With little time remaining before the 2011-12 NHL season begins fantasy hockey players are frantically searching for late round sleeper picks and hidden gems. This list is your key to drafting that player.
Here is my list of dark horse players who may emerge from obscurity to fantasy hockey relevance.
10. Andy Miele, Phoenix
The Phoenix Coyotes won the sweepstakes to sign college sensation and last years Hobey Baker winner. Miele has begun to draw comparisons to players like Martin St. Louis and Derek Roy. Not just because of his small stature (5-8, 175) but because of his skills and skating abilities and his tenacity.
9. Anton Lander, Edmonton
Lander was the captain for Sweden in last year’s world Jr. Lander was also team mates with Paajarvi in Timra for three seasons. The duo may be reunited in Edmonton again soon. The 20 year old may be the perfect second line center as he plays a responsible and gritty all-around game.
8. Matt Frattin, Toronto
The Leafs signed Frattin out of college last year and he was a finalist for the Hobey baker award. Frattin played one regular season for the Leafs last year and after the game Leafs GM Brian Burke declared “Frattin looked like an NHL player to me”. Frattin scored 60 points in 44 WCHA games last year.
7. Craig Smith, Nashville
The NCAA star played for team USA at last years World Championship and didn’t look out of place. Smith also dominated at rookie camp scoring six goals and an assist in two games. Nashville GM David Poile listed Smith’s two games as one of the top rookie game performances he has seen in the last 14 years. “He was as dominant a player as I’ve seen in a rookie tournament in all the years I’ve been with the Predators,” Poile said.
6. Paul Byron, Calgary
Acquired from Buffalo in the Regehr trade Calgary has publicly declared Byron ready for scoring line duties in the NHL. Based on his 99 point season in the QMJHL and his point per game pace in the AHL, Byron may be just that.
5. Stephan Da Costa, Ottawa
Another prized NCAA free agent signing, Da Costa had a brief four game audition with the Sens last season. Already 22 years old, Da Costa will try to force a full season audition and reward the Sens for signing him to the maximum entry level deal.
4. Evgeny Grachev, St. Louis
Grachev is a big talented winger who has been very impressive in preseason games this year, scoring three goals in three games to date. Grachev produced impressive OHL stats (80 points in 60 games) Unable to dominate in the AHL, Grachev is now on his second NHL audition as he was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers.
3. Fabian Brunnstrom, Detroit
Detroit has a knack for finding players previously considered to be done in the NHL and bringing them back (Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Modano, Larry Murphy, Dan Cleary, etc). Now Detroit has given Brunnstrom an opportunity by inviting him to training camp. Brunnstrom has played very well so far and the fact that his main competition in Jan Mursak has suffered an ankle injury a contract with Detroit seems inevitable.
Look for Wings GM ken Holland to make it a one way NHL contract to avoid exposing Brunnstrom to waivers.
2. Matt Read, Philadelphia
Read is yet another small but supremely skilled college player. Read not only produced impressive WCHA stats (35 points in 37 games) he also posted over point per game numbers in a brief AHL audition (13 points in 11 games) In the NHL preseason Read is leading the league with six points in four games.
1. Joakim Lindstrom, Colorado
This summer Colorado signed Lindstrom to a one way $600,000 contract. Lidstrom has looked impressive in training camp playing on a line wit Paul Stastny and David Jones. At times the line dominated. Lidstrom lead the Swedish Elite league last season scoring 60 points in 54 games. This preseason Lidstrom has continued to impress and at 27 years old and his second attempt to make the NHL has a legitimate opportunity if he can stay healthy.
It is important to remember when drafting that these players MAY have significant success this season but should be considered risky picks. Build your core with reliable and dependable proven assets before complimenting your bench with these players. These sleeper picks can help you win your pool but only if you draft them in the appropriate round. Good luck!
Pete Harling is and always has been passionate about hockey. He loves to watch it, play it but what he loves the most is fantasy hockey. Follow Peter Harling on twitter: @pharling. Email Coach Harling at [email protected].