As I promised before here is my fantasy sleepers article. Now these picks are just some players that have the potential to be a surprise find or for some reason they are not highly rated by the two sites I looked at, NHL.com and ESPN.com To me there are a few different reasons a player becomes a sleeper pick. First is because of a significant injury. If a player misses a lot of time in the previous season some of the people in your league might forget about that player and because his stats are not high he is often left on the board much longer then if he had been healthy. Second is they are now seeing an increased role on their team. This offseason like many saw a ton of players switch teams so for the better and some for the worse but as always when a player leaves 1 team that leaves a spot for a new player to step up and show what he can do. Finally the player is on a new team. New teams mean new systems new opponents and new line mates these three things can take a player from a horrible season to a diamond in the rough the next year. So now with all those things in mind let's dive in to who you should keep an eye out for in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.
First up will be some underrated centers. The first center on my list is Mikko Koivu the first line center for the Minnesota Wild. Koivu has two great wings on his line in Zach Parise who scored 56 points in 67 games and Jason Pominville who scored 60 points in 82 games. Koivu was able to score 54 points in 65 games which at that pace translates to a 68 point full season. Koivu is ranked as the 114th player on ESPN and the 102nd on NHL.com to me he should be closer to the top 70 or 80 which means you can probably wait a round or two to pick him up after the other top centers are gone. Koivu is going to have a better year simply by just having another year to get chemistry with his line Parise has not been the same player as he was in New Jersey and this could be the year he puts it all together. As for Pominville you know what you are going to get around 65-75 points with plenty of goals. So Koivu could very well finish in the top 5-10 in assists this year plus with Vanek now joining an already talented power play Koivu should improve on the 18 power play points he scored last year. I see him as about a round 8th round pick or late 7th round if you are in a league with guys who know their stuff. The next center on the list is Koivu's teammate Mikael Granlund who is going to be the second line center on the Wild. Granlund has a lot of potential and now with Vanek likely to play on his left wing his numbers are going to skyrocket. Last season in 63 games Granlund finished with 41 points and 12 power play points. On ESPN Granlund is ranked 208th and on NHL 140th so he will be a late round pick up with a huge amount of upside. With another year in the league for Granlund he is going to improve just because he is so young and learning the ins and outs of the game along with Nino Niederreiter who is coming into his own as a player. Putting two talented improving young players with a star veteran like Vanek is going to speed up their development and they should be a force as a second line. Granlund could also see first line duty if Koivu gets hurt again this season so that would also increase his value. With where his rankings put him I would say he is 14th to 15th round pick at which point you are looking for guys to fill out your roster and add some scoring punch on your starters less active weeks.
Moving away from the Wild the next center on this list is not considered to be a true number one center by most but when he returned from an injury last year and was given the first line spot he posted almost a point per game. Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple leafs could be a great pick for your team if he gets the first line spot again this year. Now ESPN has him ranked 228th while NHL has him at 181st so he is being over looked. While he missed a decent amount of time last season he was still able to score 49 points in 58 games. Now with Kessel and James van Riemsdyk on his wings Bozak could have a monster season of close to a point per game around 75 points simply because Kessel is a superstar wing. The only problem is if Nazem Kadri is picked as the first line center out of training camp. If that is the case which it very well could be Bozek will still have Joffery Lupul on his wing on the second line but he will not be as much of an impact player just more of a roster filler with potential. Considering he should still be on draft boards around the 17th round that is likely all you are looking for. My final center on the list is Brad Richards who was singed by the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason. Richards had an up and down season last year finishing with 51 points in 82 games but he will have more talent around him this year. Depending on how the lines shake out and if Chicago is looking to spread the scoring Richards could end up with either Hossa or Kane on his right and either Sharp or Saad on his left. Richards is clearly not the player he was when he could put up a 80-90 point season but with the talent that the Hawks could put around him he could have a 70 point year especially if Kane is on his line and Saad and Sharp switch off between the first and second lines. According to ESPN Richards is ranked 124 while NHL has him at 192 so that leaves him as a round 12 to 13 pick so if you missed on a few of the top level centers don't worry because Richards will be waiting.
