Top 2014 Sleepers

SLEEPER REPORT

Fantasy Hockey Manager – We do the research, you do the bragging.

The concept of a sleeper pick is a very undefinable crop of NHL players.  They vary from under rated youngster to injury prone veterans that can squeak under the radar. We at FHM, have defined these players simply as the guys everyone forgot about.  A mix between youth and age, it really depends on your own personal style of picking pools that make these guys interesting to watch.  A lot of these guys have recently graduated the prospect report and have just as much potential the younger generation.  A lot of these guys are so crippled it’s hard to imagine they will play 50 games.  Some of these guys may already be on your fantasy radar but you may not understand the breakout potential they posses.

We rate the following on the following rating system to ensure you understand each risk you take when selecting on of these players.

Talent Rating – The player’s raw talent level plays a big factor when selecting a player you are trying to steal in a later round.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but a good example would be selecting David Clarkson who would rank a C on the talent rating versus a player like Alexander Semin who would steal a A+.  Semin being a guy with all the tools, who might not have the heart to win you a flimsy trophy that your wife won’t let you put in the living room.  We must also take into consideration proven talent when assessing the younger class of sleepers.

Tenacity (injury prone) – When evaluating guys to select one has to wonder if these guys are going to play long enough to become effective fantasy players.  Even with bench positions it’s hard to re-insert these guys into your line up without giving them at least 1 game to “warm up”.  This being said, we recommend when selecting keeper leagues or deeper typical fantasy pools a low rating in the category should be completely avoided.

Opportunity ­– This may be one of the most important tools for selecting sleepers in a deeper fantasy setting.  Reading last year’s prospect reports and sleeper picks a guy like Brandon Saad went relatively unnoticed.  Looking back, hindsight 20-20.  When comparing him to other guys who were high on those lists, he didn’t see all that talented, was drafted in the middle of the first round, and looked like he may not crack the roster.  However, looking at that team last year, every line was firing, it was the best team in recent NHL history (and was anticipated to be that) and there were not many other prospects fighting him for the winger position.  He had the opportunity to crack a line with the big boys, and now has a full time installment there.

Heart – That aspect of the game that some players just lack.  There are guys that just don’t play with the intensity to crack the top six on most teams.  However they have all the tools in the bag and the players surrounding them for most Fantasy hockey owners to take a good hard look at them.  This rating will also take into consideration the potential line mates, as some desperate teams like Florida and the and newly owned Coyotes always seem to destroy careers.  Another consideration that will generally motivate player is their contract status.  Generally guys who are coming up on contract years, tend to blow their previous seasons numbers out of the water.  It’s also relatively easy to notice lackluster play after a player gets signed to a long term contract.

It should also be noted that this report won’t duplicate the players shown on our prospect report so make sure to check that out before you skip to the next site.

All ratings are based 1/10
Pierre Marc Bouchard – NYI Status – NHL

Bouchard is coming off four horrible seasons with the wild.  Playing a combined 140 games over three seasons and collecting only 80 points in that time (scoring 0.576 Points per season), it seems unreasonable to select this guy in a pool unless very deep.  Furthermore Bouchard’s highest scoring year in NHL history came in 2007-2008 when he racked up 63 points in 81 games, nothing to brag about.  Given that he 29 years old, 5’10” at 173 pounds, and has had more surgeries than my grandmother, we pretty much recommend everyone avoids this guy for the upcoming season.

But he made the sleeper list…. Why?  Pierre recently signed to the New York Islanders.  A team that has been fighting to get someone to fill out that second line center position for a couple years now (Bouchard plays wing as well).  Cizikas made a run at it last year and failed with a decent year (and a ok playoff run), and Josh Bailey made a run at it well, and only managed to get 19 points.

That being said Pierre could find himself out of the offensively deprived (Defensive minded) wild, and onto the second line center position in the eastern conferences run-and gun style game.  He ranks high on the talent ranking, and has to get admirable consideration for opportunity with this team.  We also need to consider he is on a bridge 2 year contract with the islanders.  If Bouchard can’t prove his worth in the next two seasons, his career may well be over.  Therefor we need to give him a relatively high rating on the Heart rating.  If Pierre can bounce back, stay healthy and doesn’t get outplayed by the other centers jousting for that position (lets not forget Ryan Strome is fighting for this as well), he could be a solid late round pick.

Talent – 8.5
Tenacity – 1.0
Opportunity – 6.5
Heart – 8.0

Overall – 6

Tyler Taffoli – LA – Status – Prospect

The young prospect from LA has a lot of puck enthusiast getting excited in LA.  He is the type of player that would fit in perfect in Los Angeles playing the complete two way game.  He is also describes as one of those complete forwards who seems to end up in the right place at the right time and is not afraid of driving the net.  He dominated the AHL last year at a nearly point per game production (58 GP, 51 Points) and hit a 100 points in for the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL the year before that.  Its evident he is ready for the NHL and with the potential of being a RW or C, he could be a force on one of the top two lines, but that wont be easy.  To top this off, he was called up during the playoffs and didn’t look out of place.  He posted 5 points in 10 playoff games.  Poolies need to understand that the AHL is no joker league, and first year players with good numbers, generally have a much better shot at a seamless entry to the NHL.

