The Journey: Early Sleepers for 2022-23 (Hischier, Romanov, Lehkonen)

Benjamin Gehrels

2022-04-16

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way. This week, we'll take a closer look at three players who may be undervalued heading into next year's drafts.

How high is Nico Hischier going to go in drafts next year? His trade value has been relatively low for a while now as a former first overall pick who looked to be developing into neither a bust nor a star. He is almost 100 games past his 200-game Breakout Threshold, nearing the end of his fifth season in the league, and had never broken 60 points in a year. It'll be interesting to see whether the majority of fantasy managers realize that he's a point-per-game (ppg) player now. Here are his ppg numbers over the four quarters of this year: 0.63, 0.75, 1.0, 1.3. That's a player whose trajectory is headed straight up.

Luckily for Devils fans, Hischier's breakout seems to be coinciding perfectly with that of rising superstar Jack Hughes, who finally pushed past the ppg mark himself this year. Hischier hasn't simply been riding his dynamic teammate's coattails either. Although the two line up together on the power play, Hischer has played most of his five-on-five shifts alongside Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, and Tomas Tatar. Since Hughes went down with an injury on April 3rd, Hischier has scored eight points in five games.

Does the average fantasy player consider Hischier (2.8 points/60) roughly as valuable as stars like Alex DeBrincat (2.8), Brayden Point (2.8), and Elias Pettersson (2.7)? I doubt it, and that means there might be a buy-low opportunity here. Treat him as a 75+ point player with strong faceoff totals and decent hits moving forward but keep in mind that he doesn't shoot a lot (2.15 shots/game) and his power play totals (0.18/game) are lower than we'd like to see from a high-end star. But he's driving play well against high-quality competition and putting this many points on the board without the benefit of the constant offensive zone starts that Hughes gets (46% to 62%).

This guy is for real. Check out these two recent clips of him in action. The first one gives me Sidney Crosby vibes and the second one shows off his unreal hand-eye coordination: he settles down a massive saucer pass while entering the opposing zone at top speed, dekes a defender, then sends a perfect pass across the crease to his open teammate. Hischier is consistently making eye-popping plays like these recently.