For me it seems as though an eternity has come and gone since the NHL season ended just a few months ago. Even though the Stanley Cup finals ended in June, hockey for me really ended in April when my hometown team, the St. Louis Blues wrapped up their regular season and of course missed the playoffs. However, it’s that special time of the year as Labor day has come and gone and the start of NHL training camps are just a couple of weeks away. That also means its time to get serious about some fantasy hockey, so with that in mind here are my top 10 sleeper picks for the upcoming year.
10 - Fabian Brunnstrom - LW - Dallas Stars
Ok, I admit it, I’m sipping the kool-aid. Honestly I have no idea what this kid is going to do in the NHL but Brett Hull was adamant about the Stars getting this kid inked to a contract and if he’s good enough for Brett Hull, he’s good enough for me. He’s reportedly the best player in the world not currently playing in the NHL so take that for what it’s worth but if Hull see’s something in this kid who are we to argue. Take a flyer on him late.
9 - Peter Mueller - C/RW - Phoenix Coyotes
If you miss out on that goal scorer that you covet early in your draft, you should be able to grab Mueller in round four or so in a ten team draft. This kid does it all for the Coyotes and he’s got one heck of a presence manning their powerplay. It doesn’t hurt that Gretzky loves the kid and gives him plenty of ice time to produce. With 22 goals scored in his rookie season last year, just go ahead and pencil him in for 30 this season and a lot of powerplay points to boot.
8 - Patrick O’Sullivan - C - Los Angeles Kings
Ok so if you’re a hardcore hockey fan, O’Sullivan much like Mueller mentioned above might not be much of a sleeper, but the bottom line is, he’s still a guy you can get in the mid rounds who will score some goals for you. So if there is a defensemen you want in round 4, grab him with confidence knowing that O’Sullivan and his 25-30 goals that he will score this season will be there for you in round 5.
7 - Claude Giroux - RW - Philadelphia Flyers
Giroux could be the ultimate sleeper because he’s not guaranteed a spot on the Flyers roster just yet. You want to keep your ears open though because if he starts the season with the Flyers, this could be a home run draft day steal provided he gets the ice time. This kid has been a scorer at every level and he’s got great hands. This is a guy you could probably get with your last pick and just stick him on your bench and see if he takes off.
6 - Bobby Ryan - RW - Anaheim Ducks
It sure seems like it’s taken Bobby Ryan forever to get it going but it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out and becomes the goal scorer he’s supposed to be. 10 points in 23 games last year shows promise and with increased ice time as well as powerplay time he could hit 25 goals this year. This is another kid you can get in the very late rounds.
5 - Tom Gilbert - D - Edmonton Oilers
Looking for mid to late round defensemen that can put points on the board? Gilbert is your man. 13 goals and 20 assists last year and playing on a better Oilers team this year make Gilbert a guy that could be a nice #3 defensemen on your team. Technically he’d be your #2 but you could get him as your #3, possibly your #4 depending on how your draft goes.
4 - Daniel Paille - LW - Buffalo Sabres
Paille is starting to come into his own and after a 19 goal season last year, you can bank on a 25 goal, 50 point season this year. He doesn’t do much on the powerplay but 3 of his 19 goals last year were shorthanded. The Sabres will give him even more ice time this season and if he can stay on one of the top two scoring lines he’ll make a nice late round pick.
3 - Drew Stafford - RW - Buffalo Sabres
Like his teammate mentioned above, Stafford is another guy thats getting better every year. He could also hit the 25 goal 50 point plateau this season and he gets top six ice time. Stafford is a guy you can get very late in your draft.
2 - David Perron - LW - St. Louis Blues
The only thing that prevented David Perron from scoring 20 goals in his rookie season last year was Blues coach Andy Murray. If Perron would have dressed more often and got more ice time when he did dress, he would have hit 20 goals easy. With the proper ice time and more responsibility, a 30 goal season isn’t out of reach. 25 goals is more likely though given the young roster that the Blues are going to put on the ice this season. Grab Perron in the late rounds and you’ve got yourself a possible steal of the draft.
1 - Dustin Byfuglien - LW - Chicago Blackhawks
Looking for a goal scorer that may even have fantasy value at defense this season, Byfuglien is your man. He came up as a defensmen for the Hawks in November last year and was eventually moved to forward where he ended up finishing with 19 goals on the season. If the Hawks somehow got hit with an injury bug on defense, Byfuglien could be a multi threat player and would become very valuable. Don’t get me wrong there is reason that the Hawks moved him to forward and thats because he’s got the skillset of a power forward. He’s big, he can hit, and he goes to the net. A 30 goal season is possible and there is always that remote chance he may be able to help you on defense before the season is over. Don’t wait to long on this one though or you’ll be the one caught sleeping.
Written by Tim Jung