Collins puts together his Top 10 sleeper picks for the 2016 NHL playoffs.
One of the best things about playoff hockey is that it gives many of us a chance at fantasy hockey redemption. Quite a few of us were out of the fantasy playoffs quite a while ago. Whether we were rebuilding, had bad luck with injuries or put together a team that flat-out sucked, we've been chomping at the bit to have a team that is relevant once again.
The playoffs are a great opportunity for that. That pitiful regular season can be wiped away with one glorious postseason run. To do that, you need to get lucky on a couple of fronts. You need to correctly predict which teams will go far and you need a couple of sleepers. Here are 10 potential sleepers that can help you on your quest for redemption.
10. Jussi Jokinen
With much of the focus in Florida on the outstanding play of Jaromir Jagr, can we take a minute recognize another veteran on the team? Jokinen had 20 points in 16 games at one point down the stretch and finished the season with 60 points. His last time in the playoffs — albeit with Pittsburgh in 2014 — he managed seven goals and 10 points in 13 games. Teams focusing on shutting down the other Panthers will open up the ice more for Jokinen.
Sure his season as a whole isn't very impressive with just 30 points in 81 games. But you can credit some of that to the fact Jarnkrok was stuck playing with the likes of Cody Hodgson and Viktor Arvidsson at the start of the year. His last 22 games is a bit more impressive with 11 points. That's mostly because he's been taking a regular shift with James Neal and Ryan Johansen. Jarnkrok can be a sneaky pick If that continues into the playoffs and the Preds can get into the second round (and beyond).
You could put Brassard on your list of playoff sleepers every year content with the knowledge that he will always deliver for you in the postseason. Last year he had 16 points in 19 games. The year before that was 12 in 23, and the year prior was 12 in 12. It doesn't matter who he plays with or how much ice time he gets. He'll often be overlooked in playoff pools for the much flashier but less productive Rick Nash or Derek Stepan.
This is when we'll find out how clutch Mr. Game 7 truly is. Washington signed Williams in the hopes he can help elevate the Capitals to some postseason success as the Caps all-time record in game sevens is 4-10. They've also lost nine series since 1985 where they've had a 3-1 series lead. Williams has had a quiet year with 52 points but three times in his career he has hit at least 15 postseason points, with Williams getting 25 in 26 in 2014. This is when he excels.
Sure Silvferberg had a disappointing season overall but you have to look at the big picture going into the postseason. He had lots of playoff success last year with 18 points in 16 games. And he's also had a great, albeit quiet, second-half to the season with 33 points in 43 games. With Silf rolling and the Ducks poised to go deep, poolies could be in store for another great playoff run from Silvferberg.
To see Dobber's own list of sleepers, as well as a full list of players to pick at your draft, pick up the 11th annual DobberHockey Interactive Playoff Draft List here. Just $8.99, an instantly available download!
5. Dustin Brown
Brown reminds me a lot of that famous Toby Keith song: "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." Can he prove this year that he can be as good as he once was? Brown could be one of those perfect late-round boom-or-bust picks. He's had three horrible regular seasons in a row where he's failed to crack 30 points. But go look at his player profile page on Dobber Hockey and scroll down to his most used even strength line combos. There's a lot of Anze Kopitar on that list. Remember he did have 14 points in 26 games the last time the Kings made the playoffs in 2014.
A lot of people in playoff pools have a tendency to look at just the top 10 scorers on each specific team when drafting. That means many will miss out on Drouin as he ranks 18th on Tampa Bay. He's coming into a perfect situation. He has a lot to prove after sitting out part of the season when demanding a trade. He's also going to be getting plenty of ice time as a lot of the top Lightning players are injured.
It's tough to think that a 60-point guy can be a sleeper. But Schenn could be the fourth or fifth Flyer taken on many postseason rosters. He has 37 points in 38 games since Jan. 21 and has been playing regularly with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. He also has 12 points in 18 career playoff games. There's an opportunity for him to be one of the biggest surprises of the postseason.
2. Paul Stastny
I'm one of those guys who believes the Blues will have another first-round flameout. But someone has to step up and get points during that first round. And if they do make a deep run, there's no better sleeper than Stastny. He has been a bit of a bust since joining the Blues but has stepped it up in the last 15 games with 19 points. He has found some nice chemistry with Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer in the last quarter of the season.
1. Nick Bonino
Much of Bonino's success will depend on how long Evgeni Malkin is out of the lineup. Since Malkin was taken out with the all-too-common upper body injury on March 11, Bonino's points-per-game has skyrocketed from 0.27 to 1.06. All bets are off if Malkin plays the whole playoffs (there are rumours he may be back at some point in the first round). But if he misses a round or two, Bonino will be counted on to continue his regular season success.
Who is your favorite sleeper, not named here?
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