Which players could sink your team if you pick them too early? Here are 10 players to avoid in your 2014-15 fantasy drafts.
The fascinating thing about creating a bust list: it’s complicated.
It does you no good to simply tell you, “Don’t draft Willie Mitchell in your fantasy league.” Nothing against Willie, as he remains a useful stay-at-home presence, but the tools in his belt aren’t used in hockey pools. Everyone knows that.
A proper fantasy bust list isn’t even a list of players I don’t like for 2014-15. It’s imperative I make that clear. My top 10 guys to avoid are not all guys I expect to have bad years. Factoring in my top 200 versus average draft positions in Yahoo leagues, as I did for the top 10 sleepers, I’m primarily identifying guys being drafted too early. Those who meet my criteria:
(a) Players whose production won’t match their average draft position
(b) Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them
Primary influencers: aging, new teams or linemates, and overhype. Hot rookies get drafted before Jason Pominville every year. Why? They labor to 45-point campaigns while Pominville calmly eclipses 60 points in his sleep. The key to avoiding a bust is ensuring you draft guys at the right moment. I’m plenty high on Jonathan Drouin, for example, but he’s going 10 picks before Pominville on average. That’s ludicrous unless it’s in keeper leagues. Everything has to go perfectly for Drouin merely to reach Pominville’s yearly production.
With those red flags in mind, here are my top 10 players to avoid in 2014-15 drafts based on their ADPs.
10. Pavel Datsyuk (THN rank: 51; Average Yahoo draft position: 42.5)
It’s impossible not to love Datsyuk. He’s a dazzling talent and a future Hall of Famer. He stayed healthy in the abbreviated 2012-13, but missed 38 games in the two seasons before then and 37 games last season. At 36, he’s not about to get more durable. His price: one of your first four picks. Wouldn’t you rather spend one on Gabriel Landeskog, who goes 16 picks later on average?
9. Jay Bouwmeester (THN rank: 168; Yahoo ADP: 135.9)
Here’s a prime example of a perfectly decent hockey player you should avoid in drafts not because he’s bad, but because he’s going too high. In Bouwmeester’s last four non-shortened seasons, he’s scored three, four, five and four goals. He hasn’t topped 48 penalty minutes. He averages less than one hit per game. He’s great for assists, but he’s a one-category contributor being drafted on name-brand value.
8. Semyon Varlamov (THN rank: 55; Yahoo ADP: 29.6)
Varlamov absolutely carried the Avalanche last season, enough that he deserved not just Vezina Trophy consideration, but Hart Trophy consideration. Every bit of praise he received was valid, as Colorado was a notoriously poor possession team, far too reliant on Varlamov’s puck-stopping for its success. Therein lies the problem. If the Avs don’t mend their ways, all those opponent chances may start going in. On average, Varlamov is the eighth goalie off the board. Wouldn’t you rather grab Cory Schneider, the No. 14 tender, who has the advanced stats in his favor?
7. Bobby Ryan (THN rank: 113; Yahoo ADP: 67.9)
Ryan is going before Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and Henrik Sedin in drafts. Um, what? While Ryan has plenty of natural goal-scoring ability, it’s time to acknowledge he’s not an elite NHL player and may never be one. He’s 26 and he’s had a lower points per game in each of his last three seasons than he had in the previous three.
6. Jimmy Howard (THN rank: 100; Yahoo ADP: 50.2)
Maybe I’m biased because Howard burned me so badly in one of my own leagues last season, but he hasn’t been the same since signing a lucrative long-term deal with Detroit. He’s one of the smaller No. 1s in the league, and he seems to have more holes than he used to. I’m not even sure he’s the best goalie on his own team anymore. I’m waiting for Petr Mrazek to get his shot.
5. Jonathan Drouin (THN rank: 146; Yahoo ADP: 126.6)
Again – I am not low on Drouin. I suspect he’ll even win the Calder this year. But I’ll avoid him like the plague in drafts if I have to reach to get him. If the Pominville example isn’t enough, look at the guy going directly after Drouin on average: Brad Marchand. Marchand has averaged 0.71 points per game over his past three seasons. If Drouin makes the team and averages 0.71 points per game over a full year, that’s 58 points, which would give him a great shot at the Calder. So if everything goes just right for Drouin, he’ll do what Marchand is a lock to do. Why take that risk in a non-keeper format?
4. Pekka Rinne (THN rank: 77; Yahoo ADP: 45)
Rinne says he’s over the serious hip infection that stemmed from surgery complications last season. Even if he is, his new coach is Peter Laviolette, who is offense incarnate. Look at what happened when Ilya Bryzgalov left Dave Tippett’s system in Phoenix for Laviolette’s in Philadelphia. Rinne could be hung out to dry more often under Laviolette than he was under defense-minded Barry Trotz.
3. Jonathan Quick (THN rank: 38; Yahoo ADP: 12.3)
The assault on goalies continues, and it’s not a coincidence, as fantasy netminder values are fickle year to year. Quick is arguably the one active goaltender you’d put between the pipes for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The final week of your fantasy championship, however? I’d look elsewhere. Quick posted the 23rd-best regular season save percentage last season. The year before that? Try 38th. Like the Kings in general, he seems less focused until the post-season comes around. Quick also stands to lose a few wins and starts because he has an outstanding backup to spell him in Martin Jones. Spending a first-round pick on Quick will sink your team.
2. Kris Letang (THN rank: 82; Yahoo ADP: 74.9)
Letang is an offensive dynamo. If we knew we’d get even 70 games out of him, he’d be a top-three fantasy blueliner. Letang is one of the only guys, if not the only guy, capable of producing points at Erik Karlsson’s pace from the back end. Sadly, that doesn’t matter. Stay away. Letang has missed 31, 13 and 45 games in his last three campaigns. He already had a litany of injury woes, from a concussion to a shoulder injury, and the terrifying stroke he sustained last season makes things worse. It’s fantastic to see Letang back on the ice after that scare, but I can’t justify drafting him.
1. Drew Doughty (THN rank: 74; Yahoo ADP: 44.2)
I genuinely consider Drew Doughy a top-three hockey player on Planet Earth. But the real world and a fantasy pool are not the same thing. Doughty’s shackles are rarely if ever off during the regular season. He’s only topped 40 points once. On average, he’s the fifth D-man taken in drafts. Guess how many D-men outscored Doughty last year? Twenty-nine. Doughty is all-world in real life, but in fantasy you’re paying top dollar to draft someone who had five fewer points than Marek Zidlicky last season. Let someone else overpay.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin