Fantasy Hockey Sleepers: Eastern Conference
Our preview series continues by looking at some underrated players coming into the season. Today, we look at the Eastern Conference.
Andre Burakovsky (F – WAS)
My man put up 35 points in only 64 games last year and now looks set to not only take on Marcus Johansson’s power play time but also be a permanent fixture in the Capitals’ top six after spending the majority of last year on the third line. No offense to Lars Eller or Tom Wilson (well, maybe some offense to Tom Wilson) but Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie provide a little more scoring touch. A 60+ point season isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Jordan Eberle (F – NYI)
Jordan Eberle’s SH% the last six years: 9.6%, 14.5%, 13.1%, 14%, 12%, 18.9%. One of these things is not like the other!
Despite this drop in SH% last year, he still potted 20 goals and put up 51 points. A return to his career average SH%, playing with John Tavares (who’s in a contract year by the way), and his low 140s ranking on ESPN all add up to make Eberle a very intriguing name on Draft Day.
Justin Faulk (D – CAR)
Tied for second among defensemen in goals with 19, Faulk also put up 37 points in 75 games last year while leading the ‘D’ corps in power play ice time. While usually hamstrung by Carolina’s porous goaltending (contributing to his less than optimal -18 last year), Faulk shouldn’t have that issue this year, as newcomer Scott Darling is more than adequate. With many experts picking Carolina to finally fulfill their dark horse potential, Faulk should provide fantastic value, as is he is currently slated as the 49th ranked defenseman on ESPN.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (G – TB)
People are expecting big things from Vasilevskiy this season. While I don’t think he necessarily deserves the hype (his career 91.5 SV% is perfectly fine, nothing more), the Lightning should be very good this season.
Would you rather have Martin Jones (career 91.6 SV%, worse team this year) at 14? Pekka Rinne (91.6 SV% the last three years, primed for regression and the possible usurping of the starting job from Juuse Saros) at 23? Or Vasilevskiy (lots of wins from a loaded Tampa team, little other competition now that Ben Bishop is in Dallas) at 45? Exactly.
Huberdeau (70), Barkov (73), and Dadonov (95) are ranked pretty low on ESPN, considering what they are capable of when this Panthers’ top line is running at full capacity. Barkov and Huberdeau were near identical last year in terms of PPG – 0.85 and 0.84, respectively, which comes out to about a 70 point pace. Dadonov is the unknown here, though he did put up 66 points in 53 games last year in the KHL.
Note that he was playing on a team with Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, but I think he can handle the third banana-Jaromir Jagr role on this line. It would not be surprising at all to see him in the top 50 scorers at the end of the season and, in the case of Barkov and Huberdeau, top 30.
Jack Eichel (F – BUF) or David Pastrnak (F – BOS)
Depending on if you are in Yahoo or ESPN, one of these players is being seriously underrated. Jack Eichel was the only player in the league last year to have over four shots on goal per game and looks primed to have a breakout point-per-game season. Yet ESPN has him ranked in the mid 50s!
David Pastrnak hit the 70-point mark last year as a 20-year-old, but Yahoo has him going in the low 40s? Ridiculous. Whichever league you’re in, there’s plenty of value to be had with one of them.
Steven Stamkos (F – TB)
Steven Stamkos started off fantastically last year, notching 20 points in 17 games before tearing a meniscus in his knee. The chemistry he showed with Nikita Kucherov was a big reason for the jump back into PPG territory for Stammer. I am reminded of Rob Gronkowski a bit.
While injuries are always a concern (two of the last four years, he played less than half the season), the upside here is undeniable. Pro-rate his 1.18 PPG last year at an 82-game pace, and you are talking about a 97-point season, which would have been a comfortable second on the scoring leaderboard. Fantastic value for someone going in the mid-third round on Yahoo and early sixth round on ESPN.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (F – CLB)
Not really on anyone’s radar at the moment, that may change during the season. He scored 13 points in only 26 games last year, despite getting only 14 minutes of ice time. Bump that up to a top-six mark of around 18 minutes and give him some power play time and a 50-point season might not be out of the question for the third year player.
Chris Prod is a writer at FantasyPros. He sometimes tweets @mastodude30.