FANTASY RANKINGS: TOP 250 | CENTER | LW | RW | D-MAN | GOALIE
Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks went undrafted in Yahoo leagues last season, but he had 20 goals and 23 assists in 72 games to finish just outside the top 100 among forwards (103rd). He was able to break out after getting an opportunity to center elite wing Corey Perry. In most cases with deep sleepers, opportunity is the main reason they're able to jump into fantasy relevancy.
Other good examples are forwards Vincent Trocheck of the Florida Panthers and Boone Jenner of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Trocheck went from 22 points in 50 games in 2014-15 to 53 points in 76 games last season. He was also undrafted in Yahoo and finished within the top 100 forwards (82nd). Jenner scored 30 goals with 77 penalty minutes and 225 shots on goal, providing nice category coverage as a pickup during the season.
Video: Fantasy hockey analysis with Pete Jensen
Here are some deep sleeper candidates for the 2016-17 season for Yahoo standard leagues. Most players on this list will go undrafted in a 10-team league and warrant late-round consideration in a 12-team league.
Andre Burakovsky, LW, Washington Capitals
If Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov's ascent into the fantasy elite is a precursor of things to come from Burakovsky this season, he could be a late-round game-changer. The 21-year-old emerged as a potential top-six left wing last season when he had 17 goals and 21 assists in 79 games, all career highs. Burakovsky will have Kuznetsov or veteran center Nicklas Backstrom setting him up this season, so he really can't go wrong in either situation. He may not see much time on the power play, but that shouldn't hinder his overall numbers too much. Though Burakovsky is ranked 168th in NHL.com's top 200, there's a chance he goes overlooked in a 12-team draft, so don't be the one who passes up an opportunity to draft and stash him on your bench.
Stat projection: 22 goals, 30 assists, plus-10, 20 PIM, 8 PPP, 153 SOG
Victor Rask, C, Carolina Hurricanes
Rask is coming off career highs in goals (21), assists (27) and points (48) after emerging as the Hurricanes' most dynamic offensive center. He'll be featured on Carolina's scoring line, likely with wings Jeff Skinner and new addition Teuvo Teravainen. Rask plays on a weak offensive team but is entrenched in a top-six role with plenty of time on the first power play, and that could translate to another jump in production this season. Look for Rask to be available late in a 12-team draft as someone to fill the last spot on your bench.
Stat projection: 24 goals, 33 assists, plus-2, 28 PIM, 20 PPP, 195 SOG
David Pastrnak, RW, Boston Bruins
There's a chance Pastrnak is drafted in a 12-team league, but it's more likely that he'll start the season on the wire. The 20-year-old made the jump to the NHL after being selected with the No. 25 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and has had a minor fantasy impact. He has 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in 97 games with Boston over the past two seasons and goes into this season ranked 173rd overall by NHL.com.
Pastrnak is a virtual lock to play in the Bruins' top six this season, most likely on the top line with elite forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. That opportunity alone will make Pastrnak worth considering late in a draft, and his offensive upside extends into the 50-60 point realm this season.
Stat projection: 21 goals, 30 assists, plus-8, 32 PIM, 15 PPP, 180 SOG
Video: OTT@BOS: Pastrnak dekes in front, roofs pretty goal
Sam Bennett, C, Calgary Flames
In his first full NHL season, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 draft had 18 goals and 18 assists in 77 games. Bennett spent most of his time centering the Flames' second line and figures to play that role again this season. Unfortunately, he won't be playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan at even strength, but he should see them quite often on the first power-play unit. Bennett isn't going to generate a ton of SOG, but his assist totals should go up and he has the ability to cover six of the seven stat categories adequately.
Stat projection: 25 goals, 26 assists, minus-3, 45 PIM, 13 PPP, 166 SOG
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW, New Jersey Devils
The Devils don't have much depth at right wing, and that could thrust Smith-Pelly into a spot in the top six playing with center Adam Henrique and left wing Taylor Hall on the first line or Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac on the second. Obviously, the first-line assignment would do more to enhance Smith-Pelly's fantasy prospects, but either would land him in deep sleeper consideration. He had 13 points (eight goals) in 18 games with New Jersey after being traded by the Montreal Canadiens last season, but it's hard for any player to keep up that type of point pace. Still, Smith-Pelly could make a push for 20 goals with a nice amount of PIM to go with decent hit totals. He may be best suited as a streaming option if the Devils have a favorable matchup.
