It is that time of year: Time for fantasy hockey GMs to self-reflect and really ask ourselves: did I leave my 2022 draft with the right pieces to compete for a championship? Whether you made a deep playoff run or finished at the bottom of your league. To improve as GM we need to look at this year’s drafts to gain more perspective and how to improve our approach to future drafts. As each of us dive into this reflection how do we determine where we missed, where we hit?
As you enter the mid to late rounds, you must ask yourself: did, I reach too far on that goalie, defenseman or promising forward? Look, you can only score goals if you’re willing to take more shots. I applaud those GMs in drafts that take blue-line clappers on a gut feeling with a high upside. The reality is some of those picks can be so wide of the mark, that it makes you want to throw up a little in your mouth.
Personally, I probably over-prepare myself each year which leads to a player queue longer than Santa’s ‘nice’ list and endless reasons to debate between a right or wrong choice with every pick. Today, I will share with you a confession, a non-filtered dissection of some of my big swings that missed in 2022/23. We’ll focus on the draft from my main home league: a 12-team, 4-keeper, categories league that I have been in with the same group of guys for over a decade.
This reflection quickly turns into something that sounds like a journal entry of someone with deep-seated mental health challenges. Though I must admit, my madness when it comes to drafting, is based on optimism. I look to fire shots at anyone who has any type of “high upside” label across their foreheads.
I tend to get too amped for those guys with the most potential or upside, but if you hit on them, we all know that they can take you all the way to glory. If you miss though – damn! A solemn feeling of emptiness: a fridge without beer, a rink with no ice, you’re a shell of a man. It cuts deep.
Let’s dive in with the five most disappointing players I drafted this year and see what we can learn together from these picks.
Yahoo 2022-23 Predraft Ranking: 63
ADP: Late 7th to early 8th
Current Yahoo in-season ranking: 811
Drafted by me: 12th round
First and foremost, let’s acknowledge that Centre is one of the deepest positions in fantasy, and coming out of the draft I really thought I got great value here. I was completely fired up for the revamped Sens top 6 with Norris likely the 1C, skating with at least Giroux and/or Batherson. I thought for sure this was a slam dunk, especially as my number two C.
I personally think Josh Norris is one of the most underrated young Centres in the league and with a better-supporting cast, I felt certain he was primed to take another step forward from his 55 points and 35 goals in the 2021-22 season. Yet, Josh was the first to break my heart this season, getting significantly hurt with a shoulder injury in the first month of the season (Oct 22nd). Sure, I put him directly on IR in the hopes he would be back. As 3 months of hopeful months passed, I was amped to get him back in early January (Jan 18th), only to then watch him go down the tunnel in the 3rd period of that game with the same injury, that was brutal. Norris was officially ruled out for the season five days after his return (Jan 23rd).
Do I regret this draft pick? No! I am still a big believer in Norris. This season came down to bad luck and going hard into the boards shoulder first. LTIR – the kryptonite of any GM. It hurts a little more when it’s a player you really wanted on your squad.
As for my opinion on Norris heading into next year, I think I will remain high on him. Based on Yahoo 2022-23 pre-draft rankings he was projected to finish top 20 at the C position. However, I think somewhere in the top 25 for the position is more realistic. I think he can easily return to a 60–65-point player with a 30-plus goal upside, especially with the supporting cast remaining around him.
His career shooting percentage is unsustainable at 18.5% long term, but I still believe based on a quick release, he can realistically maintain a 12-15% shooting percentage moving forward. If you can get him as your number two or three C on a squad next year in the 10-13th round, you’ve snagged yourself some great value.
Yahoo 2022-23 Predraft Ranking: 139
ADP: Early 10th
Current Yahoo in season ranking: 162
Drafted by me: 10th round
Why do I love thee so… all you do is hurt me, but I always come back for more.
I know you might be sensing a theme here with my second Sens player, but I assure you that I am not a Sens fan. Did I believe with their additions it would yield some great fantasy output? Absolutely yes! I wasn’t completely wrong with Giroux having a bounce-back year and my boy Timmy Stuzzzz having an unreal breakout season.
Chabot on the other hand, I have always been a fan going back to his world junior days. He somehow always ends up on my main fantasy squads. Despite my fan-boy affiliation with him he always seems to underwhelm and leave this displeased feeling in my gut each season.
