The term “bust” makes sense for attention-grabbing headline purposes, but it’s a reductive term in a fantasy-hockey context. Labelling a player a bust implies I’m Homer-Simpson-Bushes-Meme-style backing away from him in all drafts. That’s not always true. I’m not necessarily against owning the player. The “bust” status applies because I’m leery about his average draft position (ADP). Getting him in standard Yahoo drafts requires paying a cost I don’t expect to be profitable. A perfectly good player can thus land on a bust list if I simply don’t like his ADP. “Overvalued” is a more accurate label than "bust," however, which is why I renamed this column a few years back.
I define overvalued fantasy players under these criteria:
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 fantasy picks relative to market value, in alphabetical order, cross-referenced with my top 250 fantasy player rankings for 2021-22.
Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars (My rank: 230th; Yahoo ADP: 133.5)
Ah, the novice drafter pitfall. Someone’s hockey pool has an odd number of GMs, they need one more manager, so they invite someone with only casual interest in the sport – someone who remembers Benn from the 2014 Canadian Olympic squad and winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15. That’s my assumption of why Benn is being selected, on average, ahead Kevin Fiala, Jack Hughes and Dominik Kubalik. Benn, 31, aged out of his prime quicker than expected because his power-forward game took a toll on his body. From his age-22 through age-28 seasons, he averaged 33 goals and 79 points per 82 games. In three seasons since: 23 goals and 52 points. The latter numbers still make him highly rosterable, especially in leagues that count his hits, but he’s being selected ahead of players with far greater upside at the moment.
Jack Campbell, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (My rank: 150th; Yahoo ADP: 66.0)
Does Campbell’s ADP reflect leagues that drafted in May? He was tremendous in 2020-21, during which he set a team record for consecutive wins to start a season and took over from Frederik Andersen as Toronto’s starter for the playoffs. But Campbell is currently being selected, on average, as the 12th netminder off the board. That doesn’t reflect a low ownership rate skewing the stats, either, as Campbell has been drafted in 100 percent of leagues. It’s ludicrous to see him getting picked ahead of starting stoppers like Jordan Binnington and Ilya Samsonov. The Leafs didn’t sign Petr Mrazek for $3.8 million per season to warm the bench. He and Campbell are ticketed for a 50-50 split to start the season and should compete all year long for the net. Campbell makes for a fine G2 or G3 but shouldn’t be drafted as a No. 1 in fantasy pools when his volume-stats floor is so low.
Braden Holtby, G, Dallas Stars (My rank: 202nd; Yahoo ADP: 157.9)
A one-year, $2-million pact suggests the Stars will play Holtby a decent amount, but he’s part of a four-headed monster inducing migraines for fantasy owners. Ben Bishop may or may not miss the season recovering from knee surgery. He’s working on the ice now but still not medically cleared for games. Anton Khudobin still owns a large share of the goaltending pie. Jake Oettinger is the team’s starter of the future. A source indicated to me that the most likely Stars configuration is a Holtby-Khudobin tandem to open the year with Oettinger getting starter’s reps in the AHL – but that it’s too early for that plan to be locked in. Whatever happens, don’t reach on any Dallas goalie. Two-man timeshares are problematic enough in fantasy, and Dallas is juggling four guys.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Carolina Hurricanes (My rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 166.9)
The summer offer-sheet drama sure was exciting. It also appears to have raised Kotkaniemi’s profile and artificially inflated his fantasy value. Kotkaniemi is still just 21 years old, but he’s graded out as a below-average scoring chance generator and barely-average playmaker at 5-on-5 so far in his NHL career. He hasn’t shown any trends under the hood to suggest a breakout looms. If you’re drafting him, you’re betting on pure potential. You’re also gambling that he’ll unseat someone like Nino Niederreiter or Teuvo Teravainen in an already-strong Hurricanes top six. It’s OK to take a flier on a player like Kotkaniemi – but not at his ADP, where you're passing on established talents.
Darcy Kuemper, G, Colorado Avalanche (My rank: 46th; Yahoo ADP: 21.9)
Understanding the purpose of this exercise is crucial when it comes to the Kuemper “overvalued” label. Kuemper is an excellent goaltender. Across the past three seasons, he grades out in the top third of the NHL in goals saved above average per 60 minutes. You do want him on your fantasy team this season, as he’s landed in the best situation of his career, starting for the juggernaut Avalanche, who were the NHL’s best defensive team last season. Kuemper, however, currently costs a second-round pick on average and is the third goaltender off the board in drafts. Whoa. That is rich for someone who has only started 30 games in a season once. There’s just far too much helium in the ADP at this point. If you’re taking a goalie in Round 2, you want a proven bellcow who will start 60 games and carries no durability question marks. How is Kuemper being drafted ahead of Connor Hellebuyck?