Stat projection: 20 goals, 22 assists, minus-5, 42 PIM, 6 PPP, 138 SOG
Adam Larsson, D, Edmonton Oilers
One of the Oilers' top offseason additions, Larsson will assume the role of No. 1 defenseman in Edmonton this season. When he was drafted in 2011, many believed Larsson possessed the tools to contribute on offense, but he hasn't shown that so far in his NHL career. Perhaps a presence on an up-and-coming Oilers offense, and even some time on the power play, is what Larsson needs to become a viable fantasy defenseman. He's a player to consider late in a 12-team draft but more than likely should be viewed as a defenseman to monitor on the wire in case the Oilers put it all together.
Stat projection: eight goals, 28 assists, plus-6, 68 PIM, 10 PPP, 113 SOG
Noah Hanifin, D, Carolina Hurricanes
The No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft, Hanifin flew under the radar as a rookie last season and showed a lot of promise as a future fantasy asset. He had four goals and 22 points (seven PPP) in 79 games playing protected minutes (17:54 per game) for Carolina. Hanifin was fifth on the Hurricanes in power-play ice time last season (2:22) and could see a nice boost in point production should that unit improve with the additions of Teravainen and forward Sebastian Aho. After just cracking the top 60 defensemen in Yahoo last season (59th), Hanifin could be ready to jump into the top 50 or even 40 in 2016-17.
Stat projection: 10 goals, 24 assists, minus-8, 32 PIM, 13 PPP, 147 SOG
Video: MTL@CAR: Hanifin rockets one past Lindgren
Damon Severson, D, New Jersey Devils
With Larsson traded to the Oilers, the Devils are pretty thin on defense heading into this season. That should bode well for Severson, who figures to skate with Andy Greene on New Jersey's top pair and could be the lone defenseman on the Devils' impressive power-play unit. He led New Jersey defensemen in points (21) and was second in PP ice time per game (1:42) last season. Severson's numbers were hurt from the sixth lowest shooting percentage (1.1) among defensemen who played at least 70 games last season, so expect his goal total to rise, among other stats.
Stat projection: nine goals, 30 assists, plus-3, 48 PIM, 11 PPP, 134 SOG
Calvin Pickard, G, Colorado Avalanche
If starter Semyon Varlamov's career keeps heading in the wrong direction, Pickard could see more action than he has in the NHL. The 24-year-old is 13-13-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 36 games over the past two seasons, and eight of his 13 starts last season were considered quality. Pickard has high upside as a streamer and would have top 25 potential at his position if Varlamov were to sustain a serious injury.
Stat projection: 36 GP, 14-11-5, 2.45 GAA, .918 SV%, two SOs
Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
With constant questions about No. 1 Sergei Bobrovsky's health, Korpisalo has a shot to be the breakout goalie in fantasy this season. Even when Bobrovsky was healthy, Korpisalo outperformed him by going 16-11-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .920 SV% in 31 games; Bobrovsky was 15-19-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .908 SV% in 37 games. It's hard to imagine the Blue Jackets finishing worse than they did last season (34-40-8; 76 points), so any improvement should benefit each goalie, particularly Korpisalo if it becomes more of a time-share. If your league allows four goalies on a roster, Korpisalo isn't a bad low-risk, high-reward option to keep in mind.
Stat projection: 40 GP, 18-12-4, 2.39 GAA, .921 SV%, three SOs
Additional deep sleeper candidates: Andreas Athanasiou, C, Detroit Red Wings; Radek Faksa, C, Dallas Stars; Frank Vatrano, C, Boston Bruins; Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa Senators; Jaccob Slavin, D, Carolina Hurricanes; Louis Domingue, G, Arizona Coyotes