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Fantasy top 10 deep sleeper candidates for 2020-21

NHL.com lists players with upside who will go late or undrafted; podcast episode

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com identifies fantasy hockey deep sleeper candidates for the 2020-21 season. For more coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

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NOTES: These are players who have upside but will likely be available in the final rounds or go undrafted in most standard, 12-team leagues. Standard fantasy categories: goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal and hits for skaters; wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goalies. ADP indicates fantasy average draft position at the time when the article was published.

 

1. Brandon Saad, LW/RW, COL

The Colorado Avalanche left wing is expected to either play on the first line with NHL.com's No. 1 ranked fantasy player in Nathan MacKinnon or second unit with valuable category coverage center Nazem Kadri. Saad has averaged 23.3 goals per season over the past six (since 2014-15) and has a higher gear within Colorado's elite offense (3.37 goals per game, fourth in NHL last season). Saad is worth prioritizing in the late rounds to tap into the most valuable team in the fantasy power rankings.

 

2. Kaapo Kakko, RW, NYR

The New York Rangers right wing had a disappointing rookie season; the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 66 games and was minus-26 in mostly a bottom-six role. But Kakko could reach his potential within the Rangers' potent offense (3.33 goals per game; 5th in NHL last season) on either the first line with center Mika Zibanejad, who led the NHL in goals per game (41 in 57 games), or second unit with left wing Artemi Panarin (NHL career-high 95 points in 69 games). Kakko could also bring exposure to Zibanejad and Panarin on the first power play and is worth selecting in the final round of a standard draft.

 

3. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJD

The New Jersey Devils goalie went 22-14-8 with a .915 save percentage and three shutouts as a rookie last season. Blackwood's wins (led rookies) and SV% were impressive considering the Devils had the third fewest wins (28) in the NHL and were tied for the fifth most goals allowed (224). Blackwood has a .916 SV% in 70 NHL games despite New Jersey missing the postseason in each of his first two seasons, making him a dependable No. 3 fantasy goalie option for the Devils, even in the difficult MassMutual East Division.

 

4. Cody Glass, C/RW, VGK

The Vegas Golden Knights forward could see a role in the top six this season after Paul Stastny was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9. Glass missed the entire postseason for Vegas after having knee surgery but scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 39 games as a rookie in 13:22 per game. Glass could see a big increase in ice time this season and potentially bring exposure to valuable wings Max Pacioretty and/or Mark Stone, which would give Glass a floor of at least 45 points.

 

5. Dominik Kahun, LW/RW, EDM

The Edmonton Oilers wing is one of the most intriguing names on the deep sleeper list with potential exposure to either elite forward Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Kahun scored 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games last season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. Kahun raised his goals-per-game output from 0.16 in his rookie season to 0.21 in 2019-20, suggesting he could continue to grow into a better goal scorer with more consistent lineup placement. Kahun's potential even-strength exposure alone makes him well worth a last-round pick in 12-team standard leagues, and his dual-eligibility could make him a valuable bench addition to any fantasy team.

 

6. Josh Anderson, RW, MTL

The right wing brings rare category coverage in goals (NHL career-high 27 in 2018-19) and hits (2.3 per game in career) when healthy. Anderson missed 44 games with a shoulder injury last season and was not fantasy relevant with four points (one goal, three assists) in 26 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. But the move to Montreal brings Anderson renewed upside, and it's feasible to suggest that he could finish among the top 50 overall skaters with a top-six role. Anderson and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin were the only two skaters with at least 25 goals and 200 hits in 2018-19, when Anderson finished 35th overall in fantasy. The category coverage makes Anderson worthy of a last-round selection, but it's worth noting the Canadiens are deep at right wing with him, Brendan Gallagher, Tyler Toffoli and Joel Armia.

 

7. Linus Ullmark, G, BUF

The Buffalo Sabres made one of the biggest signings of the offseason in valuable left wing Taylor Hall, boosting their overall fantasy appeal. Ullmark went 17-14-3 with a .915 save percentage and one shutout last season despite Buffalo lacking much secondary scoring. Ullmark started more games (34) than Carter Hutton (30) and could emerge as the clear starter for the Sabres, who haven't qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011. With additional goal support from Hall and veteran center Eric Staal (acquired from Minnesota Wild on Sept. 16), Ullmark is a sneaky target in the final rounds who could be a big fantasy surprise.

 

8. Martin Necas, C/RW, CAR

The Carolina Hurricanes forward quietly scored 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 64 games in his first full NHL season and four points (one goal, three assists) in eight postseason games. Necas will likely start the season on the second line with forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter and could see time on the top power-play unit with valuable forwards Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. With the right lineup placement, Necas could be the deep sleeper who makes the biggest jump this season.

 

9. Anthony Cirelli, C, TBL

The Tampa Bay Lightning center gains significant fantasy appeal with elite forward Steven Stamkos now playing mostly wing. Cirelli will likely be Tampa Bay's second line center, potentially bringing exposure to Stamkos and/or Alex Killorn at even strength if Tampa Bay spreads out its scoring with right wing Nikita Kucherov (hip surgery) out for the season. The Lightning led the League with 243 goals last season and remain one of the most potent fantasy teams with Stamkos and fellow elite skaters in center Brayden Point and defenseman Victor Hedman. Cirelli scored an NHL career-high 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 68 games last season and has an even higher fantasy ceiling with more experience.

 

10. Matt Grzelcyk, D, BOS

The Boston Bruins defenseman scored an NHL career-high 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 68 games last season. Top defenseman Torey Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 9, opening a spot on the first power-play unit. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy could take that coveted spot and break out, but Grzelcyk was more than capable of filling in on PP1 last season (seven power-play points). Even if Grzelcyk doesn't capture a full-time power-play role, he will still bring even-strength exposure to elite forwards David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, making Grzelcyk an intriguing late-round target as a bench defenseman.

 

Other deep sleeper candidates: Devon Toews, D, COL; Justin Schultz, D, WSH; Filip Hronek, D, DET; Anthony Duclair, LW/RW, FLA; Joel Farabee, LW/RW, PHI; Craig Smith, RW, BOS; Calvin Petersen, G, LAK; Rasmus Sandin, D, TOR  

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