Of course you’ll have your big guns taken in the first couple rounds, then there’s your enforcers that can score a goal or two and hold some value, then you have EVERYONE else in the middle just looking to break out and rise to the next level. These are the guys that will win you your league year in and year out.
Let’s lay out the expected point range for this shortened season.
Top end talent: 52-70 pts
Middle tier: 38-51 pts
Consistent but not as talented: 29-37 pts
Now, your typical ‘sleepers’ are usually hiding in the third group, where they consistently put up quality numbers to remain in a teams top 9, or maybe they’re on the younger side and just haven’t had that breakout season yet. Regardless, finding these players will certainly aid in your fantasy hockey dominance.
We’ll break it down by position and give you that leg up on your opponent this season.
Mike Ribeiro (WSH) – Look at the support staff this guy finally has around him. Not that he never had the talent surrounding him in the big D, but in the nations capital, things are looking mighty promising to give him that extra boost this year.
Sam Gagner (EDM) - After his 8-point night last season, he may not be a sleeper to some. But given all of the attention garnered by the likes of Eberle, Hall, RNH and now Mr. Yakupov… Gagner may slide right back into a top 6 position with PP time and give you a decently productive year in hopes of approaching that 36-40 point range.
James van Riemsdyk (TOR) - After being traded to Toronto so the brothers Schenn could be reunited, JVR is looking to a) stay healthy… and b) tear it up and finally break out. He could easily be the Maple Leafs top scorer come season’s end and top the 40-point mark, but let’s temper things a bit and hope that he breaks 30 and ends up closer to 40.
Sven Bartschi (CGY) - The Swiss Mister himself, Bartschi has the raw talent and MUCH more room to fine tune those skills, his ceiling is plenty high at this point. It may take a little bit of time to get going but I have a feeling once he hits his stride and starts on a point streak, you’re going to regret not having him on your roster.
Jiri Tlusty (CAR) – Currently skating with the top 6 in Carolina which one might expect given the glimpses of talent that shown through last year in what was a ‘down year’ for Carolina offensively. He could easily skate with one of the Staal brothers or possibly even both if they put one of the Staals on the wing to shake things up a bit. If he remains in the top 6 for 40+ games, look for him to hit the 30 pt mark and beyond.
Kyle Okposo (NYI) - Still only 24 years of age and has yet to break out really. The Islanders can score, but the lack of help from the blueline is where their problems lie, that and they play in the Atlantic division, which will only make things tougher this season as each and every game means that much more. If Okposo can play 45+ games, he could net 20 goals and hit the 35-42 point plateau.
Damien Brunner (DET) – Chemistry. Plain and simple, this ‘kid’ (does 26 still refer to a kid when it’s his first year in the NHL?) has chemistry with teammate and future (read: Tuesday) Detroit captain, Henrik Zetterberg. These two tore it up for EV Zug in the Swiss League during the lockout and look for them to continue that pace with help from the likes of Pavel Datsyuk. Boy, what a rough way to start off your NHL career… don’t mess it up ‘kid’!
John Carlson (WSH) - If Braden Holtby can stand on his head like we saw in the playoffs last year, everyone on the Capitals stands to be a sleeper as they’ll be more motivated and have a better all around stat line. Now Carlson isn’t going to be a Norris candidate, but he could easily be a #2 or 3 fantasy defenseman and still provide quality stats, especially if he sees any power play time on the first unit.
Brendan Smith (DET) - What a time for Smith to step in to the Wings lineup, as Lidstrom leaves and a top spot is up for grabs. He excelled at the collegiate level, followed up by fairing quite well in the AHL the past few seasons into this year. Look for the Wings to give Smith every opportunity possible to succeed in a top 4 role.
Devan Dubnyk (EDM) - A rising star among MANY other rising stars in Alberta. His raw skill and fundamentals will help carry his success if the Oilers can find any form of consistency over an entire season. The addition of Justin Schultz will obviously help but another top notch dman couldn’t hurt if they can work a trade. Hey, I hear Wade Redden’s available this year…
Semyon Varlamov (COL) – Varly was straight tearing it up over in the KHL with 8 wins in 16gp while posting a 1.74GAA, a .946 SV% and 3 shutouts. Lets assume he keeps this up when the season kicks off, you could easily have a top 5 fantasy goalie on your hands heading into the fantasy playoffs and sitting pretty.