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
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
With very few exceptions, the vast majority of top-tier players are established and well-known to the common fantasy owner. But 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 are typically undervalued on draft day but can ultimately become fantasy commodities by season's end. Sleepers are extremely unpredictable every year, 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 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.
SERGEI FELDMAN'S FANTASY HOCKEY SLEEPERS:
What do you get when you take into account a one-time 50-goal scorer, a five-time 30-plus goal-scorer and an impressive crop of forwards to play alongside with? Hejduk, who figures to be a consistent contributor for fantasy owners given the new wave of talent in the Mile High City.
Projection: 22 G, 38 A, plus-5, 25 PIM, 25 PPP, 210 SOG
In 1979, the WHA's All-Stars played a three-game series against HC Moscow Dynamo in an event noteworthy because hockey legend Gordie Howe played on a line with his son Mark and a burgeoning young star named Wayne Gretzky.
In the first game of an eventual sweep for the WHA, the line combined for seven points.
Such a collaboration of historic talent in one place has rarely been echoed, though Gretzky and Mario Lemieux playing on the same line at the 1987 Canada Cup and Canada's roster at the 2010 Winter Olympics come to mind. Still, the fact remains that fans will never get to see all of the greats playing together in their prime. Sidney Crosby will never share ice with Jari Kurri and Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr will never pair on the blue line with Erik Karlsson and likewise, the two of them will never play in front of Patrick Roy.
For those wondering just how that dream team lineup might look, however, EA SPORTS could have the solution.
All-Star games and fantasy hockey have given us a glimpse of how the greats would play together for years so long as they're contemporaries, but when EA releases NHL '13 this month, fans will get the chance to see how any legend from any era would have played with anyone else. With the Hockey Ultimate Team mode in EA SPORTS NHL '13, gamers will be able to build rosters from a pool that includes over 4,000 current and past players from the NHL and other leagues around the world. Ultimate Team mode gives gamers the opportunity to build their ideal all-time fantasy team.
SOG: 277 | +/-: -7
Anchoring the right wing rankings for the second straight year is Perry, whose 2010-11 masterpiece (50 G, 48 A, plus-9, 104 PIM, 31 PPP, 290 SOG) still resonates throughout the fantasy landscape. His 38-point drop last season put his standing in serious jeopardy, but his ability to post 37 goals (T-6th in NHL) and finish as the League's only RW with 60-plus points and 120-plus PIM during his team's forgettable season solidified his No. 1 ranking.
Helping Perry's cause in reclaiming the top spot is the uncertainty surrounding last season's most prolific right wingers, Gaborik and Marian Hossa. Both remain ranked in the top six at the position entering the new season based on their past performance and potent linemates, but their projected fantasy values could dip if their recoveries from late-season injuries carry over into 2012-13.
It's that time of year again. Welcome back, fantasy hockey fans!
Each year we hope that this is "the" year -- the year you take home that fantasy crown and own bragging rights for the offseason. Whether you're looking to bounce back from a devastating loss last season or looking to defend your title, there's nothing better than the start of the new fantasy season.
That year of years starts with the best strategies to build and develop your fantasy league's champion. From draft preparation all the way through in-season trades and the playoffs (for those of you in head-to-head leagues), NHL.com's panel of fantasy hockey experts will be here for you year-round.
It starts now.
There's no place like home ...
And after an NHL offseason filled with signings and trades galore, many players -- superstars included -- will have to get acclimated to a new team, system and group of teammates, for they, too, are not in Kansas anymore.
As such, NHL.com fantasy insider Sergei Feldman examines the new fantasy hockey landscape and looks at some key new faces in new places that owners should be aware of as they prepare their strategies for upcoming drafts.
NOTE: The following players were reviewed in tiers (descending order).
RICK NASH (LW)
2012-13 Team: New York Rangers
Despite finishing 2011-12 with yet another 30-goal season (his seventh), the still-young and in-his-prime winger failed to meet lofty fantasy expectations. Nash amassed 59 points -- his lowest output in four years -- and a minus-19 rating in 82 games.
