Fantasy Joe: A Handful of Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

If talented Islanders prospect Ryan Strome cracks the top line this season, he will undoubtedly put up huge numbers for your fantasy team.

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.

Advertisements

The Top EA Sports NHL Video Game Characters of All-Time

Fortunate enough to have a Super Nintendo as a youngen, I have been glued to the television screen, playing video game hockey since NHL ’93.

In the early days, I gained a competitive edge by tricking my younger sister into believing her team’s back-up goalie, “Pull”, was her best option. As the years went on, I moved up to whooping Silverman’s ass every Friday after High School (*Editor’s Note: BULLSHIT). Most recently, I could be found throwing my controller across my college dorm room out of frustration while playing online. I was all about the NHL video game series.

As we await the release of the latest installment of EA Sports’ NHL series, which will seemingly include an homage to past NHL series greatness, I counted down my personal favorite players to light the lamp with over the years. In no particular order, here are probably the 5 most unrealistic, overrated and misrepresented video game characters who have ever taken over my living room.

0

NHL 93 – Cliff Ronning

Throughout his tenure as a Vancouver Canuck in the early 90’s, Cliff Ronning was a consistent 20-30 goal scorer. This was not the case in NHL 93. Ronning was the deadliest offensive weapon in hockey video game history, way ahead of any other name on this list. With one tap of the B-button, Ronning would be halfway down the ice and he was always a sure thing to bury a nasty one-timer. His NHL ’93 counterpart was so dominant that the name Ronning will be forever be more well-known as a video game character than as an actual human being. By far the most talented video game athlete ever created, and yes that includes your Create-A-Player self.

Most of the overly epic player-renderings on this list are more than likely the result of happenstance. But Cliff Ronning says his video game greatness was no accident; Our friends over at Puck Daddy discovered its true source:

620-legwand-blog-thumb-620xauto-280322

NHL 02 – David Legwand

The early 2000’s weren’t the NHL’s most scoring-filled years, so in order to give fans their fix, EA gifted us with David Legwand and his ridiculous one-timer skills. Pass this guy the puck anywhere on the ice surface in NHL ’02 and he’d slap that biscuit home with ease. Unmatched strength, precise accuracy and a wheelhouse the size of an Olympic swimming pool propelled the Predator forward into the next level. The former No. 2 overall pick only had only two campaigns of 50-plus points in his career, but the video game David Legwand could routinely tally 100-plus goals in season mode.

bos_g_bitz1_sw_sq_300

NHL 09 – Byron Bitz

Size, puck control, speed, vision and a wicked wrister: Am I describing Zdeno Chara or Milan Lucic? No. I’m talking about another Bruin, albeit one who is no longer on the team or even in the NHL: the former 4th rounder out of Cornell, the NHL 09 version of Byron Bitz. Coming off arguably his best season — he potted a whopping 4 goals in 35 regular season games and added one more in 5 playoff games — the crew at EA Canada decided to give this guy an extra helping of boss sauce in NHL 09.

Don’t be deceived by his low overall rating and his spot on the Bruins’ depth chart, the ’09 video game Bitz was a diamond in the rough. At 6’5″, 215 lbs, Bitz was nearly impossible to knock off the puck. All you had to do was walk in, snipe and repeat. Yes, it was that simple.

NHL 03 – Saku Koivu

After returning to the Canadians at the end of the ’01-’02 season, having successfully beaten  Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and leading his team past the heavily favored Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, the Montreal media was ready to anoint their captain as the next Habs legend. Apparently so were the programmers. Koivu was, and still is, a hero to the Montreal faithful, which must have included half the staff over at EA Canada.

The combination of the latest in deking technology and video-game Koivu’s new-found, unquenchable thirst to dangle filthily launched the Finnish center into EA sports immortality. Although the real Koivu posted a career best 71 points in the subsequent season, doubling those numbers would’ve been child’s play if he had nearly half the skills of his video game self.

NHL 94 – Jeremy Roenick

I’ll stick to my guns: ’93 Ronning is the best there’s ever been. But if anyone comes close it’s this guy.

