10 sleepers to target in your draft
We’re all guilty of putting a little too much emphasis on sleeper picks.
Every year, we have certain guys we think are slated for breakout seasons, ones that we’re sure no one else will predict. After all, selecting a player in the 10th round that outperforms a player chosen in the fifth is a great way to win your pool.
Two of last season’s best sleeper picks would have been Kyle Okposo, in points-only pools, and Radko Gudas for multi-cat leagues. While Gudas came out of nowhere, Okposo was bouncing back after a couple of subpar campaigns.
Here are this season’s top 10 sleepers.
10. Tobias Enstrom
There are only eight defencemen in the league that have had at least two 50-point seasons in the past five years, and Enstrom is of them. In that time frame, he has more points than Mike Green, Alex Pietrangelo, Niklas Kronwall, and a host of other defencemen that are ranked higher than him this season in many pools. Sure, he had a rough year last season, but one bad season isn’t enough to write off the Jets defenceman, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him rebound.
9. Alexander Semin
There is still some hope for the $7-million man in Carolina. He’s just two seasons removed from a point-per-game season (yes, it was the lockout-shortened season, but he still gets credit for it). But pretty much everyone underperformed last season with the Hurricanes, and at his hefty cap hit, he’ll be given every opportunity to match his numbers from two seasons ago.
8. Michael Ryder
Ryder is one of those frustrating players to own because he only does one thing well: score goals. When he’s doing that, he’s great. When he’s not, he’s pretty much useless. Last season was more of the latter than the former, but things could be looking up for Ryder. The Devils made some moves this offseason, giving Ryder some better quality players to work with instead of being stuck with Ryane Clowe and Adam Henrique.
7. Antoine Vermette
Any time you can draft a player who is elite in a certain category, you have to go for it. And that’s what Vermette brings to the table. Last season, Vermette was one of just two players to win more than 1,000 faceoffs. And since you can slot him in as a winger in many leagues, he carries even more value. As a bonus, he can still be a 50-point guy, and he’s sturdy enough that he’s played a full schedule for each of the last five seasons.
6. Loui Eriksson
After back-to-back-to-back 70-point seasons, the shine is starting to fall off of Eriksson as he has just 66 points in the past two years combined. Yet, things may be looking better for Eriksson this season. There’s a good chance he slides up the depth chart and takes over the spot left vacant by Jarome Iginla. An increase in power play time will help Eriksson return to his glory days.
5. Martin Havlat
The ultimate Band-Aid boy (heck, he even gets injured during a line change), Havlat is getting a new lease on life in New Jersey. Havlat has a good chance to be a top-six player in the swamp, and it’s not like the guy doesn’t know how to score. As recently as 2011-12, he was on a 57-point pace. With the opportunity to get plenty of power play time, Havlat could turn back the clock and get back to that pace pretty easily.
4. Brian Elliott
While Elliott must be getting used to timeshare duties, he now has the chance to be a true number one goalie for the first time in four seasons. Right now, his main competition is rookie phenom Jake Allen, but Elliott’s numbers with the Blues are good enough to guarantee him at least half the starts. Yet, Elliott isn’t considered a top-tier goalie, but when you think of the defence he has in front of him, it’s almost impossible for him to fail.
3. Chad Johnson
As a backup to Jarolsav Halak, Chad Johnson is pretty much guaranteed at least 30 games. Johnson has put up respectable numbers career numbers (20-6-6 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average), while Halak has only started 50 games in a season twice in his career. Look for Johnson to get a lot of work this season.
2. Lubomir Visnovsky
The Isles defencemen missed a good chunk of last season because of injuries, but he should still be one of the team’s top power play guys, which means plenty of opportunity to play with John Tavares. With an improved plus-minus thanks to the Halak/Johnson duo in net, and his willingness to block a shot, Visnovsky is more valuable than many may remember.
1. Anton Khudobin
There’s a new coach and a new general manager in Carolina, so the team won’t be tied to the former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward. Instead, the new regime wants results now, and Khudobin is their best opportunity to do so. Ward has never had a season as good as Khudobin did last season (Khudobin’s 2.30 goals against last year is better than Ward has ever managed in nine seasons with the club), and if Ward’s injury situation the last two seasons continues, Khudobin has a great opportunity to be the team’s top netminder.
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