Fantasy Hockey: Bust candidates and overrated players to fade in drafts

By Sasha Yodashkin, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Everyone knows finding sleepers and value options is important on draft day, but it's just as important to avoid drafting busts and overrated players. If you nail a sleeper and get second-round value out of your fifth-round pick but also get fifth-round value from your second-round selection, you're only breaking even despite uncovering a gem. While certain factors like injuries and puck-luck can't be controlled, you can still put yourself in the best position to succeed by knowing not only who to target, but also who to avoid.

As always, fantasy value is relative, so a player can be a bust in the third round and would still be worth taking if he somehow slips to the seventh. Consequently, some of the names below should be avoided at all costs, while others have simply been drafted too early for my taste or carry more risk than I'm comfortable with at their draft spot.

Whether it's due to age, injury, a change of teams or off-ice context, the players below are best avoided at their current Yahoo ADP...

Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI - ADP 40.4)

Fleury has found himself in nearly ideal situations throughout his career, as he backstopped a star-studded Penguins team and then went to the upstart Golden Knights, who annually rank near the top when it comes to suppressing chances against. Both teams eventually decided the money owed Fleury could be better spent elsewhere, and his offseason exodus from Vegas landed him in Chicago. The Blackhawks should be better after a busy offseason, but they have struggled defensively for a while now, allowing either the most or second-most shots on goal in each of the last three seasons. The 36-year-old Fleury still has what it takes to thrive in the right conditions, as evidenced by last year's excellent regular season prior to his postseason meltdown against Montreal, but he's never had to paper over the shortcomings of a bad defensive team and is unlikely to excel at doing so at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 24: Look on Las Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) at warm-up before the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinals game 6 between the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the Montreal Canadiens on June 24, 2021, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury won't have the same type of quality defense in front of him with Blackhawks, which is a concern for his fantasy value. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Philipp Grubauer (SEA - ADP 68.4)

Similarly to Fleury, Grubauer thrived in favorable conditions last season but will likely struggle to replicate that success elsewhere. The German netminder went 30-9-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .922 save percentage for an Avalanche team that won the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record, which prompted the nascent Kraken franchise to throw a hefty contract offer Grubauer's way. Seattle should actually defend pretty well in front of Grubauer, but goal support (and the wins that come with it) figures to be hard to come by given the team's lack of top-end skill up front. The Kraken also have top-end backup Chris Driedger lying in wait should Grubauer stumble, decreasing Grubauer's job security.

Brady Tkachuk (OTT - ADP 24.1)

The younger Tkachuk brother is being drafted alongside star players in the middle of the third round despite having topped out at 22 goals and 45 points in his first three NHL seasons. Of course you're drafting players for future production and not past performance, but Tkachuk's goal and point totals have dropped in both subsequent seasons since a 22-goal, 45-point rookie campaign. His plus/minus has also worsened from minus-10 to minus-14 to minus-17 as the Senators have scarcely gotten closer to contention. Even setting aside his unresolved contract situation, Tkachuk could have a breakout season and still fail to live up to his lofty draft valuation.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (WAS - ADP 68.7)

Kuznetsov's seventh-round ADP suggests he's getting a pass for last season's struggles, even though that campaign continued a three-year trend of dwindling point production, both in raw totals and per game. Since peaking at 83 points over 79 games in 2017-18, Kuznetsov has subsequently dropped to 72, 52 and most recently, 29 points in 76, 63 and 41 appearances, respectively. The 29-year-old Russian's not getting any younger and has missed time for various reasons (both off-ice and on) in recent years, so those counting on Kuznetsov being both available and effective is a concern.

Kirill Kaprizov (MIN - ADP 30.0)

More high-risk, high-reward than overrated, Kaprizov has more downside than most realize, though his ceiling remains tremendously high. Prolonged contract negotiations could force him to miss training camp heading into his second NHL season, and Kaprizov's already in his prime at age 24 as opposed to a teenager whose 51-point rookie season over 55 games could lead to growing-pain related regression. Minnesota still lacks a top-end center to set Kaprizov up, and the divisions are set to realign back to normal, which signals the end of beating up on the Ducks, Sharks, Coyotes and Kings for over half the schedule.

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Dougie Hamilton (NJD - ADP 41.5)

Quick, who was the Devils' leading scorer last season? Hamilton followed the money from Carolina to New Jersey in the offseason, so he'll now share the ice with the likes of Pavel Zacha (the answer to my question with 17 goals and 35 points) and Jack Hughes rather than point-per-game producers Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. He already had all the power-play time he could handle in Carolina, so it's hard to see Hamilton doing anything but taking a step back from last year's rate of 0.76 points per game. That rate tied Jeff Petry for eighth among all defensemen, and Petry had 12 goals to Hamilton's 10, yet Hamilton's being drafted as the fifth blueliner off the board while Petry's going 23rd among defensemen almost seven rounds later. It doesn't take a museum enthusiast to see Hamilton's going to have a hard time justifying his lofty draft-day valuation.

Aaron Ekblad (FLA - ADP 49.2)

Ekblad was in the process of putting together a career season in his seventh Panthers campaign with 11 goals and 11 assists through 35 games prior to breaking his leg in March. That production was nice but probably unsustainable, as Ekblad has never scored more than 41 points and benefited from a career-high 10.9 shooting percentage last season (his career average is 6.9). While he should come into the season healthy, Ekblad may need some time to get back to pre-injury form, but he's been getting drafted as the eighth defenseman off the board late in the fifth round.

Others to Avoid

Darcy Kuemper (COL - ADP 22.0)

Kuemper landed in a great situation with Colorado, but he's going awfully high for someone who has played more than 31 games just once in nine seasons and appeared in fewer than half of his team's contests last year due to injuries.

Alex Pietrangelo (VGK - ADP 48.8)

There's nothing wrong with Pietrangelo as a player, but the fifth-round ADP is a little steep considering he produced only 23 points in 41 games in his first season with Vegas while ceding top-unit power-play duties to Shea Theodore. Theodore's the better value proposition nearly three rounds later.

Jack Eichel (BUF - ADP 81.6)

Eichel may still need major neck surgery and likely won't be traded until he shows he's healthy and productive, the latter of which won't be easy to do on the lowly Sabres. Let Eichel be someone else's problem unless you want to kiss your IR slot goodbye for an extended period.

Jamie Benn (DAL - ADP 132.2)

Benn's 30 goals and 74 points in 121 games over the past two seasons aren't much better than what you can find on the waiver wire, and he's trending in the wrong direction at age 32 as Dallas' youngsters mature and push him down the depth chart. Taking a flier on a sleeper at this stage of the draft makes more sense than hoping Benn turns back the clock five years.