Now to move on to the wings. First on the list is Patric Hornqvist who is now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hornqvist will either play with Crosby or Malkin but both centers are far and away the most talented he will have played with which should lead to some big numbers for the newest Penguin. Hornqvist scored a career high in points last season with 53 in 76 games but he has topped 30 goals before and with a superstar center he could top 40. ESPN has him ranked 110th while NHL has him at 84th so he's not going to be around for too long like some of the previous players but getting a first line player who is paired with a possible 100 point scorer in the 7th round is a great pick. Hornqvist is going to get plenty of power play time and his plus minus is also going to be a big plus so he will contribute to just about every important category. The Next wing on the list is Boston Bruin Loui Eriksson. Now a lot of people in Boston are over Eriksson but as a first line player this year he is going to show why that Seguin trade was made. Now fully healthy and with Krejci and Lucic on his line he will score 70 plus points this season. ESPN has him ranked 209th while NHL has him at 113th so he should be a 11th or 12th round pick by those numbers but picking him up earlier would not be a bad idea. Eriksson has scored over 70 point in his last 3 full healthy seasons and on teams with less offensive talent so be ready for a big year. Next on the list is Dallas stars wing Ales Hemsky. Hemsky has spent most of his career trapped in Edmonton being pushed further down the lineup by all of the incoming rookies until he was traded to Ottawa at the deadline where he meshed with his current teammate Jason Spezza scoring 17 points in 20 games. Now together again and on a very offensively talented second line Hemsky should find plenty of scoring opportunities. A excellent passer Hemsky has topped 40 assists 4 times in his career and with talented goal scorers around him this could be the fifth season. Ranked 248th on ESPN and 142nd on NHL Hemsky is probably going to be a 14th to 15th round pick with the potential to rack up assists and power play points. Even if the top right wings are gone Hemsky will likely still be on the board so don't rush to pick a wing up over another position of need. The final wing I'm keeping an eye on is Danny Heatley now a member of the Ducks. The Ducks offer Heatley a similar opportunity to what they did for Dustin Penner last season except Heatley is a much more skilled player then Penner ever was or could have been. Heatley could make the first line left wing spot since the left side has almost no depth and he could put up some great numbers. Ranked 540th on ESPN and 264th on NHL Heatley will likely be the lowest drafted first line winger in the NHL with most drafts actually not even seeing him drafted. Heatley has had a great career before this past season topping 20 goals 9 times 30 goals 6 times 40 goals 4 times and even scoring 50 goals twice. Now I don't see him scoring 50 goals but with Perry and Getzlaf on his line I won't put 30 goals completely out of the question. Finding a player that might not even be drafted with the talent to score 30 goals could make up for some injuries your team might suffer during the year. So I would say look for Heatley in the last 2 rounds or if he is still a long way down the list make him your first waiver pick up once the draft ends to see if he does get that first line spot.
Moving on to the defensemen is a bit more difficult depending on how you want to draft you can look for scoring defensemen or for plus minus. Lucky for you the four defensemen on my sleeper list will provide some offensive punch and not hurt your plus minus score. First up is Christian Ehrhoff now a member of the Penguins. Ehrhoff is a puck moving defenseman so he will likely be on the second power play unit unless Letang struggles with injuries again then he will take his place. Ehrhoff also possess the defensive talent to be either a first or second pairing defenseman so that means a lot of ice time with either Crosby or Malkin which leads to more scoring chances and a higher plus minus rating. Ranked 170th on ESPN and 111th on NHL so look for Ehrhoff around the 10th round. This means you can have a top scoring defenseman much later then most so focus on grabbing as many talented forwards as you want before hand. Next up is Brent Seabrook who is a top pairing defenseman on Chicago. Seabrook topped 40 points for the second time this past season yet he could still be available around the 10th round ranked 162nd on ESPN and 128th on NHL. Seabrook is a regular at the top of the plus minus ratings so if he can score 40-50 points again next season he will be a steal so late in the draft. With other offensive defensemen likely to not score much better but to hurt you in plus minus waiting for Seabrook might be the best move. Another Bruin has made my list and it's Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton could be partnered with Chara this season so that means plenty of scoring opportunities passing to the first line forwards but his added value comes from a likely increase in his power play usage. With 7 points in 12 playoff games his offensive upside is no longer a secret in Boston at least and with a 174th rank on ESPN and 159th on NHL do not wait pasted the 12th round to pick him up because with the possibility of scoring 40 or more points and a plus 25 or more rating he will be a targeted player once rounds 13 and 14 come around and you could miss out. The final defenseman to watch for is Matt Carle on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Carle has scored 30 or more points in 5 seasons and with a healthy Stamkos and improving young forwards Tampa is going to be a high scoring team. Carle is ranked 853rd on ESPN and is outside of the top 275 on NHL.com so he likely will go undrafted which means if you are short a defenseman or one of your picks gets hurt make sure you have him watch listed to pick him up quick because once the season starts if he gets off to a hot start he will be gone.