With the good comes the bad, or the almost painful truth when selecting these guys.  Rookies are inherently high risk players to select as they may need that one year to adjust to the show.  ((Per example; Chris Kreider last year had an almost identical entry to the NHL playoffs two years ago, and then posted 3 points in 23 painful games.))  However if you can snap this prospect up in the right pool, at the right time.  People may mistake you for a wizard at the end of the season.

Talent – 7.0
Tenacity – 9.0
Opportunity – 5.5
Heart – 9.0

Overall – 7.8

Gustav Nyquist – DET – Status – NHL

The Detroit Red wings have a underrated amount of depth prospects coming up through the ranks.  Nyquist is at the head of the class.  Nyqyust the Swedish (North American trained) has dominated all leagues getting to this point.  Tearing apart college hockey, and then having 2 seasons ranking above a point per game rating in the AHL its unfathomable that this guy will not be fantasy relevant by the end of this upcoming season.  Gustav has 40 games played in the NHL and has only posted 8 points, however we at FHM consider this to be an advantage. He has had time in two stints with the Wings to perfect his game.  We anticipate he will be stepping onto a line with at least one seasoned veteran, and not to mention a bench of European superstars.  We think he has the potential and opportunity due to the linemates and training,

Nyquits downfall is his obvious lack of production in his first two opportunities with the big club.  Taking a player who used to being number one on any of his previous teams, and being put on the third line has often proved to be disastrous.  Nyquist is not considered a sniper, rather a smart hockey thinker with great passing ability.  Having linemates who can pot the puck is essential for young players like this trying to develop into regular NHLers.  However with the additions of Weiss and Alfredson, does Detroit have a third line anymore?  Nope.

Talent – 7.5

Tenacity – 8.0

Opportunity – 9.0

Heart – 8.0

Wayne Simmonds – PHI – Status – NHL

Wayne has been in the NHL for 5 years, and its easy to forget he is only 24 years of age.  Coming off an impressive 32 point season last year, he should be at the peak of his game.  Given the recent offensive additions to the Flyers and the emergence of Vodachek and Giroux as elite forwards we cant dismiss the opportunity he has to play on a line with modern day Hero’s.  We know Wayne is not going to produce any less than he did last year, the question is how high will he go?

Talent – 9.0

Opportunity – 10.0

Tenacity – 10.0

Heart – 9.0

Overall – 9.5

Brendan Gallagher – MTL – Status – NHL

The Montreal Canadians 21 year old prospect may be one of the most surprisingly successful young habs to crack this list.  Gallagher posted 15 goals and 13 assists last year in 44 games as a rookie.  He was nominated for a Calder Trophy, and meshed will with almost any line combination in the habs top 9 group.  He has proven his small stature will not limit his ability to compete on the small Canadians team.  Linemates Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller both had breakout seasons last year, and if this young line (stays together) and continues to improve on last seasons numbers, they should all easily crack the 50 point marker.  We shan’t forget this is a lot to ask of a young forward in their softmore year.

Will Brendan be able to make the necessary leap to play 82 games in the toughest league in the world?  Or will he fall victim to the infamous softmore slump, that often is the make or break factor for all players in similar development stages.  Although the FHM staff have had heated debates on this topic, the conclusion (if he stays healthy) is he should be a lock for at least a 55 point season.  Making him a solid mid round pick, with the potential to reach sleeper pick status.
Talent – 9.0

Opportunity – 7.0

Tenacity – 6.0

Heart – 10.0

Lars Eller – MTL – Status – NHL

Well, We might as well get the young Canadians out of the way now.  Lars Eller, underrated by most is coming off a career season, and is an upcoming RFA.  Looking back at Lar’s history had (GP 82 – PTS 28 then (46 GP – PTS 30).  A dramatic improvement, and not surprising when you consider the Habs had a catastrophic season in 2011-2012 finishing last in the eastern conference.  Lars has taken the off season to bulk up and is said to be going into training camp almost 20 pounds heavier than last year. This would make him 6’2” 210 pounds approximately.  Larger, coming off a great year, with a young group looking for a breakout season.  We expect Lars to be a contributor to most fantasy teams.

There are a few inherit question marks that surround Lars, Health and Heart.  Will he play at the intensity level required to be a point producing power forward with the Habs? After his bloody exit from the playoffs last year, we have to wonder if his head is going to be back on his shoulders, or if the surgery could only repair the physical damage.  Well, that’s yet to be seen, but he’s an easy fantasy pickup at the right time in our books.

