The early rounds of a fantasy draft are vital, but the late stages are often where league championships are won.
Sleepers, players taken outside the top 100 with the chance to outperform their draft positions, should be on fantasy owners' minds leading up to any draft. They can be young players who have scratched the surface or more experienced ones who remain undervalued for one reason or another. Examples of fantasy sleepers who panned out last season are forwards David Pastrnak, Alexander Radulov, Rickard Rakell and Nikolaj Ehlers.
FANTASY RANKINGS: Top 250 | Top 100 'F' | C | LW | RW | Top 50 'D' | Top 25 'G'
DRAFT GUIDES: Standard mock draft 1.0 | Keeper / dynasty | Hits | Faceoff wins
2017-18 PROJECTIONS: Forward points | D-man points | Goalie wins | Team previews
LISTS: Forward bargains | D-man bargains | Breakouts | Sleepers | Deep sleepers | Rookies
Here are some sleeper candidates for the 2017-18 season, listed in order of Yahoo average draft position (ADP):
NOTES: Potential impact rookies (e.g. Nico Hischier, Clayton Keller. Nolan Patrick, Joshua Ho-Sang, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy) have been identified in a separate list and are not included below. ... NHL.com has also released a list of deep sleepers for fantasy owners in a larger format.
Patrick Marleau, C/LW, TOR
Yahoo ADP: 150.0
Marleau's age (turns 38 on Sept. 15) is a concern, but he scored 27 goals and had 16 power-play points for the San Jose Sharks last season even with their offense and power play regressing compared to two seasons ago. In addition to a likely first power-play role with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marleau could flank Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews, who led the NHL in even-strength goals (32) as a rookie. NHL.com staff writer Ben Zweiman took a detailed look at Marleau's sleeper potential after he signed a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs on July 2.
Video: EDM@SJS, Gm4: Marleau wires in PPG to extend lead
Ryan Strome, C/RW, EDM
Yahoo ADP: 166.5
Strome, 24, had 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) with the New York Islanders in 2014-15 but needed a change in scenery after taking a big step back two seasons ago and failing to return to form last season. He got a good amount of power-play time on the Islanders' first unit last season but only had eight PPP. That said, he brings speed and versatility (can play center or wing) to an Oilers forward group that could use a complementary piece alongside Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl. A chance to play on the right side of either McDavid or Draisaitl makes Strome's fantasy ceiling high again. Strome could become a restricted free agent July 1, 2018, so no one should be surprised if he has an NHL career high in points this season. And a recent vote of confidence from McDavid further strengthens Strome's sleeper candidacy.
Evgenii Dadonov, LW/RW, FLA
Yahoo ADP: 170.7
The Florida Panthers have parted ways with unrestricted free agent forward Jaromir Jagr, leaving a first power-play role and top-line right wing spot up for grabs alongside talented center Aleksander Barkov and left wing Jonathan Huberdeau. Dadonov, 28, returns to the Panthers after playing the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League and is a glaring sleeper with 50-point potential in this favorable spot. Barkov and Huberdeau missed significant time because of injuries last season, but each could have his best season yet on a line with the KHL's fourth-leading goal-scorer (30) and fifth-leading point-producer (66) in 2016-17.
Elias Lindholm, C/RW, CAR
Yahoo ADP: 174.2
Lindholm, 22, showcased his playmaking ability during the second half of last season with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists), a plus-4 rating, nine PPP and 100 SOG over his final 45 games. He also ranked 12th in the NHL in primary assists (29) last season, a higher total than six of the top 10 point-producers in the League (Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov: 28 each; Brent Burns: 27; Mark Scheifele: 26; Brad Marchand: 23; Vladimir Tarasenko: 18). Lindholm saw time on the first power-play unit (2:12 of PP TOI per game) for the Carolina Hurricanes and developed chemistry with Sebastian Aho and Justin Faulk, which bodes well if they take the next step toward Stanley Cup Playoff contention. Lindholm remains underrated in fantasy circles, attainable in the final rounds of a 12-team draft.
Nick Schmaltz, C/LW, CHI
Yahoo ADP: 180.8
Schmaltz struggled in his first career NHL postseason (no points in four games), but has a chance to take a big step forward this season. He scored 28 points and was plus-10 in 61 games as a rookie, but thrived down the stretch in a top-six role playing mostly with center Jonathan Toews with 21 points (17 at even strength) in his final 26 games. He also saw time with right wing Patrick Kane and Panarin in that span, and is a candidate to play either center or wing on Kane's line after Panarin's departure. He could also see more power-play time than he did as a rookie (1:02 per game) considering forward Marian Hossa (skin condition) is out for the year and Patrick Sharp has injury concerns.
