Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009.
Time for playoff pool drafts, Part One! As always there will be a handful of players who perform far better than their draft position would indicate. Here are 10 players in the Eastern Conference who you shouldn’t sleep on. These are in no particular order and not every Eastern Conference team will be represented (so put down the pitchforks Detroit fans).
Matt Beleskey, Boston Bruins – There is one race still open for an NHL playoff spot and that one is a battle between three teams for two spots. And wouldn’t you know it, the Bruins, Flyers and Red Wings are playing each other in some pivotal match-ups over the final few days. Assuming Boston makes it, Beleskey is a solid sleeper pick. He had nine points in 16 playoff games last year and he had three points in four games in 2014, both with the Ducks. He plays a hard-nosed style that is custom-made for the NHL playoffs.
Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers – Bjugstad has been a huge disappointment for fantasy owners in this his third full NHL season. Even missing 15 games due to injury, the 33 points that he has so far are far beneath his ability. He has 10 points in his last 13 games though, thanks to the Vincent Trocheck injury. Between the Trocheck injury possibly keeping him out for a couple of rounds, and Bjugstad’s huge 6-6 frame, look for a bump in production from what I think is the most underrated team in the playoffs.
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders – Offensively Bailey is having the worst season of his NHL career. And that speaks volumes because he’s never come anywhere close to his potential as a high-scoring junior and top 10 NHL draft pick. But the last two times the Isles were in the playoffs, Bailey’s ice time increased by 1:35 and 5:01 per game versus the regular season. He has eight points in 13 career postseason games and is clearly leaned on much more when the games really count.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers – This is another case of that ‘bigger body, power game’ mentality that we have for the NHL playoffs. Players like Kreider thrive. He turns 25 in a couple of weeks, entering the prime of his career. With eight points in his last six games Kreider will enter the postseason on a hot note. He has 22 points in his last 34 playoff games.
J.T. Miller, New York Rangers – I just really like the trend of Miller’s points-per-game average:
2013-14 season: 0.20
2014-15 season: 0.40
2015 postseason: 0.42
2015-16 season: 0.54
Last 50 games: 0.62
He’s moving in one direction: up.
Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins – With just 18 points on the season along with a bad reputation in fantasy circles, Schultz will be completely ignored. But the Penguins are looking like contenders and Schultz has eight points in 16 games since joining them.
Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins – Kunitz is a 36-year-old who has 40 points and a 0.51 points-per-game average. That’s the worst of his career. But he started the season with just three points in 23 games and thus has 37 in his last 55, which is a 55-point pace. He plays with Sidney Crosby and his track record for producing in the postseason is a good one. Don’t leave him available for too long at the draft.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning – It’s been a horrendous season for Johnson and his fantasy owners as he struggles to reach the 40-point mark after exploding for 72 points last year. Things have picked up a tiny bit over the second half as he has 27 points in his last 40 games. But don’t forget that last spring he led all NHL players (tied with Patrick Kane) in playoff points with 23.
Jason Chimera, Washington Capitals – Washington players will be hot items at the draft as most if not all poolies have them making it into the final four. Chimera is having a solid season in which he could score 20 goals if he scores one next game. He doesn’t slow down his production any in the playoffs, as most players do. In fact he has 17 points in his last 35 playoff games and is well worth an early- to middle-round draft selection. If they go to the Final, Chimera should get 11 points in 22 games or thereabouts.
Justin Williams, Washington Capitals – The king of the modern-day NHL postseason, Williams has 49 points in his last 64 playoff games spanning 2012-14. That includes four game-winning goals. Last time out he had 25 points in 26 games during the Kings’ Cup run – and that was after a middling 43-point season. He probably won’t make it to the third round of your draft so if you like the Caps you should keep that in mind.
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