Michael Clifford from fantasytrade411.com is a good friend of The Fake Hockey’s and agreed to share his Sleepers and Busts with us, and for our upcoming Draft Guide. Our goal is to be the most interactive fantasy hockey site going, and Mr. Clifford does exceptional work, so we not only want to share a piece of his work with you, but also encourage you to take a peek at Fantasy Trade 411. Similar to The Fake Empire, they cover all four professional sports, and do an exceptional job at it. First, thank you to them, and second … without further blabber, @SlimCliffy’s fantasy hockey sleepers and busts.
Sleepers and Busts
A 48-game season is nearly impossible to predict. How will players like Parise , Suter, Nash and Wideman mesh with their new teams with training camps lasting less than a week and no exhibition games? What workload will goalies get? The difference between 36 starts and 42 starts is massive. How will older players respond to the condensed schedule? How well will rookies like Yakupov and Hamilton adjust? There’s no time to ease them in and if they tank early, it wouldn’t shock me to see them sent back to the minors to save a year of entry-level status. There are just so many unanswerable questions that an educated guess is the best you can do.
That being said, there are players I believe will bust out and others that will flat out bust. A lot of what I recommend will be based on average draft position (ADP). I say that because even though I won’t be drafting someone like Scott Hartnell because of where he is typically being taken, if he does slip to where I feel his value really is, I will. But I am using ADP here when constructing these lists. Fantasy drafts are all about value.
I’ll start with the sleepers, and go from forwards on back.
Brandon Sutter (C-PIT) – He was acquired in the Jordan Staal trade, essentially to replace Staal. Early talk is that he will see some ice time with Malkin and Neal because coach Dan Bylsma thinks he has too much offensive upside to toil on the third line all year. This gives him tremendous value and I would expect he’ll be on the 2nd PP unit as well.
Vladimir Tarasenko (RW-STL) – Of all the rookies, Tarasenko may be the most prepared to make the leap to the NHL, as he’s played 3 years in the KHL already. He’ll be put in a good spot to succeed in St. Louis, likely on the 2nd line with PP time. He’s a Calder dark horse.
Andy McDonald (C/LW-STL) – Speaking of St. Louis, if McDonald can stay healthy, he could put up close to a point per game. He’s undervalued right now because he missed over two-thirds of the year. But look at his Anaheim numbers and that will be enough to convince you.
Derek Roy (C-DAL) – Roy put up 4 very good years in Buffalo in a row, (including two where he averaged a point-per-game or better) before just completely dropping off last year. He was playing injured, and I expect a big turnaround.
Cam Fowler (D-ANA) – He had a great rookie campaign with 10 goals and 40 points before dropping to 5-29 last year. Because of this, he’s going after guys like Marek Zidlicky (46 points the last two years) and Lubomir Visnovsky, who might not even play in the NHL this year. Fowler is an elite puck mover (I’m talking I expect him to be on Team USA in Sochi in 2014) and under Bruce Boudreau, he should see his +/- improve.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX) – Depending on who you’re drafting with, you might be able to get him in the 14th-15th round. Make no mistake, he’s the best defenceman Phoenix has right now. Yes, better than Keith Yandle. He’s also kept in shape playing in the AHL (and averaging a point-per-game, mind you) and I expect a big year this year.
Victor Hedman (TBL) – I truly believe the big man breaks out this year. At 6’6” he’s a monstrous force on the back end. With an improved Tampa Bay team, including the addition of Matt Carle, I could see Hedman getting close to a ½ poing/game status with a good +/-, and that’s good enough for me.
Jared Spurgeon (MIN) – Early reports out of Minnesota have Spurgeon playing alongside Ryan Suter to start the season. Whether it sticks or not, who knows. But if it does, this will be great value in the last couple rounds of your draft.
Semyon Varlamov (COL) – This is a talent in net for a team that is trending upwards. He finished the season very strong last year and I anticipate this to continue. He’ll outperform guys like Dubnyk and Brodeur by a longshot.
Anders Lindback (TBL) – Acquired in the offseason to be Tampa Bay’s #1 goalie, it’ll be interesting to see how he does in this new role for the first time. If Tampa can clamp down defensively better this year than last, and I expect they will, this will be a great late-round value pick.