Now we have finally made it all the way to the goalies. Personally I think goalies are the most important position in fantasy hockey as they have been my downfall the past 2 seasons mostly because of injuries and my lack of a quality back up. So if you have yet to learn my lesson here are some late round goalie picks. First up is Brian Elliott who will be taking over as the Blues starter this season. A backup since arriving in St Louis Elliott has put up excellent numbers with sub 2.00 goals against in 2 of the past 3 seasons while his save percentage averages out to around .925. Now with the increased work load those numbers are not going to stay so low but they will not change by much. Ranked 101st on ESPN and 86th on NHL look for Elliott in the late 6th early 7th round and you won't regret taking a 10-15th ranked forward over a goalie. Next on the list are two goalies from Carolina Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward. The reason behind putting the both of them is it is unknown who is going to start. Khudobin was the first NHL star for the month of January last season almost willing the Canes into the playoff race and Ward is a former Conn Smythe winner back in 2006. If AK wins the starting job expect much of the same play that he showed last season not allowing over 3 goals in a game for the majority of the season. Now if Ward wins the job that means he had a great camp and could be in top form. So make sure to watch both of them in camp. Khudobin is ranked 157th on ESPN and 139th on NHL so he will likely be available in the 12th round while Ward is ranked 192nd on ESPN and 200th on NHL so look for him in the late 15th or early 16th round. The Canes might not scream playoff team but they are a good enough team to give either goalie some wins and if they are on top of their games either goalie is a good starting option. Another tough goalie situation brings another possible sleeper this time in Toronto with James Reimer. Reimer had the starting job just two years ago but lost it last season to Johnathan Bernier. If Bernier gets off to a slow start and Reimer can have a good camp he could take over the starting job. The only problem lies in the Leafs defense which will need to show some improvement to make Reimer a worth while pick. Last season Reimer posted a respectable save percentage of .911 but his goals against average was 3.29. The previous season however Reimer posted a .924 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average so he can be a starter. Because of his poor stats last year and the split starting duties Reimer will be available in the final round or even go undrafted so keep an eye on the Leafs if your goalie goes down with an injury. Finally Frederik Anderson is the final goalie and player on this list. Anderson is now going to be the full time starter out in Anaheim after a great rookie season last year. Anderson went 20-5 last year with a .923 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average. Now with an increased work load those numbers will decline but with some talented young defensemen another year older and a great two way center in Kesler their defense should be better then last year which will help the second year goalie. ESPN has Anderson ranked 201st while NHL has him at 155th so look for him in the 13th or 14th round. Anderson should provide a good starting option as his only competition is from rookie John Gibson and I don't see the Ducks trusting him with much in his first year so Anderson should get 50-60 starts.
These players are not your typical stars but they have the potential to give your team that added boost and allow you to get the best players you can in the first few rounds knowing that you can still get quality at every position later. Another name I did not mention to keep an eye on is Nikolai Kulemin but he will likely not be drafted so he is a waiver pickup if he plays on the first line for the Islanders. If you think I missed a player or two please feel free to share your ideas in the comments. I wish you all good luck this fantasy season and hopefully some of these picks help you out. As always keep checking back here for all your Boston sports news.