After a lengthy offseason chock-full of trades, free-agent signings and the Blackhawks’ selection of potential franchise superstar Connor Bedard, it’s time to dive into some fantasy hockey action.
While we’ll get to several topics here at FantasyPros as the season approaches, we’ll begin our 2023-24 NHL fantasy hockey coverage with our bust list. We’ll take a look at some names at each position and offer up why we are avoiding these players on draft day.
Let’s get after it!
NHL Fantasy Hockey 2023-24 Bust List
2022-23: 82 GP, 37 G, 67 A, 35 PIM, +12, 201 SOG, 53 PPP
As long as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is healthy, skating in a top-six role and playing on the best power play in the NHL over the last two seasons alongside the best two players in the NHL, he is a significant fantasy asset. However, don’t head into your draft expecting a repeat of his 2022-23 production.
For one, goal-scoring regression is a near certainty. “The Nuge” ripped home a career-high 37 goals last season, a hefty nine goals superior to his previous career-high of 28 set in the 2018-19 campaign. That said, the regression will come at the expense of his sky-high 18.4% shooting rate, which finished in excess of 6% above his career 12.2% clip. In fairness, the hockey gods owed him one after a 7.1% shooting rate two seasons back, but do not expect another 35-plus goal season.
Nugent-Hopkins is a wonderful fantasy asset, but do not expect him to finish fourth among centers in points against this time around.
2022-23: 82 GP, 27 G, 40 A, 19 PIM, -30, 198 SOG, 20 PPP
Logan Couture is a very nice hockey player in his own right; he just plays for the wrong team.
Indeed, the rebuilding San Jose Sharks are, in all likelihood, headed for basement-ish duties in the Western Conference. This means Couture won’t have the support around him to reach his production from a season ago.
He’s managed to remain productive on some bad Sharks teams of late, but keep in mind there’s a missing piece here: Timo Meier. Couture spent much of last season playing with Meier – especially on the power play – while Daily Faceoff currently projects him to skate with Mike Hoffman and Anthony Duclair to start this season. Line combinations are subject to change big-time at this juncture, but outside of fellow pivot Tomas Hertl, the Sharks severely lack talent up front.
Oh, and Erik Karlsson and his 100-point season is also missing from this team’s top power play, in addition to the 40-goal man Meier. Couture doesn’t shoot the puck enough to sustain his 27-goal mark from last season, while his plus/minus rating could get ugly as the season progresses.
2022-23: 81 GP, 39 G, 35 A, 8 PIM, +9, 143 SOG, 19 PPP
Andrei Kuzmenko shattered expectations as a rookie on a weak Canucks team last season. He nearly reached the 40-goal plateau while largely skating alongside No. 1 center Elias Pettersson, who enjoyed a 100-point season for himself.
Buyer beware: The goal-scoring regression could be vast. The 27-year-old led the entire NHL with an eye-popping 27.3% shooting percentage last season. He took just 143 shots, and 39 of them managed to find the back of the net. That will happen again.
Skating with Pettersson and maintaining a PP1 spot should keep him relatively productive, but a significant goal-scoring drop hurts, especially since Kuzmenko doesn’t do anything else very well in the peripherals fantasy hockey categories. I’d leave the sophomore alone until late in drafts this fall.
2022-23: 82 GP: 33 G, 45 A, 34 PIM, +23, 190 SOG, 30 PPP
It’s a bald-faced lie if you’re telling your buddies you predicted that type of bounce-back season from Jamie Benn. Benn recorded just 29 goals and 81 points across 134 games across his previous two seasons before approaching a point-per-game at age 33 a season ago. That said, I have difficulty seeing a repeat of such redemption.
Again, we’ll go back to the shooting rate. Benn’s 17.4% shooting percentage was the highest of his 14-year NHL career and more than 4% above his career mark. It’s also worth noting that he rebounded despite a dip in ice time at 15:47 per game, the lowest of his career since his 2009-2010 rookie season. Given his age and the wear and tear on his body, I’d expect another dip in ice time this season.
It’s also a problem for Benn if Mason Marchment rebounds after a tough first season with the Stars, as the former could slip down to third on the left-wing depth chart in Dallas. I’ll eat my hat if Benn touches 78 points again this season.
