They’re back. Everyone’s favorite players to draft in fantasy pools. the sleepers.
There’s a special high that comes with being “the genius who predicted the big season of _______.” That’s why it’s so heady to investigate the sleepers every year. If you’ve already studied my most recent update on the top 200 players overall, now is the time to look for underrated players.
Reading: Fantasy hockey sleepers 2015-16
As I described in last year’s list of sleepers, I identify them as follows:
(a) players who will outperform their average draft position (b) players who will outperform some players drafted before them (c) players you can steal cheaply at the end of drafts for big profits
After taking into account last year’s comments, I want to emphasize (a) and (b) much more than (c). There’s a misconception that every sleeper has to be “that guy no one else knows who’s still on the board in the final round of a draft.” anyone looking for just that type of sleeper on this list will end up posting something like “geez thanks for the shocking info on teuvo teravainen, had no idea who that guy was you idiot.” but that person misses the most important point. Teravainen ranks on average 172nd overall in fantasy drafts, according to Yahoo’s ADP (average draft position) numbers. my ranking for teravainen in the top 200: 139 overall. Essentially, I’m saying he should beat 32 guys who are currently being drafted before him. Savvy GMs may think it’s not much of a revelation to talk about teravainen, but the general newsroom evidently hasn’t figured it out yet. teravainen is a true sleeper.
of course i’m not going to promote ryan johansen as a sleeper when i rank him 18th and he ranks 33rd. there’s a line to draw here. I still want to help you find guys you can really steal in the middle and late rounds. With that, let’s start the 2015-16 roster:
10. tyler ennis (thn rank: 135; avg yahoo draft position: 175.7)
Call it the buffalo discount. While Sables newcomers Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, and Evander Kane should be getting a lot of love come fantasy draft day, any remnants of the franchise’s last dark days give potential buyers a run. it’s understandable. who would want anything to do with those rotten computers? there are exceptions, however. Ennis, 25, quietly had 20 goals and set a career-high 46 points on a team that posted its third-worst scoring percentage in franchise history last season. Now, Ennis is tentatively scheduled to open 2015-16 playing right wing with O’Reilly and Kane. That’s a nice update on Ennis’ most common lanemates from 2014-15, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson.
9. sam bennett (thn rank: 175; yahoo ad: not selected)
A shoulder injury made Bennett the forgotten Blue Chipper of the 2014 NHL Draft Class. However, he returned to his OHL Kingston Frontenacs late last season and went wild with 11 goals and 24 points in 11 games. After Kingston was eliminated from the OHL playoffs, Bennett joined his NHL club, the Calgary Flames. he scored three goals in 11 postseason games and didn’t look out of place at all, showing a strong net presence.
bennett is an elite prospect, compared by many to doug gilmour coming out of the draft. Calgary’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler is ready, but there’s room for Bennett at No. 2 unit. he can get there, as he has more natural offensive talent than any other calgary forward in the bottom three lines. his adp tells us that he can be had with a final pick. it will be hard to find someone this late with bennett’s perks.
8. elias lindholm (thn rank: 159; yahoo ad: unredacted)
bennett wasn’t drafted in most groups, i can understand that, as he’s only been in the league for a year and missed most of last season, but what’s the excuse for lindholm? he enters his third season of the nhl. he progressed very well as a sophomore, with 17 goals and 39 points even though he only turned 20 midway through the season. Lindholm plays for a Hurricane team so ugly on paper that he’s almost guaranteed to make the top six. Better yet, even though he’s a natural center, he spent a fair amount of time as a front row winger for Eric Staal. yeah, the plus-minus should be gross again, but there’s no way lindholm shouldn’t be in the draft. it’s a robbery.
7. jakob silfverberg (thn rank: 124; yahoo ad: 163.9)
I was hoping the secret was in the hands of Silfverberg, who blew up during the 2015 playoffs on the Anaheim Ducks’ second line, racking up 18 points in 16 games on Ryan Kesler’s wing. However, the ADP suggests that the drafters quickly forgot about the playoffs or were in bed when the Anaheim games began. It’s true that Silfverberg hasn’t accomplished much in the regular season, also known as the fantasy season. however, he set career highs with 13 goals and 39 points last year. his playoff performance extrapolates to 21-71-93 over a full year. silfverberg obviously won’t do that in his next 82 games, but it’s still a reminder of his talent. he has outstanding scoring shooting, has been a highly touted prospect for a number of years, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him cross 20 goals and 50 points. very cheap.
6. petr mrazek (thn rank: 143; yahoo ad: 163.4)
mrazek believers should make a big effort to draft their leagues today, as that adp should increase when red wings training camp starts. Is he in a battle with jimmy howard for detroit’s starting goalie job? supposedly, but playoff playing time doesn’t say. mrazek started all seven games for the full-backs. he posted a 2.11 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He ruled out the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Blitz twice. he is 23 years old. New Detroit coach Jeff Blashill won the AHL Calder Cup in 2013 with Mrazek as the starting goalkeeper. howard couldn’t have any more punches against him here. everything points to mrazek opening 2015-16 the headline or at least the 1st.
