One of my favourite things to do in hockey pools is to go back and see who were some of the biggest surprises taken in my hockey pool drafts.
Last year, for example, players such as Josh Bailey, William Karlsson and Brayden Point could have made the difference between winning your fantasy hockey championship and missing the playoffs. It’s fun to sit back and wonder how could we have been so stupid not to see the breakout coming.
Below are 10 potential surprises for this upcoming season. It could be the players find themselves in a better situation that fantasy general managers are overlooking, or the players might be underestimated.
10. Robin Lehner
Lehner is going to start the season battling Thomas Greiss for the starter’s job. I believe Lehner will be the top netminder for the Islanders by Christmas. He was underrated in his three seasons with an atrocious Sabres squad, but now he’ll have a better team in front of him and a better coach in Barry Trotz.
9. Alexander Nylander
Much of the focus is on Sabres rookies Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, but Nylander will be a surprise rookie this season. Reports have Nylander looking impressive in the Sabres rookie camp with three goals and two assists in three games. Don’t look too much into last year’s underwhelming AHL stats when he had 27 points in 51 games. He started the year dealing with the all-too-common lower-body injury, but finished with 21 points in his last 29 games.
8. Jeff Petry
Petry is the Habs number one power play quarterback until at least Christmas. Last year, he put up 42 points, 31 of them in the 49 games Weber missed starting in December. Petry is going late in drafts, but don’t underestimate him. He could crack 40 points again, and don’t forget that he’s a good bet to get triple digits in both hits and blocked shots (he’s averaged 169 and 142 in each category the past two years). If he can reach 200 shots for the first time in his career and improves his plus/minus (he was an ugly minus-30 last year), he should be a top-30 defenseman this season.
7. Christian Dvorak
The more I learn about Dvorak, the more convinced I am that he will become an excellent player in this league. He’s been great everywhere he’s played (including back-to-back 100-point seasons in the OHL and an excellent world juniors and Memorial Cup in 2016). His ice time and powerplay ice time increased in his sophomore season compared to his rookie season, and he seems poised for a breakthrough.
6. Chris Wideman
When Erik Karlsson missed the first five games of last season, Wideman led the team with 4:06 powerplay minutes per game. Only two other Sens defensemen averaged more than 20 seconds: