goals in 24 games. Still, he’s 27 and has a 500-game career sample size, so I don’t believe what we saw last post-season foreshadowed a breakout. He more than doubled his career regular-season shooting percentage in the playoffs, so it was likely an anomaly.
Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks (Yahoo ADP: 87.2; my rank: 143rd)
Gustafsson just delivered one of the most staggering out-of-nowhere fantasy seasons ever. The dude scored 17 goals and had 60 points!? His career highs across any level of pro hockey, from the Swedish League to the AHL to the NHL, were seven goals and 30 points.
We can’t just yell “Regression!” because he’d never done it before, however. We need more evidence. How about shooting percentage? Gustafsson converted 10.6 percent of his shots in 2018-19. Among defensemen who took 100 shots, that was easily the highest conversion rate. There’s a good chance it comes down this season.
Even if he regresses by 10 to 15 points, I still like Gustafsson to be a useful fantasy defenseman, as he’ll get plenty of power-play duty with some talented forwards joining him. But he’s being drafted before Keith Yandle, Alex Pietrangelo and Thomas Chabot at the moment. People are paying for last year’s stats.
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers (Yahoo ADP: 161.1; my rank: 186th)
The Flyers paid a lot for Kevin Hayes, maybe too much, but there’s no denying he’ll make them a better team. As their No. 2 center, he’ll handle two-way assignments and kill penalties. He’ll insulate Nolan Patrick, who can take on easier assignments as a third-liner once healthy. Slated to center James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek to start the season, Hayes will also chip in some offense.
The operative word is “some.” Hayes is a nice player, but last season’s 55 points were a career high, and he’s reached 20 goals once in his five NHL seasons. Given his linemates, he may maintain last year’s career-best production, but Hayes is a better find in real life than fantasy. He’s merely a depth guy in pools, so be careful not to overpay.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (Yahoo ADP: 85.4; my rank: 158th)
Sheesh. People ain’t doing their homework on Jones, who was statistically the worst goaltender in hockey last season. Among 56 stoppers who played at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, he was dead last in goals saved above average per 60 minutes. The quality of chances he faced produced an expected goals rate that was the 13th lowest in the league, making his numbers look even worse. He had one of the worst seasons by any starting goaltender in recent memory.
In a sense, Jones has buy-low potential. He’s one of the last true workhorse No. 1 netminders, the only goalie in the NHL to start at least 60 games each of the past four seasons, and his backup Aaron Dell struggled last season, too, so Jones’ job is secure. He still can provide useful volume stats on a competitive Sharks team even if his raw puck-stopping ability doesn’t return. Alas, Jones isn’t a buy low because the ADP suggests there’s no discount. In fact, the ADP suggests you have to, inexplicably, pay a premium for Jones. He’s being drafted as the No. 16 goalie. You have to “buy high” to get him, which makes no sense.
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Yahoo ADP: 165.5; my rank: none)
The other piece coming over in the Barrie trade gets similar overhype treatment as a new Maple Leaf. Kerfoot will slot into Nazem Kadri’s old role as Toronto’s third-line center. Kerfoot showed legitimate defensive skill in Colorado and looks like a nice fit for his new gig. But he has nowhere to climb on this depth chart. The Leafs’ projected top-six forward group: Johnsson-Matthews-Nylander and Kapanen-Tavares-Marner. Only an injury would give Kerfoot a shot on a scoring line. He definitely won’t sniff first-unit power play work, and second-unit duty isn’t a given.
Honestly: Kerfoot will help the Leafs in real life, but I don’t know if he’s even draftworthy outside the deepest of leagues. A 40-point year would be a win. Yet he’s going off the board earlier than his own far-more-interesting teammate Kasperi Kapanen. I just don’t get it.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (Yahoo ADP: 104.0; my rank: 213th)
Here’s another goalie with a disappointing ADP. I actually like Hank to deliver a surprisingly useful season! From Artemi Panarin to Jacob Trouba to Kaapo Kakko, the supporting cast around ‘The King’ is much improved. But I was hoping his ADP would suggest a discount for a 37-year-old coming off the worst season of his career. Instead, the name brand has inflated Lundqvist inside the top 20 at his position.
That’s a problem considering Alexandar Georgiev is not going away. He looked good in his 30 starts last year, outplaying Lundqvist, and should see at least that many games again. Given Lundqvist is likely a 1A in a borderline timeshare, I’d rather grab younger, higher-upside platoon goalies such as Antti Raanta or Robin Lehner, who are going later than Hank in drafts right now.
Wayne Simmonds, New Jersey Devils (Yahoo ADP: 162.5; my rank: 222nd)
One of the reasons I put Jesper Bratt on my top 10 sleepers list was my fear of Simmonds’ decline. He’s been an excellent power forward for the past decade, blending great power-play acumen with fearsome grit, but most players in that mold wear down suddenly, often in their early 30s. That’s why we should take the nosedive in Simmonds’ stats seriously.
Over his past three seasons, his goals have slipped from 31 to 24 to 17. His shots per 60 minutes declined over that same span, too. He’s becoming a less dangerous player by the year, and he’s 31 now. Simmonds gutted his way through a bunch of different injuries over his past few seasons, too. An optimist might blame those for the dip in production. A pessimist might see the injuries as reflective of Simmonds’ age and thus likely to keep happening.
He’s still draftable because he joins an exciting forward group in New Jersey and offers extra juice in hits and PIM leagues, but Simmonds is being picked far too high given the risks that accompany him. You can currently get the likes of Travis Konecny and Sam Reinhart a full round later than Simmonds in typical Yahoo public-league drafts.
THE RED-FLAG LIST
These players don’t qualify as “bust” picks based on their ADPs, which are close enough to my rankings, but they still carry downside that warrants monitoring. If you’re about to pick one of these guys in your draft and are torn between him and another guy, go with the other guy.
G – Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: two bad regular seasons in a row, and 2020 UFA status a potential distraction.
D – Brandon Montour, Buffalo Sabres: Too much competition for PP time on Buffalo blueline.
D – Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens: Only a great fantasy option when Shea Weber is hurt.
F – Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators: If Duchene takes No. 1 center job at some point, big dropoff in linemate quality.
F – Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals: Already missing three games for substance abuse. We can’t say the risk of relapse is zero.
F – Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars: Could Pavelski steal his No. 1 RW job?
Advanced stats courtesy of natural stattrick.com
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