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Fantasy deep sleeper candidates for 2019-20

Kotkaniemi, Hronek can take next steps; Koskinen has improved value under Tippett

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com identifies deep sleeper candidates for fantasy hockey in 2019-20. These players have sneaky upside but will likely be available in the final rounds or go undrafted in standard, 12-team leagues. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Sleepers | Breakouts | Rookies | Bounce-backsTop 250

 

FORWARDS

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, MTL

NHL.com rank: N/A

The Montreal Canadiens center had 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games as an 18-year-old rookie. Kotkaniemi mostly skated in a third line role but also saw time on both power-play units with exposure to fantasy-relevant skaters Max Domi and Shea Weber. The No. 3 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft could move up in the lineup if Domi plays wing in the top six. With rookie center Ryan Poehling expected to join the bottom six, Kotkaniemi could find himself in a prominent situation to start the season, potentially bringing exposure to Domi, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher or Jonathan Drouin at even strength.

 

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, CBJ

NHL.com rank: N/A

The Columbus Blue Jackets right wing had an NHL career-high 23 goals in 77 games this season. Bjorkstrand alternated between the second and third line during the regular season but found a consistent spot in the top six during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he had five points (two goals, three assists) in 10 games. Bjorkstrand will likely see an elevated role next season with forwards Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

 

Nikita Gusev, LW, VGK

NHL.com rank: N/A

The Vegas Golden Knights left wing finished tied for second at the 2019 IIHF World Championship with 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 10 games for Russia. Gusev led the Kontinental Hockey League with 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists) in 62 games this season and should contribute offensively for the Golden Knights next season. With forwards Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson all fixtures in Vegas' top six, Gusev may start the season on the third line with Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch but would take on a larger role with any injuries to the aforementioned names.

 

Alexander Kerfoot, C/LW, COL

NHL.com rank: 208

The Colorado Avalanche forward had 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists), 16 on the power play, in 78 games this season mostly skating in a top six and power-play role. Kerfoot had nearly identical numbers to his rookie season (43 points, 17 PPP in 79 games) and has shown flashes of brilliance, but his fantasy ceiling next season could be determined by the quality of his even-strength linemates. The Avalanche could get an overall boost in fantasy value with defenseman Cale Makar expected to be among the most valuable rookies next season.

 

Pavel Buchnevich, RW, NYR

NHL.com rank: 240

The New York Rangers right wing had an NHL career high in goals (21) and was on pace for 48 points, but multiple injuries limited him to 64 games. When healthy, Buchnevich skated on the top line with valuable center Mika Zibanejad, who broke out with 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) in 82 games. With the acquisition of a No. 1 defenseman in Jacob Trouba (from Winnipeg Jets) and addition of right wing Kaapo Kakko (No. 2 pick in 2019 NHL Draft), the Rangers could have sneaky value in fantasy, and Buchnevich would at least remain with Zibanejad on the first power play.

 

Sven Baertschi, LW, VAN

NHL.com rank: N/A

The Vancouver Canucks left wing has missed a combined 112 games over the past four seasons because of multiple injuries. He had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 26 games this season, an 82-game pace of 44 points. When healthy, Baertschi found himself in a top-six role with either center Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson, which bodes well for his fantasy stock next season. The Canucks acquired forward J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 22, but Baertschi should still has sneaky fantasy appeal if healthy.

 

DEFENSEMEN

Filip Hronek, D, DET

NHL.com rank: 218

The Detroit Red Wings defenseman led the position with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 10 games with Czech Republic at the World Championship and could be a fixture on Detroit's top power play next season. Hronek was a part of the Red Wings' strong finish to the season, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists), two on the power play, over the final six games. With Mantha, Hronek, Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Taro Hirose, Mike Green and Jimmy Howard all ranked in NHL.com's top 250, the Red Wings have sneaky fantasy appeal next season.

 

Devon Toews, D, NYI

NHL.com rank: 238

The New York Islanders defenseman emerged on the fantasy landscape with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 48 games and led them at the position with five points (one goal, four assists), four on the power play, in eight playoff games. Toews looks to have carved out a role as the Islanders' No. 2 fantasy defenseman behind Ryan Pulock (192nd in NHL.com's rankings) and ahead of Nick Leddy, who has struggled over the past two seasons. Toews could close the gap on Pulock after earning top power-play usage during the playoffs.

 

GOALIES

Juuse Saros, G, NSH

NHL.com rank: 176

The Nashville Predators goalie went 17-10-2 with a .915 save percentage and three shutouts in an NHL career-high 31 games. Saros also appeared in one playoff game, stopping 20 of 21 shots faced (.952 SV%) against the Dallas Stars in the first round. The increase in games was encouraging for Saros, who has had high upside for years but remains in the shadow of starter Pekka Rinne. Rinne will turn 37 on Nov. 3, so Saros, 24, will have another opportunity to return value in mid-to-late rounds.

 

Mikko Koskinen, G, EDM

NHL.com rank: 200

The Edmonton Oilers goalie went 25-21-6 with a .906 save percentage and four shutouts in 55 games during his first full NHL season. Despite the Oilers inconsistency, Koskinen was streamable at times, and his four shutouts were tied for 10th in the NHL. The Oilers hired coach Dave Tippett on May 28, which could give Koskinen a significant boost in fantasy value within a better defensive structure. Tippett coached the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons and could have a similar effect on the Oilers, who had two of the NHL's six 100-point scorers this season (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl).

 

Other deep sleeper candidates for 2019-20: Alexandar Georgiev, G, NYR; Kailer Yamamoto, RW, EDM; Vince Dunn, D, STL; Sam Girard, D, COL; Colin White, C, OTT; Sam Bennett, LW/RW, CGY; Jesper Bratt, LW/RW, NJD; Dominik Kahun, C/LW/RW, PIT

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