By Sasha Yodashkin, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
You probably can't win your fantasy league on draft day alone, but you can certainly lose it with poor picks in the early and middle rounds. While digging up underrated gems is key to a successful fantasy season, so is avoiding overrated players who provide subpar value relative to their draft slots. Below, I'll aim to identify some traits often shared by potential busts, as well as some of the players I think are being drafted too highly based on current Yahoo average draft position (ADP).
A common factor leading to a decline following a big year is puck-luck regression for players who converted an abnormally high percentage of their shots. While some players are of course better shooters than others, it's often fairly obvious when someone turns in an outlier season primed for regression. For instance, Alex Killorn scored on 20 percent of his shots last year after never breaking 11.8 percent in seven previous NHL seasons. That shooting luck helped a player who had never reached 20 goals produce 26 in 68 games, but Killorn's expected regression is baked into his ADP, which sits outside the top 160.
Age-related decline is another element to consider, and it's often a tough one to predict, as some guys see their production fall off a cliff (Brent Burns dropping from 83 points in 2018-19 to 45 in 2019-20 comes to mind), while others (35-year-old Rocket Richard Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin) just keep on keepin' on.
Last but not least comes injury risk. No players are immune from injuries, but certain guys get hurt much more often than others, be it due to style of play, age, or other factors. Injury-prone players can turn into steals when they put together a healthy season, but injuries can often derail promising fantasy campaigns and are certainly worth considering, especially when spending a premium pick.
Before diving into my list of overrated players, it's also important to remember that these evaluations are all relative to perceived value. Even if I think Sidney Crosby's (ADP: 13.3) bound for a down year and Nick Suzuki's (ADP: 164.7) a steal who is primed to break out, I'd still take Crosby over Suzuki every time. For example, Mika Zibanejad (ADP: 18.1) shot 19.7 percent last season after never previously topping 13.3, and he's also missed at least 10 games in three of his four seasons on Broadway. That said, I believe his downside risk is accurately captured by his ADP when you consider that Zibanejad was on pace to lead the league in goals had he stayed healthy and would easily warrant a first-round draft slot if he repeated last year's performance.
Without further ado, here are five players I view as overrated and a rapid-fire list of seven more who should probably be avoided:
Patrice Bergeron (Bruins - ADP: 41.8)
Bergeron has a few of the aforementioned factors working against him. The 35-year-old center hasn't shown signs of slowing down yet, but things can go downhill in a hurry at his age. He's already starting to miss time at a consistent clip, with no more than 65 games played in any of the past three seasons. The career 10.8 percent shooter has scored on more than 15 percent of his shots in each of the past two seasons, though Bergeron's recent success in that category can be attributed to playing alongside two of the league's best wingers in David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, more so than luck. With Pastrnak out through mid-February due to hip surgery and Marchand uncertain for the start of the season after sports hernia surgery, Bergeron won't benefit from having two elite linemates. On top of all that, Boston goes from arguably the easiest division in hockey to the hardest this season, as last year's Atlantic Division featured five of the league's 10 worst defensive teams, including the three worst. The MassMutual East Division has only three of the 13 worst 2020 defenses.
Claude Giroux (Flyers - ADP: 67.0)
Giroux is another veteran ready to lose a step. He'll be 33 by the time the season starts and scored a pedestrian 21 goals and 53 points in 69 games last season, ranking fourth on the Flyers in both categories. Of the next seven left wings on the board after Giroux, only Filip Forsberg didn't top Giroux in at least two of the goals, points, and shots categories, and Forsberg tied him in goals and out-shot him by one at 198. A repeat campaign would see Giroux underperform his draft slot significantly, and counting on a bounce-back season from players his age rarely goes well.
Erik Karlsson (Sharks - ADP: 84.6)
In two seasons since joining the Sharks, Karlsson has nine goals, 76 assists, 33 power-play points, 289 shots, and a minus-9 rating in 109 games. Over the same span, Keith Yandle (Panthers - ADP: 124.7) has 14 goals, 93 assists, 60 power-play points, 328 shots, and a minus-17 rating in 151 games. Both players saw their output decline last season, especially when it came to putting pucks on net. Sure, Karlsson's per-game production is marginally better, but he's a significant injury risk and certainly doesn't deserve to go four rounds ahead of Yandle (or before pretty much any of the defensemen ranked between the two). You're better off taking the likes of Mathew Barzal or William Nylander in Karlsson's slot and waiting on a defenseman rather than chasing name recognition.
Kailer Yamamoto (Oilers - ADP: 105.7)
While the guys listed above are all likely to underperform their draft slots, Yamamoto has outright bust potential. After totaling just five points in 26 NHL games over the previous two seasons, the 5-foot-8, 153-pound winger scored 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games last year while lighting the lamp on a whopping 25 percent of his 44 shots. If his shooting luck normalizes and Yamamoto gets off to a slow start, he could find himself dropped into a bottom-six role away from both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Such a demotion could render Yamamoto a non-entity in fantasy and that’s certainly on the table for a player with just 53 games of NHL experience under his belt.
Jordan Binnington (Blues - ADP: 40.6)
Turning our sights to the crease, Binnington is going as the sixth goalie off the board despite losing his last seven starts (including playoffs) and posting a sub-.850 save percentage in each of the last four. You can hand-wave away those struggles as a small sample size, but Binnington's entire career is a small sample considering he's made just 80 NHL starts. Considering the Blues also lost top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in free agency, there's more downside risk with Binnington than I'd be comfortable taking on with such an early goalie pick, especially with the upside of Ilya Samsonov and the reliability of Carey Price on the board right behind him.
Others to Avoid
Elias Pettersson (Canucks - ADP: 16.7): Lots of third-year growth being forecasted for a player who plateaued in Year 2 and is yet to eclipse 28 goals or 66 points.
Blake Wheeler (Jets - ADP: 37.8): Dipped below a point per game last season despite his highest shooting percentage since 2013-14 and likely to continue declining at age 34.
Igor Shesterkin (Rangers - ADP: 50.2): 12 impressive games shouldn't equate to a top-50 player, especially with Alexandar Georgiev set to play more than a usual backup.
Braden Holtby (Canucks - ADP: 103.4): Posted a GAA of almost 3.00 over his last three years with Washington and will backstop a worse Vancouver team while trying to hold off postseason hero Thatcher Demko for playing time.
Anders Lee (Islanders - ADP: 108.3): Lacks playmaking ability and his goal totals could continue to drop on the defense-first Islanders.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Coyotes - ADP: 115.8): Has never reached 30 even-strength points and was outscored by Alex Goligoski and Jakob Chychrun on the power play last year.
Sam Reinhart (Sabres - ADP: 128.7): Has topped 50 points just once despite playing alongside an elite center and will likely be taken off Jack Eichel's line on the new-look Sabres.