More players that disappointed in 2015-2016, and career years to avoid in this year's drafts.

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First, a few words about some players that should come into the season with a depressed ADP based off a poor season (or seasons).

Evander Kane

Clearly, the first thing to be stated here is we need to see what the fate of Kane will be from both the Buffalo Sabres, and the NHL. He is facing several counts of non-criminal harassment, and while the league said they don’t intend for any further discipline at this time, who knows if that will change. The morality of this type of behaviour aside, from a fantasy perspective, the uncertainty is a concern.

Kane’s issue on the ice has long been his “shoot from anywhere” stance on hockey. He is consistently one of the longest distance shooters on his teams, according to Behind The Net, and that naturally leads to a low shooting percentage.

Some of those shots have to find their way into the net, though. A big reason why Kane hasn’t had more than 20 goals in a season since 2011-2012 is that he can’t play a full season. Health is a concern here, but I would be more concerned if he were a 30-year-old, rather than going into his Age 25 season. To that end, Kane’s goals per game mark is slightly higher than Patric Hornqvist and Daniel Sedin over the last four seasons, and slightly lower than Taylor Hall and Blake Wheeler:

If Kane can even play 75 games, because of his shot volume alone, barring an absolute crash in shooting percentage, he’s a 20-goal scorer. A big problem was Kane’s assist rate cratered last year to 0.23 per game, the lowest since his rookie season. His assist rate per minute tied a career-low, and was less than half the rate he posted from 2010-2014. Buffalo was one of the lowest scoring teams in the league last year, but with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart a year older, and Kyle Okposo being brought in, they should improve in this category. As they improve in their scoring, so should Kane’s assist total.

With the plethora of penalty minutes and shots, Kane can stuff some peripherals. Should he play anywhere close to a full season, given his ice time, 20 goals/20 assists is a reasonable floor. It’s just a matter of whether he can play 75 or so games. A poor season last year should depress his ADP this year.

David Perron

Except for those in deep leagues, one thing will be certain: David Perron will be pretty much free when drafts roll around. As Martha would tell us, that’s a good thing.

From 2014-2016, Perron’s seasons went about as poorly as possible, mainly in Pittsburgh, where he had just 38 points in 86 regular season games for the Penguins. Even with things going incredibly poorly, Perron’s points per 60 minutes rate of 1.51 over those two seasons was in the same realm as guys like Kyle Palmieri (1.55), Adam Henrique (1.52), Troy Brouwer (1.49), and Justin Abdelkader (1.48). Smart money would be on each of those four names being drafted ahead of Perron in fantasy leagues this year, and sometimes well ahead of him.

One concern would be ice time. Well, in Ken Hitchcock’s first two years in St. Louis, when Perron was still around, he played over 18 minutes a game. That is very good news. The top-six wing spots are currently occupied by Alex Steen (who appears as though he may be ready for the start of the regular season), Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. That leaves a second line right wing spot open. Perron is a righty who plays the left side, but as he showed in Edmonton, he’s more than capable of playing the right side, which he did a fair amount with Taylor Hall opposing him. Hitchcock likes his veterans, and being familiar with Perron helps. Especially if Steen can’t start the season, it seems a decent bet that Perron starts the year in St. Louis’s top-six. Let’s wait until training camp to see how this shakes out for certain.

Last year saw Perron put up his lowest Individual Points Percentage (IPP), which is the rate he garners a point at five-on-five when his team scores, since his rookie season, and his lowest personal five-on-five shooting percentage. The good news is his personal shots/minute rate is normal, and this guy is still on the right side of 30 years old. Given that he should be given a fairly prominent role on the team, doesn’t appear to be going through any real skills decline, is joining a team that should be around the top-10 in scoring, and can stuff the sheet across the board in roto leagues, there’s a lot to like about Perron. His ADP will be in the basement in part because of a poor year last year, and that makes him a great investment.

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Hopefully, fantasy owners realize that career years are definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. Just like there are disappointments in a given season from a fantasy perspective, there are players that greatly exceed expectations. The idea, then, is to figure out if this is a new norm, or whether it is just a career year. The former can lead to adequate fantasy value, the latter leads to heartbreak.

Seeing as my last few Ramblings have discussed players that should come in with depressed average draft positions based on a disappointing 2015-2016 season, I thought it would be worth going over some players that may have had that career year last year. These players will, naturally, have inflated draft positions. Jakub Voracek and Nick Foligno in 2015: Never Forget.

