NHL Fantasy Sleepers 2012-13: 14 Must-Have Pickups for Your Fantasy Team
The NHL Yahoo! Fantasy Player Rankings are known for letting a few guys slide down the chart from time to time. And by they are "known for" it, I mean that you can steal a fantasy league crown by keeping an eye out for players that have been dropped down the rankings for things like injuries, one bad year or being rookies.
I've run several mock drafts in the last week, looking for steals in the later rounds—the rounds where championship teams are built—and I believe I have uncovered a few late-round gems for fellow players.
That being said, if you are in a league with me for the recently announced 2013 shortened season, please stop reading now. But if you're not, check out 14 players that seem to have slid a bit too far in Yahoo!'s fantasy draft player rankings.
Yahoo! Ranking: 95
There are some outstanding options available around the century mark, including players like Pavel Datsyuk and P.K. Subban. And there are plenty of players that are exactly where they should be, including Ryan Suter (89) and T.J. Oshie (103).
After one bad season, I don't think Getzlaf should be down quite this far, with the likes of Drew Stafford and Ryan Callahan. Both of those guys are find players and valuable additions to fantasy teams, but snapping up a player like Getzlaf in the fifth or sixth round can be a huge boost for a team.
The days of 91 points may be gone, but hoping for a rebound to 70 points to go with 180 hits, 180 shots and a handful of power-play points isn't asking for too much. If you went out and took care of netminding and defense in the early rounds, you could do worse than grabbing Getzlaf for a slot at center.
Yahoo! Ranking: 825
Vladimir Tarasenko is one of a handful of high-end players expected to make their debuts after the lockout comes to an end. The St. Louis Blues have been a score-by-committee team (and a defense-first team) under Ken Hitchcock, but they are adding a few notable weapons this season.
Among them is Tarasenko, a player who has dominated the KHL for a few seasons now, showing that he can play at a pro level. Yahoo! clearly doesn't take hype and stats in other leagues into consideration or else the man that many consider to be one of the best players outside of the NHL would be higher than 825.
When you draft him—and you should do all you can to be sure you are the one that drafts him—depends on the general hockey IQ of your league. If your fellow players know what's up, then Tarasenko could go a bit early.
If you are looking for a second or third right wing, then Tarasenko will be a good bet.
If you don't end up landing him, and someone did overreach for the guy, then keep an eye on him early. Some owners love to give up on hyped players after 10 or 15 bad games. Don't make that mistake and don't hesitate to dangle for him either.
Granted he ends up on anybody's roster at all, Tarasenko could just as easily be a wavier-wire pickup in some leagues.
Yahoo! Ranking: 313
Score 24 goals, tack on an extra 23 assists, have your name mentioned in the Calder Trophy race for an entire season and make the NHL All-Star Rookie team, and what love does Yahoo! give you?
In the case of Matt Read, the answer would be none.
Yahoo! has Read all the way at No. 313.
Would you rather own Dan Cleary, Allen York or Justin Peters? I didn't think so.
If you are in a deep league, looking for some help at right wing, then look no further than Read. He probably won't add too many points to his rookie year total, as he didn't come into the NHL at a young age, but 50 points is 50 points.
Yahoo! Ranking: 228
It's never good to have the same player on your sleeper list two years in a row. Being wrong once doesn't make you wrong twice, though, right?
I'm sticking to my guns on Kyle Okposo for better or for worse. I still believe he has what it takes to be a top right wing in the NHL, and lining up with John Tavares on a nightly basis will do wonders for the value of any player. Please see Matt Moulson.
Okposo's biggest challenger for the spot on the top line is Brad Boyes. If my guy here can't take Boyes off the top line, then I give up on him all together. Worst-case scenario, though, is he ends up storming the net with Ryan Strome on the second line. Not too shabby of a situation either way.
In a deeper league where you can have three or four guys at right wing, keeping Okposo stashed away may not be such a bad idea.
