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Fantasy deep sleeper candidates for 2018-19

Roslovic, Sprong, Girard lead intriguing waiver wire candidates

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com identifies 10 deep sleeper candidates for the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season that could go undrafted in a 12-team standard league format. This list will be updated with the latest lineup trends, injuries and training camp news. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

 

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Jack Roslovic, C/RW, WPG -- The Winnipeg Jets forward had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 31 games last season despite inconsistent lineup placement. The 21-year-old will likely see an increased role this season after center Paul Stastny signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 1. Stastny's departure leaves a void on the second line between elite right wing Patrik Laine and forward Nikolaj Ehlers. The potential exposure to Laine would give Roslovic significant fantasy value, similar to the boost Stastny saw after being acquired at the trade deadline last season. Roslovic had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 32 games for Manitoba of the American Hockey League and could be the highest scoring deep sleeper with the right usage.

Daniel Sprong , RW, PIT -- The Pittsburgh Penguins right wing is poised for a full-time NHL role for the first time in his career. The 21-year-old had three points (two goals, one assist) in eight games last season but couldn't find a consistent spot in the lineup. The Penguins forward group will look different this season without Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl, who were key offseason departures. Sprong will likely start on the third line alongside center Derick Brassard but could easily work his way up to the top two lines, gaining exposure to either elite center Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. With the right usage, Sprong could be in the 40-50 point range this season.

Video: PIT@NYI: Sprong labels top corner for his second goal

 

Valentin Zykov , LW/RW, CAR -- The Carolina Hurricanes wing made an immediate impact with seven points (three goals, four assists) in 10 games after making his season debut on March 20. He was given an opportunity to succeed on the top line with forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, who both finished among the top-100 in Yahoo last season (92nd; 95th). Prior to being recalled, Zykov was excelling for Charlotte of the American Hockey League with 54 points (33 goals, 21 assists) in 63 games. The Hurricanes will have a different looking top six this season after selecting wing Andrei Svechnikov with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft. It's likely that Svechnikov will have a higher average draft position in season-long leagues than Zykov, but with chemistry already formed on the top line, the 23-year-old may have a higher ceiling than his 18-year-old teammate.

Andreas Johnsson , LW, TOR -- The Toronto Maple Leafs left wing had to wait until March 14 to make his NHL debut but he quickly gained the trust of coach Mike Babcock, who played the 23-year-old in six Stanley Cup Playoff games. The Maple Leafs made the biggest acquisition of the offseason by signing center John Tavares to a seven-year contract and subsequently the whole team has seen a boost in fantasy value. For Johnsson, he could be directly impacted if he keeps his role on the power play, gaining exposure to one of Tavares or Auston Matthews. At even-strength, Johnsson could play alongside center Nazem Kadri, who has 32 goals in back-to-back seasons. After the Maple Leafs were eliminated in the first round of the 2018 playoffs by the Boston Bruins, Johnsson played for Toronto of the American Hockey League where he had 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 16 postseason games. 

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, CBJ -- The Columbus Blue Jackets right wing had a quiet 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) last season, ranked fourth among team forwards. Bjorkstrand has seen his point totals rise in each of his first three NHL seasons and could be on track for a breakout year. The Blue Jackets top six battled a series of injuries last season to forwards Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson, disrupting a consistency in lines. With a healthy group to start training camp, fantasy owners should keep tabs on how Bjorkstrand is being utilized and if given a top six role, he's worthy of a late-round flier.

Video: CBJ@PHI: Bjorkstrand pots rebound from one knee

 

Samuel Girard, D, COL -- The Colorado Avalanche defenseman was a trendy waiver wire add throughout last season. He finished with 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in 68 games for the Avalanche and had another three points in five games with the Nashville Predators (his former team). Girard proved useful by filling in on the top power play for injured defenseman Tyson Barrie, who missed 25 games with a hand injury. The exposure on the power play to elite forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen made Girard a good injury replacement last season but with Barrie expected to be ready for training camp, Girard is likely to go undrafted in most leagues. Instead, fantasy owners should monitor the 20-year-old's even-strength usage before filing a waiver claim.

Thomas Chabot, D, OTT -- The Ottawa Senators defenseman had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 63 games last season. The Senators may not be the most appealing team from a fantasy perspective but there is high upside with Chabot, who plays on the top pairing with elite defenseman Erik Karlsson. Of course, that could change quickly with Karlsson being linked to trade rumors but even in that scenario, Chabot would see an increased workload, maintaining his value value in deeper leagues. 

Vince Dunn, D, STL -- The St. Louis Blues defenseman had 24 points (five goals, 19 assists), including nine on the power play, in 75 games last season. He became fantasy-relevant after earning a spot on the first power-play unit with exposure to elite right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. Dunn's 24 points ranked third among Blues defenseman behind Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, despite playing 17:44 (5th among Blues defensemen; min 30 games). The Blues added depth over the offseason by trading for center Ryan O'Reilly and signing forwards David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon. Even if Dunn doesn't start the season on the top power play, the deep offense will make him fantasy relevant at even-strength.

Video: STL@CHI: Dunn scores PPG on one-timer

 

Juuse Saros, G, NSH -- The Nashville Predators goaltender recently signed a three-year contract and will likely enter this season as a backup to No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne. Saros led the NHL in save percentage from Nov. 4 to the end of the regular season (.935; min 20 games) and was fourth in goals-against average (2.19) over the same span. The 23-year-old started all 11 of the second half of Nashville's back-to-back sets last season but it's worth noting that the Predators are tied for fewest in the NHL this season with 10. Despite the uncertainty of Saros' workload, he's worth a late-round flier as a bench goalie option that could return high dividends with an increased role.

James Reimer, G, FLA -- The Florida Panthers goaltender is another backup with deep sleeper potential. Reimer played a career-high 44 games last season, including stretches as the No. 1 goalie when starter Roberto Luongo missed time with a groin injury. Both Reimer and Luongo are likely to get plenty of work this season with the Panthers having 17 back-to-back sets (tied for most in NHL). The tandem should be available in later rounds and could make an interesting strategy if drafted together.

Others to consider: Mike Matheson, D, FLA; Ondrej Kase, LW/RW, ANA; Jake DeBrusk, LW, BOS; Elias Lindholm, C/RW, CGY; Sven Baertschi, LW, VAN

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