A mistake that many inexperienced fantasy managers make on draft day is selecting players based on their name recognition rather than which way their production has been trending, the strength of their team, and/or their potential.
Unfortunately, hockey players aren’t wine and precious few of them get better, or more accurately remain equally effective, as they age. Each year there are big-name players that fall from fantasy hockey stardom and the 2016-17 season will be no different.
Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche
It should come as a surprise to no one that Iginla’s best years are behind him, but the drop in his goal scoring in 2015-16 is cause for alarm for his fantasy value. Iginla went from a 29-goal, 30-assist season in 2014-15 to 22 goals and 25 assists in his second season with Colorado. This year he scored just nine goals at even strength after scoring 21 in 2014-15.
Projected to finish just outside of the top 100 players by most experts and analysts, Iginla finished as the 338th overall player in standard scoring categories. A -22 plus/minus rating and the notable drop in his point production were responsible for Iginla’s meteoric fall in fantasy value this year. The star winger also took fewer trips to the penalty box this year after piling up 241 penalty minutes in the two previous seasons.
Iginla, who will turn 39 in July, will be on the last year of his contract next season. Playing for a team that is searching for an identity and trying to build around young talent, the veteran’s role in the Avalanche’s offense is anything but certain. The dip in his five-on-five scoring and the two-minute drop in his time on ice per game are telling signs that Iginla and his aging legs have slipped away from fantasy hockey’s elite wingers.
Eric Staal, New York Rangers
Staal put nearly 50 fewer shots on net this season than he did last season despite playing in six more games. The former captain of the Hurricanes scored just one power play goal, 12 even-strength goals, and tallied 39 points for the lowest point total since his rookie season in 2003-04.
With the abundance of valuable centers to consider on draft day, there may be little reason to even consider Staal outside of very deep leagues. Was last season simply a hiccup in his production, or was it Staal’s first step toward a steady decline in his production after years of being an impact player in Carolina? Whatever the answer may be, there are better gambles to take than investing in Staal on draft day.
Now 31 years old, Staal is a pending unrestricted free agent that will not be returning to the Rangers. Where he signs will have a tremendous impact on what his fantasy value is. But unless he sees regular ice time with talented players who drive possession, his time as a solid value late-round pick in fantasy hockey has likely come to an end.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
With just one 40-goal season to his name, Zetterberg has never been considered an elite goal-scorer. But despite managing to stay healthy for the entire 2015-16 season, something the Red Wings’ captain hasn’t done since 2011-12, he disappointed fantasy managers by scoring just 13 goals.
The No. 56 average pick back in the fall (according to fantasypros.com) scored a disappointing 50 points in his age-35 season. Despite racking up 20 assists on the man advantage this past season, it’s clear that Zetterberg’s most productive offensive years are behind him. After scoring 66 points in 77 games in 2014-15, Zetterberg put just 50 points on the score sheet for the disappointing Red Wings.
Outstanding two-way players like Zetterberg often do poorly when measured by standard fantasy scoring categories. Things could turn around for Zetterberg and the Red Wings next season with significant changes to the top-nine likely to happen this offseason, but his returning to fantasy hockey’s top-50 in 2016-17 is unlikely.