Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Deep Sleeper

So, you’ve scanned through your fantasy magazines and websites to compile a list of sleepers for this upcoming season. Every list you have read may have two or three different players on it, but you’ll notice that there are several players that make each list. Let’s call them the “Trendy Sleepers.”

The “Trendy Sleepers” are easy to call. They are players who have:

* Finished the 08-09 season strong – Rich Peverly, ATL
* Dominated in the AHL or Europe last season - Jonas Gustavsson, TOR
* Should play a bigger role with their club based on their team losing higher depth chart players via free agency or trade – Ville Leino, DET
* Hot shot rookies who could be ready to contribute – Cody Hodgson, VAN

If you have read several fantasy publications, or visited fantasy websites like JFH, these players are already household names. The problem is, every GM in your draft wants these guys and usually drafts them a few rounds too early. So to get them, you end up “reaching” with a pick that should be used on a sure thing.

In this article, we want to give you a list of Deeper Sleepers. These are guys who may fall into any of the four categories above, but they have done it under the fantasy radar. You won’t find these guys in your average sleeper list, but they could end up being just as, if not more, productive this season.

James Wisniewski (D) – ANA - Wisniewski played only 48 games last season, split between Chicago and Anaheim, after recovering from off-season surgery. Wisniewski finished strong with Anaheim and ended up with a total 24 points in 48 games. At 25, he is already part of the Ducks top 4 and contributes with PIMS as well. Grab him in the last few rounds of your draft or quickly snatch him off the FA list.

Fearless Forecast – 75GP, 9G, 28A, 37P, 95PIMS

Vladimir Sobotka (C) – BOS - Sobotka has been a productive player in the AHL the past few seasons but has been buried on the Bruins’ depth chart. With Kessel moved to Toronto and Krejci rehabbing off-season surgery, Sobotka finds himself with a spot in the productive top 9. At 22, Sobotka still has a lot of untapped potential and could be a steal by season’s end.

Fearless Forecast – 74GP, 19G, 20A, 39P

John Moore (D) – CLB - The 21st pick in the June Draft, Moore is looking to make the huge jump straight from the USHL to the NHL. He has been all the talk at the Jackets’ training camp and already has NHL size and speed. Moore is a fantastic skater who is a threat to jump in the rush at any time. He looks like a younger Mike Green at times, including the odd defensive gaffe. If he does make the club he could produce decent numbers, however even if he is sent down, he is a lot closer to the NHL than originally thought. Grab him in keeper leagues and hope he sticks.

Fearless Forecast – 9GP, 1G, 2A, 3P (*Returned to Kitchener after 9 games)

Jamie Benn (LW) – DAL - Benn has been on fire this pre-season and has looked uber-comfortable playing with Mike Ribeiro. His play is forcing the team to give him a longer look on one of the top two lines. Benn was the best player in the WHL last year, scoring 46 goals in just 56 games with Kelowna. The Stars have some great playmakers but don’t have a lot of finish around the net. Benn could immediately take advantage of that and become a go to sniper in Big D. Snatch him up if he is still a FA in your league.

Fearless Forecast – 75GP, 22G, 21A, 43P

Max Pacioretty (LW) – MON -
“Patches” looked very good in his 34 game call-up with the big club last night. A speedy, power forward, Max should take advantage of some open roster spots and contribute for the Habs this year. Not a roster lock, he will be an early call-up and will find ways to score. Keep an eye on him as a FA. Target him in keeper leagues.

Fearless Forecast – 56GP, 11G, 16A, 27P

Patrick Hornqvist (LW) – NAS -
Hornqvist was a “Trendy Sleeper” last year after scoring goals in bunches in Sweden. The adjustment to North America was not easy for Patrick and he found himself going back and forth from the NHL to the AHL. In 28 NHL games, Hornqvist received limited ice-time and put up a mere 2 goals. Coach Barry Trotz needed Hornqvist to become a more complete player and he has responded well this preseason. Lining up on the Preds top line with Arnott and Dumont, Hornqvist has 6 points in 4 games and looks like a different player. Grab him as an FA and hope he can stick on the Preds top line.

