Fantasy Hockey: What sleepers should you want on your team?
Dobber Hockey launched in 2005 and Dobber and his staff have hitched their wagons to Puck Daddy to preach fantasy hockey to the Yahoo! masses since 2009.
If you win your fantasy league it will be because of the late picks that you make. You hear it every year even though every fantasy hockey player worth their salt are already well aware of it. You know it, and you see it proven time and again. How did the owner of Nick Foligno do in your league last season?
See, that Foligno guy (or girl) now gets to brag about how skillful his (or her) pick was and how he or she knew all along that he was a 70-point guy trapped inside a 50-point plugger’s body. That's a side benefit of landing a quality sleeper: bragging rights. You can say you knew Foligno would be a stud all along and completely forget the fact that at the time of the pick you were considering 'Marcus' Foligno instead.
The ultimate sleeper for this season is rookie Connor McDavid. So much so, that he could be overrated at the draft table. First overall? Second? Don’t kid yourself, there will be some leagues out there that will see him taken that early. And every league will see him gone by the 20th pick, whether you personally have him ranked third, 10th or 50th. Does McDavid qualify for “sleeper” status given that everybody and their mother knows about him and that he’ll be drafted in the Top 20 of every league? I’ll leave that debate for another day. But given the risk that he could post as few as 40 points or as many as 90-plus – a case could certainly be made.
Here are some fellas to consider taking a flier on earlier than others in your league. In some cases, they'll still be there in the 24th round when you start on that seventh beer try to fill that final bench spot.
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Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks - Despite not having played in the Final, Silfverberg finished tied for seventh in playoff scoring. He also has a pretty hefty contract in his back pocket that will see to it that he'll continue to get quality ice time even in the midst of a slump.
Brett Connolly, Boston Bruins - The Bruins moved out four regular forwards (Gregory Campbell, Reilly Smith, Milan Lucic and Carl Soderberg) and brought in three (Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zac Rinaldo). And does Rinaldo even count when he's looking at nine minutes a game? Lots of room for Connolly now, he could surprise.
Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres - If you subscribe to the theory that Jack Eichel can waltz into the NHL and post 70 points even on a weak team, then by extension you should subscribe to the theory that Moulson can score 30 goals playing with such a player.
Eddie Lack, Carolina Hurricanes - I think Carolina bounces back this season. Not 'playoff' bounce back, but more like 'won't suck that much' bounce back. Especially defensively. Besides the fancy stats indicating that the Hurricanes were the victims of bad bounces, their defense also gets an upgrade with Noah Hanifin and James Wisniewski. And possibly Haydn Fleury. So the goalie numbers will be better, and since Cam Ward is …well, Cam Ward - that leaves Eddie Lack as a pretty solid option as a fantasy team's No.3 goalie. Ward's contract is up next summer so the team has little riding on his success or failure, unlike in years past when they were pretty much forced to start him because of his paycheck.
Teuvo Teravainen and Artemy Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks - With Brandon Saad gone, there is a very plum spot open for one of these two. In fact, it's almost certain that one of these two youngsters will be surprising us this year. My money is on Teravainen, as undrafted Europeans crossing the pond rarely make an impact right away. But both are worthy draft picks in the second half.
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets - I just left Atkinson's name in here from last year's article. And the year before. And although he has yet to fulfill that sleeper promise, each season he shows signs that it's coming. Now that he's entering his fourth full NHL season, he seems closer than ever. Talented players who habitually fire north of 200 shots on net each season stand a reasonable chance of breaking out. Eventually.
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars - Nichushkin missed most of last season thanks to hip surgery, but is fully healthy now. Just 20 years old, he has the upside to rank right up there with Tyler Seguin and defending NHL scoring champ Jamie Benn. I wouldn't bat an eye if he topped 60 points this season, and if started getting to the rounds in the draft where I would consider him - I'd just jump on him rather than risk waiting longer.
Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers - If my Twitter feed is any indication, Schultz has an army of haters just waiting for him to post another minus-20. But the Oilers have upgraded their goaltending (Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson) and defense corps (Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse). They've also added some Mcguy who may tally a Mcpoint or two, which is bound to lead to a ton of secondary assists for a defenseman like Schultz.
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild - Don't underestimate this youngster. If you're thinking 40 points this year, you may be undershooting. Now 21, Dumba is getting better with every game and was starting to really drive the offense late last season and playoffs.
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators - Smith busted out in the playoffs with five points in six games, but his ice time also soared as Coach Laviolette leaned on him to push the offense. He's shown in World Championship stints that he can be a prolific scorer. Still only 25.
Anders Lee, New York Islanders - As with many Islanders wingers, Lee could really pop if he can land a steady gig on the John Tavares line. He had 41 points last year, but 39 of them came in the last 64 games (50-point pace). But even on the Ryan Strome line, Lee will still get his points.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers - It seems like Kreider has been in the league for a long time and really hasn't made any leeway in terms of development. This has caused more than a few fantasy owners to grow impatient with him and thus underrate him. But the fact is, the 24-year-old has only been in the league for two full NHL seasons with 17 and 21 goals. Either this year or next, he's primed to bust out. And in multi-category formats he's already a stud. Wherever you have him ranked, move him up 20 or 30 slots - it will be worth it.
Sam Gagner, Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers need this guy to work out. They can't have two Lecavaliers on the same team, so Gagner has to succeed. That's not gonna happen unless he's on the Claude Giroux line. So look for him to get the first six or seven games on that line. And either it works out and your sleeper pick pays off, or it doesn't and he gets shuffled down the depth chart.
Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks - Most of the people I talk to seem to be fixated on Martin Jones being the starter for San Jose. I'm not sure why that is, given that Stalock has been every bit as good (or, as was the case last season - every bit as bad). The perfect No.4 goalie to take a flier on with your last pick, because he could very well come out of this as San Jose's go-to guy.
Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs - The thought of drafting a Leaf this season is so laughable that the mere mention of one here probably caught you off guard. But Kadri is a safe pick for 45 points, with a likelihood of something in the low 50s. However, he has the upside for the high 60s and now that he's going to be Toronto's main player for offense along with James van Riemsdyk, he could really flourish.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals - The young Russian's talent is immense. So much so that even under the short leash of coach Barry Trotz he still managed to post 37 points last season. A very safe bet for 45 points, but the sleeper-factor here is very tempting. He's the type of talent who could Vladimir Tarasenko his way into winning you a trophy.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets - While everyone in your league drools over rookies McDavid or Eichel, you can probably swoop in on Ehlers in a later round. He may start slow thanks to Winnipeg's depth, but he's good enough to quickly move up the roster and have a strong second half.
Dobber launched DobberHockey back in 2005 and his 10th annual Fantasy Guide can be found here. That's right - 10th annual. He's been around the block. Follow Dobber on Twitter @DobberHockey.
[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Hockey: Sign up and join a league today!]
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