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Fantasy top 10 sleeper candidates for 2020-21

NHL.com lists potential steals attainable in late rounds; season preview podcast

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

NHL.com identifies the top 10 fantasy hockey sleeper candidates for the 2020-21 season. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Top 250

Sleeper pick from each team in 2020-21

Mock draft | Rookies | Breakouts

Deep sleeper candidates | Cheat sheet

 

 

NOTE: Sleepers are players taken in the late rounds who can vastly outperform their average draft position. They can be young players who have scratched the surface or more experienced ones who remain undervalued for any reason(s). Rookie-eligible fantasy sleepers (e.g. Ilya Sorokin, Nicholas Robertson, Grigori Denisenko, Kaapo Kahkonen) are included in NHL.com's top rookies story. ADP indicates fantasy average draft position at the time when the article was published.

 

1. Oliver Bjorkstrand, LW/RW, CBJ

He was having a breakout fantasy season for the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to an ankle injury last season, leading them in goals (21) and points per game (0.73) in 49 games. Bjorkstrand, who should again be available outside the top 150 overall in fantasy drafts, will have great lineup placement with either center Pierre-Luc Dubois (10 points in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games) or bounce-back candidate Max Domi (acquired from Montreal Canadiens; 72 points in 2018-19).

 

2. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN

He was brilliant as a rookie for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2020 postseason, nearly leading them to a series comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights after being down 3-1 in the Western Conference Second Round. Demko was 2-1 with a .985 save percentage (128 saves on 130 shots faced) and one shutout in four appearances, including three starts facing elimination. Demko should form a strong timeshare tandem with Braden Holtby, who signed a two-year contract with Vancouver on Oct. 9, after the departure of Jacob Markstrom in free agency (signed with Calgary Flames) and could emerge as the starter as early as this season.

 

3. Evgenii Dadonov, LW/RW, OTT

Dadonov, who signed a three-year contract with the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 15, scored a combined 81 goals over the past three seasons (T-36th in NHL) with the Florida Panthers. Dadonov no longer brings exposure to Florida's elite duo of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau but should remain fantasy-relevant in Ottawa with left wing Brady Tkachuk, defenseman Thomas Chabot and left wing prospect Tim Stuetzle (No. 3 pick in 2020 NHL Draft). Dadonov, who scored at least 65 points in each of his first two full seasons with the Panthers, has a realistic chance at 55-60 for the much-improved Senators, who also acquired a proven goalie in Matt Murray from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

4. Alex Tuch, LW/RW, VGK

The Golden Knights wing led them in goals (eight in 20 games) during the 2020 postseason despite playing mostly on the second or third line at even strength. Tuch, who was limited to 42 games last regular season because of injury, had an NHL career-high 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 2018-19 and brings the security of playing for one of the safest fantasy teams. Tuch averaged more than a hit per game (1.4; 58 total) last season and saw some time on a line with valuable right wing Mark Stone in the postseason, indicating Tuch could take on an expanded role this season.

 

5. Jake DeBrusk, LW/RW, BOS

He scored an NHL career-high 27 goals in 2018-19 but took a step back last season and has yet to reach his full potential through three seasons, including the playoffs (23 points in 49 games). But considering elite wings Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak could miss the start of the season after offseason surgeries, DeBrusk could start on a line with top center Patrice Bergeron and make a case for the Bruins to spread out their top scorers once they return to full strength. At worst, DeBrusk will be a fixture on the second line with center David Krejci and likely right wing Craig Smith, who signed a three-year contract with the Bruins on Oct. 10.

 

6. Nate Schmidt, D, VAN

He was acquired by the Canucks from the Golden Knights on Oct. 13. Schmidt, who scored at least 30 points in each of his three seasons with the Golden Knights, goes from one deep offense to another in the Western Conference. He could have his best season yet if he plays on the Canucks' top pair with Quinn Hughes (led rookies with 53 points in 68 games last regular season) at even strength after the departure of Christopher Tanev (signed with Flames) in free agency.

 

7. Anthony Beauvillier, LW, NYI

The New York Islanders left wing had nine goals (tied with center Brock Nelson for their lead), 14 points and 67 shots on goal (second behind Anders Lee's 72) in 22 postseason games. Beauvillier has scored at least 18 goals in each of the past three regular seasons but should build on his NHL career highs in goals (21) and points (39), especially given his strong performance on the second line with Nelson and wing Josh Bailey in the playoffs. Beauvillier would also have an even higher ceiling if he plays more often with top center Mathew Barzal, at least on the power play, where Beauvillier has only averaged 1:14 per game in his NHL career (18 PPP in 286 games).

 

8. Kasperi Kapanen, LW/RW, PIT

He was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 25 and is expected to start the season on the top line with elite forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Kapanen played on mostly the second or third line and had a minimal power-play role with the Toronto Maple Leafs but still reached 20 goals and 44 points in 2018-19 and could reach a new gear on this high-scoring unit.

 

9. Cam Talbot, G, MIN

He left the Calgary Flames to sign a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 9 and is expected to be their No. 1 goalie this season, especially with Alex Stalock out indefinitely because of an upper-body injury. Talbot, who has been a valuable fantasy goalie before (NHL career-high 42 wins with Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17), should benefit from playing behind one of the strongest top four defenseman groups in the NHL with Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin and a sneaky offense featuring young wings Kevin Fiala and rookie Kirill Kaprizov.

 

10. Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, EDM

He signed a two-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 7 after not playing in the NHL last season. Puljujarvi, the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, had 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games for Karpat of Liiga, Finland's top professional league, last season and is worthy of a late fantasy pick with the opportunity for a top-six role with an elite center in either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

 

Other sleeper candidates: Alexandar Georgiev, G, NYR; Ryan Pulock, D, NYI; Samuel Girard, D, COL; Jack Hughes, C/LW, NJD; Roope Hintz, C/LW, DAL

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