It’s never too late to think about the upcoming fantasy season. A lot of player movement is expected this summer, which will certainly have an affect on their respective fantasy values, but there comes a point in a player’s career – due to age or lack of opportunity – where they no longer become valuable in fantasy.
For every player who can defy the odds and Father Time, such as Alex Ovechkin scoring 50 goals in his age-36 campaign, there are a bunch of less-heralded players who must accept lesser roles or come to terms with their career winding down. Here’s a look at 10 forwards who are already under contract for the 2022-23 season with an average draft position (ADP) of 180 or higher to avoid for the upcoming fantasy season.
T.J. Oshie, C/RW, Capitals (2021-22 Yahoo ADP: 89.0)
Oshie thrives in the big games, and it was most evident in the playoffs where he led the Caps with six goals and seven points in six games. He’s still very good at finishing around the net, but note that this point production has been trending down, and since his 33-goal season in 2016-17 has scored 102 goals in five seasons. His rough-and-tumble style of play limited him to just 44 games, and the Caps will be shorthanded to begin the season with the uncertain future of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson recovering from injury. Last season, 137 players scored at least 20 goals, and given Oshie’s age, lack of relative upside and an aging Caps core, it’s best to leave Oshie on the draft board.
Dominik Kubalik, LW/RW, Blackhawks (ADP: 146.5)
Kubalik was one of six Blackhawks forwards to score double-digit goals last season, but one of them (Brandon Hagel) has already been traded and two others (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome) face uncertain futures with the team. That gives Kubalik a ton of opportunity to play in the top six, but it’s one that has only one marquee offensive player in Patrick Kane. Since scoring 30 goals in his rookie season, Kubalik has not lived up to the hype, and expect his solid possession numbers to decline on a team headed towards the lottery. Of the 148 players who have scored at least 30 goals over the past two seasons, Kubalik ranks 137th with a 10.1 S% and 141st with 47 even-strength points, giving little indication he can produce good numbers on a bad team.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Oilers (ADP: 161.4)
A one-season sabbatical in Finland, where he led Karpat in scoring, did not translate upon his return to the Oilers. Puljujarvi’s effort and production was so inconsistent that, even with noted improvements, he could not cement a top-six role on a team bereft of quality wingers. Puljujarvi is an interesting player in that regard because his possession numbers are very good; according to naturalstatrick.com, Puljujarvi’s 58.58 5v5 CF% and 70.39 5v5 CF/60 were the best on the team. This is one where the analytics don’t match the eye test, and his career 9.1 S% suggests he’s a very poor finisher. His strong possession metrics no doubt was a factor in him finishing 27th in Selke voting, but it’s time to stop hoping that he can turn into a legitimate top-six scoring threat. A 20-goal campaign is possible, but through 259 career games it’s clear his offensive ceiling isn’t very high, and points remain the hardest category to fill in fantasy. If playing with Leon Draisaitl and/or Connor McDavid can’t bring out the best in Puljujarvi, then you wonder if anybody else can.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, Canadiens (ADP: 162.4)
Like Oshie, Gallagher’s fantasy value is dipping, but at a much more precipitous rate. He’s played 91 games over the past two seasons with only 21 goals scored, and he will be 30 years old when the season begins. No question, Martin St. Louis has injected much more enthusiasm into the Habs, but they’re also very much looking toward the future as the core that made a run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals have either been traded, left for greener pastures or retired. Gallagher has never been a good finisher (career 9.7 S%), and their No. 1 center, Nick Suzuki, will likely form a pair with Cole Caufield, leaving Gallagher to play with lesser players in fewer offensive situations. Even a generous prediction of 20 goals for Gallagher in the upcoming season will make him a borderline fantasy asset, and not having eligibility at multiple positions also hurts his fantasy value.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C/LW, Hurricanes (ADP: 165.3)
Kotkaniemi is only 21 years old, but it seems like he’s experienced more highs and lows than a grizzled veteran just four seasons into his NHL career. I think the Hurricanes will rue the day they gave him an eight-year, $38.56-million extension with a modified no-trade clause, and their (somewhat hilarious) pettiness with a cap number of $4.82 million – 82 being Kotkaniem’s jersey number – will just become a bad joke. Perhaps Kotkaniemi will evolve into a solid No. 2 center, but the Canes are also projected to have nearly $20 million in cap space to add players in free agency, as per capfriendly.com, and a slew of young players competing for ice time, including Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury, and even more raw prospects such as Jamieson Rees and Noel Gunler. The Canes’ offense-by-committee approach further hurts Kotkaniemi’s fantasy upside.
