2023-2024 Fantasy Hockey Injury Risks

by Mark Pitts
2023-2023 Fantasy Hockey Injury Risks

It has felt like years since a hockey game was on TV, but FINALLY, we are approaching October 10th's opening night! Last season was a blast as we got to watch Connor McDavid set the league on fire. And we saw the cup find a new home in Las Vegas. However, like every season, a number of teams were left wondering what if due to injuries. We know it will happen this year as well; which is why I bring you my 2023-2024 Fantasy Hockey Injury Risks.

This is without a doubt the best time of the year to be a sports fan as the NFL has kicked off, MLB playoffs are approaching, and both the NBA and NHL seasons are gearing up. Heading into our hockey drafts we all have a handful of our favorite players we hope to rosters.

As a Bruins fan, I want to draft David Pastrnak in as many leagues as possible. But knowing we likely won't grab every player we want, we have to put in some real work to pick the best players we can find.

Last year we saw a number of top-end talent unfortunately go down to injury. Let's take a look at some of the 2023-2024 Fantasy Hockey Injury Risks to help us draft the best team possible!

Be sure to check out Michael Proctor's 2023-2024 Fantasy Hockey Rankings for the top 300 players!

Josh Norris, Center, Ottawa Senators

 

Josh Norris is a guy with all the talent in the world. Yet he cannot catch a break from the injury bug. He previously had a shoulder injury that required surgery way back in 2019. Everything looked on the up and up as he began his NHL career. He started to show what he is capable of in 2021, scoring 35 goals with 20 assists in just 66 games.

Five games into the 2022 season, Norris once again went down to injury. Rather than get surgery, he opted to rehab his injury for 3 months. It was only three games into his return in January when the real bad news struck, as he once again injured his shoulder and required surgery.

The real big concern here is this shoulder injury is on the same shoulder he injured three years prior. The good news is the surgery was successful and he's expected to be healthy for the season. But we have to at least consider the risk of re-injury.

He's going to be locked on the second line following the emergence of Tim Stutzle. Norris is being ranked way down at C30 ahead of Rookie of the Year Matt Beniers. If you're very weak at the center position in these late rounds, Beniers feels like the safer option. But 30+ goals out of Norris would not be out of the question.

Max Pacioretty, Left Wing, Washington Capitals

Max Paciroetty is a talented player, sure, but he's played in 44 games over the last two seasons.

We all remember that brutal hit he took from Zdeno Chara back in 2011 and the great career that followed. Yet the reality is Max is 34 years old and coming off severe injuries. Since the summer of 2022, he has torn two Achilles tendons and is not expected to play until at least a month into the upcoming season.

The risk here, besides the obvious, is even if he's ready to go at the best-case one-month mark, what kind of player is he going to be? I think the best approach is to lean toward the worst case. Assume he will miss half the season.

In deeper leagues, he's still worth taking a look at and drafting to throw on the IL, but expecting him to come back and outperform the low expectations we have on him would be a mistake.

Andrei Svechnikov, Right Wing, Carolina Hurricanes

 

Andrei Svechnikov went down last year to a season-ending torn ACL. His surgery was a success and he is expected to be ready for the upcoming season. Yet we should exercise some caution.

We have seen players recover without issue as recently as 2021 when Anders Lee went down for ACL surgery, but knee injuries make me worry.

Andrei has not played a full season since his rookie year. So at the very least, we should assume he will not suit up for all 82 this season. He's very close to a point-per-game player, coming off 55 points in 64 games so even if he's limited he can still produce.

He absolutely can come back and put up another 60-point season. Still, I would lower my expectations a little and make an effort to draft him after having another LW locked down.

Cole Caufield, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens

 

Cole Caufield only saw 46 games last year before going down with a torn labrum. His surgery was successful with no issue and he is expected to be 100% ready to go come opening night.

Cole put up 26 goals and 10 assists across those 46 games last season and if he truly is 100%, we could be looking at a 60-70 point season from the 22-year-old.

I am overly cautious when it comes to drafting players coming off an injury season. But the fact that he's ranked way down at RW 45 could actually offset this. By the time he comes around in our drafts, we should already have some right wings rostered. His talent and upside far surpass the names he is grouped with.

Aaron Ekblad, Defenseman, Florida Panthers


Aaron Ekblad is in a really questionable place heading into the 2023 season. He suffered several injuries last year but played through them logging an average of 23 minutes of ice time through 20 playoff games. It's great to see how tough he is to continue playing through both a broken foot and a torn oblique.

Still, he was ultimately forced to get shoulder surgery after the season. There is doubt about when he will be able to return to the ice. We should stay conservative and assume he will be out for the first half of the season.

We should assume playing half the season will put him around 20 points. Yet even this expectation could be high. Last season Brandan Montour had a breakout performance, tallying 16 goals and 57 assists. He could very likely retain a spot on the first power play unit.

Montour himself got banged up and will miss the first month of the season. But if he continues to produce like last year, I believe Ekblad will take a hit in his potential ceiling. Stashing him on the IL can be a fine choice but we shouldn't expect to hit gold come January.

Zach Werenski, Defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets

 

Zach Werenski missed virtually all of the 2022 season after suffering a separated shoulder and torn labrum 13 games into the season. He was back to skating in practice in March but sat out the remainder of the season to ensure a full recovery. He's had zero setbacks thus far. Werenski looks to be 100% ready for opening night.

Columbus did make some moves adding defensemen Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov to the roster, but Werenski should still be locked into the top pairing and power play.

He should be all systems go for the upcoming season. However, we should assume a little risk if we are drafting him to be our top defenseman. We don't want to be stuck in a bad situation if he's our first defenseman and he runs into any trouble heading into opening night.


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