5 Potential Fantasy Hockey Busts In 2023-2024


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5 Potential Fantasy Hockey Busts In 2023-2024

An in-depth look at 5 players that overachieved and/or were unusually lucky in 2022-2023. We expect those players to have inflated ADPs this Fall and also take a step back next season. Fantasy managers will likely overspend for these players and be disappointed with the results come season’s end in the Spring of 2024. Level of concern is a scale from 1 (least concerned) to 5 (most concerned). 

#1 Andrei Kuzmenko (LW/RW)
Vancouver Canucks
Level of Concern: 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Why We’re Concerned: As luck would have it, friend of the podcast, Blake Creamer (@BlakeCreamerAG on Twitter) released his projection for Andrei Kuzmenko (see below) on Tuesday, which was the inspiration for this entire podcast and blog post. Upon seeing the projection, I was curious what my own projection would be, which led me to some very concerning advanced metrics for next season – 26.8 iSH%, 1.00 2A/60, 13 tEVSH%, 36.8 PP SH%!👀

First, let’s talk about the individual shooting percentage (iSH%) from last season. Being this is Kuzmenko’s first season in the NHL, we don’t have any information specific to him from past seasons to work with. However, at 26.7%, Kuzmenko’s shooting percentage ranks THIRD AMONG ALL NHL PLAYERS (min. 40 GP) over the past 25 seasons! Only Matt Johnson (33.3%, 57 GP) and Stu Grimson (30%, 73 GP) had higher shooting percentages, but those two players only took 21 and 10 SOG, respectively. If you filter for players that completed a minimum of 80 games in a season, there are JUST 25 NHL players in the past 25 years to shoot above 20% through a full season. 

William Karlsson is the probably the most-recent comparable to review. In 2017-2018, Karlsson converted at 23.4% of his 184 shots on goal; both of which stand as career-highs for the now Stanley Cup champion. The Vegas forward followed up the next season with just 24 goals and a more reasonable 14.2 iSH%. It’s worth noting that Karlsson has not broken the 20-goal mark since 2018-2019…

Looking at the secondary assists per 60, it becomes clear that Kuzmenko benefited from some level of puck luck. Among players that competed in a minimum of 40 games last season (roughly half the year), Kuzmenko was first among all skaters with a 1.00 2A/60. For comparison, Tim Stutzle and Vladimir Tarasenko both had secondary assist rates of 0.57 per 60 last year. At that number, Kuzmenko would have seen 7 fewer secondary assists overall.

At 13%, Kuzmenko’s team even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) will certainly regress to a more normal range (8.5-10.5%), accounting for further regression in his point totals. 

Finally, the 27-year old converted 36.8% of his shots on the power play last season – 1st among ALL players that took a minimum of 30 shots on the man advantage. For reference, Leon Draisaitl was at 30.4% on the power play in 2022-2023. 

As I mentioned to Blake on Twitter, I am drafting Kuzmenko next season as a 60 point, 30 goal player; with the understanding that there is obvious upside based on his deployment and linemates.

#2 Jamie Benn (C/LW)
Dallas Stars
Level of Concern: 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Why We’re Concerned: Jamie Benn surprised us all this past season, posting 78 points and 33 goals after four consecutive seasons of playing at a 46 to 56 point pace over 82 games. I fully believed (expected?) age-related decline was settling in and fantasy managers could send Benn off into the sunset. As a 33-year old though, it’s probably safe to assume that last year was an outlier for Benn, so let’s dig into the numbers. 

The Stars captain posted 5-year highs on the power play – PP S% (22.8%), PP Shots (57), PP SOG/60 (14.2), and PP TOI/GM (2:56). I’m quite bearish on Benn for next season, so my assumption is that all of those numbers will decline to some degree. For example, Benn has averaged a power play shooting percentage of 17.6% over his career; should that be the case next season, expect at least 3 less PPGs, and that is assuming that Benn maintains his shot rate of 14.2 SOG/60, which is unlikely. In the two seasons prior to 2022-2023, Benn was firing pucks at a rate of 9.8 and 10.4 SOG/60. My expectation is that the Stars veteran is closer to 7 PPGs this coming season. 

Next up is Benn’s individual shooting percentage (iSH%), which was also a career-high at 17.4%! From 2019-2022, Jamie Benn averaged a shooting percentage of approximately 10.2%. The Stars forward has been very consistent in terms of shot rate in general though, settling in between 8.0 – 8.9 SOG/60 over the past 7 seasons. So assuming 8.5 SOG/60 and a 10.2 iSH%, Benn could potentially fall to just 19 goals next season. Even if the 33-year old can convert at his career average of 13.5%, and maintain last year’s deployment, we’re still only looking at 24 goals compared to last year’s 33

I will briefly mention that Benn’s 13.1% team even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) with him on the ice was also a career-high, and should settle back into a more normal range of 8.5-10%. What I’m more interested in is the secondary assist rate per 60, which was the third highest of Benn’s career at 0.86 2A/60 – AN 87% INCREASE from the year prior, and a 32% INCREASE over his career-average of 0.64 2A/60. If Jamie Benn is closer to his career average, expect a decline of at least 4 secondary assists for next season. 