Nils Hoglander, LW/RW, Canucks (ADP: 165.8)
An undersized winger, Hoglander got everyone excited with not one, but three goals scored via ‘The Michigan’, and plays on a team with a penchant for developing Swedes. He finished eighth in Calder voting but took a huge step back in his second season battling injuries, a lack of consistency and even sat out as a healthy scratch under Bruce Boudreau. Changes are afoot under new management, and it remains to be seen where Hoglander stands, but he will certainly face stiff competition from Vasily Podkolzin, who had a very good rookie season, and new KHL import, Andrei Kuzmenko. Hoglander’s slick hands have yet to translate to the NHL where his finishing and shooting ability is well below average.
Kasperi Kapanen, LW/RW, Penguins (ADP: 166.0)
It’s been two seasons in Pittsburgh but Kapanen never settled in. He has scored 22 goals in 119 games with the Pens, and in a contract year – he’s an RFA this summer – scored at the lowest rate of his career with a paltry 8.5 S%. He didn’t score a single goal in the playoffs when the Pens were ravaged with injuries, and still bounces between a secondary scoring line and a checking line far too often. His 2021-22 season came with high expectations because he had scored 30 points in 40 games in the prior season, but keep in mind he spent a lot of time that season playing with Evgeni Malkin, who is supremely talented but whose injury history is an ongoing concern. Kapanen’s fantasy value is contingent on playing with Malkin, who needs a new contract, and offers very little upside on his own.
James van Riemsdyk, LW/RW, Flyers (ADP: 166.8)
The veteran left winger had a bounce-back season of sorts, scoring at least 20 goals for the first time in three seasons on a terrible team. Despite a few low points in his career, mostly with the Leafs, van Riemsdyk has been a remarkably consistent player, always hovering around 40-50 points a season with few outliers. The negative sentiment towards JVR’s fantasy value isn’t really about his talent, but about opportunity. There’s a widely-held assumption that John Tortorella kills offensive creativity, but that’s not really true; what Tortorella asks is that his offensive players also play defense, and that has never been JVR’s strong suit. He may have finished as the Flyers’ leader in goals, but he also finished second-last (behind Keith Yandle) with a minus-33 rating. His inconsistency – he scored two goals in the first 20 games before heating up – and lack of defensive acumen could earn him a quick ticket to the press box, and when it comes to sitting players, Tortorella holds no loyalty to any single player, veteran or rookie.
Alex Wennberg, C, Kraken (ADP: 166.8)
The story that best encapsulates Wennberg’s NHL career was during his time as a Blue Jacket, when his refusal to shoot the puck offended then-head coach Tortorella so much, they stopped a power play drill just to make Wennberg shoot it. Never has such a talented offensive player been so averse to shooting, and in six seasons in the NHL, Wennberg has finished with more than 100 shots on goal in a season just once. Players can be an offensive force even if they don’t shoot the puck – just ask Hall of Famer Henrik Sedin – but Wennberg doesn’t have a scoring winger like Daniel Sedin to rack up assists at nearly the same rate. In fact, there are no good finishers on the Kraken, and while Wennberg’s shown flashes of playmaking brilliance, he’s just never going to put up big numbers even if he plays first-line minutes.
Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, Islanders (ADP: 167.8)
It was a disastrous season for everyone involved with the Isles and Palmieri was one of the many who fell well short of expectations after signing a four-year, $20-million extension following a strong playoff run in 2021. It obviously does not help when your center is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who is an effective two-way player but hardly the playmaker to set up Palmieri, who had the luxury of playing with Nico Hischier in Jersey. The Isles don’t have a lot of playmakers to begin with, so jettisoning Barry Trotz isn’t going to make them an offensive machine overnight. It’s the second straight season Palmieri failed to score at least 20 goals and there’s just too many questions surrounding the Isles right now for fantasy managers to count on Palmieri, who had been one of the most consistent 25-goal scorers in the league.