Last week, I outlined my top 10 sleeper picks for 2018-19 fantasy pools. As fun as sleepers are, however, their impacts pale in comparison to busts. Sleepers augment a roster and can make a good team great, but choosing a bust player at the wrong time can destroy a team.
Maybe “bust” is too strong a word in this context. It’s not just players who flop completely that hurt a team. Sometimes, legitimately useful players chosen at the wrong times in fantasy drafts inflict major damage. That’s why it’s important to know I have nothing against the 10 names in this “overvalued players” column. Many are excellent NHLers but, according to Yahoo leagues’ current average draft position (ADP) data, they’re being drafted so high that they won’t provide enough value to match the cost. What does it mean to be overvalued? 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
Too many drafters fall victim to fading name-brands, low-ceiling rookies or reliable real-life contributors who make their impacts defensively and thus don’t help much in pools. Cross-referenced with my top 200 fantasy rankings for 2018-19, here are my 10 most overvalued picks, listed alphabetically.
Jake Allen, Blues (THN rank: 147; Yahoo ADP: 76.4)
I get it. The Blues improved as much as any team this off-season and let Carter Hutton walk as a UFA, giving Allen a chance to reclaim the crease as a bellcow starter. There’s no denying he’s in a good situation with the ceiling to be a high-end fantasy goalie this season. But consider my rank a vote of non-confidence. At 28, Allen is no longer a youngster on the rise, a prospect or even a project. He’s 205 starts into his career, and he’s the NHL’s most maddeningly inconsistent netminder. His save percentages by month last year: .921, .891, .922, .871, .877, .916, .896. You never know what he’s going to give you, which is why he makes for an ideal bench goalie in fantasy pools, a guy you only ride when he’s piping-hot. It’s too risky to pick him in the first six or seven rounds of 12-team drafts, not when the late rounds yielded the likes of Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy last year. Let someone else reach on Allen’s supposedly untapped potential.
Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (THN rank: 70; Yahoo ADP: 40.8)
Bergeron represents the “guys I genuinely like and would gladly draft, but not at this price” category. He’s undoubtedly in a great fantasy situation, flanked by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the NHL’s most dominant line, and Bergeron set career bests in goals per game and points per game last year. Injuries, however, cost him 18 games, he had off-season groin surgery, and he turned 33 this summer. He’s yet to show any signs of decline on the ice and may enjoy another powerhouse season, but think hard about that ADP. He’s currently going ahead of Jack Eichel, who, at 21, roughly equalled Bergeron’s career-best pace last year. Within the top 50 picks of a draft, you want young, ascending or at least prime-year star players. Bergeron has too much downside between age and injury risk to justify going so early.
Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres (THN rank: 156; Yahoo ADP: 106)
Please ignore this advice in keeper leagues, where Dahlin is obviously worth reaching on. He’s a truly special player, a possible generational talent on defense. He also looks amazing so far in Sabres camp and sniped two goals in his first pre-season game. He will likely make a monstrous splash in Year 1 on Buffalo’s blueline and challenge for the Calder Trophy with his blessed blend of puck-moving skill and physicality.
But let’s put it all in a fantasy hockey context. Dahlin is 18 years old. Only two defensemen in NHL history – Hall of Famers Phil Housley and Bobby Orr – have even topped 40 points when starting a season 18 years old. Dahlin, then, should be considered a huge success if he gets, say, 10 goals and 35 points. And that would make him a decent third or fourth fantasy blueliner, nothing more. Right now, he’s going ahead of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Charlie McAvoy and Ivan Provorov in drafts. The hype is out of control. Dahlin reminds us why we have to separate real-life buzz from fantasy value. He could deliver on his generational-talent promise and still be just ordinary in redraft pools this year. Don’t worry – I still absolutely love Dahlin…in real life.
Patric Hornqvist, Penguins (THN rank: 171; Yahoo ADP: 102.7):
He’s a darned useful player, good for 25 goals and a bushel of hits and shots most years. But we know who Hornqvist is now. He’s 31 and has never topped 30 goals or 53 points in one season despite often playing on Sidney Crosby's wing. There’s no explanation for Hornqvist flying off draft boards earlier than young, higher-scoring options like Brayden Point, Alex DeBrincat and Mark Stone. Point’s sophomore-year numbers were better than anything Hornqvist has done in his 10 seasons. Drafters need to give their heads a shake.
