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2013 Draft Prep: Draft Day sleepers

by | Rotowire.com
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Even though the season is set to kick off next Saturday, compiling mini team reviews isn't a feasible or useful activity. Without any training camp or exhibition action on which to base analysis, we can assume certain forward lines or project player trends, but that's a process as easy to predict as the winning lottery numbers. But since the business of Fantasy often forecasts based on statistics and other facts, then there's no reason to stop this business from running.

Jan Levine has already posted a nice piece detailing busts for 2013, so the following will act as its complement. And as this column has already handled sophomore surges, let's focus on more experienced skaters who could be considered sleepers either due to an off season, significant injury, people forgetting about them, or providing them an opportunity to shine. Don't expect any of these guys to post huge numbers but look for some sort of boost:

Forwards

Mikkel Boedker, Coyotes: The regular season didn't really catch his fancy (24 points in all 82 games) but when it came to postseason magic, Boedker didn't disappoint. Back-to-back overtime winners versus Chicago (and eight points overall) placed him back on the map. But the Great Dane really shined during the lockout when he tore apart the Finnish first division (33 in 29). Success overseas is not necessarily a precursor for NHL success, but still positive news.

Simon Gagne, Kings: You may remember Gagne from such shows as "The Philadelphia Story" and "Trouble in Tampa", but his latest production -- "Away in LA" -- has the critics baffled. After a serious concussion limited his appearances (17 in 34 and nothing in four during the playoffs), can the now-32-year-old reclaim past Philly glory (peaking at 79 in 2005-06)? Or will Gagne drop out of the top-six forward core? [Cue suspenseful music, with a slightly upbeat tune considering he's healthy now.]

Jamie McGinn, Avalanche: After coming over from San Jose in March, McGinn immediately developed some chemistry with Paul Stastny -- and also a surprise scoring touch (13 goals in 17 games). With RFA Ryan O'Reilly sans-contract and remaining in Russia and with Milan Hejduk a smidge on the older side, the fifth-year pro may be able to climb the ladder to a more favorable forward foothold.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jets: The Poni impressed after moving from Carolina to Jersey (18 in 33 combined with nine in 24 during their extended playoff run), enough so that Winnipeg came calling during free agency. And now he is set to reunite with former Toronto teammate Nik Antropov, which should help the Ukrainian winger ease into the lineup. Look for at least 35 to 40 points. Anything additional is gravy (or whatever they call gravy in the Ukraine).

Brandon Sutter, Penguins: Sutter has never served as a flashy scorer at any level (topped out at 57 in juniors six years ago) but his tour in Carolina was marked by consistency (between 30 and 40 points) and dependability (only missed a few due to injury). Now in Pittsburgh, The Son of Brent will basically inherit the vacant third-line center role, a job Jordan Staal eventually turned into mega millions.

Travis Zajac, Devils: You can never really overcome the loss of Zach Parise. You can only try to contain the sorrow. Ilya Kovalchuk is threatening to finish his season in the KHL before returning stateside, so there's that. The Ponikarovsky defection counts as a minimal blow but Adam Henrique's thumb surgery may sting a bit more. Petr Sykora is 36 and unsigned, translating into another missing body. That leaves Zajac to lead the veteran charge. He missed 67 contests in the regular season but starred in the postseason (14 in 24). You can count on him for something in the 40 to 50 range but not a lot higher.

Defensemen

Roman Josi, Predators: There's a gaping hole on the point left behind by Ryan Suter and somebody needs to fill it. And looking through the Predators' roster, there's no better candidate than Josi. He may only be 22 years old, but the Swiss blue-liner has already competed in professional hockey for five years. The power-play statistics aren't there yet (only four power-play points in 52 last season) but the inevitable step up should considerably increase those totals.

Andrew MacDonald, Islanders: With Travis Hamonic recovering from a concussion and Lubomir Visnovsky wanting no part of the Island, MacDonald should once again have the opportunity to earn additional minutes. In fact, if you recall the 2010-11 season (and who doesn't?), you'll discover MacDonald notched significant man-advantage stats (12 power-play points).

Brendan Smith, Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom has finally sailed off into the sunset. And while no one will ever replace the seven-time Norris Trophy winner, there's hope someone can at least fill some of the offensive void. Carlo Colaiacovo was brought in via free agency to add some attacking punch but Smith has more than proved his offensive mettle. The NHL sample size (seven in 14) may not be relevant but the historical resume (86 in 152 from the AHL and 87 in 95 from the NCAA) says a lot about this kid's potential.

