The term “overrated” has an inherently negative connotation, and perhaps rightly so. After all, claiming someone doesn’t meet their perceived value isn’t exactly a compliment. In the case of NHL players, being overrated doesn’t necessarily mean the individual is abysmal and shouldn’t be employed. It simply implies they are paid or revered an excessive amount relative to their actual value as a hockey player.
Some of the players on this list of the NHL’s 10 most overrated players are in fact quite good in their respective roles. Due to the media, outlier career-highs in production, or simply overvaluing aspects of their game, some of these players have generated an excessive and undeserved amount of hype that landed them either big contracts or a perpetual narrative to their benefit.
There will never be a definitive list when it comes to sports and overrated players; it’s a subjective process through and through. It all depends on what aspects of the game you deem most valuable, the amount of money they make, and their role on the team. Because of that, lists such as these tend to spark considerable debate among fans on which players should be crowned the most overrated.
So with that in mind, here is our list of the 10 most overrated players currently playing in the NHL.
10. Evander Kane – Winnipeg Jets
There was some internal debate on whether Evander Kane should be on this list, but after much deliberation, the 23-year-old is our 10th most overrated player in the NHL. What makes Kane such a difficult selection is that he’s still so young and has plenty of time to realize his top line potential. So far, however, he’s been inconsistent. His best season came in 2011-12 when he produced 30 goals and 57 points. His second best campaign, however, is a steep decline at 43 points—granted, his points-per-game pace was better than that last season with 41 points in 63 games.
9. Bobby Ryan – Ottawa Senators
The 27-year-old is a solid player, there’s no disputing that. The question is whether he’s worth a whopping $7.25 million until he’s 34 years old. Ryan had notched four consecutive 30-plus goal seasons from 2008 to 2012, but has since regressed with the Ottawa Senators. He produced a disappointing 23 goals and 48 points in his first season with his new team, and so far this campaign he’s on pace for 20 goals and around 50 points. Those aren’t bad numbers, but it’s second line production from a player deemed as first line sniper. Ryan’s career-high is an impressive 71 points and 35 goals and, considering his age, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to match that at some point during his seven-year extension.
8. Jordan Staal – Carolina Hurricanes
Having yet to play a game this season due to injury, it might seem cruel to kick the 26-year-old while he’s down, but Jordan Staal’s offensive production has long been overvalued. His defensive play is solid, and he deserves credit for that, but his career-high is 25 goals and 50 points with the high-scoring Penguins. His .56 career points-per-game rate suggests he is a 45-point center with strong defensive awareness. So he’s a good player, just not worth his $6 million cap hit that runs through the 2022-23 season. One gets the feeling his contract was digestible for the Carolina Hurricanes simply to have the Staal brothers united.
7. Mike Smith – Arizona Coyotes
Now 32 years old, goaltender Mike Smith has three above average seasons under his belt—he is currently playing in his eighth campaign. His inconsistency as a starting goaltender, however, still landed him a role as the third-string goaltender for Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics. He also makes a considerable amount of dough at $5.66 million through 2018-19. His career save percentage is also average at .912 considering the praise he gets in the media. It’s not to suggest Smith is bad goaltender, he’s not, but his numbers suggest he’s simply an average starting goaltender in the NHL.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury’s career save percentage is .911, barely average, and yet he is often considered as one of the league’s top goaltenders. The problem with that assessment is that, well, he’s simply not.
Fleury is a decent goaltender who struggles with consistency and the odd soft goal. If not for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ solid puck-possession play, it seems likely Fleury would struggle under a heavier workload in terms of shots faced. If you’re not convinced he’s carried by a strong team, consider that his career SV% in the playoffs is a mediocre .905 despite winning a Stanley Cup. It’s a prime example of why hardware does not determine an individual player’s value.
5. Tyler Bozak – Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Bozak’s career-high is 49 points, yet it is believed among most hockey circles that he is a legitimate number one center in the NHL. It’s not that Bozak is a bad player; he’s just better-suited on the second or even third line. His even-strength production relative to his ice-time has been lacking throughout his career and he is perpetually wedged between first liners James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel. Moreover, his shooting percentage has been unsustainably high since last season—19.6 SH% so far this year—so it’s unreasonable to expect him to continue his current pace. In reality, second line center Nazem Kadri is a superior player to the fortunate but less skilled 28-year-old Bozak.
4. Matt Niskanen – Washington Capitals
Defenseman Matt Niskanen commanded an eye-popping $5.75 million, seven-year contract as a free agent this summer, which the Washington Capitals obliged. Niskanen, 27, is coming off a career-high campaign in which he registered 10 goals and 46 points. The issue, however, is that his previous career-high was 35 points back in the 2008-09 campaign. Following that, he struggled to produce more than 20 points up until last season. Gambling a large portion of cap space on a guy you hope to become a first-pair defenseman—he has one goal and 10 points so far this season—seems irresponsible, but then again the Washington Capitals didn’t stop there…
3. Brooks Orpik – Washington Capitals
…and decided to sign another overrated defenseman in Brooks Orpik. At 34 years old and rapidly declining, the Capitals thought it would be a good investment to award Orpik a five-year, $5.5 million contract last summer. Here’s the thing, even if Orpik was useful, paying that kind of money for a defensive defenseman is borderline insane. Unfortunately for the Capitals, Orpik is rather lousy in his own end, and his team is consistently outshot and out-possessed when he’s on the ice. And it’s only going to get worse from here, which is a truly frightening thought for Washington fans. Orpik is a prime example of why valuing a player based on real-time stats such as hits and blocked shots is a mistake.
2. Jack Johnson – Columbus Blue Jackets
When defenseman Jack Johnson steps on the ice, his team is usually outshot by the opposition. Simply put, he’s not very effective in his own end and his offensive production is only decent. Since being traded from the Los Angeles Kings in a lopsided trade for puck-possession beast Jeff Carter, Johnson’s best season with the Columbus Blue Jackets came last season with five goals and 33 points. His underlying statistics are far from impressive, too, as he ranks near the bottom in Corsi For, a statistic that measures puck-possession at even-strength, in nearly every season he has played. At 27 years old, what you see is what you get with Johnson.
1. Ondrej Pavelec – Winnipeg Jets
Let’s be blunt, Ondrej Pavelec is not a good goaltender. He’s actually pretty bad. His .906 career save percentage is well below the NHL average and yet he is still employed as the Jets’ starting goaltender. Even with a cap-hit of $3.9 million, he’s simply not worth the money or term. It’s baffling to think what Winnipeg sees in him considering he’s below-average across the board. Even if you value team statistics such as wins or goals-against-average, he’s lousy in those departments as well. And at 27 years old, he’s not getting any better. With goaltender Michael Hutchinson predictably outplaying him, perhaps it’s finally time Pavelec is used as a back-up goaltender, which frankly would benefit both him and the team.