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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
Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Decides To Retire
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
12:07 AM
News: Rich Peverley has decided to hang up his skates and call it a career.
Analysis: It's an unfortunate end to the 33-year-old center's career, as he suffered a cardiac incident March 10, and hasn't been able to play since. He spent time with four different teams throughout his career, and was a member of the Stanley Cup-winning 2011 Boston Bruins. He finishes his playing career with 241 points (84 goals, 157 assists) in 442 games, but isn't finished with hockey altogether. He will now join the Stars' staff as the Player Development Coordinator.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Waiting For Clearance
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
9/4/2015
News: Niklas Backstrom (elbow) was scheduled to visit team doctors this week with the hope of receiving clearance for the start of training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Niklas Backstrom required surgery over the summer to address a lingering elbow injury, and there remains some concern that he may not have healed enough to this point to take the ice when the season begins in October. In reality, it would probably be in the Wild's best interest for Backstrom to open the season on long-term injured reserve, as he's currently the No. 3 goalie on the depth chart behind Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper and carries a $3.4 million cap hit for 2015-16. Stashing Backstrom on long-term IR would allow the Wild to save a roster spot and avoid the financial hit of waiving him, as he would then be unavailable for at least the team's first 10 games.

Anton Zlobin
Pens' Zlobin Healthy Entering Camp
Anton Zlobin, RW, PIT
9/4/2015
News: Anton Zlobin (shoulder) is looking forward to entering training camp healthy after undergoing two shoulder surgeries in three years, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Anton Zlobin, a sixth-round pick in 2012, scored 40 goals in the QMJHL but has played just 61 games since turning pro due to injury. While his speed and size (5-11, 205 pounds) don't stand out, he has reputation for scoring big goals -- he scored six goals (three game-winners) in 15 AHL playoff contests. The 22-year-old Russian will be looking to make an impression this fall, most likely in the AHL, as he's playing for a new contract.

Daniel Cleary
Wings Ink Cleary To One-Year Contract
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
9/4/2015
News: Daniel Cleary signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings on Friday, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: The veteran Daniel Cleary didn't see a ton of action with the Red Wings last season, playing just 17 games due to some knee issues. He'll give it another go in 2015-16, however, with perhaps another offseason helping with the knee problem.

Kristers Gudlevskis
Bolts' Gudlevskis In Line To Open Season As Backup
Kristers Gudlevskis, G, TB
9/4/2015
News: With Andrei Vasilevskiy slated to remain off the ice for the next two-to-three months while recovering from a blood clot near his collarbone, Kristers Gudlevskis is expected to serve as the backup goalie behind Ben Bishop.
Analysis: Vasilevskiy's recovery timetable has him on track to sit out until early November at the earliest, paving the way for Kristers Gudlevskis to stick with the Bolts for at least the first month of the season. Coach Jon Cooper showed a willingness to give Bishop more frequent nights off than some of the league's top netminders last season, but that was due in some part to the reliability Vasilevskiy showed in a part-time role. Though Gudlevskis is a quality prospect, it might take a while before he earns the same amount of trust from the coaching staff, which could result in Bishop bearing a heavier workload to open the campaign, at least until Vasilevskiy is healthy enough to return. That said, because of the overall strength of the Bolts' roster, Gudlevskis should be well positioned to come away with the win nearly anytime he's called upon to make a spot start.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Bolts' Vasilevskiy Undergoes Vascular Surgery
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB
9/4/2015
News: Andrei Vasilevskiy had surgery Thursday to remove a blood clot from near his left collarbone and treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and is expected to remain out for two-to-three months.
Analysis: With that timetable, Andrei Vasilevskiy figures to sit out through at least early- or mid-November, and quite possibly longer if his recovery trends toward the longer end of that period of time. Though Ben Bishop is the clear No. 1 goalie between the pipes for Tampa, Vasilevskiy looked to be one of the league's top backup options entering the season, due to both his strong team context and the skills he displayed when he received spots starts in 2014-15. With the 21-year-old sidelined, the Lightning will likely turn to Kristers Gudlevskis when they need to spell Bishop.

Ryan Wilson
Flames Ink Wilson To PTO
Ryan Wilson, D, CGY
9/3/2015
News: Ryan Wilson signed a professional tryout offer with the Flames on Thursday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson was limited to just three games as a member of the Avalanche last season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in late October that would ultimately require surgery. Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old wasn't expected to be a major part of the Avs' plans on the blue line, and he'll have an even more difficult time trying to carve out a role in Calgary's defensive corps, which may be the deepest in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) "Not In A Rush" To Play
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
9/3/2015
News: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skated during informal workouts Thursday morning, but is "not in a rush" to return to action, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom began skating in August following hip surgery during the offseason, and while he hasn't experienced any setbacks, he doesn't appear to have a specific target date in mind for his return. "I'm not going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing," the 27-year-old pivot remarked, "I'm not going to play on 90 percent. We'll see how it goes. We don't know yet." The uncertainty surrounding Backstrom's return has lowered his standing somewhat in fantasy rankings. While the situation should be monitored closely, Backstrom should provide some serious value if he can get up to speed quickly on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie, as he has been one of the more productive playmakers and power-play performers over the last several seasons. Don't sleep on him too long in your draft if he continues to progress according to plan.

Joe Pavelski
Pavelski Expected To Be Named Sharks' Next Captain
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ
9/3/2015
News: Joe Pavelski is expected to be named the Sharks' next captain, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Captaincy has been a delicate issue in San Jose over the last year, as former coach Todd McLellan stripped longtime leader Joe Thornton of those honors heading into 2014-15, straining the relationship between the star center and team brass. While Thornton is still around, it's clear that the 31-year-old Joe Pavelski is now the face of the franchise, after ranking fourth in the NHL in goals over the last four seasons with 161. Pavelski figures to pace the Sharks in scoring once again during the upcoming campaign, while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

Keith Ballard
Ex-Wild D-Man Ballard Leaning Toward Retirement
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9/3/2015
News: Keith Ballard (concussion) confirmed last week that he's leaning toward retirement, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard is still experiencing concussion symptoms from the head injury he suffered Dec. 9 of last season, and it sounds like he's leaning toward hanging up his skates rather than risking permanent health issues. The 32-year-old had previously experienced several concussions during his NHL career, likely leaving many teams disinterested in Ballard's services even if he opts to keep playing.

 
 
 
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