Erik Johnson, Avalanche (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 148.8)
This ADP reeks of casual summer drafters who vaguely remember Johnson being the first overall pick in his draft year. He’s being selected ahead of promising youngsters such as Shea Theodore and Noah Hanifin. Huh? Johnson is Colorado’s top minute muncher, but he averages 12 goals and 33 points per 82 games over the past four season – and that’s before you factor in him missing an average of 25 games over that stretch. An important real-life player isn’t always fantasy-relevant. The blueliners to own in Colorado are Tyson Barrie and, as a deep sleeper, Samuel Girard.
Evander Kane, Sharks (THN rank: 116; Yahoo ADP: 51.7)
The Sharks expressed huge optimism about Kane’s future with a seven-year, $49-million contract, and fantasy owners are following suit. I’m a bit confused. Talented player, worth a boost in PIM and hits leagues, a guy I don’t mind drafting, but he’s just outside the top 50 right now, one pick behind Aleksander Barkov and several slots ahead of Mikko Rantanen. That’s insanity. Kane’s 78 games were a career high last year, and it’s a reasonable expectation that, if healthy, he can at least replicate his 29-goal, 54-point output. But even that effort, a best-case scenario health wise, made Kane the 65th-ranked player in Yahoo scoring. Why is he going off the board as the 52nd? Too much projection happening there for one of fantasy’s most notoriously risky owns.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Kings (THN rank: 110; Yahoo ADP: 77.6)
Kovalchuk was one of the KHL’s best players for the past five years. Before that, he was this NHL generation’s best goal scorer not named Alex Ovechkin. The excitement over Kovalchuk’s return is understandable. But we’re better off playing it safe with a 35-year-old who just spent half a decade in an inferior league. A 25-goal, 50-point campaign would constitute a successful renaissance, but drafters seem to be banking on him being a star again. It’s not impossible but it’s not likely, either.
Jake Muzzin, Kings (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 125.2)
Muzzin ahead of Jake Gardiner, Brandon Montour and Kevin Shattenkirk? Come again? Muzzin’s been a 40-point blueliner three of the past four seasons but, at 28, he’s quite obviously bumping up against his ceiling. He’s being drafted earlier than guys for whom 40 points qualify as a down year. Muzzin does have extra value in hits and blocks leagues, but those stats are cheap to find. Instead of picking Muzzin, take Gardiner and pluck a blunt tool like Radko Gudas off the waiver wire to supplement the defensive counting stats.
Carey Price, Canadiens (THN rank: 85th; Yahoo ADP: 46.9)
Price may still be the NHL’s best goalie when healthy, but his team situation obviously kills his fantasy value, and a bad team got worse with Shea Weber’s injury and the Max Pacioretty trade. Drafters deserve credit for not jumping at the brand name relative to other goalies, as Price goes off the board as the 11th-best at his position right now. But even that value and his top-50 ADP threaten to burn you. He shares a division with the net-filling Bruins, Maple Leafs and Lightning and has missed significant time due to injury two of the past three seasons. The reasons to avoid Price greatly outnumber the reasons to draft him. The circumstances sure are strange when a guy entering Year 1 of an eight-year contract with a $10.5-million cap hit qualifies as do-not-draft material, but here we are.
Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (THN rank: 170; Yahoo ADP: 124.7)
There’s a lack of knowledge on display here. Contracts matter, and we can’t ignore them in fantasy. Colorado traded for Philipp Grubauer and immediately handed him a three-year, $10-million RFA deal, while incumbent starter Varlamov enters the final year of his contract. The Avs don’t trade for Grubauer and pay him a $3.33-million cap hit to ride the pine. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes their starter, and he looks like a platoon partner to Varlamov at worst to start the year. Varlamov’s ADP suggests summer drafters still believe he’s the starter. That may technically be true for another month, but GM Joe Sakic’s intentions are clear. Varlamov will only be worth owning in pools if he’s traded. Grubauer, going 31 picks later on average, is the profitable buy.
THE WTF ALL-STARS
The September ADP stats yield some truly bizarre results. Are these guys being picked as practical jokes? Are we witnessing a software glitch? Did Martin Marincin hack the system himself? Whatever the reason, these ADPs are good for a laugh:
Martin Marincin, 114.0 (between Jake Guentzel and Yanni Gourde)
Alexander Edler 160.7 (between Nick Foligno and Alex Tuch)
Casey DeSmith, 161.4 (between J.T. Miller and Kasperi Kapanen)
Colin Wilson 162.9 (between Darnell Nurse and Erik Haula)
Curtis McElhinney, 170.9 (between Adam Henrique and Jared Spurgeon)