Alec Martinez, D, Vegas Golden Knights (My rank: 245th; Yahoo ADP: 142.6)
Drafters appear to be chasing Martinez’s surprising offensive explosion from 2020-21. He set a career high in points in just 53 games…at 33 years old, while more than doubling his shooting percentage from the season prior. Martinez will always be a great source of blocks in fantasy leagues, but the scoring numbers from last season feel a bit fluky. He’s not a prolific shooter, he doesn’t play on the top power-play unit, and he’s more of a two-way blueliner than a pure offensive weapon. Last season’s 9-23-32 stat line could be achievable in 82 games, not 53 again.
Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (My rank: 165th; Yahoo ADP: 75.0)
Quite the discrepancy between my rank and Palat’s ADP. He’s a top-75 pick on average because he plays on Tampa’s dynamite top line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. I get it. But Palat is a better real-life player than fantasy option. He brings a two-way conscience to a scoring line. He did produce at the best per-game rate of his career in 2020-21, but he’s topped 20 goals and 60 points once apiece in nine seasons. I want more of a difference maker with a top-75 selection. Palat is being picked ahead of studs like Shea Theodore and Sam Reinhart right now. Yuck.
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens (My rank: 90th; Yahoo ADP: 61.8)
Carey Price is a future Hall of Famer. Carey Price is a proven money goaltender. Carey Price becomes a beast in the playoffs. Carey Price has been a below-average fantasy goalie in three of his past four seasons. All these things can be true. In his past four regular seasons combined, he carries a 2.75 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. He’s missing training camp as he recovers from a knee injury and has a backup who was acquired to reduce his workload in Jake Allen. If you’re picking Price in the top 60, you’re doing so because he’s a name brand and playoff hero. Regular-season Price has been an ordinary fantasy option for several years.
Alexander Radulov, RW, Dallas Stars (My rank: 148th; Yahoo ADP: 90.7)
Radulov isn’t finished as an effective scoring-line forward. He ripped off 12 points in his 11-game sample last season. Still, he’s 35 now and coming back from a chronic core injury that reportedly bothered him for five years. He possesses quite a bit of risk for someone who carries a top-100 ADP, and Joe Pavelski has usurped him as the team’s top-line right winger.
Nick Suzuki, C, Montreal Canadiens (My rank: 110th; Yahoo ADP: 91.5)
Calm down. I said CALM DOWN! I love Suzuki as a player, don’t worry! But keep in mind he is such a good player because he does so many things well. He’s an intelligent two-way center capable of handling responsibility all over the ice, in all situations. Suzuki, then, could be an extremely effective No. 1 pivot in real life while picking up 55 to 60 points. If you’re drafting him banking on 70 this year, you might be reaching.
THE ‘WTF’ ALL-STARS
Whaaaat? If you’re in a league drafting these players at all, let alone so high, send me some screenshots of what the rosters look like. What’s going on with these ADPs? Andersen going inside the top 50 picks? Excuse me?!
- Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes (My rank: 198th; Yahoo ADP: 44.0)
- Brian Elliott, G, Tampa Bay Lightning (My rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 165.4)
- Robby Fabbri, LW, Detroit Red Wings (My rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 160.4)
- Kevin Lankinen, G, Chicago Blackhawks (My rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 103.7)
- Zach Whitecloud, D, Vegas Golden Knights (My rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 160.8)
THE RED-FLAG LIST
These players don’t qualify as overvalued based on their ADPs, which are actually close to my rankings, but they still carry some risk that warrants consideration if you’re breaking a tie trying to choose between players when you’re on the clock.
G – Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights: He’s a tremendous talent, but he’s currently the second goalie off the board on average in drafts. That’s incredibly expensive for someone with fairly high injury risk.
D – Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars: He’s a franchise cornerstone in real life, but his fantasy numbers are quite vanilla. He can be Norris-caliber good scoring 45 points, yet people pick him expecting 60-plus in pools.
D – Torey Krug, D, St. Louis Blues: It’s just not the same away from Boston. He’s a perfectly useful source of assists in fantasy, but his elite ceiling has disappeared in St. Louis.
F – Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Red Wings: You don’t want the headache of owning an unvaccinated player in fantasy. He’s already a lock to miss games.
F – Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars: Not every player returns from hip surgery as smoothly Nikita Kucherov did. The Ryan Kesler fate is just as common. We don’t know for certain Seguin will ever be the same.
F – Tyler Toffoli, RW, Montreal Canadiens: Sheesh, what do I have against guys named Tyler? Toffoli’s goals went up last year, but his underlying shot metrics did not. Finishing seventh in goals again would be a surprise.