As the dog days of summer move into the NFL preseason, the disease of fantasy football fever is upon us. While everyone else is rummaging the dark corners of the web to find that hidden sleeper no one else knows about for their football teams, you can just swing through Hockey Falls to to gear up for the final few rounds of your fantasy hockey draft, because you know by then your football squad will be in the shitter.
Here are my top sleepers to look out for during the 2013/2014 Fantasy Hockey Season.
Ryan Strome – New York Islanders
The departure of Brad Boyes leaves an empty right wing spot next to fantasy studs, John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Strome has huge potential as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft and has likely generated enough buzz in rookie mini-camp to earn a roster spot. If he has an even more impressive training camp and preseason, he has a legitimate chance to fill that RW spot, which would cause his value to sky-rocket. Brad Boyes put up 35 points in 48 games alongside Tavares last season and P.A. Parenteau tallied 67 points in 80 games in 2011-12 before cashing in with Colorado. Just imagine what Strome, who had 94 points in just 53 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs last year, could do. Earning this spot on the depth chart will be a tough task though, as he will have to compete against the likes of Kyle Okposo, Pierre Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck, who was JT’s linemate in juniors. This is a position battle to monitor, as whoever wins that RW spot will have a handful of scoring opportunities every night.
Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues
The 14th overall pick in the 2010 draft is quickly developing into a solid two-way winger. With the departure of David Perron to Edmonton and Andy McDonald’s retirement, Schwartz could end up playing on a line with either T.J. Oshie & David Backes or Derrick Roy & Chris Stewart. If that’s the case Schwartz will see a major increase in responsibility, ice time and power play minutes.
Emerson Etem/Kyle Palmieri/ Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks
Very similar to the Ryan Strome situation on the Island, there is an open wing spot that will almost guarantee a major upswing in production. Etem, Palmieri and Silfverberg are the prime candidates to replace Bobby Ryan on Anaheim’s top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and former MVP Cory Perry. Etem and Palmieri just inked three-year extensions with the Ducks and Silfverberg was the marquee prospect the team recieved in return for Ryan. Both Etem and Palmieri had outstanding postseason series against the Red Wings, grabbing 5 points in 7 games each, but our gut feeling is that Etem will take over in that top line winger spot, being that he is the home-town kid.
Adam Henrique – New Jersey Devils
Adam Henrique came into last year’s lockout shortened season with “humongous big” expectations after he lit it up in the Devil’s playoff run the previous year. But he didn’t deliver, and his game hit a bit of a sophomore slump. Devils faithful and potential fantasy owners are hoping his dropoff in production wasn’t a result of the loss of Zach Parise because, if that’s the case, he will have even less star power around him as Ilya Kovalchuk is also off the team’s depth chart now. On the optimistic side, he will play big minutes and receive a lot of power play time. This is Henrique’s opportunity to become a star and one of the few bright spots on a lackluster New Jersey squad. Someone has to score, right?
Drew Shore/ Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers’ roster is loaded with up-and-coming young talent, and if the Panthers have any chance at being relevant in the “new” Atlantic Division, Huberdeau and Shore will have to put the team on their backs. Huberdeau, I almost didn’t put him on the sleeper list as he had 31 points in 48 games as a rookie last season and is clearly Florida’s next (if there was even one before him) homegrown franchise player. Shore was a second round pick in the ’09 draft, and is quickly developing deadly chemistry with Huberdeau. He contributed 13 points in the shortened campaign, but look for a major increase in minutes and points next season. If you can afford to take a hit on +/- then draft one of these two.
Alex Goligoski – Dallas Stars
Since he was traded to the Dallas Stars in the middle of the ’10-’11 season, Goligoski’s point totals have improved every year. Although playing on a top-heavy Dallas team won’t help his +/- , his point totals will continue to increase, and he has a good shot at breaking out as the primary puck mover to Jamie Benn who’s moving back to his natural position on the wing, and Tyler Seguin, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder as he was cast off embarrassingly from the Bruin’s organization.
Jacob Markstrom (Keeper/Dynasty League) – Florida Panthers
The Panthers made Jacob Markstrom their second-round selection in the 2008 draft, then he led the Swedish Elite league in save percentage and goals against average as a 20-year-old. For NHL fantasy purposes, however, Markstrom is more of a guy to look out for in keeper leagues or dynasty leagues. He’s incredibly talented and has a ton of potential. The problem is his team will not give him the support to put up solid numbers and often will leave him out to dry. The team in front of him might look even worse this season, now playing against the likes of Boston, Detroit and Montreal more regularly. Markstrom showed flashes of greatness last season, and will be the starter for the Panthers in ’13-’14 but a breakout campaign is not in the works just yet. A few seasons down the road, Markstrom will be a top netminder in the NHL. For now, he would be a good pickup as a spot-starter when Florida’s matchups are favorable.
Jake Allen – St. Louis Blues
Picked just three spots after Markstrom by a far superior Blues team, Allen has the potential to be a top fantasy hockey goalie. But the goaltending situation in St. Louis is a bit murky. Jaroslav Halak is one of the streakiest and most injury-prone goalies in the league, and Brian Elliot completely shit the bed last year when he had a legitimate chance to take over the starting gig. Allen won’t be handed the starting job and will probably have to wait for Halak to get hurt, and for management to completely lose their faith in Elliot. If Allen takes advantage of his opportunities and works his way into the mix, he will rack up a ton of wins, have a solid GAA, and have a chance for a shutout on any given night as the squad playing in front of him is one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.
Who are you eyeing in the late rounds of your fantasy hockey draft? Let us know in the comments.