Fearless Forecast – 72GP, 23G, 20A, 43P

Niklas Bergfors (RW) – NJD - Bergfors is another player who has been a “Trendy Sleeper” in the past. A talented prospect, Bergfors struggled to put up big numbers in his first two AHL seasons. Things seemed to come easier for him last year in Lowell however, as he put up 51 points in 66 games. The Devils have been patiently waiting for him to develop to enhance their secondary scoring. Bergfors has has a solid pre-season and looks to have locked down a roster spot. How productive he’ll be on a Jacque Lemaire team is the bigger question though.

Fearless Forecast – 68GP, 13G, 16A, 29P

Artem Anisimov (C) – NYR - If you have followed JFH this pre-season, you know how much we love Anisimov. He dominated the AHL as a 20 year-old, using his great size and hockey smarts. Still developing his speed, the lanky pivot has all the tools to be a top-line centre. He looks to have cracked the Rangers' roster as the team’s 4th line centre. He should quietly move up the depth chart as the season progresses and he could be a very productive player in the second half. Grab him off FA before someone else does.

Fearless Forecast – 74GP, 18G, 19A, 37P

Martin Hanzal (C) – PHO -
At 22, Hanzal already has two full NHL seasons under his belt. A complete player, Hanzal still has a lot of untapped offensive potential and should get a chance to show it this season. He struggled coming back from off-season back surgery last year but came to training camp in great shape. He lead the Yotes in ice-time last night, the first game under new coach Dave Tippett. Hanzal is the kind of player a coach loves as he can be played in any situation. Look for an offensive spike this year. If he is available, grab him as a solid depth centre.

Fearless Forecast – 82GP, 18G, 31A, 49P

Torrey Mitchell (C) – SJS -
Mitchell scored 10 Goals in his rookie season of 2007-2008, impressing Sharks brass with a strong finish to the year. Mitchell though missed all of last season recovering from a broken leg. He did make a cameo in the playoffs last year and showed that he still has his blazing speed. A skilled, two-way pivot, Mitchell could surprise this year and push Joe Pavelski for 2nd line ice-time. Watch his progress early as he could pay huge dividends if he lands on one of the Sharks scoring lines.

Fearless Forecast – 80GP, 17G, 22A, 39P

Viktor Stalberg (LW) – TOR -
Stalberg has been the toast of Toronto this September with his outstanding pre-season. Producing 5 goals and 7 points in 7 games, Stalberg looks to be a lock on one of Toronto’s scoring lines. The Big Swede is amazing to watch as he can hit a high gear like few others. His large frame and lightning speed allows him to track down and recover pucks in all three zones. Stalberg can score too as he was a Hobey Baker finalist after sniping 24 goals for Vermont last year. Viktor is effective in any situation, which means he’ll get lots of ice-time under head coach Ron Wilson. If Stalberg is still on your FA wire, consider yourself lucky and grab him before finishing this article.

Fearless Forecast – 70GP, 20G, 17A, 37P

Michal Neuvirth (G) – WAS -
Neuvirth was selected 11 picks after Simeon Varlamov in the 2006 Draft. I guess the Caps were hedging their bets on a future #1. Neuvirth has followed Varlamov up the depth chart and was excellent as the #1 in Hershey following Varlamov’s promotion to the big club late last season. While Simeon is getting all the love in fantasy drafts this year, it wouldn’t surprise us to see Neuvirth end the year as the Caps #1. Simeon had a magical ride last season but it didn’t finish well against the Pens. He showed he has holes in his game, and if NHL teams get the scouting report, Varlamov could get sent back down to Hershey to iron them out. Varlamov’s loss would be Neuvirth’s gain. Keep an eye on Varlamov and handcuff him with Neuvirth in keeper leagues.

Fearless Forecast – 11GP, 7W, 2.54GAA, .910SV%


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