Yahoo! Ranking: 122
If I am going to take a flyer on someone in a mid-to-late round, I'd rather it be on a fallen-from-grace type of youngster than an aging band-aid boy. That's just my preference, and that's what makes fantasy hockey fun.
Maybe you'd prefer to take Daniel Alfredsson or Teddy Purcell at this spot.
Alexander Semin is an enigma (even if he doesn't deserve the tag) and has been considered a top-10 or top-25 player in the past, not unlike the aforementioned Ryan Getzlaf. Sure, he is coming off of back-to-back 54-point seasons in Washington, but that's my point here with Semin.
If he does put up another 54-point season, then you got exactly what you would have received from most other players hovering in the early 100s of the rankings. But I am hard pressed to find another guy with 80- or 90-point potential this late in the draft.
Reach a round or two and snag Semin if you believe he has a shot at 70 points with the Carolina Hurricanes this season—something they will give him every opportunity to do given his pricey contract.
Yahoo! Ranking: 206
If you find yourself looking for a little help at the left-wing position late in the draft, look no further than David Perron. Personally, I'd be comfortable with Perron as my second left winger, but I don't expect many other folks to have that much confidence after he missed significant time with a concussion.
The St. Louis Blues are a team that appears to have a rising offensive core with the additions of Vlad Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, and that will only benefit the top six.
Just glancing at Perron's numbers from last season won't impress you. Forty-two points is pretty meh. The fact that he put up those points in only 57 games should be noteworthy, however.
Keep him on your list of guys that could help shore up the most shallow position in fantasy hockey. Twenty-goal left wingers don't fall out of the sky too often, but sitting this late in the rankings, that is exactly what Perron is doing...falling out of the sky.
James Van Riemsdyk
Yahoo! Ranking: 385
Heading into last season, I never would have guessed that I'd be writing about James Van Riemsdyk as a possible sleeper a year later. His pedigree was too high, and hopes were soaring for the kid as he was heading into his third season.
After 35- and 40-point outings, many felt JVR was on the verge of emerging as a top-six threat. However, that never materialized for him as he sank down the depth chart with the emergence of players such as Matt Read and Sean Couturier and the acquisitions of Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.
With an already loaded offensive unit, the Flyers figured JVR the odd man out and traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for some defensive help.
As such, he finds himself in a much better situation in Toronto. Once the lockout ends, it seems likely that he will line up alongside center Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. If the line clicks like Brian Burke is most likely hoping, then JVR's stats will rise exponentially.
Yahoo! Ranking: 224
If you are anything like me, when it comes to your fourth, fifth or sixth defenseman, you aren't looking for huge point totals any more (as all those guys are likely gone). Instead, you are digging for solid periphery stats that can help steal a few categories for your team.
If that's the case then Travis Hamonic is your man.
Last season he managed to stay a plus player on the New York Islanders, while putting up 73 PIMs, 170 hits, 157 blocks and 124 shots on goal. Keep in mind that he did miss some time (73 games played), so these numbers would rise a bit over a full season.
By themselves, these numbers aren't mind boggling. But it's always good to find a player late that can contribute to two or three stats on a nightly basis, and that is exactly what Hamonic does. He also posted 24 points as a little bonus last year, adding that much more oomph to a tremendously undervalued player.
Yahoo! Ranking: 195
Heading into any fantasy draft, I'll typically have a list of six or seven guys that are in the Nos. 150-500 ranking range that I believe will be able to step into a top-two or -three role at their given position. It's always good to have a backup plan in case you have to snag a second goaltender because of a run, instead of a first or second center.
If you have lists like this as well, then Mikael Granlund is probably near or at the top of it. After reaching rock-star status in his native Finland, he is ready to step into a full-time NHL role, and he will do just that once the season commences.
He has Mikko Koivu ahead of him on the depth chart, but given Koivu's recent injury history, it could be sooner rather than later that we see Granlund dishing the puck to the newly acquired Zach Parise. Parise is the kind of player that jacks up a players' stats and fantasy worth (Adam Henrique, anyone?), and Granlund has plenty of star power on his own.