Jacob Markstrom (FLA) – This is a deeeeep sleeper. Don’t draft him in anticipation of getting anything from him this year. But he is their franchise goalie, and if the Panthers are out of the playoffs going down the stretch (and I suspect they will be), I would not be shocked at all to see him called up late in the year. He could come in handy come playoff time for extra starts for those of you in head-to-head leagues. But keep in mind: In a 48-game schedule, who is in/out
of playoffs may not be apparent until very late in the season. Some coaches will be idiots about this.
Scott Hartnell (PHI) – I’m sorry. Hartnell had a career year last year: He had never gone over 60 points before, he had never had over 215 shots, he had never gone over 30 goals. Not only do I expect a regression, but here’s another one: his value is directly tied to Claude Giroux. Should something happen where Giroux goes down for any length of time then Hartnell’s value is greatly reduced. He doesn’t even have to get hurt himself to see his value destroyed. A second
round pick? No thanks.
Jarome Iginla (CGY) – Don’t get me wrong. I think Iginla is a great player and a sure- fire hall of famer. But, he has been having slower and slower starts over the last few years, and is prone to long scoring slumps. In a shortened season like the one we are facing, slow starts and prolonged slumps are fantasy suicide. I can’t justify a 3rd-4th round pick in this sense.
Martin St. Louis (TBL) – In a rotisserie format, St. Louis just is not that valuable. He’s had less than 20 PIMs in 4 straight years and hasn’t been a plus player since 2009. Maybe the +/- turns around, maybe it doesn’t. But he’s not in the top-6 on my team based on a “maybe”.
Henrik Sedin (VAN) – I’m not saying he’ll flat out bust this year. And a point-per-game is nothing to sneeze at. But, he doesn’t shoot a lot which means he doesn’t score a lot. So he’s now a 4-category player who is in the decline phase of his career. With Ryan Kesler out, teams can key in on the top line in Vancouver solely and this could be problematic. I’m not willing to spend a top-20 pick on this. My top-20 pick has to be as close to a lock as it gets.
Brian Campbell (FLA) – He was a (-9) player with less than 10 penalty minutes who cracked the 40-point barrier for the first time in 3 years last year. The Panthers are a team that will trend downward this year, and he is not going to be a top-10 roto defenceman.
Dan Boyle (SJS) – I don’t have any problem with Dan Boyle. He’s been a consistent fantasy performer for years. But he set a career-high for shots last year which he won’t repeat and the emergence of Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic with the addition of Brad Stuart means less ice-time for Boyle in all likelihood. He’s still a top-15 defenceman, but he’s being
drafted as a top-8 defenceman.
Alex Edler (VAN) – I’m not including him because I think he’ll bomb this year. But Kevin Bieksa emerged as a viable offensive defenceman last year, Dan Hamuis had a strong year and Vancouver added Jason Garrison in the offseason, likely to help with the powerplay. This will cut into Edler’s numbers and I don’t see him as a top-10 defenceman this year.
Ilya Bryzgalov (PHI) – One year after signing Bryzgalov to a 9-year contract, Philadelphia is already shopping for a new goalie. If you look at his numbers from 2009-2011 and Mike Smith’s from 2011-2012, you notice a trend: mediocre goalies flourishing under a system that allows a lot of shots but they are poor in quality. This inflates their numbers. I have zero confidence in Bryzgalov as a #1 starter in fantasy.
Marc-André Fleury (PIT) – The most overrated goalie of the last 5 years, without a doubt. He’s had a very strong offense in front of him, which has given him a lot of wins but masked how much he’s sucked: he hasn’t finished in the top-12 in the NHL among starting goalies in terms of SV% since 2007-2008. And even then, he only started 35 games that year.
That’s it for my sleepers and busts list. I hope this list at least steers you in the right direction on your draft day. Remember, everything is tied to value. So like I said, while I wouldn’t take Scott Hartnell in the first 2-3 rounds, I would take him in the 5th-6th rounds. So keep a keen eye for value and you’ll be fine.