Fantasy hockey season is upon us and experienced managers know that nothing hurts more than making bad picks and having to cut your losses by throwing them into waiver-wire abyss.
Last week, we outlined 10 players who may provide surplus value with our Sleeper Candidates, and this week we're making sure your Fantasy squad doesn't tank with 10 players who might not perform up to expectations -- due to declining play or simply too much hype.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Capitals
Nicklas Backstrom potentially missing the beginning of the season due to injury means Kuznetsov will be Washington's undisputed No. 1 center choice in any offensive situation. The Caps don't have any other centers with the same type of playmaking ability, and Backstrom's absence makes it very difficult for them to trade Kuznetsov. However, Kuznetsov's play has been trending downward lately -- he finished last season with 0.71 points per game, a four-season low, and his ice time continued to dip. He'll be deployed as an offensive weapon because the Caps need him, but when Backstrom returns, the off-ice distractions and lackluster play might end up costing Kuznetsov a lot more than just playing time.
Logan Couture, C, Sharks
Couture is a poster boy for how opposing value systems in real-life and Fantasy sports can really differ. His possession numbers remain strong, and he received Selke votes for the fourth time in five seasons, but these aren't the numbers Fantasy managers notice. Instead, they see a 32-year-old veteran who was on pace to score fewer than 50 points last season trying to buoy a sinking ship. As the Sharks continue to trend downward even in a weak division, there are just too many headwinds for Couture to have a productive Fantasy season.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, Canadiens
It's not like the Gallagher line with Philip Danault and Tomas Tatar was particularly good at scoring, but for a few seasons they were the heart and soul of the Habs' vaunted play at even strength. It remains to be seen where Gallagher might find his new home; he was absent from the opening day of camp, as the Habs went with Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson as their top-six wingers with Mike Hoffman still injured. Gallagher's role on the power play has also diminished a little bit over the past three seasons, giving him very little offensive upside for a player who generates a lot of chances but has a tough time finishing them. Over the past 10 seasons, Gallagher ranks 27th in the league with 1,854 total shots, but ranks 52nd in goals and 157th in shooting percentage among those who've scored at least 100 goals.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Blues
When a player seems to have his heart elsewhere, it doesn't usually lead to a very good season. The Blues have good options on the wings after adding Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich, and both rookie Jake Neighbours and tryout invitee James Neal, who's scored a preseason hat trick already, have played well at camp. There's a lot of competition for spots despite Tarasenko's superior talent, and his troublesome shoulder, which limited him to just 34 games last season, makes him an injury risk.
Miro Heiskanen, D, Stars
Heiskanen's Fantasy value takes a hit as long as John Klingberg, who gets all the top power-play minutes, remains with Dallas. Heiskanen may be the better overall player, but he's still behind Klingberg on the power-play depth chart, and the opportunity cost of being on the first unit with Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski and the second unit, where he has to share duties with Ryan Suter, is pretty substantial. Even considering his brilliant sophomore season, Heiskanen ranks 85th in points scored per 60 minutes at even strength (min. 100 games) among defensemen, making him a poor value pick before the late-middle rounds.
Alec Martinez, D, Golden Knights
Through 63 games with the Knights, Martinez's shooting percentage is 10.9 percent, and last season, he played at a 50-point pace. His offense has seemingly come out of nowhere; over the past 10 seasons, the median shooting percentage among defensemen was 4.7 percent (min. 200 games played) with a high of 8.5. It helps having a talented partner -- Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo had a hand in 14 of Martinez's 32 points, and both of them are ahead of him on the depth chart. Martinez's pace is begging for a regression, and his excellent 2020-2021 season seems unlikely to have an encore.
Jeff Petry, D, Canadiens
Petry has been excellent for the Habs, but things will be tough without Shea Weber. They're big shoes to fill, and even though Petry's scored double-digit goals for four straight seasons, his performance last year looks like an anomaly because his shooting percentage soared up to 9.4 percent. Petry is a risky proposition since the Habs are unlikely to be as good as last season, and Carey Price also has to be great for Petry to have solid peripheral stats (like plus-minus). It wasn't too long ago the blueliner finished minus-30, negating whatever positive Fantasy value he brought with his then career-high 42 points.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Canucks
When Hughes returns, Ekman-Larsson may not quarterback the top power play. It adds more fuel to the narrative that the former Coyotes captain is past his prime, and if the Canucks want to make the playoffs, they desperately need OEL to regain his form. His possession metrics have tanked to 48 CF%, according to hockey-reference.com, and their blue-line depth, even when healthy, was already questionable. Furthermore, the Canucks defense bled scoring chances last season, ranking third worst in shots allowed per game -- 11 spots lower than the Coyotes.
Igor Shesterkin, G, Rangers
Shesterkin's inclusion on this list shouldn't cast a shadow over his considerable talent and bright future, but Rangers lack experienced defensemen and feature a coach who doesn't mind swapping scoring chances with the other team. They're counting on their young players to keep improving, but improvement is rarely a straight line. They'll be counting on two defensemen on entry-level contracts, which doesn't instill much confidence in what should be a tough division -- not to mention backup Alexandar Georgiev is pretty good in his own right and may end up forcing a timeshare.
Chris Driedger, G, Kraken
Driedger was slated to be the Kraken's 1B goalie, at worst, but the addition of Philipp Grubauer might end up rendering him the league's most expensive backup. The Kraken were victorious in their first preseason game, but we still won't know much about their goalie rotation or their lineup when the season begins. Driedger's sample size is small, and the risk-reward proposition seems skewed; the ceiling for his Fantasy value might be a small majority split of the starts in a timeshare, and at the floor he's a matchup-dependent backup on a team that might not provide a lot of goal support.