With very few exceptions, the vast majority of top-tier players are established and well-known to the common fantasy owner. While these players are integral components of a championship team, under-the-radar options with high potential -- better known as sleepers -- can pay huge dividends in fantasy leagues as well.
Whether drafted or added off waivers, these players typically are undervalued on draft day but ultimately can become major fantasy commodities by season's end. Sleepers are extremely unpredictable every season, but the bottom line is these players end up outperforming everyone’s expectations, regardless of their age, team or position.
This week, NHL.com fantasy insiders Sergei Feldman, Pete Jensen and Matt Cubeta (Wednesday, Sept. 12) take in-depth looks at underrated players who should be on your fantasy team's radar entering drafts. Each expert will provide 10 sleeper picks with corresponding stat projections (in order of preference), along with five additional candidates for fantasy owners to keep an eye on.
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY HOCKEY SLEEPERS
1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
This 20-year-old Russian phenom was drafted in the first round of the 2010 Entry Draft but the 2012-13 season will be his first in North America after playing the last four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has point-production savvy beyond his years (47 points in 54 KHL games last season), making him an immediate threat to score 20-plus goals as a rookie. What's more, the opportunity to develop in coach Ken Hitchcock's system makes his situation even more promising. He's a projected third-liner heading into his first NHL season, but will be further utilized if injuries affect the Blues' talented group of forwards again.
Projection: 24 G, 23 A, plus-10, 25 PIM, 12 PPP, 175 SOG