His former club and the Rangers' trade partner, Columbus, had the League's worst record and scored the fifth-fewest goals, so Nash certainly had little help. Sharing the same ice with the likes of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards could elevate the former "Rocket" Richard Trophy co-winner to new heights.
One of the greatest misconceptions surrounding fantasy hockey is the idea that goals and assists ultimately win leagues.
In most cases, having either an elite point-production threat (i.e. Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, etc.) or a wealth of scoring depth usually translates to fantasy prowess. But while those may be recipes for success, there's no disputing that down-to-the-wire matchups are often decided by supplementary categories, such as shots on goal, power-play points, plus-minus and penalties in minutes.
While many potent offensive players excel in the first three aforementioned categories, PIM are often held at a greater premium than the others. Only four players in history (Kevin Stevens, Gary Roberts, Brendan Shanahan and Keith Tkachuk) have compiled 50-plus goals and 200-plus PIM in a single season, and recently, a game-breaking combination of points and PIMs has become even less frequent.
The last player to post 100 points and 100 PIM in the same season was Sidney Crosby in 2005-06. Last season, not a single skater posted 90-plus points and 90-plus PIM. But just because elite PIM/point campaigns don't come around as often doesn't mean you can't find a dual-threat difference-maker in your upcoming draft.
Here are 15 skaters who provided their fantasy owners with points and PIM at a notable rate last season. Eyeing these players in fantasy drafts -- assuming they stay healthy for a full season -- could give your team a multi-category lift that could result in championship hardware.
If you could assemble a team where the stars of both yesterday and today could fill your 16-man fantasy hockey roster, which players would make the cut?
Would you take Brian Leetch's 80-assist season in 1991-92 or Denis Potvin's 98-point, 100-PIM showing in 1975-1976 to round out your blue line? Would you spend your last bench spot on Jonathan Quick's brilliant 2011-12 season or elect for Gordie Howe's well-rounded 1968-69 campaign?
NHL.com now turns back the clock to create a roster strategically stacked with the best statistical seasons -- by each position -- since the expansion era began in 1967.
Keep in mind, this roster does not argue the top players in NHL history, but rather recognizes players with the highest fantasy hockey value based on their best individual seasons.
PLEASE NOTE: This roster was constructed under the generic Yahoo! Sports fantasy hockey roster format (2 C, 2 LW, 2 RW, 4 D, 2 G, 4 BN), taking the following statistics into account: G, A, PIM, plus-minus, PPG, SOG for skaters; W, G.A.A., SV%, SO for goalies.
80 games, 92 G, 120 A, 26 PIM, plus-81, 18 PPG, 369 SOG
"The Great One" is the most dominant point-producer the NHL has ever seen, and never was it more evident than in '81-82. Gretzky's 92-goal showing set a League record that stands to this day, and his shot total was a personal best by 11. His point total (212) and plus/minus rating were the second-best of his career. It's probable that a level of Gretzky-like statistical prowess will never be reached again.
Each year, the NHL Draft -- as it pertains to Fantasy Hockey -- comes with its share of uncertainties. For instance, the list of Calder Trophy finalists from each of the past four seasons indicates a common trend of at least one top-10 pick being recognized, but also proves that under-the-radar prospects are just as likely to burst onto the scene and display a seamless transition to the NHL level.
Whether a standout first-year player is a top-five pick from the most recent draft, a top-five pick from a past season's NHL Draft or a mid-to-late round pick, it remains unpredictable to detect when a given player will make his first mark in the League. Even last season, the list of first round draft picks to make a fantasy impact was limited to Nugent-Hopkins, Landeskog, Adam Larsson, Sean Couturier and Sven Baertschi.
NHL.com fantasy insiders Pete Jensen and Sergei Feldman now take a look at the top three picks in the 2012 NHL Draft and weigh their potential in terms of fantasy value. Each analyst will also provide a sleeper pick to keep an eye on over the course of the 2012-13 NHL season. Keep in mind, while it's possible some of these prospects could return to their junior teams or only compete in the AHL this season, each player's fantasy projection is being made under the assumption that the given player will spend some time at the NHL level.
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