Scout Next Season’s Sleepers Now

Jim Gunther



Given some fans insatiable appetite for potential sleeper free agent picks, which late season call ups, prospects, players with a change of scenery and others might be worth an extra look for next season’s free agency?

Here are some names to consider:



1) Boston’s Chuck Kobasew who with more playing time and better young linemates might start living up to what the scouts said about him. So far he has two points in four games with the Bruins, benefiting from Phil Kessel and Marc Savard as teammates, and equaling the number of power play goals (1) he had through forty games with the Flames.

2) Chicago’s Jeff Hamilton, who as Dobber has pointed out recently had a five point game. Yes it still might be early to tell his potential, but given Tuomo Ruutu’s injury history and if the Hawks want to cut costs, he might get more playing time next season and be worthy of a free agent pickup at a later date.

3) Columbus’ Duvie Wescott has 10 points in 23 games, but injuries ruined his season. With his big shot from the point and Columbus’ likely dumping of Bryan Berard he’ll get points next season but other poolies might overlook him because of his injuries.

4) If the Avalanche, decide to cut costs and get rid of Jose Theodore, it is likely that former Anaheim goaltender Michael Wall, who arrived in a trade for Brad May, may challenge for playing time. In four games this season (three of which he started during the Ducks injury dominated stretch, he had a record of 2-2 with a 2.97 goal against average. Again, it might be early to tell how well he will do, but the opportunity for playing time might be there.

5) The Kings Patrick O’Sullivan has much potential, but did not get to play the full season in the NHL. The Kings still have a number of centers, but his nine points in 32 games, hint at possible more production. See how he performs in games now, to get an idea of what he might do if the Kings are compounded injuries or if he makes their next season opening roster.

6) Marc-Andre Bergeron seems to be staying out of Ted Nolan’s doghouse and getting more playing time than he did in Edmonton. Will a full season with the Islanders improve on his total next season?  He has twelve points in ten games for the Islanders, including four goals.  Is this just because of the Islanders late season acquisitions, or will he really get more minutes? Wait and see. He’s averaging over 21 minutes on his new team while with the Oilers he was getting less than 18 minutes.

7) The Flyers are blessed with some new young skilled prospects: Scottie Upshall, who arrived via the Forsberg trade with Nashville and Braydon Coburn who came from Atlanta. Upshall has ten points in thirteen games, getting a good amount of playing time. Coburn has two points in eight games. Upshall will stick with the team and Coburn will get called up during next season.  This seems to be Upshall’s opportunity to seize.

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