Yahoo Fantasy Hockey: Examining the sleepers and potential busts

Puck Daddy

Yahoo Fantasy Hockey is open for the 2013-14 season. To help give you a better chance to win your league, our pals at Dobber Hockey are returning for another season. They'll be breaking down the top forwards, defense and goalies, and also giving you some sleepers to keep an eye on. Today, looking at potential sleepers and busts.

You know the spiel. You've read it and heard it a million times. So here's a million-and-one: You'll win your fantasy league because of the late picks that you make.

That guy you took a flyer on in the 14th round suddenly Pascal Dupuis himself into the Top 20 in scoring. In the 20th round you grab a winger who may not even make the team but ends up Brendan Gallaghering his way to a Calder-nominated season. Things like that. Well, that and not losing your first-round pick two weeks into the season (ain't that right, last year's Erik Karlsson owners?).

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Here are some fellas to consider scooping up later in the draft. In some cases, they'll still be there in the 24th round when you polish off that eighth beer try to fill that final bench spot.

Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks - The return of Kyle Cumiskey from Europe certainly muddied the outlook, but the wrist injury to Sheldon Souray cleared things up a bit. The 22-year-old Vatanen took to the North American ice very well, finishing second on Norfolk in scoring. I've often said that he could have a similar impact to that of Tobias Enstrom back in 2007-08 when Enstrom tallied 38 points as a rookie.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres - In two years, Leino went from criminally overrated to criminally underrated. There are several reasons to believe that he can bounce back to the 50-point level. A new coach, pretty much a new team around him and promising numbers during a brief stint last season. And that big contract will ensure that he gets first dibs on linemates and ice time.

Brandon Pirri, Chicago Blackhawks - Last season's AHL leading scorer has done all he can there. And with the rather brittle veteran Michal Handzus penciled in as the second-line center to start the season, Pirri merely has to wait a few games for the inevitable Handzus injury. Then it's go time.

Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets - This is Atkinson's second year on this list of mine and I have no shame for having his name on here last summer. He missed 13 games with a high-ankle sprain and then returned too soon from the injury - his slow turns and stops were obvious even to this amateur fan. When he was 100 percent, which happened basically in the first few games and the final few games, he was arguably the most exciting offensive player on Columbus. And that includes some Marian Gaborik games. Injuries could derail this sleeper pick once again, but if he's healthy I'm confident he'll pan out.

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings - Even though Nyquist's ice time will be kept down in favor of older, more experienced teammates…and even though his linemates won't often have "Pavel" or "Henrik" in their name, he'll get his points. The 24-year-old (Happy Birthday, Gustav) has the talent to score and set up goals even if he had Wyshynski at center and Leahy on the far side.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers - While all the ballyhoo surrounds Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, let's not forget that Barkov is just as much of a sure thing. His offensive upside is just a step down from the other two and he'll make the Panthers right away. He and Jonathan Huberdeau will be magic on ice together for years to come and that will start in one month's time.

Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators - Last season was moving along swimmingly for Wilson. That is, until the surgery-in-both-shoulders thing. He had 18 points in 18 games prior to his season ending - clearly he was experiencing "fourth-year magic". Watch his ice time finally average over 17 minutes per game for the first time in his career as he leads the Preds in scoring. He is their one true hope of having a 70-point player this year.

"Don't count on that, I'm just saying he's their one hope." Dobber quickly adds before the first Puck Daddy commenter starts furiously typing.

Cal Clutterbuck, New York Islanders - Although his points ceiling is rather limited, it would certainly get raised a little higher if he plays with his old Oshawa linemate John Tavares. Already a reasonable middle-round pick if your league counts hits (he's one of the best in the game for that), you can safely assume 30 points for Clutterbuck - but hope for something over the 50 mark. That's a number that was unattainable for him in Minnesota, but quite doable now thanks to the JT factor.

Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers - The Rangers always seem to be short a scoring winger. At least recently. And with Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin on the shelf likely until November, Zuccarello is the next best option on the wing after Rick Nash. Standing at just 5-7, he's not going to be a force defensively. He's there to score. His 15 points in 27 games last year after returning from Europe should be enough to convince you that he'll produce.

Tomas Greiss, Phoenix Coyotes- The Coyotes under Dave Tippett would make Ryan Lambert a star goalie. So if Mike Smith is injured, Greiss will emerge as a star. It's that simple. And Smith isn't exactly the next Doug Jarvis. He tends to get hurt frequently (2011-12 aside), making Greiss a great No.4 goalie to sit on your bench for a couple of months - just to see what happens.

Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins - This year's winner of "most named sleeper in fantasy articles worldwide", Bennett stands to produce way over his head. It stands to reason that he is very much the favorite to play on the Evgeni Malkin line, which makes 50 points almost the default number let alone the achievable one.

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning - This year's Cory Conacher, the undrafted Johnson has done all he can at the AHL level and when he was called up last year by the Lightning he posted six points in five games right off the bat. He's had his taste, now it's time for the feast.

