Here are 15 NHL sleeper picks that could provide value later in NHL Fantasy hockey drafts.
Jeff Skinner – Skinner, 23, is already a two-time 30-goal scorer and averaged more than three shots per game last season, so take a shot on that upside.
Jordan Staal – Staal had a sensational season in terms of puck possession, but that didn’t materialize into offensive production as his six goals in 46 games was the lowest per-game rate of his career. Look for better numbers this year.
Alexander Semin – Semin, a three-time 30-goal scorer. There is certainly the risk that Semin gets buried by Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien and there is no bounce-back season to be had, but there’s also the possibility that a highly-skilled 31-year-old winger can find a productive role on a team that needs an infusion of offence.
Aleksander Barkov – Barkov hit a career-high with 36 points last season. That production was better (31 points in his last 46 games) as the season progressed, and Barkov finished particularly strong on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr.
Nail Yakupov – Yakupov finished last season with 20 points in his last 28 games, showing some offensive ability once paired with a bona fide playmaking centre (veteran Derek Roy). Yakupov’s track record means he won’t go early in drafts, but don’t forget about the offensive ceiling for the first pick in the 2012 Draft.
Sven Baertschi – Vancouver GM Jim Benning has talked about Baertschi being a potential top-six forward.
Adam Larsson – After the All-Star break last season, Larsson had 15 points in 35 games while logging more than 23 minutes per game, which would work just fine when projected over a full 82 games.
Adam Lowry – The Jets are at least examining the possibility of Lowry moving up the depth chart to a scoring line. In a league that counts hits (Lowry had 255 as a rookie), he could have real value if that offensive ceiling is nudged a little higher.
Artem Anisimov – If Anisimov finds his way into a top-six role with Chicago, he could offer potential as a late-round pick.
Jake Gardiner – Gardiner is looking at the possibility of a bigger role. If the Leafs turn him loose, maybe Gardiner gets enough of an offensive bump to have fantasy value.
Valeri Nichushkin – Nichushkin counts as a sleeper more because he’s coming off a season in which he played just eight games, registering one point. The 20-year-old is still a big and highly-skilled winger, and even if he doesn’t end up with a regular role alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn on Dallas’ top line, skating with Jason Spezza would still offer opportunity for Nichushkin to have a productive year.
Johan Franzen – In 87 games over the past two seasons, he has 23 goals and 63 points. If he manages to play, he’s likely to provide value.
Mikhail Grigorenko – A fresh start in Colorado, re-united with junior coach Patrick Roy, could be what he needs to get his career on track.
Jimmy Hayes – He had a career-high 19 goals and 35 points for Florida last season, but finished with two goals in his last 25 games, so there’s room for further improvement if he can hold a regular job with a playmaking centre (like David Krejci or Ryan Spooner) in Boston.
Brett Connolly – Connolly has an opportunity to play a top-nine role in Boston and it will be up to him to take advantage of that opportunity.