Last week, all of the writers here at DobberHockey have been talking about our top bubble players.
We were given a list of about 144 players that were definite keepers (in other words, in a 12-team league, about 12 keepers each). There were plenty of great suggestions about bubble players (those that weren’t on the original list that you should consider keeping). Some of those suggestions included Kevin Labanc, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake DeBrusk and Pavel Buchnevich.
Of course, if you were going to keep those bubble players, that meant some of the 144 players on the original list would have to be dropped. Below are 10 players from that original list that you could consider letting go to keep some of the bubble players instead.
10. Troy Terry
One day, Terry will be an automatic keeper selection. Today is not that day. Terry has a lot of potential, but at this stage, he won’t have as much of an impact as other young players, and if you’re looking to compete, he won’t be any help to you this year. Last season, with most of the Ducks injured, Terry was given an opportunity to play with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, but only managed 13 points in 33 games. Funnily enough, later on in the season when he was playing with the likes of Max Jones, Derek Grant and Corey Perry, he had 11 in 18. Regardless, he hasn’t proven he is worthy of a roster spot yet, so there’s no point in keeping him.
9. Kevin Fiala
There is a lot to like about Fiala, but that doesn’t mean I’d be choosing him in a keeper league unless it is very deep. He just hasn’t justified using a spot on. The thing is, now that he’s in Minnesota, there’s no guarantee Fiala will get more ice time, better quality linemates or nail down a spot on the top power-play, especially since Mats Zuccarello was also signed by the Wild and will be given every opportunity in a top-six role ahead of Fiala. There’s also Ryan Donato to contend with, who was excellent for Minnesota after being traded from Boston, plus a slew of highly-touted prospects.
I am not a fan of anointing Markstrom as a top keeper in almost any league as he hasn’t been able to prove anything that would make anyone want to consider holding on to him. He’s now 29 years old, and just put up his best season with a 28-23-9 record, a 2.77 GAA and a .912 SV %. In his career, he’s 87-102-28 with a 2.81 GAA and .909 SV %. He’s only signed with the Canucks for one more year, and even if re-signed, will be battling Thatcher Demko (this year and next) and Michael DiPietro (long-term) to keep a spot with the Canucks.
7. Kevin Hayes
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A player in his mid-20s who is about to become an unrestricted free agent puts up a career year while getting more ice time and more power-play time, and turns that opportunity into a huge money, long-term contract that the team will start to regret by December. Does that pretty much cover it? Despite the extra time, he managed only 11 power-play points and 55 points overall. From a fantasy perspective, he takes less than 200 shots, accumulates about 40 hits and about 15 PIM a year. Philadelphia has locked themselves into Hayes because of that stupid contract ($7.1 million per season for the next seven years), but that doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in as well.
6. Jason Zucker
Zucker is one of those players that you can count on for 45 points, and hope that once every few years if everything goes right, he can reach 60-plus. But why would you want to keep a player that you can only count on for 45 points? Granted, he does contribute in other categories, including hits, shots and power-play points. However, he doesn’t dominate in those categories, and you’re better off keeping other players and trying to redraft Zucker.
Wait about a month, and Schmaltz will be the top player on almost every fantasy hockey sleeper column. And why not? There’s a lot to like. He was excellent in Arizona last year after the trade, when he had 14 points in 17 games. Now he’s going to be potentially playing with Phil Kessel. However, I would caution against keeping a player who could project to reach 50 points, 10 PIM, 110 shots, 200 faceoff wins and 15 power-play points. To consider him a keeper, he would need to be a 70-point player to make up for his deficiencies in the other categories.
I spoke about Drouin a little bit last week when talking about teammates Brandan Gallagher, but Drouin should only be kept in the deepest of leagues. He’s just not that productive offensively. Everyone keeps waiting for him to break out, but at this point, maybe he is exactly who we think he is: A guy who saw his 5-on-5 ice time decrease last year and who doesn’t contribute much in any category (18 goals, 53 points, minus-eight, 190 shots, 55 hits, 16 power-play points, 23 blocked shots and 37 faceoff wins).
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Maybe it’s time to admit that OEL will never be that great a fantasy option for defensemen. The consensus is that you want a defenseman that can get you 40 points, and anything below that is waiver wire fodder. Well, Ekman-Larsson is hovering right on that line. Four seasons ago, he had 55 points, but in five of the last six seasons, he has ranged from 39 to 44. At this point, 44 points is his upside. You’re better off keeping a younger player that has a much higher potential.
I know there are plenty of people out there who will scream about “upside this season,” playing with an elite player in Mark Stone” and “Pacioretty was excellent in the playoffs,” but Pacioretty is a shell of his former self who won’t be able to stay healthy and will struggle to reach 50 points. Just look at his last two seasons: he finished with 40 and 37 points, but produced at a 50- and 47-point pace. In the last 16 games of last season, when Pacioretty’s most frequent linemate was Stone, MaxPac had four goals and eight points. Don’t believe the recency bias of the playoffs, believe what you’ve seen from the 30-year-old the last two years.
1. Phil Kessel
Here’s the thing with Kessel in multi-cat leagues: He’s only useful for points, power-play points and shots (although he’s hasn’t been as great in the latter category as he once was). His average the last three years: 28 goals, 81 points, 235 shots and 36 power-play points. He’s also averaging a minus-seven, 11 hits, 28 PIM, 17 blocked shots and five faceoff wins. There’s a lot of people assuming he’s going to see a significant decrease in points and power-play points now that he’s in Arizona. Michael Clifford’s current projection is about 64 points. If that is accurate, and when you throw in his lack of production in other categories and an obvious decrease in power-play points, all a sudden, he’s a bubble boy.