The 10 most overvalued fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
Keith Yandle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The fantasy hockey prep schedule continues. The top 200 is two editions deep, I’ve posted keeper league rankings by position, and I’ve hinted at my 10 favorite sleeper picks for 2015-16. Now it’s time for the overvalued list.

Last year, I dubbed this group the “players to avoid” list. That led to the misconception they were all bad players. I wasn’t trying to say they stank, however. I simply meant I’d avoid them because their average draft positions suggested I’d have to pick them way earlier than I wanted to.

Still, the readers have spoken. To avoid confusion, we’ll call this top 10 “overvalued” instead of players to avoid. I define overvalued fantasy picks as follows:

(a) Players whose production won’t match their average draft positions
(b) Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them

With that, let’s review which players I consider fantasy hockey landmines, sure to return less than what you invest to get them. And remember, this is fantasy hockey, so this list does not reflect the players’ real-life value.

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Top 10 fantasy sleeper picks for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
David Pastrnak.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

They’re back. Everyone’s favorite players to draft in fantasy pools. The sleepers.

There’s a special high that comes with being “the genius who predicted _______’s breakout season.” That’s why it’s so intoxicating to research sleepers every year. If you’ve already studied my most recent update of the top 200 overall players, now it’s time to dig for undervalued guys.

As I outlined in last year’s sleeper list, I identify them as follows:

(a) Players who will outperform their average draft position
(b) Players who will outperform some players drafted before them
(c) Players you can steal cheap at the ends of drafts to reap major profits

After taking last year’s feedback into consideration, I want to stress (a) and (b) a lot more than (c). There’s a misconception every sleeper has to be “that guy no one else knows about who’s still on the board in the final round of a draft.” Anyone looking for only that type of sleeper on this list will end up posting something like “Gee, thanks for the shocking insight on Teuvo Teravainen, I had no idea who that guy was, jerk.” But that person misses the more important point. Teravainen goes on average 172nd overall in fantasy drafts, according to Yahoo’s ADP (average draft position) numbers. My rank for Teravainen in the top 200: 139th overall. Essentially, I’m saying he should outperform 32 guys currently being drafted ahead of him. Savvy GMs may think it’s no big revelation to talk up Teravainen, but the general drafting public evidently hasn’t caught on yet. Teravainen’s a legit sleeper.

Of course, I’m not going to tout Ryan Johansen as a sleeper when I rank him 18th and he’s going 33rd. There’s a line to draw here. I still want to help you find guys you can actually steal in the mid to late rounds. With that, let’s begin the 2015-16 list:

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Fantasy hockey: the top 30 keeper league players by position

Matt Larkin
John Tavares (Getty Images)

It’s nowhere near time to panic. You aren’t behind on your cramming for fantasy hockey draft day. You can print out my latest top 200 player list and leaf through it at the cottage.

Keeper and dynasty league GMs, though, have to be a bit more on the ball. These folks are running long-term franchises. They technically never stop playing, as they’re free to make trades all off-season. They can also host their drafts earlier, as their leagues depend less on immediate health and up-to-date depth charts.

It’s thus an ideal juncture to explore some keeper league rankings. Doing so means dispelling the hell out of some myths. For one, keeper league rankings are not merely prospect rankings. Sorry, but Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and Aaron Ekblad do not automatically top these lists. Elite prospects like Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and William Nylander don’t make the cut at all here, as I think they’re still multiple seasons away from being impact NHLers.

And here’s the thing too many people forget about keeper leagues: they still have standings and championships this year, and the next, and the next. So as long as an established star player projects to stay dominant for the next few seasons, he warrants strong keeper league consideration over the youngsters. McDavid tops the ranks if we’re projecting for five or 10 years down the road. But will he outscore John Tavares in the next two or three years? Doubtful. That’s not a knock on Connor. That’s a compliment to Johnny T.

Some veterans, however, are punished in these rankings. The likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have reached their mid-30s and dealt with nagging injuries in recent seasons. They will outscore many of the players on these lists this season, but they could decline sharply within two years. Give me Mark Scheifele in 2016-17 over Datsyuk if I’m starting a keeper league team from scratch. That’s why you won’t see Detroit’s dynamic veterans make the list.

Here are my top 30 keeper league picks by position. Age as of opening night, Oct. 7, 2015, listed in brackets.

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Is Wayne Simmonds right to be optimistic about his Flyers?

Matt Larkin
Wayne Simmonds. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Want to make an NHL player bristle? Just follow these easy steps:

(a) stand a foot away from him;
(b) remind him his team missed the playoffs last season;
(c) ask him if his team is rebuilding.

The experiment works like a charm on Philadelphia Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds between training sessions at BioSteel’s 2015 hockey camp, where players from all over the league – and other leagues – gather to compete, hone their skills and rehabilitate. Reminded of the Flyers’ sixth-place finish in the Metropolitan division, and asked whether a new coach and large shipment of elite young defense prospects signifies a rebuild, Simmonds shakes his head so fast you can practically see the sweat fly.

“No,” he said, recoiling slightly, brow furrowed. “We’re a good team right now.”

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THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
Pavel Datsyuk falls 10 spots from 43rd to 53rd. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

It’s never too early. Not even in the middle of summer.

