2016 NHL Draft Guide: Fantasy Hockey Busts
Every year the fantasy hockey season is filled with players who fail to live up to the hype or projections. We're giving you 20 who are likely to be busts in 2016.
There are fantasy bargains in every draft, every year. With bargains, however, also come fantasy busts. These are players who fail to meet fantasy expectations, or who go completely into the tank during the course of the season. A fantasy squad with too many busts simply cannot win its league. Sometimes, we can detect and identify fantasy busts early, which can save fantasy leaguers a lot of anguish over the course of the season. Here are 20 NHLers who should be avoided (unless available much later in the draft):
1. Evander Kane, LW, Sabres
He has had plenty of off-ice trouble since arriving in Buffalo via Winnipeg in 2015, and his production has been spiraling downward for five seasons now. Unless Kane is available as a bargain draft pick, let someone else take the plunge on this mercurial (yet talented) power forward).
2. David Backes, RW/C, Bruins
In St. Louis, Backes had a clearly defined role as a shutdown center, special teams regular and captain. Now with Boston, it could take him some time to figure out where he is needed. He could play right wing on the top line or center the third unit. Either way, stay away from him.
3. Ondrej Pavelec, G, Jets
When will the Jets pull the plug on the nine-year pro? Pavelec has been woefully inconsistent during his time as a starting goaltender for the Thrashers/Jets franchise. It may be time for either Connor Hellebuyck or Michael Hutchinson (or perhaps both) to move past Pavelec in Winnipeg.
4. Thomas Vanek, RW/LW, Red Wings
It has been six seasons since the Austrian sniper reached both the 30-goal and 70-point marks in the NHL. Now 32, Vanek has slowed considerably in a league that seems to be getting faster and faster with every passing year. Signed to a one-year deal, his time in Detroit may be brief.
5. Eric Staal, C/LW, Wild
While Staal should have more to offer than Vanek, he too looked old and slow late last season. His brief stint in New York was a massive warning sign of major erosion in his overall game. Staal has a new lease on life in Minnesota but is starting to go down the Vincent Lecavalier path of decline.
6. Jimmy Howard, G, Red Wings
The Red Wings tried to trade the veteran goalkeeper in the off-season but found little interest around the NHL. He is an expensive backup these days ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) with virtually no chance of reclaiming the starting role from upstart Petr Mrazek. Howard may be Vegas-bound next summer.
7. Ryan Miller, G, Canucks
It appears the Canucks have their goaltending tandem of the future in Jacob Markstrom (who will challenge Miller for the starting job this season) and Thatcher Demko (who is probably a year away from challenging Markstrom). Miller is in the final year of his contract and may be phased out.
8. Steve Mason, G, Flyers
The image of Mason letting in an easy goal between his legs in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring is still fresh. Mason struggled badly in the postseason and was replaced by Michal Neuvirth (who looked great against Washington in the playoffs). Neuvirth may steal Mason's job this season.
9. Kari Lehtonen, G, Stars
Lehtonen partnered with fellow Finn Antti Niemi last season but neither netminder excelled in tandem. The Stars have Stanley Cup aspirations this season, so they need someone to take hold of the crease area once and for all. Since Lehtonen makes more than Niemi, he is the more likely 'keeper to go.
10. Frans Nielsen, C, Red Wings
After 10 seasons with the Islanders, Nielsen may be asked to do a lot of the spade work that the likes of captain Henrik Zetterberg (who could move to left wing this season) and future Hall-of-Famer Pavel Datsyuk (who is playing in the KHL this season) used to do. No pressure there!
11. Toby Enstrom, D, Jets
He used to run the power play when the franchise was still located in Atlanta but Enstrom now plays far more of a stay-at-home role with the Jets. Last season, the diminutive Swede's production fell off a cliff (0.22 points per game) and he registered a career-low two goals. He is clearly in decline.
12. Tomas Plekanec, C, Canadiens
The Czech veteran produced his sixth NHL season of 50-plus points in 2015-16, and he has only missed one game in the last three campaigns, but the Habs will likely give Alex Galchenyuk every opportunity to claim the No. 1 center role. That makes Plekanec less valuable in fantasy hockey.
13. Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings
Now 35, Kronwall has been both productive and durable for the Red Wings for quite some time now. However, he missed 18 games last season and bowed out of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey this year due to a knee issue. Kronwall's days of 40-plus points in the NHL are likely over at this point.
14. Andrei Markov, D, Canadiens
A model of consistency for 15 NHL campaigns, Markov has so far done a great job of holding off 'Father Time'. That said, he loses regular defense partner P.K. Subban now and may struggle if he has to do more work on offense (especially on the power play) at age 37. Buyer beware!
15. Henrik Zetterberg, LW/C, Red Wings
No longer a two-way stud center, Zetterberg may switch permanently to left wing in 2016-17 to help preserve his legs for the full 82-game campaign. He has been reasonably healthy the last two seasons but is now on the wrong side of 30. Do not expect anymore 60-point seasons in the NHL.
16. Jaroslav Halak, G, Islanders
When healthy, Halak is a quality NHL netminder. Unfortunately, he has struggled to stay healthy and does not have enough stamina to be the type of 60-game, No. 1 goaltender the Isles need. This season, he will be pushed for playing time by both Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube.
17. Brian Elliott, G, Flames
No longer part of a very effective goaltending tandem in St. Louis, Elliott is clearly the No. 1 netminder in Calgary (which may mean more wins this season). However, he will no longer have the luxury of playing behind one of the stingiest defensive systems in the NHL. Elliott's numbers may suffer.
18. Brad Marchand, LW, Bruins
The Bruins' super-pest is entering the final year of his contract, so he could be one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents of the summer next July 1. In the meantime, he has to try to match his breakout numbers (37 goals, 61 points) of a season ago. That is a lot to ask of him.
19. Francois Beauchemin, D, Avalanche
The veteran defenseman saw loads of ice time in all game situations under former Avalanche coach Patrick Roy last season. Rookie bench boss Jared Bednar will probably shave a few minutes off Beauchemin's workload this season, but the vet needs that extra ice time to maximize his fantasy value.
20. Alexander Radulov, RW, Canadiens
Perhaps the biggest fantasy wild card heading into the 2016-17 campaign, Radulov has not skated in the NHL since the end of '11-12. There are questions about his commitment to NHL hockey, as well as his behavior off the ice. When motivated, he is a big talent but is he worth drafting early? No.