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2013 Draft Prep: Sleepers

by | Rotowire.com
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Sleepers can fall into multiple categories, depending on your league. For purposes of this column, I focused on those who either through line placement or opportunity may have a chance to exceed their usual projections. In addition, I included several players who could be bounce bank candidates as well as some that will need a bit of help to out-produce their projections. The column includes three at center, left wing, right wing, defense and goalie.

Centers

Mikhail Grabovski, C, WAS: Grabovski saw the wheels come off last year. After tallying back-to-back 50+ point seasons, Grabovksi felt apart, scoring just 16 points with a minus-10 rating while playing all 48 games for Toronto. The Maple Leafs used their amnesty buyout to get rid of Grabo, who had four years left on his deal. After waiting a month and a half to land somewhere, Grabovski ended up in a nice situation, signing a one-year, $3 million deal to be the Capitals' second center. He should be a nice bounce back candidate.

Alexander Killorn, C, TB: Killorn was promoted in early-February last year and did not look out of place. His four years at Harvard provided him maturity, which he showed last year in Tampa Bay. Killorn did not look out of place when paired with Martin St. Louis, as well as with both Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. With Jonathan Drouin now there as well, Killorn likely won’t see top line duty, but he could replace Ryan Malone, who suffered through injuries last year, on the second line.

Andrew Shaw, C, CHI: The image of Shaw's face late in the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run was testament to what it takes to win the Silver Chalice. Similar to what Chicago did when they won the Cup a few years ago, key players, or in this case Dave Bolland, were dealt to open up cap room, which provided opportunities for others. In this case, it's Shaw who gets that chance to fill a key role, possibly as the second line center.

Left Wings

Beau Bennett, LW, PIT: Bennett bounced back and forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre, but when he was in the NHL team's lineup, he showed why the Penguins are so high on him. With Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow no longer with the team, Bennett and his solid hockey sense has a very good shot at seeing top-six duty, possibly alongside Evgeni Malkin.

Scott Hartnell, LW, PHI: 2012-13 was a lost year for Hartnell, as a broken ankle sidelined him after the third game of the season. When he came back 16 games later, he was never able to recapture the form he showed in 2011-12, when he had a breakout campaign. So which is the real Hartnell? Even if it's somewhere between the two extremes, he should rebound nicely and right now is slated to line up with Giroux and Voracek on the Flyers' top grouping, providing scoring and PIM.

Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL: Schwartz, selected in the first round in 2010, played the whole season for the Blues after getting his feet wet with seven games the year before. He tallied just 13 points in 45 games, but that experience will prove very beneficial, possibly as early as this season. Schwartz, normally a center, has the deck stacked against him there following the acquisition of Derek Roy, but he impressed the Blues in the playoffs and may get a shot at top-line left wing duty.

Right Wings

Nino Niederreiter, RW, MIN: Nino and the Islanders clearly needed to part ways as there was too much animosity built up between the two sides. While Cal Clutterbuck brings some toughness and should fit in well playing with John Tavares, Minnesota made out well in the deal, adding the talented Niederreiter. Nino resurrected his career, earning AHL All-Star status and playing well in the World Championships. He should play on the second or third line for the Wild with upside for more.

Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA: Palmieri had a breakthrough campaign last year, scoring 10 goals and 11 assists in 42 games. With Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne in Anaheim, sometimes supplemental pieces get lost in the milieu, which may be the case to a certain extent with Palmieri. With Selanne questionable to come back, and Bobby Ryan now in Ottawa, Palmieri and Jakob Silverberg, who came over for Ryan, will be counted on to pick up the scoring slack.

David Jones, RW, CGY: Jones scored 27 goals and 45 points in 77 games two years ago for Colorado, to earn a four-year extension with the Avalanche. Since then, he tallied only 46 points in 105 games to earn a ticket out of town, as he was sent to Calgary as part of a deal for Alex Tanguay. Jones gets a new lease in life with the Flames, who desperately need scoring and will give Jones every chance to fill the role as the team's top right winger.