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks - It's been one injury after another for Kesler over the last two years. Is all that behind him now? Prior to the run of bad luck, he played three straight 82-game campaigns. But his numbers the last two seasons (combined 62 points in 94 games) has him falling way too far down everyone's draft list.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals - When Alex Ovechkin turned things around last year, Johansson was a big beneficiary. He tallied 20 points in the final 22 games. And just like Bennett will over-achieve thanks to Malkin, Johansson will over-achieve thanks to Ovi.

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That sleeper stuff goes a long way towards cementing victory, but there are still other elements to winning - mainly avoiding injury and avoiding the overrating of players. You can't help the injury thing, unless you have a crystal ball. All you can really do is not draft Martin Havlat.


But the overrating-players thing, now that's something you can impact. Here are some guys who are a little high on most draft lists.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins - His points-per-game average has increased every year he has been in the league and he led the Bruins in scoring last season. Marchand, at 25, is only just entering his prime. So why do I consider him overrated? You'd think I'd be touting him as the next big nose thing. Well, the truth is that I don't believe he can top 70 points in a season. And since he came close to that last year, he's reached the peak.

Lee Stempniak, Calgary Flames - Seriously, how many times has he done this? He had 52 points for the Blues in 2006-07, but then disappointed us the following year. He had 18 points in 18 games after he joined the Coyotes in 2010…but was again a disappointment the following campaign. And now he's coming off a career high (points-per-game average).

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks - Not many players are coming off the high that Bickell is. The 27-year-old was huge in the postseason (pardon the pun) and then he signed an equally huge contract. I'm confident that he'll have a career high in 2013-14, but it won't be anything special. Think 47 points, as opposed to the 60 you may be thinking.

Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche - Whether the Ryan O'Reilly-on-the-wing experiment succeeds or fails, the Avalanche will be moving a skilled center to the wing. If O'Reilly doesn't work out there, then perhaps it will be Nathan MacKinnon. Regardless, the top six now has four wingers not named Jamie.

David Perron, Edmonton Oilers - The hype of a new trade always boosts a player's value. But Perron has an established range of production and although he will improve under a more offense-oriented system, it won't be to the point where it matches the hype.

Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings - Muzzin made a big splash in March when he tallied 11 points in 13 games to go with 27 PIM and a plus-11 rating. And 16 points in 45 games for a rookie defenseman is solid. But the numbers fizzled out down the stretch and in the playoffs. Couple that with the fact that Slava Voynov seized full control of the power play with a tremendous postseason and Muzzin's odds of reaching even 20 points in 2013-14 are pretty slim.

Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild - I pretty much summed it up in a recent Tweet:

Daniel Briere, Montreal Canadiens - In playoff pools it's a different story. The guy is money. But in the regular season, the 35-year-old (Briere will be 36 next month) has lost his status as a top fantasy own. He's two years removed from his 68-point year despite ice time that was still pretty reasonable (16:03 per game last year, 17:21 the year before). His penalty minutes have also sunk to new lows, though I would guess that he will rebound in that category now that he's playing for Montreal.

Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens - A tenacious, two-way player who plays with a lot of energy, Gallagher is coming off of a huge campaign in which he was a Calder Trophy finalist. To me, that means "sell high" in keeper leagues. He'll be a really good NHL player, but at this point the numbers won't match the hype and he'll be taken in your draft long before you should consider him.

Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils - "Just give me another chance! I can change!" - Don't fall for that one. Let someone else. Zajac has 70 points in his last 145 games. Let's call a spade a spade here.

Cory Conacher, Ottawa Senators - Conacher is one of my favorite young players and I'd love to see him succeed. And I think he can - just not with this team. His first four games with Ottawa saw his ice time between 13:57 and 16:28. He only got in that range one more time in his next 16 games and was even scratched twice in the playoffs. I just get the feeling that he's not the coach's favorite. Twelve of his 29 points came in the first seven games, meaning he had just 17 points in his last 40.

Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers - Lecavalier is pegged to at least start the season on the wing on the Claude Giroux line, which absolutely raises his odds of getting back to a point per game. But if you place 100% stock on this stuff, you'll get burned more often than not. Besides that fact that you shouldn't draft players while putting too much stock in who they play with, also keep in mind that Lecavalier is pretty much a lock to get injured and miss 15 games.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks - Glass half full: Wow, just seven months ago, Marleau scored nine goals and four assists in five games! Glass half empty: Whoa, Marleau has just 17 points in his last 43 regular season games.

David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs - I have little doubt that Clarkson will make a huge splash in Toronto. Think 30 goals, 45 to 50 points and 125-plus PIM. But if your league has a few Toronto fans, they'll be drafting him as if his stat line will be 35 goals, 65 points and 180 penalty minutes.

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Dobber launched DobberHockey back in 2005 and his eighth annual Fantasy Guide can be found here. Follow him on Twitter @DobberHockey.

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