Following the path from the last couple of years, here’s a list of some injury-riddled underachieving veterans from last campaign. Most pool providers, like Yahoo!, generally base their pre-season draft rankings on the overall stats posted from the previous season, which could lead many of the following players to be severely undervalued heading into 2012-13. Make sure you make a mental note of these players and don’t fall into the trap of undervaluing them like some of your competitors might on draft day.
Nicklas Backstrom – C – Washington Capitals
Backstrom was on pace for a great rebound season while posting 44 points in 42 games before succumbing to concussion issues in January. The Caps altered their approach into more of a defensive emphasis under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter, but could possibly revert back to a more offensive game plan under new head coach Adam Oates (who was in charge of the Devils PP unit last campaign). Backstrom definitely should be ranked much higher than his current 51st average draft position that Yahoo! drafts are giving him credit for.
Andy McDonald – C/LW – St. Louis Blues
McDonald only managed to suit up for 25 contests last campaign as he was hampered by concussion and shoulder issues. With that said, he did manage to tally 22 points in the regular season and capped it off by tallying 10 more in nine post-season contests. Injuries have always been a sticking point with McDonald, but if you can get beyond that fact, he does maintain a 0.81 point-per-game average during his time with the Blues. McDonald’s only been drafted in five percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is well below the numbers that he should be at.
Mike Green – D – Washington Capitals
It’s been a tough past couple of years for Green as he’s been decimated by injuries. It’s interesting to see how just two years ago he was largely considered a “must own” in pretty much all formats of fantasy hockey. However, two seasons later and he’s chopped liver and currently ranked as the 109th pick in Yahoo! drafts. It just highlights how fickle the game of fantasy hockey really is, go figure?
Mikko Koivu – C – Minnesota Wild
Koivu only managed to post 44 points and 129 SOG last campaign, which isn’t surprising as a result to see him on average being drafted as the 156th pick in Yahoo! drafts. If you consider the fact that he posted those numbers in just 55 contests, that’s what makes him severely undervalued heading into this fantasy season. If you take into consideration the off-season acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Koivu should definitely be much higher up in the draft order than the default Yahoo! rankings give credit for.
Travis Zajac – C – New Jersey Devils
After registering five consecutive 80+ games played seasons, Zajac ended that streak when he sustained an Achilles injury in off-season pylometrics training last summer, which saw him manage to only suit up for 15 regular season contests. He returned with a bang while posting 14 points in 24 contests during the Devils great post-season run and shouldn’t be forgotten heading into draft day.
David Perron – LW – St. Louis Blues
Perron missed the first two months of the season dealing with concussion issues, but when he did manage to return in December, he was absolutely lights out while posting 42 points in 57 contests. Armed with a new four-year deal, Perron should have a much bigger impact in fantasy leagues this campaign.
Tyler Ennis – LW – Buffalo Sabres
Ennis missed a large chunk of the 2011-12 season due to an ankle injury, but he still managed to post 34 points in 48 contests. The trio of Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford had some ripping chemistry in the latter half of the season, and if they can manage to rekindle that magic, they’re certainly are a line to keep a close watch for in 2012-13. Interesting fact: the Sabres were 27-13-8 with Ennis in the lineup, but were just 12-19-3 in his absence.
Nathan Horton – LW – Boston Bruins
Concussions were rife in the NHL last season, and Horton was another victim of the dreadful head injury. The positive note is that although the injury sidelined him for nearly half the campaign, he did manage to post 32 points before being shut down. That’s great news for savvy poolies, as that dropped him down to a Yahoo! pre-season ranking of the 166th pick, making him a great late round steal. Make sure you move him up a few notches on draft day or he’ll fly under-the-radar.
Martin Havlat – RW – San Jose Sharks
Not many people could attest to injuring themselves while exiting the team bench, but Havlat managed to pull off that feat managing to suit up for only 39 contests last campaign. Many poolies will shy away from Havlat’s band-aid boyness, but if you’re a gambler, he could be a great steal given his offensive upside. He’s only seven percent drafted in Yahoo! leagues at the moment and could be a vital player that makes you look like a genius come April.
Alex Steen – LW – St. Louis Blues
Steen was another Blue that missed significant time due to concussion issues last campaign as he managed to post 28 points in 43 contests. He doesn’t possess as much upside as McDonald or Perron, but he could be worth snagging in deeper fantasy pools or as late round roster filler.
Jeff Carter – C – Los Angeles Kings
Carter registered just 34 points last campaign, which is his lowest ever total since becoming an NHL regular after the 2004 lockout. I don’t think he’ll garner the opportunity in LA that he needs in order to become a solid fantasy option, but his current ranking as the 43rd C in Yahoo! is drastically well below where he should be.
Joni Pitkanen – D – Carolina Hurricanes
With strong pedigreed blue-liners like Justin Faulk, Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain and Bobby Sanguinetti as competition, it’s interesting to see how Pitkanen always seems to finish the season as the number one blue-liner in Carolina. During the last four seasons, he has averaged 25:18 and 4:11 on the PP per contest for the Canes. Pitkanen missed over 50 contests last season due to concussion and knee problems, which have dropped his Yahoo! rank down into the 140s. He won’t finish 2012-13 that low, so make sure you slide up him the draft ranks.
