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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
Elias Lindholm
Lindholm Signs Two-Year Extension With Hurricanes
Elias Lindholm, C, CAR
8/27/2015
News: Elias Lindholm signed a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Analysis: Elias Lindholm was a solid contributor in his first full NHL season in 2014-15, registering 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 81 games with the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Carolina this season, and should have a great shot at improving upon his offensive numbers from a year ago as he continues his development as an NHL forward.

Patrik Berglund
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8/27/2015
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/27/2015
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Still On Schedule With Rehab
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
8/27/2015
News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
Ladislav Smid, D, CGY
8/27/2015
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8/27/2015
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
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8/27/2015
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Both sides are hoping to get an agreement done before the start of the season but the parameters on a new deal could be difficult to negotiate. Kyle Okposo will make $4.5 million this season and could command a deal north of $6 million per year on the open market, a figure the Islanders may not be willing to approach at this time. If the two sides can't come to an agreement before the start of the season then Okposo's name will be one we will hear quite often in trade rumors.

Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
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8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
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Adam Cracknell
Canucks Ink Cracknell To Two-Way Deal
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8/26/2015
News: Adam Cracknell signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Mostly due to the Blue Jackets' array of injuries last season, Adam Cracknell saw 17 games at the NHL level, producing no goals and one assist. He'll function as an organizational depth piece for the Canucks, but will once again require several players to go down before skating in the NHL. Even if that materializes, he'd likely be limited to a bottom-six role with limited ice time.

 
 
 
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