Everyone loves sleepers, right?
Of course, the high profile guys like Steven Stamkos or Sidney Crosby are the most exciting picks in your fantasy hockey draft, but it’s the late round picks that win you your league. I say it about every fantasy sport, but it’s 100 percent accurate, and needs to continuously be stressed. So, with the preseason already in full swing, let’s not waste any time. Who are some guys that will vastly outperform their average draft position this year?
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning: I am absolutely giddy to watch this young kid play alongside the likes of Steven Stamkos. Giddy, I say. Drouin was incredible during his time in the QMJHL, scoring 41 goals while adding 64 helpers. He showcased some terrific scoring ability, but it was his playmaking ability that was most impressive. The kid reminds me a little bit of Patrick Kane, a guy who can skate around entire defenses and seems to have eyes in the back of his head. The third overall pick in the draft, Drouin will see plenty of time with the Lightning this year, and will probably see some work on the team’s first unit. Heck, he may even start the season on the first line, which will give him massive fantasy upside with Stamkos and Martin St. Louis joining him. Over his last three full 82-game seasons, Stamkos is averaging 52 goals per season, and has lit the lamp more than anyone in hockey over the last three years. Drouin, a terrific setup man, could easily flirt with 50 assists with a finisher like Stamkos in the mix. Last year, Benoit Pouliot was fantasy relevant for a little while on this first line, so a skilled guy like Drouin should thrive in this offense.
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders: If the 20-year old manages to land on the first line with studs John Tavares and Matt Moulson, watch out. Last year, Moulson and newly appointed captain Tavares were one of the best one-two punches in all of hockey, as both eclipsed 40 points in last year’s shortened season. Strome, the Isles 5th overall draft pick back in 2011, has yet to take the ice in the NHL, but that will all change this season. The question is, where will he play? If he impresses during camp and preseason games, he has a shot to crack a spot on the top line, but if not, he’ll likely be a second or third line center, but either way, he’ll still have value. And if Pierre Marc-Bouchard wins the first line battle, he’ll be a big time sleeper as well.
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: When it comes to fantasy, I always want to target versatile guys. Burns is one of those guys, as the defenseman will be converted to the wing position for the 2013 season. In most leagues, he’ll have dual eligibility, which is more important in fantasy baseball, but it still gives him added value. As a defenseman, Burns has scored double-digit goals three different times, so I’d imagine he could easily eclipse the 20-goal mark this year, assuming he stays on the ice. He’ll be very valuable this season, and could post career numbers.
Clarke MacArthur, Ottawa Senators: MacArthur will be joining the Senators this season, which is a good move for his fantasy prospects. He’ll likely start the season on the second line alongside Kyle Turris and Cory Conacher, both who somewhat emerged a season ago. MacArthur is a more than capable 20-goal scorer, as he’s done it twice on poor Toronto teams in the past. I think both of the Senators powerplay units will be able to score at will, so MacArthur will benefit from the skilled players around him, and if injuries occur, his value goes up, as he may join the likes of Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan on the first line.
Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: Kassian had a bit of a quite 2012 campaign, posting just a total 11 points, but new head coach John Tortorella may present Kassian with a much bigger role in 2013. He’s given Kassian playing time alongside the Sedin twins on the first line during scrimmages and preseason games, and Tortorella addressed his confidence in Kassian. “I want to give him a huge opportunity to be a huge part of this team and I told him that,” Tortorella told the media. “I’d like to see it happen, he is going to get the opportunity but he is going to sink or swim himself …So that is why I contacted Zack. I think this is a big year for him and it’s a year I want him to step out of himself and be a big part of this club.” Torts is a coach who will get the very best out his players, and if Kassian does what is asked of him, we could be looking at a breakout year under Tortorella.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.