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Underrated playoff standouts to target in fantasy

by Pete Jensen

We're only a few days removed from the conclusion of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it's already back to the drawing board for fantasy hockey owners.

When reflecting on another memorable postseason, it's easy to recall elite-level players (i.e. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Duncan Keith) fueling deep playoff runs for their respective teams. Breakout forwards (i.e. Tyler Johnson, Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg, Nikita Kucherov, Johnny Gaudreau), emerging defensemen (i.e. Victor Hedman, Roman Josi) and rising goalies (i.e. Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop) also held their ground on the big stage.

But mainstream playoff heroes are usually taken in early rounds or retained in keeper leagues the following season. That's why surprising players who stay under the radar for a variety of reasons (sample size, position battles, etc.) will be much more attainable in fantasy.

The 2015 NHL Draft, free agency and upcoming trade activity will shape the overall landscape, but let's touch on some trending players who could remain undervalued in fantasy despite strong postseasons. Make sure they're on your draft queue in mid to late rounds.

Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks - Silfverberg led the NHL in points per 60 minutes (3.55) among players with six-plus postseason games played. He and Ryan Kesler were tied for the second-best playoff point pair with a common point on 11 team goals. Only Kane, Toews, Johnson and Kucherov (7) had more multipoint games in the postseason than Silfverberg (6), and the trust he's earned from coach Bruce Boudreau makes the forward a fantasy breakout candidate for 2015-16.

Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning - Killorn finished third in the League with 66 shots on goal in the postseason and was one of four Lightning players with 18-plus playoff points. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, and two goals in the Stanley Cup Final playing alongside Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos. Jonathan Drouin could be elevated into Tampa Bay's top six if he improves, but Killorn elevated his game in the postseason and should be available late in fantasy drafts.

J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers - Martin St. Louis, 40, will be an unrestricted free agent, so the Rangers could look to either Miller or Hayes to fill a top-six spot next season. Miller was on the top line at points against the Lightning and had four points in Game 6. Mats Zuccarello is on the mend and Miller is far from a sure-fire fantasy option, but the 22-year-old could be a deep sleeper in drafts next fall. Same goes for Hayes, who led the League in primary assists per 60 minutes ( and showed poise in high-pressure situations.

Brandon Saad
Left Wing - CHI
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 11
SOG: 59 | +/-: 5
Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks Saad, 22, scored eight goals in the Blackhawks' run to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons, giving him 14 over the past two postseasons (T-4th in NHL). He has improved with each passing season, and reached the 50-point and 200-SOG marks in 2014-15. If moves are made to re-sign Saad, a restricted free agent, the emerging power forward could assume an even more prominent role. Teravainen, 20, led all playoff rookies with 10 points and will also occupy a top-nine role if the Blackhawks are forced to clear salary cap space.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals - Kuznetsov saw a heightened role late in the regular season alongside Alex Ovechkin and had a strong postseason (five goals, two assists in 14 games). He scored an electrifying Game 7 winner against the New York Islanders and had two multipoint games, but the biggest development was his volume of SOG per game (3.0) compared to the regular season (1.59). Kuznetsov will be a big part of the Capitals' future, so pounce if he's available in middle rounds.

Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators - Smith averaged 5.5 shots on goal per game in the Western Conference First Round, the most by any player with six-plus games played in a single postseason since James van Riemsdyk in 2010-11. Wilson had four power-play goals in six games, which was tied with Lightning wing Ondrej Palat for the playoff lead despite Palat playing 20 more playoff games. Smith and Wilson are each 25 years old with 50-point potential and should be available outside the top 150 on average.

Nick Leddy, New York Islanders - Leddy was never in a position to log top-pair minutes in the playoffs for Chicago, but he seized the opportunity to carry the Islanders defense with Johnny Boychuk in Travis Hamonic's absence against the Capitals. Leddy, 194th in Yahoo's year-end fantasy rankings, had five assists in seven playoff games and was 11th among defensemen in shot attempts percentage relative (minimum seven games) despite heavy ice time. The smooth skater had a career-best 10 goals and plus-18 this season, and has 45-point potential next season if the Islanders' power play improves.

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild - The Wild were swept in the second round, but Dumba emerged as a bright spot in that series with a goal and two assists in four games against the Blackhawks. He scored two power-play goals in 10 playoff games after two in 58 regular-season games. Dumba is not even scratching the surface at 20 years old and saw an uptick in hits per game in the postseason (2.4). He scored eight goals and had a plus-13 rating this season and could take the next step if given more opportunities in power-play situations. He'll be available in the final rounds of your draft and carries 30-plus point potential.

Petr Mrazek
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: .925
Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings - Jimmy Howard has been the starter for years in Detroit, but Mrazek outperformed him down the stretch and started all seven games in Detroit's first-round series against the Lightning. Mrazek had two shutouts and a near-perfect playoff power-play save percentage (.976, 1st in NHL) against the Lightning. Mike Babcock, who went bold with Mrazek over Howard, left Detroit to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading to the hiring of Jeff Blashill, who coached Mrazek in the American Hockey League. Fantasy owners should view this as a timeshare situation but begin eyeing Mrazek once the top 15-20 starters are off the board.

Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks - There was no goalie controversy in Anaheim this spring, with Andersen leading the Ducks through the first two rounds before pushing the Blackhawks to the brink. Andersen's playoff save percentage (.913) was a big improvement compared to 2014 (.899) and his career record at the NHL level (regular season and playoffs) is 69-24-5. Prized prospect John Gibson suddenly has a lot of work to do just to earn playing time next season, let alone steal the job from Andersen. Andersen is the more valuable Ducks goalie in the short term and has catapulted into the top-15 discussion among fantasy netminders.


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