Talent – 7.5

Opportunity – 8.0

Tenacity – 6.0

Heart – 6.0

Overall – 6.85

Mikael Backlund – MIN – Status – NHL

Mikael is no stranger to a sleeper list.  He has been on the verge of becoming a consistent NHL player for years now and with the departure of the Calgary… team.  He now should be a contender for the number one center position.  This one comes with a high opportunity, mediocre talent and questionable heart.  But really, how can you ignore a player who is going to get on the PP every night?  Playing along side a few snipers, someone surely needs to pass the puck to them… Right?  Last years numbers are not anywhere on the radar of fantasy relevant, and his time playing with the flames has been dismal.

Can Calgary score any goals at all is the question.  With some health problems in the past, this sleepers prospect drops quite low, however he needs to be mentioned for those of us in deep pools.

Jaden Schwartz – STL – Status – NHL

Ah, here’s a exciting prospect that many people expect to be a effective player for the blues for a long time to come.  Schwartz last year was an effective player fighting for time (Averaging just over 12 minutes) on the well balanced deep St Louis blues.   He is due for a promotion and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be on the top six to start the season. Being a member of the top 6 on that team gives him the opportunity to rack up a respectable amount of points.   Prospectively he has the talent and “clutch” performance to excel as a leader for the Blues moving forward.  He has the resume & talent to excel in a full 82 game season, and he will build on an impressive rookie campaign.  We at FHM think he is a lock for 50 points in his softmore campaign, and moving forward believe he could be a consistent 65+ point player in the NHL.

The downside is the offensively heavy Blues, there is a lot of players fighting for that time, and Jaden will have to beat out a lot of proven NHL players to win that ice time.  Like any prospect sleeper, he comes with a strong warning label.

Beau Bennett – PIT – Status – NHL

The Pittsburgh staff has taken their time with this kid and gave him the opportunity to make the next step.  Playing alongside Malkin makes anyone an easy fantasy pick up.  When you add the upside that Bennett is an offensive prospect with a high skill set and has already meshed well with the system & line mates. (Malkin & Neal – yikes)  Bennett may have a chance at becoming one of the highest scoring players in the NHL.  When comparing Bennett’s rookie performance up against other proven dynamite NHL studs it’s not a far leap to make the assumption Bennett is a 6 million dollar player in the making.   Given he is a winger, and should be a relatively cheap purchase in most fantasy drafts, this kid is an easy pick, and if you’re in a keeper league with off-season waiver wire pick-ups, get him.  Get him now.

Valeri Nichuskin – DAL – Status – Prospect

Playing in Dallas gives young players the ability to slip under, and not many Fantasy Managers have even heard his name.  Selected 10th overall in the 2013 draft, Nichuskin played some time in the KHL, then the VML, then the MHL… long story short his numbers were just above .500 point per game.  Talent analysts are excited by his style of play, and given he has been playing at the pro-hockey level already, he should be in Dallas next year.  Whether or not that happens is yet to be seen, and his pre-season and development camps will be cruital when determining this.  Clearly, he will need to beat out Jamie Benn or Whitney for top 6 minutes in the LW position.  But if he can play his way onto this team, the coaching staff will give him second line minutes throughout the year to groom him for the position.  Whitney is 42, and well even if he does seem like he is invincible hes old..   We must express some caution however, Nichuskin has some ties with KHL and if he does not get selected to start the season in Dallas, he will play the entire year (and possibly next) in the KHL.  In a keeper league, we still think this guy is worth the chance this year at the right time.  But if he looks like he is going to make a run at the team during the pre-season and training camp, pick him up, he may be the rookie of the year.

Emertem Etem – ANA – Status – Prospect

Coming off a impressive playoff run last year with the ducks, Etem should be a top six player next year.  Last year during the regular season he never managed to log those minutes and be a positive factor for the team so we must express some caution when selecting these types of players.  Given the recent departure of Bobby Ryan a winger position has opened up and Etem (having the capability of playing both wings..) has a good shot at becoming a fantasy relevant forward.  We are not as excited for Etem as other guys on this list, however he needs to mentioned, and should be closely watched by all poolies.  Were not recommending a high pick on this guy, more of a buy low purchase or pick that may pay dividends.

Brett Connoly – TB – Status – Prospect

Not one of the highest ranked players on our list, primarily due to his sub-par showing in the NHL during his career.  We think (and Steve Y thinks) that Connoly has the potential to fill a top six roll.  After the trade that saw Conacher sent to the Sens Brett was called up and didn’t impress.  He will be a closely watched player by our staff, and he will have his chance to earn minutes.  If he rott’s away on the lower lines in TB he will be useless to all fantasy general managers.    Brett may be a better waiver wire pick up over someone you want to draft, as its unclear if he is going to be able to re-tool his game for the NHL.

More to come, visit us at http://www.Fantasyhockeymanager.wordpress.com

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