There are no Alexander Ovechkin’s, Evgeni Malkin’s, or Duncan Keith’s on this list. The players below are not the stars of today’s NHL. Rather, they are the stars of tomorrow. After analyzing some of fantasy hockey’s hottest names yesterday, I’ll outline this year’s sleepers, dynasty league studs, and risky picks.
Keep in mind that many of the players below are not top-tier picks. They are simply prospects that should outproduce their average draft position or are valued much higher than they should be:
- John Tavares: A couple of seasons ago it seemed as though Steven Stamkos came out of nowhere to lead the NHL in goals. Tavares could be the next Stamkos. He should have no problem potting 40 this season and may even reach 50 next year. He does not possess the shot that Stamkos does, but JT is much better in close quarters. Tavares will also have great linemates on an young Islanders team. Matt Moulson scored 30 goals skating alongside Tavares and PA Parenteau was a 20 goal scorer on the same unit. A healthy New York squad should contend for a playoff spot. For dynasty leagues, remember that Garth Snow drafted Ryan Strome this year. Strome is a close friend of Tavares and the two already have chemistry.
- Taylor Hall: The 2010 first overall pick scored 22 goals in 65 games as a rookie. Those numbers despite scoring only three goals in his first 18 NHL games. Edmonton has so many good, young players. In a dynasty league Hall is worth an early pick. He should post 30 this season and can reach 50 multiple times in his NHL career. Edmonton also had the number one overall pick in this year’s draft. The Oilers selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 18-year-old is a tremendous distributor and may lead the NHL in assists someday. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins already developed great chemistry in camp. It appears as though the latter will need one more year before cracking the Oilers lineup though. The news means that you should pounce on Hall before he reaches the top ten in scoring.
- Kyle Okposo: The American born skater is another really skilled guy. He scored 18 goals in 65 games in his second NHL season. Those totals were for an Islanders team that only won 26 games. Okposo should have a pressure free season with Mark Streit healthy and young guys like Michael Grabner and Tavares emerging. In terms of drafting New York Islanders, Moulson is a safer pick Okposo, but Okposo has more upside than anyone not named Tavares.
- Milan Lucic: Recognized as a big hitter, gritty player, and goal-scorer, Lucic brings a lot to the table for the Bruins. He just turned 23 but had 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points last season. Those numbers were much higher than his previous highs. I think his ceiling is an absolute max of 40 goals. He is not much of a distributor. I’m assuming his ADP is higher than what he is worth. One knock on him is that he is extremely streaky. He will disappear for long stretches. What makes him a tough target is that he can also post big numbers in short spans.
- Dustin Brown: Los Angeles has a tremendous player in Brown. Unfortunately for fantasy hockey, that does not mean that he will put up tremendous numbers. He plays in the best division in hockey and Mike Richards coming to LA is a big deal. If they play on a line together Brown could put up 30 goals 40 assists and 70 points. His 33 goal, 60 points season from 2007-08 is still his watermark though. It will be tough for him to top those numbers. Brown is a high risk, high reward pick in my opinion.
- Keith Yandle: Yandle was third among defensemen in scoring last year but he only potted 11 goals off 199 shots! That number could go up because Phoenix is not as good as they have been over the past few seasons. Defensively, the Coyotes will struggle. That will reduce his already low +/-12. I don’t see him repeating last year’s performance but I don’t think he will drop that far off either. Yandle could reach 200 shot mark and 50 points. Ultimately, he will probably go higher than he should be drafted.
- Erik Karlsson: The youngster has 18 goals and 71 points in his two seasons of NHL hockey. He is a guy that nobody talks about because he plays for one of the worst teams in hockey. Ottawa will once again be bad this season, but for a dynasty league Karlsson has value. The Senators have a great minor league system and in a few seasons Karlsson could be a top 10 defenseman. He does have value for this season, just not as much as some other guys. Expect a slight increase from last year’s 13 goals and 45 points.
- John Carlson: Much like Mike Green, Carlson’s offense is good and his defense is terrible. In fact, his defense might be even worse than Green’s. Honestly, I don’t see him topping last year’s numbers by that much (7/30/37). He looked confused at times last season and I don’t think he has it figured out yet. For dynasty leagues, he is certainly worth a pick. Carlson will be a dangerous offensive defensemen in the future.
- Alex Pietrangelo: This is the guy I am most excited about on the Blues. He is only 21 but scored 11 goals and 43 points last season on a decimated St. Louis squad. Dynasty wise, he is a must-have. When the Blues make their run to the top of the Western Conference he will be one of the reasons why.
- Kevin Shattenkirk: Dynasty-wise there are few defensemen with as much potential. Shattenkirk scored 9 goals and 43 points in his rookie season last year. He will be a great defenseman someday—possibly even be this year. Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are the new Keith and Brent Seabrook. If you can take both, do it.
- Tyler Myers: Buffalo is improving and Myers is one reason why. He is a powerplay presence and can score from the point. Defensively, he is only a force because of his size. I don’t believe he is that skilled. Both his goal and point dropped last season from his rookie campaign. My advice would be to let someone else draft him. Even if he is more skilled than I believe, his first two seasons show that he is streaky.
- Steve Downie: Speaking from a penalty minute standpoint Downie is a wise choice. But, nobody realizes how talented he is. The Bolts forward had a 22 goal, 46 point season two years ago. He could easily reach 20 goals again this year. I believe he played on a line with Sean Bergenheim last season which may hurt his production (since Bergenheim is now with the Panthers). But, it also could help because he will be counted upon to score again. He had 14 points in 17 playoff games. Guy Boucher’s system plays well to scrappers like him—especially ones with skill. I love his natural ability and he is great for penalty minutes. One legitimate concern is suspensions. He has been suspended multiple times, including two separate 20 game bans.
- Brent Burns: Again, I’m not sold on his defensive capabilities, but 17 goals and 46 points is nice for a blueliner. He should put up around the same production this season. In fact, there is a possibility of that his points will increase. Burns was traded to the high scoring San Jose Sharks and he will probably see time on a dominant powerplay with fellow goal scoring defensemen Dan Boyle. It is not unreasonable to assume that he will lead all defensemen in goals next season—he finished third in the category last season.
- Ryan Whitney: The Boston native was leading the Oilers in scoring when he went down last season. He once put up 14 goals and 59 points in Pittsburgh. His ADP may be a bit too high but Edmonton will be improved though and there are plenty of tools around him.
- Joe Pavelski: San Jose’s faceoff guru is as clutch as they come. The Sharks traded Danny Heatley for a reason. Maybe it was because they think Pavelski can put up points. Little Joe is worth a pick if he plays on a line with Marleau and Thornton. I see Martin Havlat taking that spot though–mostly because Havlat is a player who needs great players around him to be good. Pavelski doesn’t need great players around him to be good but with Devin Setoguchi gone Pavelski’s value diminishes. The Sharks may have more tools now, but none of those tools are slated to play with Pavelski.