Jeremy Roenick is well known for his skills on the ice. Today, he is identified by younger hockey fans as an analyst, small-time actor and overall badass (well at least until he cried on live television). In other words, Roenick transcends all realms of the entertainment industry. As one of the more recognizable American hockey players of his time, you’d expect JR to be the stud on an already-loaded Blackhawks roster in NHL ’94. Those expectations were well beyond exceeded. The pixelated, thumb-sized version of Roenick was a Super Nintendo mega-beast/borderline-god.

Forever cemented into video game history by this infamous scene in movie history in which he destroyed the great one himself, JR was sprung into EA Sports stardom.

This cemented video-game Roenick as “the guy behind the guy behind the guy.” Seriously, he was so f’n money.

Comments? Concerns? Questions? Answers? Opinions? Random gibberish? Go ahead and post your thoughts in the comment section.

Follow Joe Naftol on twitter: @JNaftol

The July 5th Free Agency Day-Drinking Game for ‘MURICANS

Image

Suck it, Canada!

For the first time in years, unrestricted free agency in the NHL doesn’t start on Canada Day. In years past, Canadians got to turn on TSN, hide the remote and plant their Molson-guzzling asses in front of the TV, while fans South of the Border were left waiting for text message alerts at work or in class.

But this year, the Free Agent Frenzy begins on July 5th, meaning Americans can glue their eyes to ESPN OLN Versus NHL Network for the second day of their long weekends. U-S-A!

No American celebration is complete without day-drinking, so without further adieu, The July 5th Free Agency Day-Drinking Game for ‘MURICANS:

Sip your drink every time a free agent signs.

Take an additional sip of your drink if…

  • The first signing of the day is a forward or defenseman.
  • Jaromir Jagr signs with a team he hasn’t already played for.
  • The Flyers sign a goalie. (two sips if it’s Tim Thomas, three sips if it’s Tim Thomas to a multi-year deal)
  • In an interview on your network of choice, a player talks about how “excited I am for this new [opportunity/challenge/chapter in my career]”
  • One of the following players re-signs with his 2013 team:
    • Patrik Elias
    • Daniel Alfredsson
    • Teemu Selanne
    • Milan Hejduk
  • The Sabres begin their fire sale by unloading Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek or  Tyler “Traffic Cone” Myers.
  • Seattle signs a marquis player to mark the new chapter in the franchise’s history

Take a shot if…

  • The first signing of the day is a goalie.
  • Mike Ribiero’s wife bitches on Twitter…again.
  • Danny Briere returns to Buffalo.
  • Tim Thomas signs a multi-year contract with a team other than the Flyers.
  • One of the following players is traded:
    • Marian Hossa
    • Tyler Seguin
    • Ales Hemsky
  • David Clarkson gets $5 million+/year.
  • A 2013 NHLer signs a KHL/European deal
  • The Islanders find yet another way to circumvent the salary floor.
  • An American media member beats the Canadian guys to a scoop (take a big pull from the bottle if it’s Eklund)

Pour some out for one’s homie if…

One of the following players retires:

  • Teemu Selanne
  • Jaromir Jagr
  • Adrian Aucoin
  • Daniel Alfreddson
  • Milan Hejduk
  • Brendan Morrow
  • Saku Koivu

Chug if…

  • CapGeek‘s server crashes, leaving fans and GMs alike wondering how much cap space their team has.
  • A GM finds a loophole in the CBA, and the panic of going through another lockout begins to set in.
  • The Islanders sign a player for more than $4 million/year.
  • The Canucks sign a goalie.
  • The Canucks trade Roberto Luongo.
  • The Flyers get under the salary cap.
  • Vinny Lecavalier backs out of his deal with the Flyers.

Stop playing and move on to harder drugs if…

  • Your team signs Rick DiPietro to an NHL contract.

Have ideas for more rules? Post in the comments and we’ll add them in!

….

Game by Alex Silverman, Joey Naftol and Trevor Kraus