NHL HOCKEY FANTASY SLEEPERS
I know the general definition of the term ‘sleeper’ is a player who you would “sleep” on and wouldn’t think about drafting at all. The way I personally define the term is as follows, “a player who will overachieve relative to his average draft position”. Below are a few names that I believe you should target in your fantasy drafts. Please note, this is for standard fantasy categories that include goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, save%, goals against average, wins, and shutouts.
Erik Karlsson – Boy, if you can get him in the 3rd round, you are laughing. I know he is injured to start the year and it will take him a few games to get his rhythm back. However, I totally disregard all of that when it comes to Karlsson. He was absolutely outstanding in the playoffs last year. I was ready to take him in the 1st round this year if he was coming in healthy. Most players miss 10 or so games over the span of the year anyways. I don’t mind if Karlsson misses his share in the beginning and starts putting up a point a game after that. Focus on the big picture and don't get blinded by the short term loss.
Joe Pavelski – I believe that Pavelski’s consistency has made him a boring player to own. He has been 68-79 points for 4 straight years and there’s no reason to expect anything different this season. With solid power play contributions and shots on goal numbers, he becomes an excellent pick at his average draft position. I’ve seen him drop to the 3rd round in some leagues.
Drew Doughty – people are sleeping on the Kings. I believe they will bounce back as a team and will get back into the playoffs. Look for Doughty to put up 50+ points, 200+ shots on goal, +/- of +20 and 25 power play points. If you can get him as your 2nd or 3rd d-man, you’ve done a great job.
Jake Gardiner – I’m calling for a breakout campaign here. A little bit of homer bias may apply. Beware. After watching the Leafs last season, I've learned a few things. For starters, the Leafs have improved in a major way. The team has more scoring depth, options on the power play and some expectations this year. Mike Babcock really likes Gardiner quarter backing the pp and trusts him in big situation which translates to a lot of ice time. Look for Gardiner to crack 50 points for the first time and have a solid season all around. You can sneak out with Gardiner late in most fantasy drafts.
Mike Smith – I understand that this is a real bold call. He’s 35 years old and hasn’t had an excellent season in a while. That being said, he’s played for the dreadful Cayotes for all those years. He’s now backing a Flames team that has a top 10 defensive cores in my mind. Smith’s always had the ability, skill set and the size to be a solid starter for a decent NHL team and he’s going to be just that this year. If you miss out on grabbing a second goalie in the mid rounds, don’t be shy to have him as your number 2 or better yet, number 3. Look for him when your draft reaches round 10 or so.