Every season, fantasy owners see a player overdrafted mostly because of a very strong showing during the previous spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs. With the 2015-16 season winding down, it appears that dubious award is going to Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson.
In 26 playoff games last spring, Johnson scored 13 goals, which is just one fewer than his 14 tallies over 65 games this season.
He also has 23 assists, which gives him just 37 points. That’s nearly half of his point total from the 2014-15 season. Considering Johnson was a consensus early third-round pick according to the analysts at Fantasy Pros, he has to be the most disappointing fantasy hockey player of the season.
It isn’t entirely his fault as injuries have played a huge role in his derailed season. Johnson has also turned on his game within the last month to help owners down the stretch, but overall, the Lightning star has taught owners a vital lesson – never draft players based on one strong postseason performance.
Of course, it’s probably not entirely fair to say owners made Johnson a third-round pick solely because of the 2015 postseason. He scored 29 goals and 72 points with a plus-33 rating in 77 games during the 2014-15 season.
Johnson was one of just two players to be ranked among the top 16 skaters in all three of those categories. He also had 24 goals, 50 points and a plus-23 rating in 2013-14.
But despite the numbers, it is still pretty safe to say Johnson wouldn’t have been a top 25 fantasy pick prior to this season without his 2015 postseason performance. He was absolutely incredible in the run to the finals, scoring 12 goals, including four game-winners, and 21 points in 20 games during the first three series.
Then against Chicago, Johnson fractured his wrist. It led to him scoring only one goal and two points during the Stanley Cup, but worse for fantasy owners, the effects of the injury lingered into this season.
“He’s played a lot of hockey, into June, injuries, short summer affected his training,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said according to the Tampa Tribune. “Unfortunately, we lost him for a good part of the middle of the season, and as bad as it was for us, it was probably good for him to rest and heal his body up. I think we are seeing the benefit of that now.”
Cooper is referring to the three separate occasions this season Johnson had to exit the Tampa Bay lineup. In total, he has missed 13 games, and Johnson presumably played many more games while hurt.
His owners, particularly in dynasty leagues, can only hope injuries are the reason his numbers have plummeted this season. Johnson averaged 0.94 points and 2.64 shots on goal per game last season. In 2015-16, those averages have fallen to 0.57 and 2.41 per contest. His shooting percentage has decreased from 14.3 to 8.9 percent this season too.
Fortunately, there are positive signs Johnson will be able to bounce back, and he already has begun to play better.
In the last 16 games, he has five goals, 12 points and a plus-7 rating. Before Feb. 29, the 25-year-old actually had a negative rating for the season, which is pretty amazing considering he entered the season with a plus-59 rating in 173 career games.
The second positive is the fact Johnson hasn’t seen much of a reduction in his Corsi For percentage in 2015-16. This probably indicates that his poor play is mostly due to the lingering effects of the wrist injury rather than a slump.
Even though his shot totals are down, a 0.24 shot per game decrease isn’t too drastic. What has really hurt his value is the large drop off in shooting percentage. Not as many of his shots are going in the net likely because his shots, with a less than a 100 percent healthy wrist, haven’t been as good.
Since Feb. 29, his shooting percentage is back closer to last season’s at 12.8 percent.
Injuries or not, however, Johnson’s poor season has taught owners the important lesson that owners cannot grade players based on playoff performances. Last spring was a tremendous hot streak for the Lightning center, and he wasn’t going to sustain that over the course of an entire season.
Don’t make the same mistake next fall. Enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs that start next week, but beware of ranking players too highly because of their performances in a small sample size.