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Fantasy sleeper candidates for 2020 Stanley Cup

Lehner, Yamamoto, Burakovsky, Chychrun lead underrated options; podcast analysis

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

NHL.com identifies 10 sleeper candidates for fantasy hockey playoff pools that count the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and entire 24-team tournament. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Stanley Cup pool rankings

Top 100 'F' | 50 'D' | 25 'G' | Bounce-back candidates

 

FORWARDS

Kailer Yamamoto, RW, EDM
Rank among NHL.com's top 100 forwards: 64

Key stats: Playing on a line with the NHL scoring leader, forward Leon Draisaitl (110 points), Yamamoto had 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 27 NHL games this season. His plus-17 ranked eighth in the NHL from his season debut Dec. 31 (recalled from Bakersfield of American Hockey League) to the end of the regular season, and his 24 even-strength points ranked 16th in the span.

Jason Zucker, LW/RW, PIT
Rank among NHL.com's top 100 forwards: 69

Key stat: Had 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 15 games after being acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 10. Zucker, who scored an NHL career-high 33 goals with the Wild in 2017-18, played on the Penguins' top line with elite center Sidney Crosby after the trade and should remain in that spot, even if left wing Jake Guentzel (shoulder surgery) returns.

Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW, COL
Rank among top 100 forwards: 79
NOTE: Potential 2020 restricted free agent

Key stats: Despite being limited to 58 games because of injury, Burakovsky had NHL career highs in goals (20), assists (25), points (45) and power-play points (11) this season in a top-six role. Burakovsky (lower body) could return for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, LW/RW, CBJ
Rank among top 100 forwards: 89

Key stats: Led the Columbus Blue Jackets in points per game (0.73; 36 points in 49 games) in the regular season and is expected to return for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers after missing significant time with an ankle injury. Had five points (two goals, three assists) in 10 games last postseason, leading Columbus to its first-ever playoff series win.

Roope Hintz, C/LW, DAL
Rank among top 100 forwards: 92
NOTE: Potential 2020 RFA

Key stats: Was tied for second on the Dallas Stars in goals (19) in the regular season behind rookie Denis Gurianov (20) and tied for third in PPP (14). Hintz was also productive last postseason with eight points (five goals, three assists) in 13 games.

 

DEFENSEMEN

Jakob Chychrun, ARI
Rank among top 50 defensemen: 41

Key stat: Had 12 goals, tied for 11th among NHL defensemen, despite being limited to 63 games this season because of a hip injury. He's expected to return for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

Sami Vatanen, CAR
Rank among top 50 defensemen: 49
NOTE: Potential 2020 unrestricted free agent

Key stats: Has not played a game since being acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 24; Vatanen had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 47 games and led Devils defensemen in PPP (10) prior to the trade. Vatanen (lower body) is expected to return for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

 

GOALIES

Robin Lehner, VGK
Rank among top 25 goalies: 18
NOTE: Potential 2020 UFA

Key stat: A threat to cut into three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury's playing time, Lehner, acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24, has the third best save percentage in the NHL over the past two seasons (.925; minimum 75 games played) behind Ben Bishop (.927) and Darcy Kuemper (.926).

Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen, EDM
Rank among top 25 goalies: N/R
NOTE: Smith is a potential 2020 UFA

Key stats: Smith leads active NHL goalies with a .938 SV% in 24 career postseason games. Koskinen was tied for second in road SV% (.932) among goalies with at least 15 such games played this regular season behind Pavel Francouz (.937). The Oilers had the best power play (29.5 percent) and second-best penalty kill (84.4) this season, indicating they could be capable of a deep postseason run.

Alexandar Georgiev, NYR
Rank among top 25 goalies: N/R
NOTE: Potential 2020 RFA

Key stat: Had the third highest road winning percentage (68.4) among goalies with at least 10 such decisions in the regular season behind first-year standouts Ilya Samsonov (71.4) and Francouz (70.6). Georgiev is projected to be No. 2 on the New York Rangers' depth chart behind Igor Shesterkin and ahead of veteran Henrik Lundqvist but is expected to compete with the rookie for starts in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The Rangers had the fifth best road points percentage (.603) in the NHL this regular season.

Other sleeper candidates: Evgenii Dadonov, LW/RW, FLA; Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH; Dylan Strome, C/RW, CHI (potential 2020 RFA); Kevin Hayes, C, PHI; Antti Raanta, G, ARI; Jonathan Drouin, C/LW, MTL; Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI; Ondrej Kase, RW, BOS; Kaapo Kakko, RW, NYR; John Marino, D, PIT; James Reimer, G, CAR

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