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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
Eddie Pasquale
Caps Sign Pasquale
Eddie Pasquale, G, WAS
12:15 AM
News: Eddie Pasquale has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Capitals, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Eddie Pasquale, who was acquired from the Jets on June 28, slots in as a depth goalie for the Caps behind Braden Holtby and Justin Peters. Out of the gate this season, look for Pasquale to split time at AHL Hershey with Philipp Grubauer.

Tomas Hertl
Sharks' Hertl Fine After Knee Scare
Tomas Hertl, C, SJ
12:14 AM
News: Tomas Hertl said the tenderness in his knee that he first experienced in Tuesday's practice isn't anything to worry about, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Tomas Hertl said that he only felt the sensation in his knee because he had been off the ice for more than a month. He'll likely take the next couple days off to rest before continuing his offseason workouts again.

Dany Heatley
Heatley Signs With Ducks
Dany Heatley, LW, ANA
7/9/2014
News: Dany Heatley has signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ducks, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: The 33-year-old Dany Heatley -- who notched 12 goals and 28 points in 76 games with the Wild this past season -- isn't the elite goal-scorer he once was, but he'll provide the Ducks with an experienced option at left wing. Keep an eye on who he ends up skating with in training camp, as Heatley could see increased production with Anaheim if he ends up on a scoring trio.

Sidney Crosby
Crosby Dealing With Wrist Issue
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
7/9/2014
News: GM Jim Rutherford acknowledged Wednesday that Crosby is dealing with a right wrist injury, but indicated that it has yet to be determined whether the star center will require a procedure to address the issue, the team's official site reports. "Sidney Crosby has been undergoing treatment on a right wrist injury that he suffered during the season," Rutherford noted Wednesday. "Sid is continuing to get medical advice to determine the best path moving forward, including the possibility of arthroscopic surgery."
Analysis: While there had been reports that Sidney Crosby was slated to have arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in the next few days, Rutherford indicated that a final decision on that front has yet to be made. With that in mind, Rutherford added that the team expects to have a decision on how to handle Crosby's injury "by early next week."

Cory Schneider
Devils, Schneider Come To Terms On Seven-Year Deal
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
7/9/2014
News: Cory Schneider signed a seven-year, $42 million extension with the Devils on Wednesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: After entering his first season in a timeshare in goal with franchise icon Martin Brodeur, Cory Schneider quickly established himself as the Devils' No. 1 netminder of the present and future. He finished with elite ratios (1.97 GAA, .921) and likely would have garnered more Vezina buzz had a middling Devils attack not stuck him with a so-so 16-15-12 record. With Schneider set to enter his age-29 season, the Devils will likely have him for the peak years of his goaltending abilities during the life of his contract.

Patrick Kane
Kane Signs 8-Year Extension With Chicago
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
7/9/2014
News: Patrick Kane has signed an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks that runs through the 2022-23 season, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Along with Patrick Kane, the Hawks inked teammate Jonathan Toews to a deal with the same terms, with TSN.ca reporting that the duo's contracts carry an average annual value of $10.5 million, starting next season. The 25-year-old Kane, who is coming off a season in which he recorded 29 goals and 69 points in 69 regular season games, remains one of the league's most dynamic wingers and Wednesday's signings ensure that the Hawks' organization will continue to roster one of the league's top forward duos for the long haul.

Jonathan Toews
Toews Inks Extension With Chicago
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
7/9/2014
News: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have both signed eight-year contract extensions with the Blackhawks that run through the 2022-23 season, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: TSN.ca reports that the duo's contracts carry an average annual value of $10.5 million, starting next season. While that represents a big chunk of the team's salary cap, the deals ensure that the Hawks' two franchise cornerstones up front will remain with the organization for the long haul. The 26-year-old Jonathan Toews is coming off a season in which he scored 28 goals and added 40 helpers in 76 games, while maintaining his status as one of the league's top two-way pivots.

Richard Bachman
Bachman Signs With Oilers
Richard Bachman, G, EDM
7/9/2014
News: Richard Bachman has signed a one-year contract with the Oilers, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Richard Bachman, who saw action in three games with the Oilers last season, will reprise his role as a depth goalie for the team. The 26-year-old is coming off a 2013-14 campaign in which he recorded a 26-19-6 record, with a .908 save percentage and 2.99 GAA for AHL Oklahoma City.

Mattias Ekholm
Ekholm Signs Two-Year Deal With Preds
Mattias Ekholm, D, NSH
7/9/2014
News: Mattias Ekholm has signed a two-year, $2.075 million contract with the Predators, the Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Mattias Ekholm, who was a restricted free agent, will thus avoid arbitration by inking the one-way deal with Nashville. He's coming off a rookie campaign in which he recorded nine points in 62 games for the Preds.

Mac Bennett
Montreal's Bennett Ticketed For Hamilton
Mac Bennett, D, MON
7/9/2014
News: Mac Bennett, who is participating in Montreal's development camp, is expected to play for Hamilton of the American Hockey League this season, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Mac Bennett is a 2009 draft pick who decided to play a full four-year collegiate career at the University of Michigan. The four years gave Bennett time to add strength and weight to his frame.

 
 
 
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