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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
Ryan Ellis
Preds, Ellis Still At Odds Over New Contract
Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
9/21/2014
News: Preds GM David Poile addressed Ryan Ellis' contract situation Saturday, saying the main stumbling block continues to be money, according to the Tennessean. "Unfortunately at this time we have not agreed what they think and what we think is fair compensation," Poile said. "We want [Ellis]. We are not trading him, we really like him. We really like the way he played last year. It's just a disagreement on dollars."
Analysis: Ryan Ellis, who has missed the first two days of training camp so far, played in 80 games last season for and finished with 27 points - his highest full season total to date. And while there is still plenty of time left to get a deal done before the start of the season, the clock is ticking. Not only is he missing out on conditioning drills and scrimmages, the more Ellis misses of training camp, the greater the chances of some other defenseman impressing the coaching staff and grabbing a roster spot that might otherwise go to Ellis. Bottom line, we think Ellis will get signed by the start of the regular season, but what his role on the team will be is anybody's guess. He's a risky fantasy pick right now, until all of the above gets sorted out.

Jon Merrill
Devils' Merrill Misses Practice With Head Injury
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Jon Merrill missed the second day of Devils' training camp on Saturday due to a head injury he suffered after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko during Friday's practice, Rich Chere of NJ.com reports.
Analysis: Luckily for Jon Merrill, the Devils' first regular season game isn't until October 9th. While head injuries are never a good thing, the promising young defender should have ample time to get healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Jonathan Drouin
Bolts' Drouin Out With Minor Upper-Body Injury
Jonathan Drouin, LW, TB
7:30 PM
News: Jonathan Drouin was held out of practice Saturday and will miss Sunday's scrimmage due to an upper-body injury, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "This is not a long-term thing," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. "By no means is this serious. He'll for sure be back (this) week at some point."
Analysis: Cooper indicated that Jonathan Drouin got "nicked up a bit" in a freak injury during rookie camp which opened Sept. 11. Drouin will return to action this week and be able to play in an exhibition match. The injury shouldn't impact his ability to make the team out of camp.

Jonathan Quick
Kings' Quick Still Struggling With Wrist Injury
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
5:05 PM
News: Jonathan Quick was able to practice Saturday but said that his wrist is still not 100 percent, ESPN reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick is trying to work his way back to health, but the early news from Los Angeles continues to note that his season might get off to a slow start. While the injury doesn't seem to have long-term determinants, he's still a viable option for fantasy squads.

P.A. Parenteau
Habs' Parenteau Scores In Scrimmage
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
5:04 PM
News: P.A. Parenteau scored two goals in an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, Hockey Inside Out reports. He skated on a line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
Analysis: P.A. Parenteau, who was acquired in the offseason from Colorado, will be part of a few line combinations during the preseason to see where he fits best, so we're not jumping to any conclusions because he skated on the Habs' top line. Head coach Michel Therrien said he was pleased with Parenteau's conditioning, something he and general manager Marc Bergevin talked to Parenteau about when he was acquired.

Mark Stuart
Jets' Stuart Dealing With Muscle Issue
Mark Stuart, D, WPG
2:59 PM
News: Mark Stuart is dealing with a minor muscle issue, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Mark Stuart is apparently improving and is considered day-to-day at this point. The injury doesn't appear as though it will cost him any regular season time.

Jordan Staal
New Linemates For Canes' Staal Early In Camp
Jordan Staal, C, CAR
1:44 PM
News: Jordan Staal has been skating with Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty so far in training camp, reports the Raleigh News & Observer.
Analysis: Although it's early and new coach Bill Peters will likely experiment with various line combinations before the start of the regular season, Jordan Staal could really benefit from inheriting his brother Eric's linemates from the last two seasons. Semin and Tlusty are two reliable, scoring wingers who are used to playing on the same line together, something Staal has often lacked since joining the Canes two seasons ago. One thing is for certain - Staal will once again open the season as the Canes' second-line center, so it's really just a matter of who will be his wingers at this point - likely some combination of Semin, Tlusty, Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm.

Eric Staal
Canes' Staal Has New Linemates In Camp
Eric Staal, C, CAR
1:25 PM
News: Eric Staal has been skating with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm so far in training camp, reports the Raleigh News & Observer.
Analysis: Eric Staal, who is attempting to rebound from a disappointing 2013-14 season (61 points in 79 games) in which he skated primarily with Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty, could be looking at a fresh start this season with a new coach (Bill Peters) and new linemates. And although Peters cautioned reporters on the first day of camp not to read too much into his initial line combination choices, the thought of Staal playing with Skinner and Lindholm - two of the Canes' most skilled forwards - is an intriguing one. While it's still just the first week of training camp, and nothing is written in stone at this point, it's a situation worth keeping an eye on.

Taylor Beck
Preds' Rookie Beck Remains Unsigned
Taylor Beck, LW, NSH
1:00 PM
News: Taylor Beck has been a participant at training camp this week, despite being an unrestricted free agent, according to the Tennessean.
Analysis: Taylor Beck, who is coming off a three-year, $2.7 million entry-level deal, has spent most of his time playing for AHL Milwaukee, posting 44 goals and 86 assists over the last three years. He has appeared in 16 career games for the Preds, including seven last season. Unless he makes a major impression in training camp, expect him to start the season back in the minors, when and if he gets re-signed.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Coach Confident In Enroth
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
11:09 AM
News: Sabres head coach Ted Nolan believes Jhonas Enroth can be a starting goalie in the NHL, reports the Olean Times Herald.
Analysis: Jhonas Enroth will battle Michal Neuvirth for the starting job, but if one of them has the edge, it's Enroth. Despite his lack of wins the previous season, Enroth still had a respectable .911 save percentage on the league's worst team and made the Swedish national team for Sochi. He has been Ryan Miller's understudy for the past few seasons, but Neuvirth is also reunited with Arturs Irbe, his goaltending coach in Washington. Nolan will split starts between Enroth and Neuvirth for the time being. The Sabres have six exhibition games this season.

 
 
 
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