Fantasy Hockey owners are always looking for the next great hidden gem in drafts and free agency or waiver wire additions. Finding players who bring value in late rounds of drafts or off waivers are critical to fantasy hockey supremacy, and lend to bragging rights as well.
I will be releasing three articles listing ten hidden value sleeper picks for three different formats of fantasy hockey leagues. All thirty NHL teams will be represented. All three lists will be geared towards serious leagues with a salary cap and a full 30 team roster with bench and prospect positions. We’re digging deep here so if you are in a standard 12 team league this may not be much help. Each list will be focused on one of these categories;
Roto Leagues: Focusing on multi cat potential players who produce PIM’s, hits, blocked shots, shots and points.
Prospects who are one or two or more years away
Prospects who may be ready as soon as this season.
First up is ten players who may contribute as soon as this season.
1. Matt Bartowski: Defence, Boston Bruins 25 years old
Bartowski had an 11 game audition last season and produced two points, and then scored two more points in seven post season games. While Torey Krug produced more impressive stats and is a more popular sleeper pick, keep an eye on Bartowski. Coach Claude Julien has noticed Bartowski, saying "The thing I've noticed is that he's come to camp in better shape than he ever has,” and he added "That's the sign of a player maturing into a good pro. He's obviously figured it out, so that's a good start for Matt." With Boston losing Andrew Ferrence and Wade Redden there are roster spots up for grabs. "it's basically his job to lose" Julien said. He may not be a lock, but chances are he is available in your league and can be a valuable add.
2. Brian Flynn: Right Wing, Buffalo Sabres 25 years old
Flynn made his NHL debut with Buffalo scoring 11 points in 26 games along with producing 49 shots, a plus -6, 10 shots, and 20 blocked shots. He is another Coach favorite as he played for Ron Rolston in the AHL scoring 32 points in 45 games. The Sabres signed Flynn to a two year contract. He should be a regular two-way forward on the Sabres third line with a 30 point upside.
3. Ben Smith: Right/Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks, 25 years old
Smith is poised to assume the role of penalty killing expert in Chicago, a vacancy created by the departures of Michael Frolik and Dave Bolland. He has played the PK role in the AHL, but has also displayed offensive skills there too scoring 47 points in 54 games. He is a hard working energy player who may move up to the third line as he is extremely versatile. Expect his to push for 20 points.
4. Dalton Prout: Defense, Columbus Blue Jackets, 23 years old
Prout played in 28 games with the Jackets and scored seven points. But it was his defensive game that has made him a top four in Columbus, he led Columbus with a plus-15, had 51 hits and 40 blocked shots. He won’t see top power play minutes but should flirt with 20 points.
5. Anton Belov: Defense, Edmonton Oilers, 27 years old
The Oilers like Belovs size at 6’3” and 185 LBS and his skill, scoring ability as he posted 26 points in 46 KHL games. Belov simply needs to adjust to North American hockey, but he is already 27 years old so maturity should not be a problem. Belov should debut as a fifth or sixth defender and produce close to 20 points in his Rookie NHL season.
6. Mats Zuccarello: Left/Right Wing, New York Rangers, 26 years
After a brief stint in the KHL, Zuccarello is back to provide the Rangers with some offensive support. He finished the year in New York scoring eight points in the final 15 games. He projects to potentially play in a top six role and may produce close to 30 points.
7. Jason Akeson: Right Wing, Philadelphia Flyers, 23 years old
At 5’10” and 190 LBS, Akeson will need to show he can outscore his small stature deficiencies. The fact he has two AHL seasons of 50 points suggests he may just do that. Expect him to get some games, but by no means is he a lock to be a regular at this stage, but he is coming.
8. Dmitrij Jaskin: Right Wing, St. Louis Blues, 20 years old
The young Russian has size, and he has skill. He scored near a 2 point per game pace in the QMJHL last season and produced six points in six World Jr. games. It may take a while before Jaskin is a fantasy difference maker, but that time is coming. Coach Ken Hitchcock had this assessment of his game, "I really like Jaskin a lot. He's going to be a good player for us for a number of years." Jaskin is a keeper.
9. Matt Tennyson: Defense, San Jose Sharks, 23 years old
The Sharks signed the undrafted College player to a contract in March 2012 and he made his NHL debut a year later and scored two points in his four games. He has good size and a good shot and could stand to inherit some quality offensive minutes including power play time. The opportunity is there for him to grab a full time NHL job this season and produce close to 20 points.
10. Eddie Lack: Goal, Vancouver Canucks, 25 years old
Lack had major hip surgery that required six months to heal so last season was a write off. He appears to be healthy and has looked good in preseason. The Schneider trade has opened the door for Lack after three seasons of paying his dues and producing career AHL stats of 56-45-8 and a 2.36 GAA. Luongo has already surrendered the starting job to one talented prospect, can Lack follow in Schneider’s shoes?
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