Welcome to another season of Fantasy Hockey! When it comes to fantasy hockey draft tips with the season right around the corner, it’s time to dig deep and look at some players that we need to stay away from. The term “bust” is thrown around a lot in fantasy, but for the purpose of this article, we are going to look at players that are going too early and won’t return value at their current average draft position. 

Fantasy Hockey Busts 2023

Linus Ullmark (Boston Bruins)

Ullmark posted gaudy numbers last year for the Bruins, having a career year. It is rare that we see NHL goalies have the kind of year that Ullmark had last year in back-to-back seasons (0.938 save percentage, 1.89 goals against average, 48.5 Goals Saved Above Average), especially when you’re looking at stark differences between the previously years stats. Oh and did I mention that the best defensive player in the last 10 seasons is no longer playing In front of him? All of this makes me weary of drafting Ullmark as the wins will likely not be there for him his season either as this season’s Bruins will look a lot different than the President Trophy winning club the year before. 

Carter Verhaeghe (Florida Panthers

One of the biggest factors that will determine Verhaeghe’s fate will be his minutes. He played 17.5 minutes per game last year, which isn’t really high for a top line winger, which means there could be room for more. However, if the Panthers wants to even their lines out you could see Verhaeghe as a candidate to play with Anton Lundell on the third line, and that would really hurt Verhaeghe as he already isn’t getting minutes on the top powerplay which could make getting back to 40 goals nearly impossible.

Adrian Kempe (Los Angeles Kings

We have seen a steady rise in goals from Kempe over the last three seasons with him going from 14 to 35 to 41 goals last season, while he has also made incremental increases in his shooting percentage as well. At 18 minutes per night I think we could see Kempe settle in with goal markers in the 30’s, but I think him continuing to trend toward 50 is going to be out of the question as I just can’t see him posting a better shooting percentage than he did last season (16.4 percent), and we also don’t know who he might be playing with this season either with the arrival of Pierre-Luc Dubois

Bo Horvat (New York Islanders

Talk about the tale of two cities. In Vancouver Horvat had 31 goals and 54 points in 49 games, but after he moved over to the Islanders he had just seven goals and 16 points in 30 games. The Islanders for a few seasons now have been a place where you see very little fantasy value, and I would expect the same from Horvat this season. I would look for him to score closer to 25 goals instead of the 32 he had last season, which makes him a later round play.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers

I’m not sure how often a player doubles their production from one year to the next, I would guess it is pretty rare. What is likely even more rare is when doubling that production means going from 50 points in a season to 104 points, and that is the leap that Nugent-Hopkins made last season, while also increasing his shooting percentage by more than 10 percent. I think he could get you around 70 points, but the biggest advantage that Nugent-Hopkins could have is more time with McDavid and Draisaitl, as that deployment is hard to match.

Brandan Montour (Florida Panthers)

In 2022-23 we saw Montour go from being an 18 minute per night defencemen to a 24 minute per game defencemen. With that came an additional 36 points, with 25 of those points coming on the powerplay. Those are all very positive things, what isn’t positive however is that Montour tore his labrum and had to have surgery during the offseason which could see him start the season on the IR. If Montour misses significant time there is no guarantee that he gets the powerplay job back, and that would significantly hurt his fantasy value. 

Adin Hill (Vegas Golden Knights)

Hill is a player that is going to be drafted based on how he finished last season, which was a player who had a strong Stanley Cup run, ultimately winning the Stanley Cup, and posting a 0.932 save percentage in 16 playoff games. The part of his story that is missing though is that he was never the guy in Vegas. Logan Thompson was excellent for the Golden Knights throughout the season, and they will likely also have Robin Lehner (who is on the books for 5 million for the next two seasons) back from injury as well, which will make for a crowded crease in Vegas, which could leave Hill without enough starts to make a strong fantasy impact.

Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning)

With Mikhail Sergachev taking on more of the powerplay time last year that significantly cut into Hedman’s fantasy production. I would expect that trend to only continue as Hedman continues to age, the Lightning will want to ensure they can get as much from Hedman as they can, and in the most productive spots. I won’t be looking to get any shares of Hedman this season unless it is coming at a significant discount.

John Tavares (Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season was the best year that Tavares had had in his last four seasons. He surpassed the 35 goals scored mark for the first time since the 2018-19 season and he was also a point per game player. The other thing we have seen happen though with Tavares is that his minutes have been in a steady decline, as he averaged 17.5 minutes per game which was the lowest of his career. So how did he manage 36 goals with less minutes? Well, his shooting percentage jumped up 2 percent from the previous year, and he also scored eight more power play goals. If those numbers regress to what they have been in the previous three seasons, we could start to see a significant drop off in Tavares production, and while he could be a useful fantasy asset, I would just be mindful of how high you might be drafting him. 

Alexandar Georgiev (Colorado Avalanche)

The concern I have for Georgiev is will he make 60 plus starts this season. Not that he didn’t earn his starts, but partly because Pavel Francouz was injured for a large part of the season, and the Avalanche didn’t have a good third option to use in goal which led to them playing Georgiev more than I suspect they wanted to. Francouz is healthy this season, and I expect him to see closer to 40-50 percent of the starts which would certainly come at the detriment of Georgiev and his fantasy value.