James Wisniewski – D – Columbus Blue Jackets
Despite all of the negativity in Columbus in 2011-12, Wissy was actually one of the bright spots for the Jackets. He posted 27 points and 99 SOG in 48 contests, which would have pro-rated to 46 points and 169 SOG over the course of a full 82-game season and given him a top-20 rating amongst all blue-liners. Poolies can thank his suspension, broken ankle and concussion issues, which has dropped his pre-season ranking down to the 32nd ranked defenseman heading into the fantasy season.
James Van Riemsdyk – LW – Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian Burke shuffled the deck in the off-season by swapping hard-nosed blue-liner Luke Schenn to the Flyers for JVR. You can consider this a “buy low” move since JVR managed to only suit up for 43 contests last campaign while dealing with a plethora of random injuries which included a concussion, a broken foot, a strained oblique and a strained rib. In his injury-shortened stint he did manage to post 24 points along with a whopping 121 SOG. If he can manage to maintain that type of production in Leafland, there’ll surely be plenty of happy Leaf fans in 2012-13.
Simon Gagne – LW – Los Angeles Kings
If you aren’t afraid of rolling the dice on band-aid boys, then Gagne is a pretty solid option to seriously consider. Since the lockout, Gagne has averaged 0.83 points and 3.28 SOG per contest, but the downside is that he also has averaged just 58.1 games played per season. If you’re running out of late-round options and don’t have very much to lose, why not take a punt on Gagne and see what he can surprise you with?
M.A. Bergeron – D – Tampa Bay Lightning
There aren’t very many blue-liners that are serious threats to surpass the 40-point plateau but Bergeron is certainly one of them. The only downside is that much like a few of the candidates listed above, he is a huge band-aid boy risk. It’d be silly to expect him to play in a full 82-game season, but if you are in a Roto league with plenty of IR spots, and you are able to pair his starts with another blue-liner, it wouldn’t be all that difficult to piece together a 40 or even 50 point season if you can find the right combination.
Peter Mueller – LW – Florida Panthers
Life hasn’t been all that rosy for Mueller since 2010 after experiencing on and off concussion-like symptoms. He’ll receive a fresh new start in Florida, which seems to have found the right formula for rejuvenating reclamation projects such as Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell, Mikael Samuelsson and Wojtek Wolski. He’s largely left undrafted in Yahoo! leagues, so if you’re looking for a boom or bust candidate to invest in look no further than Mueller.
2011-12 wasn’t a great season for the double G’s in Montreal as the duo managed to combine for only 26 points and 69 games played last campaign. At the moment, even youngster Alex Galchenyuk, who hasn’t yet played a single NHL game, is on average being drafted higher than both of the seasoned veterans. There’s taking risks and then there’s taking calculated risks, consider selecting these two Habs in the latter half of the equation.
Daniel Carcillo – LW – Chicago Blackhawks
Goons with the capability to combine for 30+ points, 70+ SOG along with 200+ PIMs is certainly a rarity in the NHL, but that is exactly the stat line that “Car Bomb Carcillo” is capable of. If it wasn’t for an right knee ACL tear in early January, that might have been the result that Carcillo could have posted at season’s end. If you’re looking for a cheap PIM option at the draft table, look no further than the Hawk LWer.
Andrei Markov – D – Montreal Canadiens
Markov always seems to find himself in these types of lists, but always seems to tease us with his health. During the last three campaigns, he has on average suited up in just 21.7 contests per season for Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. Montreal is extremely thin on the blue-line, and if Markov can finally manage to remain healthy, he could garner a large chunk of the offensive opportunity available from the backend. Just be warned that you are going to be playing with fire if you are deciding to take a leap of faith on the soon-to-be 34 year old.
Anders Lindback – G – Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman desperately needed to add a number one goaltender to help alleviate some of the problems that occurred between the pipes last campaign, so he went out and acquired Lindback from the Preds during the off-season. Lindback appeared in only 16 contests while posting an unimpressive 5-8-0 record along with a run-of-the-mill 2.42 GAA and .912 SP, which has dropped him down as the 36th goalie on average taken at Yahoo! draft tables. Lindback does have a short resume, but does have the potential to challenge and overtake the number one gig away from Matheiu Garon, which could make him a real steal come April.
Wojtek Wolski – LW – Washington Capitals
The former first rounder definitely didn’t have a great season last year as he bounced around with a couple of clubs and only posted 12 points in 31 games played. The Caps signed him to a cheap as chips $600k one-year contract to prove himself with very little risk to the team. If he can manage to post 45-50 points, that would certainly help fill the void that was left by the departure of Alex Semin.
Are there any that I might have overlooked? Questions or comments? As always I’ll discuss them in the section below.
Should you be so inclined, follow me on Twitter if you think that my article/tweets are useful.