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Former Habs defenceman Andrei Markov said he’d be open to returning to the Habs but that it’s their decision. I don’t think there’s too much to read into this as the guy turns 41 years old in December and the team didn’t want him at 39. I do wonder if he’d be open to going elsewhere, though it’s hard to see many teams lining up to fit him on to their roster.
Narratives can drive ADP. More specifically, the fantasy hockey community talking about the same handful of players all offseason can inflate a single player’s average draft position. We see it happen every year where a player gets hyped up so much that all the draft value gets sucked out of them (see: Dahlin, Rasmus – 2018-19).
There are also players who don’t get hyped up after a season and that can make them good draft values. Or, at the least, there are player who don’t get over-inflated because they’re the shiny new toy. It’s worth talking about some of these players.
I like to think I have a good pulse on what’s being written and talked about for hockey on social media and in our Forums, and that gives us a good idea about which players are getting discussed (inflated) and which aren’t. Here are some players that I think will have good years and aren’t getting hyped in the offseason, which could bring good draft value. They’ll range from guys at the top of the draft all the way to bench spots.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C-MTL
Kotkaniemi’s rookie season probably went better than anyone could hope for. He effectively spent the entire year on the NHL roster, only being a healthy scratch a couple times later in the season. There have only been 13 different 18-year olds to manage 10 goals and 20 assists with 1.5 shots per game since 2000, giving an indication how hard it is to even put up those modest totals at that age. He played a very good 200-foot game (legitimately), and there’s no reason to think he doesn’t take another step forward. Would anyone be surprised if, by March, Kotkaniemi was the team’s top centre, playing 17-18 minutes a night? I wouldn’t.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW-CGY
Gaudreau, and the Flames in general, were a favourite target of mine last year. I even took the entire top line plus Mark Giordano in a best ball league. I didn’t do well in the league, but it wasn’t because of the team stack as Gaudreau and Giordano both had career years. I’m not going to be drafting Giordano, assuming a sky-high ADP, but there doesn’t seem to be much Gaudreau chatter, which is a good thing. Everyone is talking about Calgary’s goaltending, or Giordano, or Matthew Tkachuk’s pending contract status. No one is talking about Gaudreau having 183 points in his last 162 games. Hopefully he slides to the third round, but I’d really be fine taking him anywhere after the middle of the second round.
Justin Faulk, D-CAR
There is a lot of hype around Carolina, and rightfully so. They have great young stars like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, budding prospects like Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas, good veterans like Jordan Staal and (maybe) Justin Williams, and a great blueline. But for some reason, there isn’t much chatter around Justin Faulk, which is weird because he’s locked in as their top PP option. The team showed little inclination to have either Dougie Hamilton or Jaccob Slavin take the PPQB role, and Faulk can put up very good peripheral stats. Just 35-40 points alone with his peripherals make him very valuable.
Jack Eichel, C-BUF
Sometimes, players don’t get hyped anymore as we move on to the next crop. It almost feels like that’s what is happening with Jack Eichel. Just keep in mind that he’s 1 of 8 players to average over a point per game and three shots per game over the last two seasons. That Eichel hasn’t posted a 30-goal season yet (seriously, and that seems wild) along with Buffalo’s general under-performance, has kept his overall value probably lower than it should be. He’s coming into his age-23 season, which means he’s starting to hit his prime, and considering what he’s already done, that means a lot of fantasy goodness ahead.
Jake Muzzin, D-TOR
It’s probably hard to find a Toronto Maple Leafs player who will be undervalued, but between Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations and the acquisition of Tyson Barrie, it seems that Muzzin is kind of getting overlooked. Getting caught in small-sample extrapolations in dangerous, but his 30 games as a Leaf last year would have worked out to over 40 points, over two shots per game, and over two hits per game. Those are very stout totals. His point production upside is capped because of where he is on the PP depth chart, but in leagues that count peripherals, he should firmly be targeted, and will probably be a better value at the draft table than either Morgan Rielly or Barrie.
Kevin Fiala, LW-MIN
It’s easy to forget that Fiala really only has two and a half seasons under his belt. In those two and a half seasons, his individual goals per 60 minutes at 5v5 is the same as Aleksander Barkov, Jordan Eberle, and Phil Kessel. He’s also around the 85th percentile in individual shot rate among forwards. Finally, all his underlying transition metrics – possession entries, possession exits, shot assists – are at least in the 80th percentile of the NHL since 2016. All this, and Fiala just turned 23 years old a couple weeks ago. The only concern is that he gets stuck on the third line. Don’t give up on him just yet.
Erik Cernak, D-TB
For as much depth as there is on the Tampa blueline, it’s all on the left side. The right side of their defence has the likes of Luke Schenn, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jan Rutta. There has been talk of moving one of their LHD to the right side, but that would likely still leave Cernak in the top-4. He plays like a defenceman in his late-20s, but the kid turned 22 years old at the end of May. He had nearly 200 hits in just 58 games last year and a bit of additional ice time should see him get close to two shots per game. Like Muzzin in Toronto, there are other teammates who will produce a lot more points, but his peripherals will make up a lot in value.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D-PHI
It was such a bad 2018-19 for Ghost that we can easily overlook all that he’s accomplished in his short career thus far. Consider that from 2015-2019, his age-22 through age-25 seasons, he amassed 187 points, becoming 1 of 5 defencemen to manage that many points in that age range this century (Green, Subban, Karlsson, Klingberg). It was just a couple years ago we were in this exact same situation with this exact same player, as Ghost was coming off a 39-point season, following up his 46-point rookie campaign. He rewarded faithful fantasy owners with a 65-point season. I don’t have him projected that high, but he could very well be back over 50 points again and he’ll be cheaper at the draft table than he was last year.
Cam Atkinson, RW-CBJ
I think this might be one of my more tenuous offerings because I have seen a few Don’t Forget About Your Columbus Blue Jackets Players articles and blog posts. Maybe we get to the point where a team that should decline this year gets overhyped to the point where there’s no value left at the draft table. Until that happens, though, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Cam Atkinson. He’ll have all the minutes he can handle and even without Artemi Panarin around, he was a shot volume monster. As long as guys like Dubois, Nyquist, and Werenski can get the puck to Atkinson, he’ll get his 30 goals. I could easily write something similar for Josh Anderson, too, though with more hits and fewer goals.
Bo Horvat, C-VAN
There is some excitement around the Canucks and with good reason, having the likes of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko, among others, looking like the future of this team. Horvat often gets left behind in the conversation despite the fact that he played nearly 21 minutes per game last year, managing a career-high 27 goals and 61 points. He’s likely going to be adding at least one 20-goal winger at even strength and should remain on the top PP unit as well. It feels like Horvat will be had outside the top-100 players, and considering he had over 220 shots and can chip in some hits, that will be a good value at the draft table.
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