2023-24 Fantasy Hockey: 7 underrated players to target in drafts

These players can be fantasy difference-makers this season and are steals at their current ADPs.

Aleksander Barkov (#16) of the Florida Panthers and John Carlson (#74) of the Washington Capitals are two steals in fantasy hockey drafts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Underrated players are on everyone’s mind during fantasy hockey draft season. Who is primed for a bounce-back year? Who is being unfairly faded due to an injury they’re fully recovered from? Who might have that massive breakout this season and vastly outperform their draft-day cost?

Not to worry, I’ve assembled a list of seven players whom I think are being unfairly underrated by the fantasy community at large.

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1. Kirill Kaprizov: LW, Minnesota Wild (ADP 15.0)

Kaprizov was drafted in the middle of the first round this time last year, then added two minutes of average ice time per game along with a significant increase in his individual and on-ice scoring chance for rates.

All of that should have resulted in career-best numbers for Kaprizov, but he was saddled with a steady parade of unimpressive centers and had the worst shooting percentage and on-ice shooting percentage marks of his career.

Add it all up and I think Kaprizov is a very strong threat for 50 goals and 100 points this season — and you can get him in the second round of your drafts.

2. Roman Josi: D, Nashville Predators (ADP 49.6)

I’m not sure what exactly Josi needs to do to get more respect from fantasy managers. This is a defenseman who has averaged 78 points per 82 games over the last four seasons but he's being faded into the fifth round?

I think most are expecting a subpar season for the Predators, but losing Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene’s combined 34 goals is not going to completely submarine an elite talent like Josi. I have Josi projected for over 300 shots — a tremendous contribution to that category from the blue line that your opponents won’t be able to match.

Josi represents a screaming value to me at his current ADP.

3. Aleksander Barkov: C, Florida Panthers (ADP 57.0)

Speaking of screaming values, Barkov remains one of the best on the board this draft season. Barkov has true 100-point upside in this run-and-gun Florida system and getting that kind of potential production at this ADP is a smash selection every time.

I think Barkov is primarily being underrated because he hasn’t put together a full season for some time, but as we saw with a player like Evgeni Malkin last year, injuries are not exactly predictable. I’m happy to take Barkov as early as the second round in most formats, so having him available so much later is pure money in the bank.

4. Andrei Svechnikov: LW, RW, Carolina Hurricanes (ADP 81.9)

Another injury-related fade, Svechnikov is coming off significant knee surgery but has not had any setbacks and has been skating since July. The Hurricanes may ease him back into the swing of things, but he’s already been practicing on the top power play, which makes him a solid bet to be in the opening day lineup.

You have to bump Svechnikov up your board in any league that counts hits, as he throws the body around with abandon. Sprinkle in 70+ points and you have a category-league beast in the making whom you can pick at the end of the seventh round right now.

5. John Carlson: D, Washington Capitals (ADP 92.8)

Carlson’s ADP is one of the most puzzling things I’ve encountered this season. He has put up 70-point paces season after season but had a down year with a freak injury to boot. Now, he’s being left for dead in the defenseman rankings.

I didn’t see anything in Carlson’s underlying numbers to suggest he’s in decline at age 33. In fact, Carlson posted the best shots, individual scoring chances for, and on-ice scoring chance for rates of his career last season but ran into some subpar luck with his share of the Washington offense.

I’m banking on a big bounce-back for Carlson and gobbling up the value with him this late in drafts.

6. Kris Letang: D, Pittsburgh Penguins (ADP 124.8)

I can at least understand the hesitation with Letang that's caused him to fall to this level — Erik Karlsson is in town fresh off a historic 101-point season. But Letang has been a bankable fantasy asset for a decade at this point and early rumblings have both Karlsson and Letang on the top power-play unit.

In that case, I would anticipate the arrival of Karlsson to be as much of a boon to Letang’s fantasy potential as a hindrance, making him a very enticing option later in drafts due to his combination of point production and peripheral category stuffing.

7. Zach Werenski: D, Columbus Blue Jackets (ADP 160.0)

I hate to admit it after last year cratered so spectacularly, but I’m slowly buying into the potential of this Blue Jackets team once again this offseason. Werenski is a shot-generating monster from the back end and one of the few defensemen around the league you can reasonably project to approach or exceed 20 goals this season.

If Adam Fantilli or Kent Johnson can add a new dimension to the Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine-led power play, Werenski could be in a prime position to collect a ton of power-play points while continuing to skate huge minutes for this up-and-coming Columbus squad.

The best part is, you hardly have to pay a red cent to see if it’s going to work out, as Werenski is coming off the board even later than total question marks like Filip Hronek and Brandt Clarke.

Nate Groot Nibbelink is the creator of Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and the originator of the #ZeroG draft strategy. You can find him pontificating about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server or on Twitter/X @applesginos.