Ivan Barbashev, C/LW, STL
Yahoo ADP: N/A
Barbashev, 21, has a chance at 45-50 points this season or potentially even more if he can slot in as one of the St. Louis Blues' top two centers. Newly acquired Brayden Schenn played wing last season for the Flyers, and Paul Stastny remains an injury concern. Barbashev finished last regular season on a four-game point streak in his trial on the top line with Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, so coach Mike Yeo could easily go back to that trio at some point. Even if Barbashev falls back to third-line center for the Blues, he has a chance to find chemistry with one of their productive left wings (Schenn, Schwartz, Alexander Steen). The season-ending injury to Robby Fabbri should elevate Barbashev into the top nine for good.
Shea Theodore, D, VGK
Yahoo ADP: 165.8
Theodore, 22, was not a fixture in the Anaheim Ducks lineup over his first two NHL seasons (17 points in 53 games), but his offensive flair and power-play prowess were on full display in the 2017 postseason. He had five points (two goals, three assists) in the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler sidelined by a knee injury and finished with eight points (two goals, six assists), two PPP and 24 SOG in 14 playoff games. After being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, he'll have a chance to run their first power-play unit with goal-scorers James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault, and provide 35-40 points with 15-18 PPP over a full season in an expanded role.
Video: ANA@CGY, Gm3: Theodore's wrister finds twine
Ivan Provorov, D, PHI
Yahoo ADP: 167.4
Provorov was three seconds behind Nikita Zaitsev of the Maple Leafs for the NHL rookie lead in average ice time per game (21:58) but was much more efficient than Zaitsev in plus/minus (Provorov, minus-7; Zaitsev, minus-22) despite playing for a non-playoff team. It will be tough for Provorov to earn more first-unit power-play time in Philadelphia behind Shayne Gostisbehere, but his 25 even-strength points ranked third among NHL rookie defensemen behind Brady Skjei (32) and Zach Werenski (26), and shockingly ahead of Drew Doughty (24), an elite player at the position. Provorov leads the wave of young Flyers defenseman prospects vying for minutes this season, and his first of many seasons in the 40-point range could be on the way.
Robin Lehner, G, BUF
Yahoo ADP: 132.8
In addition to hopefully having elite center Jack Eichel healthy for a full season, Lehner should benefit from the Buffalo Sabres bringing in coach Phil Housley, whose work as an assistant with the Nashville Predators defense was key in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Buffalo should get an even-strength scoring boost from bringing back veteran forward Jason Pominville and defensive help from adding Marco Scandella in the same trade from the Minnesota Wild. Lehner, 25, has a .921 save percentage through 80 games over two seasons with the Sabres but is long overdue for more goal support and defensive help. If he gets both, he'll have the workload to finish with at least 30 wins and in the 11-15 range among goalies.
Steve Mason, G, WPG
Yahoo ADP: 166.8
Given the inconsistency of goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, Mason could feasibly emerge as the Winnipeg Jets' starter over time. It'll likely be a time-share situation in Winnipeg to start, but Mason should be rejuvenated by a likely uptick in goal support with the Jets (3.0 goals per game; 7th in NHL). The Philadelphia Flyers finished 21st in 2014-15 (2.59), 22nd in 2015-16 (2.57) and tied for 20th last season (2.59). Winnipeg could be even better offensively if Patrik Laine plays a full season and the power play improves. Hellebuyck had 26 wins in 56 games with erratic peripherals, so Mason's .918 SV% over 231 games with the Flyers could translate well.
Antti Raanta, G, ARI
Yahoo ADP: 164.8
The Arizona Coyotes have vastly improved their roster this offseason, and the Pacific Division might be the weakest of the four. That means fantasy owners can't afford to sleep on Raanta (2.26 goals-against average, .922 SV%, four shutouts), who outperformed his New York Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist (2.74, .910, two SO) in three of the four fantasy categories last season. With the addition of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and two-way forward Derek Stepan, the young Coyotes should be much more competitive than last season, when they forced goaltender Mike Smith to frequently withstand a heavy shot volume. He could get you 55-60 starts, 25-30 wins with a solid save percentage.
Other sleeper candidates: Vadim Shipachyov (C/LW, VGK), Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, EDM), Tomas Hertl (C/LW, SJS), Jimmy Howard (G, DET), Dmitry Orlov (D, WSH), Juuse Saros (G, NSH), Josh Manson (D, ANA), Kevin Fiala (LW/RW, NSH), Pavel Buchnevich (LW/RW, NYR), Brock Nelson (C/LW, NYI)
Sleeper candidates from last season who remain potential steals: Teuvo Teravainen (C/LW, CAR), James Reimer (G, FLA), Morgan Rielly (D, TOR)