Don't hesitate to add Granlund as your second or third center in the draft or to use him as a filler if one of your other targets goes sooner than expected.
Yahoo! Ranking: 239
No. 239 is just way too low for the guy who could very well end up replacing Ryan Suter. Ryan Ellis will have to battle it out with Roman Josi for that role, but this is a battle I am very confident that he will win.
Whoever ends up playing alongside Shea Weber will see their value skyrocket. I'm in the camp that believes that the departed Suter will struggle without his former partner, but his loss is Ellis' gain.
Anyone who has seen this kid play in the WJCs knows that he is a gamer, and given the chance, he will shine at the NHL level. With 32 NHL games under his belt, Ellis now knows what to expect from the league and will bring it accordingly. Look for him to have a big year this season.
Yahoo! Ranking: 61
Yahoo! once again fails to take into consideration an injury, somehow placing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins outside of the top 50 available players.
RNH was having an all-world last season prior to his injury last year and has continued that play with the Oklahoma City Barons and the Canadian WJC team this year. I'd be hard pressed to find many owners who wouldn't be comfortable with him as their No. 1 center—as such, landing him in the third or fourth round (depending on how big or small your league is) should be considered a steal.
Grab your goalie and a top-end blueliner in the early going if you think there is a chance RNH will still be sitting there in the third, fourth or fifth rounds. He's playing on a loaded Edmonton Oilers team and is poised for a huge season coming out of the lockout.
Yahoo! Rank: 359
When Cody Hodgson was a player with "potential" within the Vancouver Canucks organization, he was rated higher than he is right now, despite having the opportunity to be the man for the Buffalo Sabres.
Say what you will about Hodgson after his former GM threw him under the tires after the deadline deal that sent him to Buffalo. At this time last season he was considered a commodity in a limited role with the 'Nucks. No reason to believe he isn't now that he is with the Sabres.
After a nasty, pointless streak to open his tenure with his new team—a streak I feel we can safely chalk up to an adjustment period, including playing against the top lines of other teams every night—Hodgson closed the season with eight points in his final ten games, showing that he belonged as a top-six player.
Need a third or fourth center? You'd have to try pretty hard to outdo the potential and opportunity that is in front of Hodgson this season.
Yahoo! Ranking: 144
Mark my words: The Colorado Avalanche will be a much better hockey team this season, and Semyon Varlamov is poised to reap the benefits as the man between the pipes.
If you are looking this late for a goaltender, you're probably in the market for a second or third guy at the position, and there is no reason to believe that Varlamov won't be able to transplant his strong overseas play to the NHL once the lockout ends.
While he isn't playing behind the strongest defensive corps in the NHL, he also doesn't have anyone breathing down his neck for the starting role either, like is the case with Corey Crawford in Chicago (who is similarly ranked).
He has shown that he is capable of ridiculous stretches of good play, and if he can find a way to be consistent during his second year as a starter, he could outplay his draft position.
Here are a few other players that just barely missed the cut, for one reason or another. Still, I feel they are worth a mention as guys who could help you, depending on your league and format.
Slava Voynov (D), LA Kings: Ranked 220th
Kyle Turris (C), Ottawa Senators: Ranked 178th
Dmitry Kulikov (D), Florida Panthers: Ranked 188th
Chris Pronger (D), Philadelphia Flyers: Ranked 508th
Mikko Koivu (C), Minnesota Wild: Ranked 148th
Sven Baertschi (LW), Calgary Flames: Ranked 151st
Alex Galchenyuk (C), Montreal Canadians: Ranked 179th
Cal Clutterbuck (RW), Minnesota Wild: Ranked 265th
Max Pacioretty (LW), Montreal Canadians: Ranked 72nd
Derek Roy (C), Dallas Stars: Ranked 250th
This list is in no way comprehensive. Just a handful of players that I think are certainly worth taking a look at heading into the fantasy season. Let me know who you think I missed, overrated or underrated in the comments below.