Monday, September 27, 2010
There is still some time before the season starts, so I’m posting my sleepers list before mid-way through October when I can no longer claim I knew player x was going to put up all those points.
Tyler Ennis – He’s only 5’9, 163 lbs and looks like a muppet from Fraggle Rock, but Ennis scored 9 points in 10 games after a late season call-up last year. He added 4 points in 6 playoff games. The former 26th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was the rookie of the year in the AHL last season after scoring 23 goals and 42 assists in 69 games. This is certainly a deep sleeper, but with Tim Connelly's fragility it’s reasonable to suggest that Ennis will receive top-6 minutes and could produce steadily.
Peter Mueller – I pegged Mueller as a sleeper to watch last year and I was half correct. However, it took him until the last 15 games to prove a worthy fantasy pick-up. Mueller scored 20 points in 15 games after a trade to Colorado. Mueller is also wing eligible, which is an added bonus. Exercise some caution considering Mueller suffered another concussion this pre-season after suffering one late last season as well.
Matt Duchene – Why draft Jonathan Toews in the second round when you can grab Matt Duchene past the tenth (did I actually just say that)? Duchene actually scored more points in his rookie year than Toews, albeit in more games, and led all rookies in scoring last season. Toews is certainly a great player, but after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy he’s going early, even though he’s never surpassed 70 points. Duchene should improve on his point total and could reach 70 points. Duchene and Toews are very similar players and I see Duchene following a similar career trajectory as Toews.
Claude Giroux – Giroux actually registered a lower PPG average in his second year (0.57) than in his rookie season (0.64), but exploded offensively during the Flyers’ march to the Stanley Cup Final. Giroux scored 21 points in 23 games and was the Flyers’ best forward next to Danny Briere. Yahoo has him ranked as the 51st best right winger, but by next season he's likely in the top-10.
Tyler Bozak – He’s already given the job as number one centre despite playing in only 37 games last season, so it’s just another day in Leafs Nation. Some may laugh, but Bozak actually led all rookies who played more than 15 games in PPG and he scored 21 points in his last 26 games. He’s developed great chemistry with Phil Kessel, which is a recipe for assists.
Jiri Hudler – The Red Wings brought Hudler back from his self-imposed Russian exile and he should fit into a strong top-6 group of forwards. Before leaving for Russia last season the diminutive winger scored 42 and 57 points. Breaking the 60 point barrier is a distinct possibility.
Jakub Voracek – The third year winger has increased his point totals in each of his first two seasons (38 and 50) and could make the leap this season. The former seventh overall pick will get plenty of top-6 minutes and power-play time. He finished last season with 22 points in 23 games.
John Carlson – The former first round pick scored 11 points in 22 games after being yo-yo’d back and forth between the AHL and NHL last season. He also added four points in seven playoff games. He should get time on the second power-play unit (maybe the first) and won’t hurt your +/- (because no one on Washington will hurt your +/-).
Erik Karlsson – The young Swede scored 26 points in 60 games last season and was emerging as one of the Senators’ best defencemen by the end of the season. 12 of Karlsson’s 26 points came in the last 10 games of the season. Sergei Gonchar’s arrival might mean less power-play time, but that’s only if the Senators insist upon playing Daniel Alfredsson at the point.
P.K. Subban – As of this moment the power-play quarterback duties belong to Subban. That’s because Andrei Markov will start the season on the IR. Subban scored eight points in 14 playoff games last season and was routinely called upon to play over 20 minutes a night after Markov tore his knee ligaments. If the pressure and expectations don’t get to Subban he should be considered an early Calder candidate.
Dustin Byfuglien – I actually considered Big Buff a bust type player considering he would be overvalued after his incredible playoffs, but Atlanta plans to use him as a defenceman (that’s really stupid for real hockey, but it will work out for your fantasy team). They’ll likely still use him on the power-play to stand in front of the net and cause havoc, which means he’s capable of scoring close to 20 goals. Consider his wing eligibility a bonus.
Paul Martin – He missed most of last season with injury and scored 11 points in 22 games (while +10). He should get time on the Penguins’ number one power-play unit which is basically free points. He’s never broken the 40 point plateau, which is discouraging, but he has always played for the low-scoring Devils.
Jonathan Bernier – Bernier absolutely dominated the AHL last season posting 30 wins, 2.03 GAA, .936 SV% and 9 shutouts on the way to winning the award for the most outstanding goalkeeper. And if you like small sample sizes he was 3-0 with a 1.30 GAA, .957 SV% in a brief stint with the big club last season. The LA Kings’ incumbent goalie, Jonathan Quick, won 39 games last year, but didn’t have numbers that scream you can't take my job (2.54 GAA, .907 SV%, 2 SO). At best, Bernier will become the outright starter before the end of the year and at worst should split the duties by season end.
J.S. Giguere – Giguere is currently the 31st ranked goalie according to yahoo, which is behind Jonas Gustavsson. Giguere’s numbers improved after arriving in Toronto (2.49 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO) and he should get the bulk of starts for the Leafs while Gustavsson is slowly brought along. You will probably still find Giguere’s name in the last round of the draft, which seems an ideal time to take a third goalie as an insurance policy – especially one who is in a contract year.