Fantasy leagues are won and lost at the draft, and while you never truly know what you're going to get from any player, some selections are riskier than others.
Injury history, shooting percentage, and changes of scenery are all contributors to what makes certain picks bigger gambles than others. Below are five candidates for the 2018-19 season that will require careful consideration when you're on the clock.
The case against: Price is coming off a rotten 2017-18 season which was derailed by injuries and inconsistent play. His .900 save percentage was easily the lowest mark of his career, and at 30-years-old, there's no guarantee he returns to his old form. Plus, with Shea Weber out and a lack of offensive firepower up front, it's hard to imagine the Canadiens' skaters helping out their netminder.
The case for: He's still Carey Price. Last year went just about as bad as it could have. He's only one season removed from a Vezina caliber year where he posted a .923 save percentage and 37 wins. Price is one of the most dominant goalies of his generation, and even if his teammates don't perform, there's a chance he does well individually. Plus, if he plummets down the draft order, he could serve as an elite backup with other names flying off the board in the earlier rounds.
The case against: The Los Angeles Kings and fantasy owners alike will be eager to see how long it takes Kovalchuk to re-adjust to the NHL game after five seasons in Russia, and the 35-year-old will face pressure to perform in both instances. While he was brought in to help the Kings' attack, questions surrounding his usage and chemistry with new teammates will need to be answered before Kovalchuk can be considered a worthwhile early-round pick.
The case for: Kovalchuk is one of this generation's most prolific producers, registering 816 points in as many games before returning home to the KHL, where his numbers were even gaudier. If he stays healthy and finds his way onto Anze Kopitar's flank, there's a good chance he takes the NHL by storm again.
The case against: Whoever scooped Karlsson off the waiver wire early last season hit the jackpot, as his 43 goals stunned the hockey world. However, a 23.4 shooting percentage is a major red flag for impending regression.
The case for: Karlsson's motivation to perform is right in front of him, as the Golden Knights opted for a one-year contract rather than a long-term commitment. If he wants to prove he's a big-time producer worth building around, now's the time.
The case against: Lee no longer has the opportunity to play alongside John Tavares, which significantly hurts his value. Even after pouring in 74 goals over the past two seasons, Lee's fantasy outlook is largely in limbo without the former captain in the picture.
The case for: Lee's role in the Islanders' top six isn't going to change with Tavares in Toronto, and there's a strong possibility Calder Trophy winner Mat Barzal slots in on the top line. The 21-year-old has the talent to create space and ample opportunities for Lee to bury a good chunk of goals.
The case against: Was it a flash in the pan, or did Couturier suddenly develop into an offensive force in his seventh season in the NHL? Despite his incredible 2017-18 campaign, Couturier's larger career resume as a 30-40 point player makes his status at the top of draft boards a risky consideration.
The case for: Part of Couturier's emergence as an offensive threat last season (31G, 45A) was due to his pairing with Claude Giroux, who also set career-highs across the board on the Flyers' top line. Philadelphia keeping the duo together would certainly help Couturier's value as fantasy owners debate whether to roll the dice on last season's breakout star.
(Photos Courtesy: Getty Images)