Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013-2014 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

beau bennett fantasy hockey sleeper
On your road to fantasy hockey dominance, the first step is picking an awesome team name. Even if you're a powerhouse team, none of your friends will respect you if you named your team something lame.

The second step is a little more difficult: Identifying who is going to have a great season. Advanced stats can help you find players likely to rebound or breakout, but that level of research can be quite time consuming. To help make your life easier, I came up with a list of players who you should think about come draft day. Some don't fit the traditional definition of a sleeper, but are still going low enough in Yahoo! leagues that you can get major value by drafting them.


Vladimir Tarasenko

Only three points in his final 15 games has some down on Vladimir Tarasenko after he scored 15 points in his first 23 games. I'm not one of them. He was struck with some bad luck (the Blues only capitalized on 5.4% of their shots with Tarasenko on the ice), despite the fact that Tarasenko was great at creating chances (the Blues controlled 56.8% of the shots when he was on the ice). He's young and dynamic and gives the Blues their first real game-breaking talent in years.

Beau Bennett

The 20th overall pick in 2010 was shuffled in and out of the lineup last season, thanks in part to all the talent Pittsburgh acquired at the deadline. He was fairly productive when he did get to play, scoring 14 points in 26 games. With Jarome Iginla gone, there is a good chance Bennett gets to play with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. He basically just has to show up to score a ton of points.

Sven Baertschi

Last I checked no NHL team had gone an entire season without scoring a goal, so somebody is going to have to score some goals for Calgary, and it might as well be Baertschi. He scored 10 points in 20 games last year, although those points came almost exclusively during the final 10-game stretch of the season after being recalled from the AHL. With Jarome Iginla gone there is more ice time available, especially on the power play. Expect Baertschi to give Flames fans a glimmer of hope this season.

Jakob Silfverberg

A trendy sleeper pick for last year's Calder, Silfverberg (whose name begs to be spell checked) only notched 19 points in 48 games. By the end of the season he was playing primarily with Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher, but now in Anaheim expect the kid with the heavy shot to get a serious look alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Jonathan Drouin

Normally I would advise against taking one of the top picks from last year's entry draft. People usually overvalue them and they don't usually start producing until the second half of the season. Except Drouin might be an exception as he's an amazing playmaker and could be lucky enough to be paired with Steven Stamkos, otherwise known as the league's best goal scorer.

Derick Brassard

After years of being a disappointing 40ish point player in Columbus, Brassard turned everything around upon arriving in New York. He scored 11 points in 13 games and notched another 12 in 12 playoff games. He ended the season playing with Rick Nash, both at even strength and on the power play. If Brad Richards keeps declining look for Brassard to take on an even bigger role for the Rangers.

Ray Whitney

There is huge potential for Whitney's production to fall off a cliff—he is 41, after all. But his age is scaring off plenty of owners; he's currently going in the 15th round on average. However, Whitney showed no signs of slowing down last year. As a 40-year-old man he scored 29 points in 32 games and scored 77 in 82 in 2011-12, so he's still racking up points. Let everyone else pass over him because of his age and you can get some good value late in the draft.

Brandon Pirri

He might not make the Blackhawks directly out of camp, but he'll be waiting. Pirri led the AHL in scoring last year, notching 75 points in 76 games. That was his third year in the AHL, and he increased his point total in each one. At 22, he's ready to make the jump to the NHL. It's not hard to imagine 36-year-old Michael Handzus struggling next season, at the very least struggling in a scoring role, which would open the door for Pirri.


Brent Burns

In a unique scenario, Brent Burns is going to start the season as a forward for the San Jose Sharks, but will still be defence eligible in Yahoo! leagues. The former defenceman scored 20 points in his 24 games as a forward last season, and that type of fantasy production from a "defencemen" is incredible. Even if Burns can't keep up that pace he'll still likely score among the top offensive defencemen.

Seth Jones

Rumour has it the 2013 fourth-overall pick is going to pair up with Shea Weber next season. Last year Roman Josi got those duties and turned in a decent fantasy season (around a 30-point pace over a full 82 games). Jones has a much higher upside than Josi and could be a big time contributor in his rookie season. Weber does take on some of the toughest defensive assignments in the league, however, something Barry Trotz might not be willing to hand Jones immediately. But even without Weber at even strength, Jones should pair with him on the power play.

