Eastern Edge: Players who failed to live up to their ADP
In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll discuss a few players that were overrated in fantasy hockey formats this season – players that didn't perform well enough to justify their ADP (average draft position) in Yahoo leagues. As always, if there's anything you'd like to see in future articles, please let me know in the comments below!
The 2019-20 regular season was a tough one for Cam Atkinson. He appeared in just 44 of the 70 games that Columbus played, missing significant stretches with an ankle injury. He tallied 26 points over his 44 appearances, which translates to 48 points over 82 games – a huge downgrade from the 69 points he totalled last year. It wasn't all bad though, as he did maintain his reputation as a high-volume shooter – averaging over three shots per game for the third-straight year.
Heading into this season, I think most of us expected some regression from Atkinson. I mean, he lost his superstar line mate to free agency as Artemi Panarin signed with the Rangers, leaving behind a roster that was seemingly devoid of elite offensive talent. However, Atkinson broke out with 35 goals and 62 points back in 2016-17 – before Panarin even joined the Blue Jackets. So, although Atkinson's game reached new heights alongside Panarin, we knew that he was capable of generating his own offense. As such, Atkinson's fantasy value didn't take a huge hit and he was still drafted relatively early in Yahoo leagues, with an ADP of 110.9. I expect that will change next year, as many fantasy hockey managers will use Atkinson's underwhelming point totals to support the belief that he can't produce without Panarin. However, I think that's a misguided belief and that Atkinson's struggles are more closely linked to his injury woes. Back in January, Atkinson discussed the challenges of dealing with a high-ankle sprain – highlighting the unpredictability of the recovery process. He also mentioned how a high-ankle sprain that he suffered three years ago had never really healed properly. Hopefully, this extended break gives Atkinson some extra time to return to full health. If he's healthy next season, I believe he can return to 60-point form – especially as Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois continue to develop into elite offensive threats. In conclusion, Atkinson fits the definition of an 'overrated' fantasy hockey asset this year because he didn't perform up to his draft position. However, I expect him to flip the script next year and outperform our tempered expectations.
While writing this article, I tried my best to maintain an optimistic tone. It seemed unfair to discourage you from targeting certain players based on one year of underperformance. I think it's important to emphasize that – in most cases – these 'overrated' labels should not carry into next season. You see, when an overrated player underperforms, we tend to lower our expectations for that player. Oftentimes, that results in a player who was overrated one year, to be underrated the next year. I believe that will be the case for the two other players on this list – but not Anders Lee.
The way I see it, Lee had one particularly good fantasy season. Back in 2017-18, he scored 40 goals and totalled 61 points. Outside of that impressive showing, his career performance suggests that he's a 50-point player who can flirt with the 30-goal mark. Now, I don't want to criticize Lee's real-life abilities because I don't get to see him play very often. So, when I say Lee is overrated, I mean it strictly from a fantasy hockey perspective. The reality is, he's confined to a defensively-minded system under coach Barry Trotz, so we can't expect insane point totals from him. In addition, the Islanders divide power-play time pretty evenly between their two units, so no one really has an opportunity to rack up points with the man advantage. With all that in mind, I think Lee was drafted slightly too early in Yahoo leagues, with an ADP of 128.7. But maybe hindsight is influencing my opinion because I see Lee was drafted before a few wingers with higher ceilings like Kyle Connor, Anthony Mantha and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Heading into this season, P.K. Subban was drafted as a top-10 fantasy defenseman, boasting an ADP of 59.2. After filling more of a supporting role in Nashville, I personally thought he would benefit from being 'the go-to guy' in New Jersey. Unfortunately, he failed to meet our high expectations as he put up a career-worst 22-point pace. The narrative of Subban being overrated was born well before his struggles this season. In the beginning of 2019, the Athletic conducted an NHL player poll which found that Subban was considered to be one of the league's most overrated players. Fuel was only added to the fire when he failed to take over as New Jersey's top defenseman, allowing Sami Vatanen to control the team's top power-play for most of the season. During Subban's best years in Montreal, he was seeing 70 to 80-percent of the team's power-play minutes and was able to boost his point totals with 20-25 points on the power play. With the Devils, Subban saw just 42.8-percent of the team's total PP time and managed just six power-play points through 68 games this year.
Now that Subban has had a year to familiarize himself with new surroundings in New Jersey, I think we'll see him rebound with a better performance next year. But it would definitely help if he could reclaim a prominent role on the power play. While he'll have to outperform Damon Severson and Will Butcher to be the team's top PP defenseman, at least he won't have to compete with Vatanen as the Finnish defenseman was traded to the Hurricanes.
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