The ideal image of fantasy hockey prep at this time of year might be curling up on a dock with THN’s Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide. That’s a great idea. It’s loaded with useful information, it projects the NHL’s top 300 scorers and it hits newsstands any day now.

But what happens when you’ve read that paper edition cover to cover? As the summer inches closer to fall and training camps start up, you’ll want another update in hockey pool expertise. That’s what this specialized list of rankings is for. I will update my top 200 players periodically, and with increasing frequency, until opening night of the 2015-16 season.

Think of this ranking set as a companion piece to the pool guide. The former focuses on points, while this list blends goalies and skaters into a master breakdown tailored for anyone drafting in leagues with multiple stat categories. The rankings below are based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Did last year’s list steer you right? It helped me win both my pools, so hopefully that buys your trust. Remember, these rankings are about fantasy, not real life, so a few stars will be listed lower than you might expect. Enjoy, and feel free to debate the rankings – and let me know about any glaring omissions – in the comment section below.

Aug. 14 UPDATE: Time for the rankings’ second draft and what will likely be the final update before training camps begin in the coming weeks. For this edition, the tweaks are minor, but I’ve taken into account a few reader comments that swayed me. I’ve also pondered the Patrick Kane situation.

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Pronger making headlines again when Hall of Fame vote comes down

Brian Costello
Chris Pronger signs autographs at the 2014 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Just a couple days after seeing his playing rights traded to Arizona from Philadelphia, Chris Pronger will be in the spotlight again when the Hall of Fame announces he and Nicklas Lidstrom are two of this year’s inductees.

The Hall of Fame’s 18-member selection committee is meeting today to discuss this year’s candidates. Former players and builders need at least 75 percent approval (or 14 favorable votes). Pronger, who last played during the 2011-12 season and has been on the Flyers long-term injury ever since, is as sure-fire a candidate as you’ll see. So is Lidstrom, the most decorated defenseman in the history of the NHL not named Bobby Orr.

Pronger, of course, was a brilliant two-way defenseman who was a major player in Anaheim’s 2006-07 Stanley Cup triumph. He also was a key cog in two other teams getting to the Cup final, the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. Pronger had 157 goals and 698 points in 1,167 games over 18 seasons. He won both the Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy in 1999-2000, while with the St. Louis Blues, one of five teams he played for.

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2015 Draft Preview – Heavily armed Winnipeg Jets can shift focus to contending

Matt Larkin
Nikolaj Ehlers (Photo by Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images).

The Winnipeg Jets farm system led our 2015 Future Watch Rankings and boasted six of the league’s top 75 prospects. Anything extra GM Kevin Cheveldayoff nabs at the draft is gravy. It also will provide him with trade bait should his team ascend to Cup contention next year.

PICKS:
Round 1, picks 17 and 25
Round 2, pick 47
Round 3, pick 78
Round 4, pick 108
Round 6, pick 168
Round 7, picks 198 and 203

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Winnipeg has potential franchise players on the way, but there’s no guarantee those players are ready to be elite. The Jets are competitive now and could use immediate help, especially among their top six forwards. A true first-line center and/or sniper would do wonders.

LONG-TERM NEEDS:
The Jets are set for young blueliners and have some dynamic scoring forwards in the pipeline. They have outstanding goalie prospects, too. But the divide between the Western Conference’s haves and have-nots correlates with which teams have big, strong pivots and which don’t. Winnipeg needs a monster center. Mark Scheifele took a nice leap this year, but, as good as he is, he’s not physical enough to make defensemen shake in their boots.

CAP SITUATION:
All the Jets’ core players have at least a year left on their deals. Scheifele and blueliner Jacob Trouba have another season before restricted free agency. So there’s space for a significant splash, though it would make things messy a year from now when Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd hit free agency. Cheveldayoff must work hard to keep UFA Michael Frolik. Frolik has been a revelation in a checking role.

IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16:
Nikolaj Ehlers lit up the QMJHL in 2014-15. He’s sure to make the NHL and challenge for the Calder Trophy this fall. Puck-moving defenseman Josh Morrissey isn’t far off, but the Jets are deep enough at ‘D’ that they don’t have to rush him. They’re solid with a top four of Byfuglien, Trouba, Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers.

DID YOU KNOW:
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg’s top goaltending prospect, won the inaugural Mike Richter Award in 2014 as the top NCAA Div. I netminder, posting a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

THN will be releasing its Team Reports from Draft Preview for each of the 30 NHL franchises in the week leading up to the NHL Draft. Read them in our “Draft” channel.

2015 Draft Preview – The Washington Capitals make investments

Jakub Vrana (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Capitals pulled off a pretty neat trick the past few years: mining the second half of the first round for talent and consistently hitting on it. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Marcus Johansson all qualify, and picking in that range can be tricky. Add in no-brainer lottery pick Alex Ovechkin plus Nicklas Backstrom and you’ve got a pretty good homegrown core already. All told, Washington has drafted quite well.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 22
Round 3, pick 62
Round 4, pick 113
Round 5, pick 143
Round 6, pick 173

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The Caps are solid in all areas right now, but a two-way center who can also score wouldn’t hurt – someone in a Ryan Kesler mode. With Jakub Vrana in the pipeline, skill is taken care of in spades. Read more