Blake Wheeler

To clear the air a little bit here, I absolutely love Wheeler, in both real hockey and fantasy hockey. Until now, he never really got the respect he deserved. He was roughly a top-75 pick in drafts last year, and that was coming off a 2014-2015 season where he was one of three players with 25+ goals, 35+ assists, 3+ shots per game, and 50+ penalty minutes.

What I worry about is an over-correction here. For those in roto leagues, lest we forget that it appears Ondrej Pavelec will be the starter for the Jets this year (at least, he should get the majority of the starts). Expecting an improvement in plus/minus is foolish.

Another concern is Wheeler’s assist totals. Wheeler set a career-high last year with 52 total assists, which was 14 more than he averaged over his previous two seasons in Winnipeg (38). One reason for this is he assisted on a career-high 53.3-percent of goals that occurred while he was on the ice at five-on-five (well, highest in the Behind The Net era, or since 2007-2008). That’s up from 48-percent over his previous two seasons on aggregate. The team also scored at a 9.2-percent rate, again, the highest it has been over the last three years. He also assisted at a three-year high rate of goals scored at five-on-four. When fantasy owners start seeing a 29-year-old’s season described in some way as “career-high” followed by “three-year high,” this should ring the alarms, and have them throwin’ elbows to drop him down the rankings.

This isn’t all to say Wheeler will not be productive next year. My concern is that by the time drafts roll around, he’ll be steamed to a top-25 or top-30 pick. At that point, he’s being drafted at his ceiling, and the value is gone. With the ice time he gets, and the line mates he will have, Wheeler can still be a very good 65-70 point player. Just don’t draft him at a position commensurate with last year’s production. 

Erik Karlsson

The first thing that makes me nervous is seeing ESPN’s early public mock drafts of Karlsson, which has him as the fifth overall pick in a roto league. A lot of people get their fantasy information from the big publications, and things like this affect average draft position in a lot of leagues. Karlsson is the best defenceman on the planet, and there’s no chance I would draft him in the top-5.

Some things to consider when draft season comes around:

  1. Karlsson’s on-ice shooting percentage – the rate at which his team scores with him on the ice at five-on-five – was the highest of his career.
  2. Karlsson’s personal shots/minute rate has been declining for three straight years.
  3. Karlsson played nearly 29 minutes a game last year. I suspect a new coaching staff may back that off a little. It probably won’t be a lot, maybe just a minute a game, but that has a negative impact on production.
  4. Speaking of a new coaching staff, Ottawa, as a team, was notorious for playing fire-wagon hockey last year. I suspect the new coaching staff will try to get them to tighten up defensively as a whole, Karlsson included. That’s not to say they’ll reign him in, but the team as a whole (I should hope) will be more responsible on the defensive side of the puck.

Just seeing a defenceman repeat a point-per-game season seems absurd. Given that Karlsson doesn’t rack up penalty minutes, won’t have a great plus/minus, and isn’t shooting like he used to, there are a few concerns here. This is still a 75-point defenceman, that is pretty certain. Given his (relative) lack of peripherals, and a slight decline in points, taking him at a point of the first round where the drafter would need to forego Tyler Seguin or Connor McDavid? Hard pass. I’ll wait until the end of the second round and grab Ekman-Larsson.

Brian Elliott

Last year was not the first time that Brian Elliott had a fantastic season. In 2015-2016, his .930 save percentage was amazing for fantasy owners, much like his 2011-2012 when he posted a .940. The problem lies in the middle, when his save percentage from 2012-2015 was .916.

The Flames have a new coaching staff which, like Ottawa, and Colorado, should hope to tighten things up defensively. Their defensive zone coverage was more open than the EU’s borders, and that creates problems for goaltenders. Elliott is an upgrade in net, but let’s reserve judgment on whether an upgrade on the systems in front of him has been made.

Lest we forget that Elliott hasn’t played a full season in a long time. Thanks to injuries and time shares, Elliott hasn’t started more than 45 games in a season since 2010-2011. Injuries limited him in 2014, as well as 2016, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others. Can he handle a 55-60 start season? That’s something he’ll have to prove.

A reasonable guess here is that coming off a .930 season, and going to a team where Elliott is expected to get a huge workload, he will be drafted as a top-10 goalie. This seems like a mistake. I think Elliott is an above-average goalie, but taking him that high seems to be misguided. I’d rather take a proven commodity like Cory Schneider a bit earlier, or wait and grab someone like Roberto Luongo

*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis