Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Fantasy Sleeper Picks - NHL

Hey guys, I figured that I would just put an article on here so all the plugs in my pool last year can steal all my picks since I won't be mopping the floor with you this year.  Regardless, if anyone out there likes to do fantasy pools; This might offer some cool tips.  I know the nhl.com guys like to post their top 10's, but they are pretty terrible and I think these will be better picks.  I am just kind of going with the flow here, so there's no real order to this top ten.

10- Christian Ehrhoff:  Ehrhoff is not going to win any awards for his play in the defensive end.  However, the guy can really put up the points if he is given the chance to display his offensive ability.  Playing with Vancouver in 09-10, he put up 44 points.  Following that stellar season, he came back with a 50 point performance before heading to Buffalo.  Ehrhoff will be playing on a very similar team in Pittsburgh this upcoming season.  They have ridiculous offensive talents, and Ehrhoff will likely pile up minutes on the Powerplay.   If he stays healthy, look for him to surpass the 40 point mark.

9- Sergei Bobrovsky: Bobrovsky is one of those goalies who probably won't be chosen by many fantasy owners this year.  Plain and simple, Bobrovsky has been playing on teams who haven't been winning enough games to properly showcase his talent.  He had a couple rough years in Philadelphia, but the 25 year old goaltender is really settling in with Columbus.  He put up a record of 53-31-11 in his past two seasons, and had a stellar .927 save %.  Moving forward, the Blue Jackets will be stronger and look for them to be a serious contender this year.  Look for Bobrovsky to put up 35+ wins this season.

8- Gustav Nyquist: Nyquist is a player that will not be a "sleeper pick" for much longer.  He is currently on the radar for many fantasy owners, but is still quite underrated.  If you can get this guy late, do not hesitate to pick him up.  Up until 2013-14, he had not done much at the NHL level.  However, the 25 year old right-winger put up a solid 48 points in only 57 games; 28 of which were goals.  If Nyquist can settle into a position on the top two lines, expect some serious production from him.  After last season, he will be a shoe in for a spot on the second powerplay unit.  The Red Wings have some solid scorers up front, but that second powerplay team needs a guy who can shoot the puck and challenge opposing goaltenders.  Look for Nyquist to break the 50 point mark if he gets a spot on that second line.

7- Valeri Nichushkin: For fantasy owners, this guy might be just what you need if you do not want to invest a lot into a Dallas forward.  Picking up Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin might be tough as their values' have skyrocketed lately.  However, young Nichushkin might be the next best thing.  He put up 34 points as an 18 year old last year, averaging roughly 13 minutes per game.  This kid will develop into a great player, we just don't know when.  Nichushkin has been practicing extensively with the Seguin and Benn line this off-season, and is projected to start with them opening day.  He is an enormous kid at 6-4, 205, and will create a lot of havoc down low playing with Jamie Benn.  His size and scoring ability will translate into more minutes on the Power-play as well.  Look for him to get around 50 points this year.

6- Jiri Tlusty: This guy is going to be this years definition of a fantasy sleeper.  He is not going to win any awards for his scoring ability, but he has proven that he can put up solid numbers when he is in the line-up.  He has had some injury trouble in the past, but he is coming into this season looking great.  Sources say that he has improved his skating and conditioning this off-season, and will be poised and ready to play alongside Eric Staal and Alex Semin.  If healthy, we might see the winger bridge the 50 point mark for the first time in his career.  However,  I am anticipating a 40-45 point performance from the guy.

5- Justin Faulk - Faulk is not a goal scoring defenseman by any means, but he will put up decent points with the Hurricanes this year.  Matt Cubeta on nhl.com pointed out the similarities in point production between Faulk and Cam Fowler over the last three seasons.  Surprisingly, they are nearly identical.  The difference for Faulk, is the simple fact that he plays on a team that is often overlooked by fantasy owners.  He should see a slight increase in points, as the team is looking better offensively.  Expect Faulk to lead the way for Carolina defenceman, putting up about 35-40 points. ( Almost all of which will be assists).

4- David Booth: Booth might be the most likely candidate for a bounce back season this year.  Let's face it; Booth had a rough time in Vancouver last couple of years.  The entire Vancouver team has had struggles last few seasons, and the spotlight on the team caused a serious downward spiral for everyone, Booth included.  However, Booth is now making a fresh start in the East with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Booth had his best success in the Eastern conference, with Florida several years ago.  In his early twenties, Booth reached the 40 point mark twice, and even conquered 60 points in 2008-09.  Look for Booth to flourish on one of the top lines in Toronto.  His speed and size will make him a perfect fit for the team.  Look for Booth to get 15+ goals and 20+ assists this year.  I think that if Booth stays healthy, he can reach the 40 point mark once again.

3- Reilly Smith:  Smith made a home on the Bruins "second" line last season, playing a lot of minutes along side Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.  He was occasionally shifted to the first line when necessary, which definitely showed how much head coach, Claude Julien trusted the young winger.  At the tender age of 23, Smith looks to become a serious impact player in his second full NHL season.  Smith will help any fantasy owner in nearly all categories, as he plays well in both ends of the ice.  Last year he finished the season with a +28 rating, combined with 51 points.  Look for similar numbers this year, as the Bruins will once again finish the season atop the Eastern Conference.

2- Mikael Granlund: I was a tad hesitant to put Granlund in the mix, but there have been numerous rumors flying around that natural center Charlie Coyle will be playing the right wing this season.  This of course, leaves Granlund as a write in for the second center position.  The Wild coaching staff have Granlund centering Thomas Vanek, as Granlund is one of the best play makers on the team.  .  Granlund put up 41 points in only 63 games last season, and Vanek will only help his point production.  Many Minesota players will be taken early on, which will only leave a select few.  Granlund is an easy late pick as he will put up big minutes this season; a lot of which will come on the power play.  Look for him to get 50+ points this season.

1- Vladimir Tarasenko: Coming into the 2014-15 season, the St. Louis Blues have high hopes for the young Russian. Minus a few missed games last year, the 22 year old really came into his own putting up 43 points in only 64 games.  He showcased his laser of a wrist shot in the playoffs, putting up 4 goals in 6 games.  This year he is looking to be a catalyst for the Blues offence.  He will be starting the season on the second line with Paul Stasny and Jaden Schwartz.  Stasny is a guy who most fantasy owners will have their eye on.  If he is available, Tarasenko would be a great guy to supplement your fantasy teams' offence.  He has a killer shot, and will likely put up monster minutes on the Blues power-play.      

Ondrej Palat:  23 year old left wing for Tampa Bay.
                        Last Season:   81 Games Played;  23 Goals;  36 Assists  ;  59 Points ;  +32

I completely forgot about this guy, but I thought I would include him late rather than go back and take somebody else off the list.  Palat is going to get huge minutes again this year in Tampa.  Do not overlook his value.  He will rack up the minutes and likely play quite a bit alongside Steven Stamkos.

Honorable mentions:  Most of these guys are not sleeper picks, but rather just great value players.

Radim Vrabata:  Likely to have great numbers playing with the Sedin twins in Vancouver.

Brad Richards:  He should flourish in Chicago as they are already very dangerous offensively.

Jakub Varacek:  Consistent point producer in Philadelphia.  Often overlooked in fantasy pools.

Ryan Johansen:  Top center for Columbus.  He will be their most dangerous player this season.

Frans Nielson:  Horrible defensive player, but he can put up points for your fantasy team.

Bryan Little: Little has the potential to breakout and put up 20+ goals if everything pans out.