While fantasy hockey will kick off with the start of the NHL regular season, you will want to be on the lookout for players who are ranked a lot higher than they should be. Not all of these players should be completely avoided, but passing on these players and looking a little lower in the draft could do wonders for your fantasy hockey team. Sometimes fantasy hockey rankings reward players for past performances and don’t necessarily judge by how they performed the previous season or their current trajectory.
A lot of times you will see veterans much higher than they should be in pre-draft rankings. Be sure to know which ones to trust and which to skip over. This list will help you identify some names you should avoid drafting at the position they are ranked. This list is ordered from lowest to highest average draft position (ADP), via Yahoo Fantasy Hockey.
5. Evgeni Malkin, 106.1 ADP
Though Malkin is generally drafted around the ninth round in fantasy hockey leagues, his injuries are always a cause for concern. He is expected to miss the first two months of the season, and that’s if there are no setbacks in his recovery. Missing any games in fantasy is hurtful to your team, and can keep you from earning just a few extra points in a category that you need to win a week or a category.
Missing two months translates to about 27 games. That’s also eight weeks of fantasy that a top-10 pick on your team will be sitting out. Sure, there are probably injured reserve (IR) spots, but do you really want to choose a player that won’t be able to contribute for the first couple of months? It may put you in a bad spot lower in the standings, rather than near the top where you want to be.
Nobody knows if Malkin will be the same player after yet another big injury. He projects to play around 50-55 games this season, a few more than what he would’ve played with an 82-game schedule last year. If he plays at the same level as he did in 2020-21, he should score around 46 points this season. He ranked 319 at the end of last season. Maybe take him if you can draft him late, but nowhere near 100.
4. Kevin Lankinen, 104.1 ADP
With the addition of Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason, Lankinen’s value will drop significantly. Fleury is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, so he joins the Chicago Blackhawks as the clear No. 1 in net.
It was Lankinen’s rookie season, but his stats weren’t something to marvel at. The Blackhawks surged early but eventually trailed off, and the numbers along with it. He recorded 17 wins while posting a .909 save percentage (SV%) and 3.01 goals-against average (GAA). The wins would help in any fantasy hockey format, but the other stats will hurt the overall goalie stats for your team.
Lankinen got into 37 games last season and should project to play about the same amount this season if that. The problem is that the rest of the league’s games will rise, but since he isn’t the starter, his starts will be more limited. With the uncertainty surrounding the Blackhawks as to whether they’ll be a good team or not, it’s not worth the risk. He is a good third goalie option at best for 2021-22.
3. Jack Eichel, 85.0 ADP
Who knows if Jack Eichel will even play a game this season with all that is going on with his injury and the Buffalo Sabres. His neck injury kept him out of the final 33 games of last season, and he isn’t even close to being ready to play in 2021-22. The disagreement between Eichel and the Sabres has gone on for a while, and the asking price for a trade is still very high. It makes sense to a point because he still has term left on his deal, but his value depends on his health.
He could sit out the entire season, so drafting him in the seventh or eighth round is a huge mistake, probably the biggest of all the players on this list. I would maybe draft him as a last-round pick, throw him on the IR, and go from there. Late rounds are where you take a chance on youngsters and bounce-back candidates that are ranked very low by fantasy hockey leagues. It is also where you may add an above-average player who will sit on the IR for a good chunk of the season, so you have him on your team for a playoff push.
2. Carey Price, 62.0 ADP
Price is a great example of a player who has had a great career and is highly regarded, but his age and performance have decreased in recent seasons. One strong playoff performance won’t completely get his career back on track. Sure, he will still be the starter in Montreal, but his numbers won’t be able to match what he did in the prime of his career. He has only provided the Canadiens with one respectable season since 2016-17, and that was in 2018-19.
Price was initially scheduled to be all healed up and ready to join the team before the regular season, but recent news has put that in doubt.
Price played half of last season and ranked 208 in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey at the end of the year. The Canadiens barely snuck into the postseason, as the lowest seed in NHL history to qualify for the playoffs. This was also in the North Division that most labelled as the worst division in the NHL. This season, divisions are back to normal, and the Habs will have to compete with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Florida Panthers, all considered powerhouses going into the season. It also means more games against the offence that those opponents provide. A Canadiens without Phillip Danault and Shea Weber doesn’t bode well for keeping the puck out of their net.
1. Johnny Gaudreau, 50.7 ADP
Johnny Gaudreau isn’t the worst option to choose, but the late fourth/early fifth round may be pushing it when it comes to fantasy value. In a full season, he ranked 108. He is projected to be selected five rounds earlier. The Calgary Flames didn’t add many players that would add value to Gaudreau, so the projections are hoping that he will have a bounce-back season after two consecutive down years. Sure, he scored 99 points in 2018-19, but the Flames aren’t the same team they were after struggling recently.
I wouldn’t put too much stock into betting that Gaudreau will return to form and record enough points to boost his fantasy value to a level that he is worth drafting this early. He provides almost no stats in the hitting or penalty minute categories and is a playmaker who will look for the pass before shooting. I would only look for Gaudreau if he happens to drop in your fantasy drafts to the eighth round at best.
Between injuries and bad performances, these players have been ranked way too high. As a fantasy hockey team owner, you should avoid these players until much later in your drafts, then you will be pleased with the results. If not, your team could look a little weaker than your opponents’, and you will have to be all over the free-agent market.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.