This season was no different missing multiple games again due to various injuries, which is a common theme with this guy. Disappearing for games at a time not even taking a single shot on goal all while manning the top PP and averaging more than 25 minutes TOI per game. To make matters worse prospect and stud D Jake Sanderson made the team out of camp and once he established himself started to take ice time and eventually PP1 away from Chabot.
So, to say there were warning signs that Chabot would underperform to projected rankings would probably be an understatement. I even went as far as to trade him mid-season to acquire Morgan Reilly. A move I loved, as a Leaf’s fan, but had to sacrifice a mid-round pick for next season to get the move locked in.
Of course, though with my inexplicable loyalty to this player, I went out to re-acquired him before the trade deadline (old habits die hard). I really can’t explain to you why I can’t not have him on my team. He is still a 40-plus point D man with 10 goals (as of March 29th) with half his points coming on the PP (20 PPP as of March 29th) but he just leaves me (and likely all other GMs) wanting more.
As for my outlook on Chabot heading into next year, I have some real concerns. He is certainly draftable, but I wouldn’t look to take him until late as your last or even your 5th D. The main reason is that in my opinion, Chabot will see a significant shift in his role next season – especially if this season is any indicator. He’ll be losing ice time and PP1 to Sanderson as well as now competing for ice time and any PP time with recently acquired D Jakob Chychrun.
I love these three pieces on the backend for the Sens in real life but from a fantasy perspective, you must ask yourself: can all three of them be fantasy relevant. I personally don’t think so one of them will be taking a back seat offensively to the other two and if I had to put money on which one it would be Chabot.
If anyone out there can help me shake my man-crush before next season, I would really appreciate it. I feel like some giggly little kid who has a crush on their teacher when it comes to my dear Thomas… even knowing what I want out of the relationship is never going to happen.
Yahoo 2022-23 Predraft Ranking: 150
ADP: Late 14th to Early 15th
Current Yahoo in season ranking: 334
Drafted by me: 13th round
I am going to start this one off simply: I want this guy to be good so badly. It’s like that feeling any dad would get when your kid always seems to be the last cut at hockey tryouts.
Let’s do a sanity check on Jarvis this season: high-end top 15 draft pick (2020), sees regular time in the top 6 with the likes of Aho and Necas, and averages 2:00 minutes per game on the PP. To me, this is all a signal of upside and opportunity for the 21-year-old winger.
Ok, I do understand that Brind’Amour puts his lines in a blender on regular basis and his TOI rarely goes over 16:00 minutes. However, with exposure to the top 6 in a very strong Canes team, I hoped for a breakout season with Jarvis, versus the sophomore slump that he has experienced. Let’s be clear he didn’t really break out in his rookie campaign either but in most fantasy circles, I think everyone wants this kid to be good. His SOG per game has marginally increased from 1.6 SOG per game last season to 2.3 SOG per game this year. This could be the glimmer of hope we want to see as the season ends. This guy just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that tastes like a reach in my draft who ultimately landed on waivers.
As for my perspective on his outlook for next season, for me, it will ultimately come down to deployment. If Jarvis can carve out a more permanent role in the Canes top 6 and even better on their top PP, I think he can become a 50–55-point player with goal scoring upside. However, for me, I don’t see him as any more than a streamer when he is running hot. Sadly, I won’t have him on my draft board next year.
Yahoo 2022-23 Predraft Ranking: 144
ADP: Mid 14th
Current Yahoo in season ranking: 669
Drafted by me: 14th round
Another clear example of a player who left us all wanting more. Think of your last meal out, the burger gets put in front of you and visually it looks amazing. Then you dig in only to realize it is a vegan beyond-meat slab of cardboard – back to the kitchen with you!
Vrana is that player to a tee since he entered the league. Whether it was high expectations or a hope that he could be that next stud Russian winger. Us GMs that are ever-hopeful were ready to jump on him as the next great goal scorer. Vrana faced some of his own personal challenges this year that also didn’t help his value and contributions to any GM who took a chance on him in their drafts. However, even before that with the Wings, he saw very inconsistent TOI, and line deployment. He was even faced with a few healthy scratches before he went into the league player support program.
