Sleeper picks for Edmonton, Dallas, Detroit, and Florida.
This series has been published over the past few months, team-by-team, in the daily ramblings. In Part III, we look at a short (next season) and long term sleeper for Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, and Florida.
Since many of these write-ups were done last month (or before), not everything will be completely up-to-date from a timing perspective. I went back and changed what I could, and hopefully nothing slipped through the cracks.
2013-14 sleeper pick: Matt Fraser
A natural goal scorer in every sense of the term. Fraser is big, and he loves to shoot the puck. He has been arguably the most prolific scorer in the AHL over the past few seasons. His shot is hard, heavy, and accurate. The rest of his game is rounding into form, too. He isn’t a great skater, but he has improved immensely since turning pro a few years ago. And his defensive play is a lot better, too. If he earns a top six spot in Dallas this fall, he could flirt with 20-25 goals and a lot of SOG.
(Update: Fraser has since been traded to Boston. For the sake of simplicity, take what I wrote about him and apply it to Brett Ritchie. Ritchie is as good a goal scorer as Fraser, but he’s probably a better overall player, too).
Long term sleeper pick: Matej Stransky
Big, rangy winger with great puck protection abilities. Stransky has top six upside, but needs a few more years of seasoning. He scored 40 this season for the Saskatoon Blades, and will likely turn pro and join the Texas Stars next season.
Detroit Red Wings
2013-14 sleeper pick: Brendan Smith
As I wrote on Thursday, I was a year early predicting Smith's breakout. He averaged 18:24 per game in 2013, and that number will be closer to 20 next season. He finished with only eight points in 34 games, but seven of those points came in the last 15 games. That, my friends, is called a trend.
Smith is an aggressive two-way defenseman with great puck skills and a booming shot. His opportunity will come – Ian White is a UFA and likely won't be back, and Carlo Colaiacovo is rarely healthy.
Long term sleeper pick: Xavier Ouellet
Ouellet is a part of a very underrated prospect group on the back end. In addition to Smith and Kindl with the big club, the Wings also have Danny DeKeyser, Nick Jensen, Adam Almqvist, and Ryan Sproul.
His best attribute is his hockey sense – he isn't the biggest or fastest guy on the back end. He also makes a great first pass and will fit in nicely with Detroit's puck possession game. It will be interesting to follow the battle for ice time in Grand Rapids next season with the young talent Detroit has quietly amassed on the back end.
2013-14 sleeper pick: Justin Schultz
Schultz was hyped last season, and for good reason – he dominated the AHL as a rookie, and was an instant impact player i