5. evgeny kuznetsov (thn rank: 137; yahoo ad: 173.7)
kuznetsov really fits with “how does this guy sleep?” bill but, well, the adp tells us that people haven’t woken up to him yet. The sublimely talented 23-year-old Russian center gathered momentum at the end of his first full season in the NHL. he finished March and April with 13 points in 19 games. he really showed his brilliance in the playoffs, with five goals, seven points and two multi-point efforts in 14 games. kuznetsov is enclosed as the uppercase number. 2 center now and he should have solid linemates. if we assume that t.j. Oshie gets the first shot down the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov must be smart Justin Williams to his right and one of Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky to his left. that makes for a pretty deadly second unit. Kuznetsov is as strong a standout candidate as any this year. Plus, as commentator Chris Hook reminded me at the bottom of this page, Backstrom is in danger of missing the start of the season. just another possible help for the value of kuznetsov.
4. teuvo teravainen (ranking thn: 139; yahoo ad: 171.7)
‘teuvo time’ occurs on average at selection 172, so some gms have discovered sneaky finn. however, it’s a great bargain if you can get it this late. Teravainen’s natural position is center, but the Falcons are lined up with Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov, Andrew Shaw and (assuming he signs) Marcus Kruger. The Falcons’ key need position: left wing, as they lost their two best guys, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, via a summer salary dump trade. teravainen can play on the left side. He just has to beat unknown Artemi Panarin, disgraced Bryan Bickell, or ex-shell of himself Kris Versteeg for the plum frontline position alongside Toews and Marian Hossa. And if coach Joel Quenneville decides it’s too much to ask of Teravainen, he will “settle” for Anisimov and Patrick Kane (pending police investigation) as linemates. The lightbulb went on for Teravainen in the playoffs, when he surpassed his regular-season point total in about half the games, and his possession ratings have been excellent thus far. he could do a lot with the chance of it and become this year’s gaudreau.
3. scheifele brand (thn rank: 131; yahoo ad: 156.3)
a key reason scheifele is one of my favorites to sleep on: it’s laid down a nice floor to match an ever-increasing ceiling. Scheifele was the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, so there was nothing fortuitous about his jump to 15 goals and 49 points at age 21 last season. Actually, Scheifele’s drop in shooting percentage from 13.0 to 8.8 suggests he was just unlucky. he showed great chemistry with drew stafford and is confident in his role as winnipeg’s number one. 2 pivot. and my money is in scheifele usurping bryan little for frontline service by the end of the year. little is a perfectly useful player, but he is 27 years old and his personal best is 64 points. we know what he is by now. Scheifele is still a baby by NHL standards and is already hot on the heels of Little’s personal best campaign. scheifele won’t hurt you on adp from him, and his high-end pedigree makes another big jump in scoring likely. prorate his 8-15-23 streak over 34 games after the all-star break and you get a full season of 19-36-55. seems correct.
2. ryan strome (thn rank: 105; yahoo ad: 168.5)
strome’s situation is very similar to scheifele’s. Strome was just two picks ahead of Scheifele in 2011, and surpassed Scheifele’s 2014-15 point total by one. Strome is a slightly more tempting pool pick, though, because he plays for an offensively stacked New York Islanders team that could easily lead the NHL in goals. will strome play with john tavares or not? either way, strome is an enticing fantasy proposition. He can play in the center and at both ends, and the Islanders have enough depth forward that Strome is virtually guaranteed to be good linemates, Tavar or non-Tavar. Strome has already established a friendly 50-point fantasy floor at age 22, but on average he’s drafted alongside players with 50-point ceilings. that makes you a highway robber in your adp.
1. david pastrnak (thn rank: 98; yahoo ad: 174.6)
hello? cartoonists? are you awake? What are you doing? the youngest player in the nhl last season: david pastrnak. the Boston Bruins’ leading scorer for January. 1 onwards? david pastrnak. The 2014 first-rounder made his way from the AHL to the NHL in half a season and immediately became an integral part of Boston’s top-six forward corps. Pastrnak scored 21 points in 27 games during a sizzling February and March. he has great hands and speed, and his ever-improving two-way game should give him a nice minute boost this season. Look for Pastrnak to end up on the wing of fellow Czech David Krejci. Pastrnak’s 27 points in 46 games puts him on a 48-point pace over a full season. And let’s remember-he did it when he was 18 years old. He has plenty of opportunities on a Boston team desperate to anoint a new star.
bonus round: those who do not sleep
some players I wanted to list as sleepers, but aren’t bargains according to adp:
– valeri nichushkin (my ranking 160, adp 166.7) – justin schultz (184, 169.4) – nail yakupov (178, 168.6) – martin jones (143, 135.9) – mathew dumba (nr, 167.5) – derrick pouliot ( nr, 166.9) – nikolaj ehlers (197, 167.6) – jonathan drouin (183, 174)
Additional Round 2: Deepest Sleepers
two later round names for those who demand deeper sleep in a deeper league:
j.t. miller – first round preliminary pedigree. he saw time in the rangers’ top line with rick nash and derick brassard in the 2015 playoffs. is there any chance he dethrones the now-healthy mats zuccarello and fills that spot full-time?
teemu pulkkinen – big scorer in ahl. he has huge brass wings of a timer compared to brett hull’s.
matt larkin is associate editor of hockey news and a regular contributor to the thn.com post-to-post blog. For more great profiles, news and insights from the world of hockey, subscribe to Hockey News Magazine. follow matt larkin on twitter at @thnmattlarkin