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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
Michael Raffl
Four Goals In Three Games For Flyers' Raffl
Michael Raffl, LW, PHI
12:48 PM
News: Michael Raffl found the back of the net for the third consecutive game in Thursday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: He's got four goals on nine shots over that three-game span and six markers on the year. Michael Raffl's sky-high shooting percentage says this luck is bound to balance out, but it's hard to ignore the offensive contributions he's made early on here. The Flyers' offense has awoken, and that should only help Raffl, so he's worth a speculative add at minimum.

Jared Spurgeon
Wild's Spurgeon Exits Early Thursday
Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN
12:47 PM
News: Jared Spurgeon left Thursday's win over San Jose in the third period with an undisclosed injury after taking a hard check, the Associated Press reports.
Analysis: Between the illness that's rummaging through the locker room and injuries, the Wild are could be down four blueliners if Jared Spurgeon's injury is something to worry about. Before departing, Spurgeon skated 22:31 and had six shots on goal, but no points.

Jakub Voracek
Four Straight Two-Point Games For Flyers' Voracek
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
12:45 PM
News: Jakub Voracek scored a goal and added an assist Thursday against Tampa Bay, giving him two points for the fourth consecutive game.
Analysis: Yep, that's called being red-hot. Jakub Voracek has only failed to hit the scoresheet one time so far this year, and with an impressive 15 points in 10 games, it's looking like he could blow last year's career-best 62 points out of the water. He's always had point-per-game talent.

Claude Giroux
Giroux Racking Assists For Flyers
Claude Giroux, C, PHI
12:44 PM
News: Claude Giroux picked up two more assists Thursday against the Lightning, giving him 11 in just 10 games this season.
Analysis: He's also scored a pair of goals, but Claude Giroux's made his presence felt as a distributor the most. With a sparkling 47 shots on goal over 10 games, Giroux should see his scoring rate rise as his luck balances out, as his shooting percentage is less than half its career norm right now.

Ray Emery
Emery Allows Four As Flyers Fall
Ray Emery, G, PHI
12:41 PM
News: Ray Emery was scored upon four times among 32 shots in Thursday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: Not the shiniest outing for Ray Emery, who'd been undefeated in regulation over his first five starts of the year. Steve Mason has been abhorrent so far, so Emery has a chance to carve out a bigger role, but outings like Thursday's won't help his case.

Jonathan Toews
Toews Delivers Two Goals for 'Hawks
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
12:38 PM
News: Jonathan Toews scored his third and fourth goals of the year Thursday in a shootout win over the Senators.
Analysis: He'd been off to a bit of a quiet start, so it's nice to see Jonathan Toews break out with his second multi-point game of the season. We know the talent is there, so assuming he stays healthy enough to play 80 games, Toews could quite conceivably exceed 70 points for the second time in his career.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Allows Four, Loses In Shootout
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
12:36 PM
News: Craig Anderson allowed four goals on 39 shots as well as the only tally in the shootout Thursday in a loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: This represents the worst start of the young season for the veteran goalie, who'd posted a save mark over .900 in each of his first four outings. Robin Lehner is nipping at his heels for playing time, so Craig Anderson will need to be sharper.

Scott Darling
Darling Gives Up Four, But 'Hawks Get Shootout Win
Scott Darling, G, CHI
12:34 PM
News: Scott Darling was tagged for four goals on 28 shots Thursday, but saved all three shootout attempts to deliver a 5-4 victory over the Senators.
Analysis: It'll be interesting to see what he 'Hawks make of this performance by Scott Darling, who obviously didn't post good numbers this time, but still did deliver a win. With Corey Crawford likely healthy enough to start Saturday, either Darling or Antti Raanta will soon be sent down to AHL Rockford.

Marian Hossa
Hawks' Hossa Hits 1,000 Points
Marian Hossa, RW, CHI
12:30 PM
News: Marian Hossa picked up a goal and an assist Thursday in a shootout win over the Senators, giving him exactly 1,000 points for his career. He went plus-2 with five shots on goal.
Analysis: It took him just 1,100 NHL games to reach that milestone, emphasizing just how good a career Marian Hossa's had. The 35-year-old started the year slow, with just a lonely goal in his first six games, but has warmed to the task more recently, with four points in his last four contests. Even with a disappointing performance out of the gate, Hossa remains a must-start in the vast majority of fantasy formats.

Mike Smith
Coyotes' Smith Turns In Solid Start, Still Loses
Mike Smith, G, ARI
12:24 PM
News: Mike Smith put a stop to 24 of 26 shots Thursday in Florida, but was stuck with another loss.
Analysis: A solid outing for Mike Smith, but he let Scottie Upshall break a third-period tie with his first goal of the year, and Roberto Luongo was masterful on the other end. On the bright side, this represents Smith's third non-disastrous start among seven outings on the season. He's lost four of his last five for the struggling 'Yotes.

 
 
 
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