Goalies

Devan Dubnyk, Oilers: One wouldn't normally classify a majority starter as a sleeper, but it would be easy to overlook Dubnyk (20-20-3, 2.67 GAA, .914 save percentage). After all, there was Nikolai Khabibulin's hot start (seven wins in nine) followed by a steady decline (five wins the rest of the way). The Oilers stubbornly sticking to the basement of the Western Conference didn't help matters. But if you believe a squad of young studs can overcome poor expectations and improve significantly, then Dubnyk might be the Tier Two goalie for you.

Anders Lindback, Lightning: The Swedish giant (all 6-foot-6 of him) would have been the No. 1 guy in Nashville had it not been for some Finnish pipsqueak (at 6-foot-5) named Pekka Rinne. The Bolts, with a well-past-expired Dwayne Roloson and a shaky reserve in Mathieu Garon, went out and acquired Lindback (with only 38 games in two seasons under his belt) for a few draft picks. That's quite an investment. If Tampa's time is now, then you might want to tie your hopes to their behemoth backstopper.

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Player News
Mike Hoffman
Hoffman Awarded One-Year Deal In Arbitration
Mike Hoffman, LW, OTT
12:54 AM
News: Mike Hoffman was awarded a one-year, $2 million contract Monday after going to arbitration with the Senators.
Analysis: It's a bargain deal for the Senators, especially when considering Mike Hoffman was reportedly seeking a $3.4 million contract, while Ottawa countered with $1.75 million. Hoffman was certainly justified in requesting the larger amount. The 25-year-old racked up 48 points (27 goals, 21 assists) over 79 games in what was his first full-time NHL campaign in 2014-15. He will return as a top-six forward for the Senators this season, and could take his production up a notch if he can stay healthy.

James Reimer
Leafs' Reimer: "Open Competition" In Net At Camp
James Reimer, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: James Reimer will enter training camp with the opportunity to seize the number one role or at least a platoon, according to Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind [to both goalies], and certainly I know Mike has the same," said new general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Analysis: James Reimer started 27 games in 2014-15 and delivered a meagre 9-16-1 record with a 3.16 GAA and .907 save percentage. He sure didn't do enough to earn starter's minutes, but will enter camp in an open competition with Jonathan Bernier. It's the third straight season with Reimer and Bernier splitting goaltending duties.

Jonathan Bernier
Bernier Not Guaranteed Leafs' Starting Job
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: New general manager Lou Lamoriello envisions the Leafs' goaltending job as an open competition and indicates that head coach Mike Babcock feels the same way, according to the Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind, and certainly I know Mike has the same," Lamoriello said. This will be the third straight season with Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer splitting goaltending duties.
Analysis: Lamoriello did indicate that Jonathan Bernier "has the ability, no question" to be a number one goalie in the NHL, but the twinetender hasn't shown the consistency in his game to take that job. And it's that inconsistency that has prevented him from getting a long-term deal with the Leafs. He just inked a two-year contract with the hope he can show the team he deserves a long-term, big-money deal. "Hopefully he has a year that pushes us, that is the organization, to speak to him next summer and looking for long term," continued Lamoriello.

Louis Domingue
Coyotes' Domingue Bound For Europe In 2015-16
Louis Domingue, G, ARI
8/3/2015
News: Louis Domingue will head to Europe for the 2015-16 season after opting not to sign his two-way qualifying offer with the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: With the Coyotes adding Anders Lindback to presumably serve as the backup to starter Mike Smith next season, Louis Domingue determined that playing overseas would be preferable to spending another year in the minors. The Coyotes will still retain his rights for the next four years, and with Lindback set to become a free agent next summer, it's quite possible that Domingue will be brought back in as one of Arizona's two goalies in 2016-17. The 23-year-old fared reasonably well in limited duty with the parent club last season, going 1-2-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage over seven appearances.

Aaron Dell
Dell Inks One-Year Deal With Sharks
Aaron Dell, G, SJ
8/3/2015
News: Aaron Dell signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Monday.
Analysis: The 26-year-old goaltender was solid in 26 games with AHL Worcester in 2014-15, posting a 2.06 GAA and a .927 save percentage in those contests. He will likely serve as the Sharks' primary AHL goaltender this season.

Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Likely Ready For Opener
Brooks Orpik, D, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that he expects Brooks Orpik (wrist) to be ready for the beginning of the season, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to begin full workout activities within a week or two, barring a setback, so it should provide him plenty of time to recover before the season begins. Assuming that's indeed the case, he should open the season among the top two pairings, and could pick up a fair number of assists while working with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and offseason addition T.J. Oshie.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Starts Skating
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that Nicklas Backstrom (hip) recently began skating again, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom's status for the beginning of the season remains in doubt after offseason hip surgery, but he's at least progressing. The Capitals haven't released an official timeline for the top-line center, but it should clear up as the season draws near. If Backstrom is unavailable to begin the campaign, Evgeny Kuznetsov seems the likely candidate to center the top line, which would give him a significant increase in fantasy value.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

 
 
 
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