Ten players to beware of in your fantasy hockey draft


Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber takes a shot during the warm-up prior to facing the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL pre-season hockey action Thursday, October 6, 2016 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

If you’re a first-timer to fantasy hockey, or you haven’t had much time to prepare, it’s easy to grab the names you’re familiar with.

It is also easy to simply glance at last season’s scoring totals and assume this season will play out much the same. But there can be underlying reasons why a player’s recent run won’t continue.

Every player has at least some fantasy value. But you have to be careful to not draft a player too early. So with that in mind, here is a list of players you probably shouldn’t reach for in your fantasy draft.

Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR (ADP – Yahoo: 58, ESPN: 84, Fantrax: 62)
Over his past 11 full seasons, Lundqvist has been leaned upon as one of fantasy hockey’s most reliable goalies, having recorded at least 30 wins each time. But the signs of decline in the 35-year-old Ranger are clear and present. If you’re in denial, Lundqvist’s .910 SV% was 33rd and his 2.74 GAA was 35th among qualified goalies last season (minimum 27 games played). Sure, 30 wins is within reach again, but his ratios are no longer at a level that should warrant a top-100 pick.

Pekka Rinne, G, NSH (ADP – Yahoo: 36, ESPN: 26, Fantrax: 42)
Rinne is another goalie who has had a successful run, and he may stick out in fantasy owners’ minds because of the Predators’ Stanley Cup final run. Playing behind one of the league’s top defences should no doubt help Rinne’s numbers, so he could be good for 30 wins again. But combine his goals-against average and save percentage over the past two seasons with the presence of one of the league’s better young goalies in Juuse Saros behind him and you have a goalie who should be drafted outside of the top 50 – not within it.

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Shea Weber, D, MON (ADP – Yahoo: 44, ESPN: 46, Fantrax: 50)
In a league that counts hits and/or blocked shots, go ahead and draft Weber. But in points-only leagues, you’re drafting him too high at that spot. Weber was a top-10 finisher in power-play points among defencemen, but he barely finished in the top 20 among defencemen in overall scoring in his first season in Montreal. After a fast start, Weber finished with just 26 points in his last 60 games, which is another red flag. With those point totals, you’d be better off waiting another round and drafting Dougie Hamilton or Kevin Shattenkirk instead.

P.K. Subban, D, NSH (ADP – Yahoo: 41, ESPN: 81, Fantrax: 55)
As if the Subban-Weber trade needed any more debate. Subban is a great add at the ESPN ranking, but he is being drafted too high at Yahoo. Consider that Subban has missed an average of 15 games over each of his past two seasons, and his points-per-game total (0.61) was outside of the top 10 among defencemen last season. If you’re looking for other reasons to draft him high, consider his other peripherals – including power-play points – aren’t at standout levels either. Name recognition is pulling his ADP higher than it should be.

Torey Krug, D, BOS (ADP – Yahoo: 87, ESPN: 51, Fantrax: 63)
Sometimes you might miss a player’s recent injury and end up drafting him higher than you should (especially if you leave your draft to autopick!). Krug was deserving of the average of these three rankings entering training camp, but should be lowered slightly because of a jaw injury that will likely cause him to miss at least the first week of the season. If you’ve already drafted Krug, Charlie McAvoy is a prospect to consider as a replacement, as the Bruins should provide him with additional power-play time.

T.J. Oshie, RW, WAS (ADP – Yahoo: 82, ESPN: 50, Fantrax: 80)
This is less about not drafting Oshie in general and more about not reaching for him – in particular, not drafting him at his ESPN average draft ranking. Oshie had a highly successful 2016-17 season, scoring 33 goals in just 68 games. He should be primed for a big 2017-18 season, right? Not so fast. Oshie’s shooting percentage (23.1) was drastically higher than his career average (13.4). If you believe in the “contract year” theory, remember that he now has his contract in hand and isn’t playing for one anymore.

Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (ADP – Yahoo: 75, ESPN: 73, Fantrax: 76)
Toews is often mentioned as the type of player you would start a franchise with. However, that same line of thinking should not be applied to fantasy. If you do own Toews, you may cite his 2016-17 second-half surge (37 points in 37 games) as a reason to target him. But in both the Yahoo and Fantrax default rankings, Toews is ranked in the top 40. That’s too high for a player at a deep position (centre) who has failed to crack 60 points over his past two seasons.

Joe Thornton, C, SJ (ADP – Yahoo: 160, ESPN: 89, Fantrax: 140)
These average draft positions vary widely, but you should consider drafting Thornton at the lower end of these. It was pretty much a given that Thornton’s point total would regress following a surprise 82-point campaign in 2015-16, but his assist-heavy 50-point output in 2016-17 might be his new normal. Or to put it another way, a centre who scores seven goals while taking fewer than 100 shots should not be drafted anywhere near the top 100.

Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (ADP – Yahoo: 166, ESPN: 188, Fantrax: 227)
If you think these numbers are too low for Nash, he wasn’t chosen until the 20th round (pick number 232) in one experts league draft. In other words, his days as a top-level fantasy winger have officially passed. Sure, he scored 42 goals back in 2014-15, but over the past two seasons Nash has missed at least 15 games while totalling fewer than 40 points and 200 shots. He might be OK if he plays a full season, but that’s not something you want to take your chances on given his injury track record.

Michael Grabner, LW/RW, NYR (ADP – Yahoo: 162, ESPN: 230, Fantrax: 414)
If you have Grabner tabbed as a sleeper after his 27-goal campaign last season, look elsewhere. Grabner’s season-by-season goal totals have been all over the map: from 34 goals with the Islanders in 2010-11 to just nine goals with the Leafs in 2015-16. He managed to take more shots in 2016-17 (162) than 2015-16 (116), but compare his shooting percentage in 2016-17 (16.7) to 2015-16 (7.8) and his career average (12.5). Expect Grabner to struggle to reach 20 goals this season. He simply doesn’t provide enough assists to warrant consideration for your fantasy team.


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