Worst case scenario, Jamie Benn potentially sees an overall decline of 15 points and 9 goals from 2022-2023. My projection: 63 points, 24 goals. According to one source, Benn was taken 194th on average in ESPN and UNDRAFTED in Yahoo; that simply won’t be the case for this upcoming season, and it will be impossible to find value on the Dallas captain for 2023-2024.

#3 Linus Ullmark (G)
Boston Bruins
Level of Concern: 🚩🚩🚩🚩

Why We’re Concerned: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner turned in a performance for the ages with a 1.89 GAA, .938 SV%, and a 48.87 GSAA! Over the past 25 years, only four goaltenders (minimum of 25 games played) have posted a better even-strength save percentage than the .944 SV% that Linus Ullmark sported in 2023-2024 – Dominik Hasek (.947 SV%, 64 GP), Tim Thomas (.947 SV%, 57 GP), Brian Elliott (.945 SV%, 38 GP), and Anton Khudobin (.945 SV%, 30 GP).

All of this to say, replicating that performance is going to be incredibly difficult. This will be a very different Boston Bruins team next season with Patrice Bergeron announcing his retirement, and David Krejci expected to follow suit. Taylor Hall was traded to Chicago, Tyler Bertuzzi opted to sign in Toronto, and Dmitry Orlov inked a two-year deal with Carolina. The center depth is non-existent, and outside of the top 6 there isn’t much to love about the wings either…

The last thing I want to note about Ullmark is his .900 PKSV%. Goaltenders will always regress to the average of .860 on the penalty kill, so that alone points to some regression for the Bruins starter and should be considered along with the personnel changes. 

I was fortunate enough to draft Linus Ullmark late in our FHHL league last year (227th overall), but nobody is going to get a deal on the Bruins netminder this season – he’s going way before last year’s ADP OF 147 in Yahoo. Zero-G baby! 

#4 Vince Dunn (D)
Seattle Kraken 
Level of Concern: 🚩🚩🚩

Why We’re Concerned: Vince Dunn was fantastic for the Seattle Kraken last season, posting a career-best 64 points and 14 goals in 81 games. The former Blue also posted career-bests in +/- (+28), hits (115), PPP (15), PP Share (56.6%), and TOI (23:40). Dunn had previously never eclipsed the 40-point mark in his 6-year career, so this has to raise a few red flags for fantasy managers. 

First, Dunn’s team even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) with him on the ice this past season was 12.4%; a number that we know is not sustainable, but also well above Dunn’s previous career-high of 9.2% set back in 2019-2020. Looking at his individual shooting percentage (iSH%) of 9.4% (another career-high), it’s reasonable to expect that we see some regression closer to his 3-year and career averages of 7.9% and 6.9%, respectively. 

The Seattle defenceman also posted a career-high 0.66 secondary assists per 60 (2A/60), a 40% increase, and SEVEN additional secondary assists from the year prior. If you consider that Dunn’s career average is 0.42 2A/60, I would expect at least a 6-point decline just from secondary assists alone. 

The last trend that I’m not particularly fond of is the decline in SOG/60 over the past four seasons, going from 7.2 SOG/60 in 2019-2020 to just 4.7 SOG/60 this last year. My expectation for 2023-2024 would be something in the 54-58 point range, and approximately 12 goals. Overall, not a massive decline, but the “bust” comes into play when expectations are too high and players are taken too early.  

#5 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C/LW)
Edmonton Oilers 
Level of Concern: 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Why We’re Concerned: 2022-2023 was a career-season for “Nuge”, and Oilers fans were over the moon to see this guy break the century mark for the first time in his 12-year NHL career. However, prior to posting 104 points (37 goals) last season, Nugent-Hopkins’ best season was just 69 points and 28 goals. 

A 10.8 tEVSH% (team even-strength shooting percentage) is not incredibly alarming, but it is another career-high for the longtime Oiler. Speaking of career-highs and shooting percentages, Nugent-Hopkins converted on 18.4% of his 201 shots on goal last season; which absolutely smashed his 3-year and career averages of 13.1% and 12.2%, respectively. 

Most of you are probably thinking, but he’s a lock on the best power play in league history! That may be true, but Nuge also shot a career-high 25.0% on that power play, well above his career-average of 15.6%. That fact alone would have accounted for a SIX-GOAL drop in total production last season

The last point I want to mention is secondary assists per sixty minutes (2A/60). RNH experienced an 83% increase in secondary assists per 60, going from 0.36 2A/60 in 2021-2022, to 0.66 2A/60 in 2022-2023. The difference from season-to-season translated to another 6 points overall for the Oilers alternate captain.

Between the power play shooting percentage (PP SH%), secondary assists per 60 (2A/60), and his individual shooting percentage (iSH%), it’s possible that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins experiences a 23-point (11 goals, 12 assists) decline next season! Truthfully, I’m not sure the decline is quite that sharp; but the problem is that too many fantasy managers will draft this player (way ahead of his avg. ADP of 142.5 last season) with the expectation that another 100-point season is in the cards… I personally drafted Nuge 131st (11th round) overall last season, and I expect him to go AT LEAST three rounds higher this coming season.

Honourable (dishonorable?) Mentions: Jared McCann (SEA), Jeff Skinner (BUF), Brock Nelson (NYI), Alex Killorn (ANA), Tony DeAngelo (CAR).

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