Alex Goligoski

There were easy jokes to be made last year as James Neal put in another goal-filled campaign, while Alex Goligoski found himself a healthy scratch. But that was only a one-time deal, and the rest of the year Goligoski was a pretty good player. His 27 points in 47 games is the type of production the Stars expected when they made that ill-advised trade. But even if Goligoski will never be better than Neal, he can still help your fantasy team by cracking 40 points.

Jake Gardiner

A mid-season concussion and a coach that loved making perplexing roster moves kept Gardiner out of the Leafs' lineup most of last season. Injuries forced Randy Carlyle's hand into finally playing Gardiner in the playoffs, and he was clearly one of Toronto's best defenders. He notched five points in six games against the Bruins, and was one of the big reasons Toronto came within a goal of upsetting Boston. The puck-moving skills are real and he's got a heavy, accurate shot from the point.

Patrick Wiercioch

The two players blocking Patrick Wiercioch from more power play time, Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar, are no longer Ottawa Senators. Now, Wiercioch gets the cushiest defensive assignment in hockey—playing the power play next to Erik Karlsson. It's well known that Karlsson can break 50 points in his sleep, and plenty of those points will ooze off him for Wiercioch to absorb through osmosis. He already scored a respectable 19 in 42 games last year, just think what he can do paired with Karlsson.

Ryan McDonagh

Known better for his shutdown ability, Ryan McDonagh has increased his points per game in each of his first three seasons. Last year he scored 19 points in 47 games (a 33-point pace), almost all of which came at even strength. If he gets even a lick of power play time he could turn in a nice fantasy season.

Jonas Brodin

Not many rookie defencemen can step in and play top-pairing minutes, but that's exactly what Jonas Brodin did last year for the Wild. He's going to play big minutes against with Ryan Suter, and if he can displace Jared Spurgeon from the first power play unit, there are more points for the taking.


Warning: Goaltenders are the ultimate crapshoot, with guys who looked finished turning in Vezina-worthy seasons (see Brian Elliott and Sergei Bobrovsky) on a semi-frequent basis. You can take almost anyone in the final few rounds as a third goalie and be pleasantly surprised.

In fact, in last year's fantasy hockey strategy guide I made a joke about not wanting to be stuck drafting Ondrej Pavalec and Sergei Bobrovsky, and Bob went out and won the Vezina after being downright awful in 2011-12. My advice: Go see a fortune teller.

Jonathan Bernier

For whatever reason the Toronto Maple Leafs hate James Reimer, despite the fact that he's almost single-handedly saved their season in two of the past three years. It makes no sense, but they hate him. Enter Jonathan Bernier, who is coming over the win a battle for the No. 1 job, but in reality all signs point to him being given the job.

The Leafs are in tough to repeat last year's performance, but if they do it will be because of goaltending. Bernier has been anointed a No. 1 goalie in waiting for at least three years, so now is his time to finally prove his supporters right. He posted the 11th best even-strength save percentage among goalies with at least 10 games last season, so he should be up for the task.

However, he is coming from a powerhouse team with a strong defence and going to one who give up chances like few other. Be forewarned.

Jacob Markstrom

No, he wasn't very good in 23 games with the Panthers last season, going 8-14-1 with a 3.22 GAA and a .901 save percentage. But he's young, big, and has tons of upside. And it would be almost comical if the Panthers were as bad as they were last year.

Ray Emery

Playing second fiddle on the Cup champion Blackhawks got Ray Emery a ring, but now he's focused on earning a starting job. No better place to find one than Philadelphia, who churn through goalies at an unmatched pace. In fact, the Flyers have probably dumped Steve Mason by the time you've finished reading this sentence. But they're also probably already thinking about replacing Emery as well...

Jaroslav Halak

A brutal .899 save percentage last season from Halak isn't what usually draws you to a goalie sleeper, and is one of the main reasons Halak is hanging around until close to the 16th round in Yahoo! drafts. But he's alternating good and bad years in his career, and next year he's due for a good season. Really, it can't get much worse. And considering how good the Blues are defensively, your only real worry is whether Halak can beat Brian Elliott and Jake Allen for enough playing time.

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