Defensemen

Matt Donovan, D, NYI: There was strong speculation many times during last year that Donovan would be promoted. That never happened and Donovan used his time in the minors to improve his game seemingly nightly and make the AHL All-Star Team, leading the Bridgeport defensemen in scoring. With Mark Streit gone, there is an opening for an offensive d-man on the Island, even with Lubomir Visnovksy back, which could enable Donovan to break camp with the squad.

Victor Hedman, D, TB: Hedman, selected second overall in 2009, started his upward trajectory into an elite defender last year. While his overall numbers went stellar, he looked much more comfortable on the ice, blending size, speed and sense to begin that next step in his career. While he may not burst out this year, it's coming, and is just a matter of time before it happens.

Jake Muzzin, D, LA: All the focus on the growth by Slava Voynov and presence of Drew Doughty somewhat deflected attention away from Muzzin. He took advantage of injuries to open the year in the LA lineup and he never looked back. Muzzin showed that he can produce on the PP, using his hard short to notch 10 of his 16 points on the man-advantage. The upward swing looks to be in full motion for Muzzin, so jump onboard.

Goalies

Jake Allen, G, STL: Allen, the Blues goalie of the future, was the goalie of the present last year, filling in for an injured Jaroslav Halak and ineffective Brian Elliott. Allen posted a stellar 9-4 mark with a 2.46 GAA and .905 SV% after getting the call. He is still behind Halak and Elliot, but if you’re looking for a late-round flier who has a ton of upside, you could so much worse than Allen.

Ray Emery, G, PHI: Who says you can't go home again? Emery, who played in Philly in 2008-09 and looked as if his career was over when he had to have hip surgery, was a huge part of the Blackhawks' regular season success last year, going 17-1 and at times outplaying Corey Crawford. Crawford backstopped Chicago to the Cup and Emery decided to head back to Philly on a ridiculously cheap one-year deal following two good years in the Windy City. At a minimum, Emery will split time with Steve Mason, but if he is even close to what he showed last year, look for Emery to solve - at least during the regular season - the Flyers' goalie woes.

Karri Ramo, G, CGY: With Miikka Kiprusoff hanging up the skates, someone has to play good in Calgary. As of press time for this column, all signs point to Ramo assuming the banner of the Flames' netminder. Ramo struggled in his first stint in the NHL, last playing with Tampa Bay in 2008-09, but he excelled the past four years at Avangard Omsk to earn the shot at being the main man in Calgary.

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Player News
Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Decides To Retire
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
9/5/2015
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 team 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.

Daniel Cleary
Wings Ink Cleary To One-Year Contract
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
2:18 PM
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
9:40 AM
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
8:49 AM
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.

Andrew Copp
Jets' Copp To Challenge For NHL Job
Andrew Copp, C, WPG
9/3/2015
News: Andrew Copp is expected to compete for the Jets' fourth-line center duties during training camp, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Analysis: Andrew Copp, who finished up his sophomore season at the University of Michigan last spring before turning pro, made his NHL debut for the Jets in their final regular season game in 2015-16, when the team was just trying to rest its regulars in advance of the playoffs. The 2013 fourth-round pick went unused during the Jets' first-round series exit, but the size he presents (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) along with the strong leadership and decision-making he demonstrated during his time at Michigan could make him the Jets' best internal option to pivot the checking line. Holdovers Anthony Peluso and Matt Halischuk likely represent Copp's top competition for that role.

Joakim Nordstrom
Nordstrom, Blackhawks Agree On One-Year Deal
Joakim Nordstrom, C, CHI
9/2/2015
News: Joakim Nordstrom signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Brian Hedger of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Joakim Nordstrom waited several months before agreeing to his qualifying offer, but he's at least in the fold to compete for a spot in the Blackhawks' crowded bottom-six ranks. The forward recorded no goals and three assists in 38 games with the parent club last season, so a return trip to AHL Rockford could be in the works to open 2015-16.

 
 
 
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