2022-23: 50 GP, 19 G, 23 A, 20 PIM, -4, 157 SOG, 13 PPP
I love me some Filip Forsberg on good Nashville Predators teams, but that likely won’t be the case this season. Add in a lengthy injury history, and Forsberg should fall the draft ranks this season.
The Preds appear set to rebuild, or “re-tool,” as they call it these days, and Forsberg is one of the few remaining pieces from productive Predators clubs. The Preds cleaned out their center depth this summer by trading Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche and buying out fellow pivot Matt Duchene. They brought in Ryan O’Reilly, but the two-way center is on the back nine of his career and does not push the pace offensively.
Also, consider Forsberg has not skated in over 69 games in each of his last six seasons. Investing in an injury-prone player on a poor team with weak offensive support doesn’t appear to be a prudent move.
2022-23: 80 GP: 10 G, 43 A, 56 PIM, +49, 158 SOG, 17 PPP
Hampus Lindholm was one of the biggest surprises among fantasy hockey blueliners last season, as he took advantage of a late start from teammate Charlie McAvoy to handle early-season No. 1 defenseman duties in Boston.
The problem is the defense-first veteran never eclipsed 34 points in a season since his 2014-15 sophomore year until producing a hefty 53 points last season. Sure, he finally moved to an improved offense in Boston over his weak Ducks teams of late, but that is a meteoric rise in production.
With two long-time Bruins pivots, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, hanging up their skates this summer, there are big questions about how Boston’s lack of center ice depth will affect their offense. Additionally, a healthy McAvoy will surely handle PP1 duties as long as he’s out there, which delivers another gut punch to Lindholm’s outlook.
The Bruins are a defense-first team at heart, and I expect Lindholm to follow that trend following a career year at the offensive end of the ice.
2022-23: 85 GP, 13 G, 42 A, 36 PIM, -7, 163 SOG, 31 PPP
In a very rare occurrence, Tyson Barrie played an 85-game regular season. He began his season with the Oilers before being included in the Mattias Ekholm trade and ending up in Nashville. One is not like the other here, folks.
Barrie surged to 43 points in 61 games (0.70 P/GP) before posting a decent 12 points in 24 games (0.50 P/GP) with the Preds. He averaged 0.39 power play points per game with Edmonton’s elite top unit but recorded just 0.13 power play points per game in the Music City. This type of trend should continue this season.
There’s next to no chance Barrie bumps Roman Josi off the top power-play unit this season, leaving him quarterbacking an exceptionally weak second unit. The Predators already finished with a 27th-ranked power play last season, and that doesn’t figure to improve much.
He’s already a defensive liability, so we can also prepare ourselves for a disastrous plus/minus. Avoid Barrie at all costs on draft day.
2022-23: 48 GS: 29 W, 2.75 GAA, .914 Sv%, 1 SO
Stuart Skinner was a savior for the Edmonton Oilers last season as the well-compensated Jack Campbell struggled mightily out of the gate and for much of the season overall. As a result, Skinner received 48 starts to Campbell’ls 34, but that could easily change this season.
Expect the Oilers to give their $5 million man every chance to find his game to begin the season. While he scuffled in the second half of the 2021-22 season before signing his big deal with the Oilers. Campbell did enjoy a productive 77-game regular-season stint with the Maple Leafs and owns a solid .910 Sv% across 171 career appearances. Meanwhile, Skinner still has just 64 career games under his belt and a very similar .912 Sv% in that time.
I expect a 50/50 split out of the gate until the Oilers find out who is hot. Both netminders should see a fair share of the crease, but there’s simply too much risk in investing any significant draft capital into Skinner at this point.
2022-23: 40 GS, 27 W, 2.33 GAA, .919 Sv%, 4 SO
You would expect the starting goaltender on the Toronto Maple Leafs to provide your fantasy club with plenty of wins. However, a rookie is looming behind Ilya Samsonov as his backup in the form of Joseph Woll.
Samsonov was sensational in his first season with the Leafs last season, but it was also a reb0und off a tough final season in Washington, which is why he became a free agent to begin with. In fact, the Russian netminder has alternated quality and poor seasons in his four-year NHL career, culminating in a .908 Sv% in 131 regular-season appearances. He has also never appeared in more than 44 games in a season, otherwise known as roughly half an NHL regular season.
He’s playing on a one-year deal with an improving rookie breathing down his neck. I fully expect the Leafs to give Woll his fair share of starts, while regression on Samsonov’s overall numbers should be expected this time around.