Vrana has shown flashes in the past being a former 24 (2018-19) and 25 (2019-20) goal scorer with the Caps. This leads me to understand why so many of us believe in his upside and why he could be great. He also has a career shooting percentage of 14.6% which is a very reasonable number that could be realistic for him to maintain. He is a player that I think will continue to be drafted just because of that hope and clear upside of what he could be. Again, though warning signs are there never played more than 60 games in a season, still only averaging just over 2 SOG per game in his career, he’s just a true roller coaster of a player.
I’d like to say that next year he will be viewed differently because of opportunity alone now that he is with the Blues. Currently skating in their top 6 with the likes of Rob Tom, Buchnevich, and Kyrou, this premium deployment bodes well for him to surpass 14:00 TOI. However, I want to be realistic with this player as to me he is a “prove” it player for fantasy purposes. Yes, he will still have the upside we all believe him to be a potential 30+ goal-scoring winger, but until he does it and can stay healthy for more than a 60-game season, how can we even consider this a possibility?
Don’t draft this guy, streamer material all day long when he’s running hot, or maybe he becomes the waiver wire add of the year in 2024.
Thatcher Demko (Keeper)
Yahoo 2022-23 Predraft Ranking: 59
ADP: Early 5th
Current Yahoo in season ranking: 264
Drafted by me: Equivalent to the 4th round.
I could not write this article without including Demko in my reflection. I basically bet my season on this guy doing what he did last season for the Canucks. I had fever dreams of him taking the squad on his back and carrying us to another potential championship. Last year he was flat-out elite 33 wins, 2.72 GAA and a 915 SV%.
Fast forward to this year’s performance 11 wins, 3.37 GAA, and a 0.894 SV%, oh and missing more than 3 months with an injury. I finally got the dream girl to say yes to prom and then right before the big dance she bailed on me for the captain of the football team: why Thatcher, why?
To make matters worse I broke my one cardinal rule that I have always lived by in fantasy for over 15 years: don’t ever keep a goalie… let alone one that you lose a 4th round pick for. The classic tale: I fell for a previous year’s performance so hard that I didn’t even realize it until the reality of what goalies truly are revealed itself yet again.
I have always been a believer in the #ZeroG strategy, I have never been loyal to any goalie and have no issues streaming them on a regular basis, how did I fall so far to this evil? Part of me was trying to do something different this year but another part of me always hated keeping Demko.
Since his return in late Feb 2023, Demko has returned to putting up elite numbers posting a .928 SV% and 4 wins in his first 5 games back. To me, this means that the elite goaltender we saw last season is still very capable of playing at that level again. Unfortunately going into next year can we really bank on him to return to a top-10 fantasy goalie? With how volatile the position is and how drastic it changes year over year this is certainly not even close to a sure thing. I will be staying far away from drafting and or keeping any goalies before the late rounds in next year’s drafts.
It’s the End
I am just going to take a deep breath for a second. I will need a drink after this one. I love this sport and fantasy hockey so much, but it truly is being trapped in a glass box of emotion for 8 months.
So, what does this deep dive into my worst draft picks of the 2022/23 season ultimately mean and how will it shape my approach to next year’s draft? I will leave you all with these key takeaways that I know will be part of my strategy bible moving forward.
- Don’t over-invest in any team that on paper looks to be improved.
- Lead with your head, not your heart: try not to let being a fanboy or player loyalty dictate where you draft any player.
- Upside or a fool’s hope does not yield fantasy gold in the later rounds.
- Injuries are unpredictable and will always be part of the game, this is just bad luck and not a reflection of any GMs draft strategy.
- The previous year’s performance from any player from the mid to late rounds means diddly to the next season’s potential and where they should fall on your draft boards.
- Don’t trust any goalie, ever!
I hope sharing my grievances and failures brings you hope and joy as we look forward to next season. We all must continue to look to evolve, grow and enhance our strategies for our squad to maximize our potential for success.
Lastly, always remember you can’t score without taking some shots, there will always be risk/reward guys in every draft. Look to arm yourself with as much information on those players as you can to make the most educated choice. I look forward to representing the A&G brand and along with the rest of the team bringing you more great off-season content heading into next season.
Cheers to those GMs who brought home their respective championships this season and to all those GMs that never stopped working, we live for it and are here for it all day long!
Craig@craigerslife or look me up on the A&G discord channel @Craiger
Yahoo Fantasy Sports Pre-season Ranking 2022-23
Dobber Sports, Frozen Tools
NHL.com 2022-23 player stats