2019 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers
Hockey season is back! Sure, it’s preseason, but the NHL has finally returned and now we can get a first look at our favorite teams and players in game action on the ice. The NHL fantasy draft season is at its highest as we put together a team we hope to call champions at the end of the fantasy hockey season. Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Auston Matthews are all names we know and will see come off the draft board in the first round. What about the unknown, undrafted, or under-ranked players?
The term sleeper is used a lot in fantasy sports, but the criteria that make up an undervalued player with break-out potential is not set in stone. For this article, I wanted to use a specific set of criteria in hopes that every selection would meet the definition of “sleeper.”
- Players being drafted outside of Yahoo Sports’ current top 150.
- Players that can outperform others being drafted ahead of them.
- Players being drafted in less than 50% of drafts.
Using these three principles, I guarantee every player on this list meets a minimum of two criteria. The stats are updated as of Saturday, September 20, 2019. For your consideration, I give you the 2019-20 NHL fantasy sleepers.
Alex Killorn (TB) – ADP: 161.2 | Percent Drafted: 3
Killorn has been a consistent player since entering the NHL and, for some reason, drafters seem to think he may fall in production this year. Over the last six years, Killorn has an average of 40.3 points and sees time on the power-play unit. Shot totals are over 150 in all of those years, with the exception of 2014-15, a season in which he missed 11 games.
Killorn will be shifted between the second and third line to start the season, but it should come as no surprise if he ends up on the first line at some point. On a team that has been atop the NHL in wins the last few years, why not get your hands on a part of it? Killorn has a predictable floor with high upside and I am buying an increase in production this year.
Zach Parise (MIN) – ADP: 176.7 | Percent Drafted: 37
This is the most undervalued player and the best pick you should reach for on this list. Parise had 61 points last year in a tough division. Rounding out the top 75 with 0.82 points per game last year as a key component to Minnesota’s power play, Parise is an all-around fantasy hockey gem. He can hit, score, assist, and gain shots.
Wingers being taken before Parise include Ryan Reaves (ADP 157.8) who had 20 points in 80 games last season for a staggering 0.25 points per game, and James van Riemsdyk (ADP 162.8) is 96 percent owned in leagues after a season of only 48 points. So, you’re not convinced? I’ll throw out one more. Clayton Keller (ADP 112.3, 100% ownership) had 47 points in 82 games last year.
Andreas Athanasiou (DET) – ADP: 171.0 | Percent Drafted: 24
Athanasiou posted a career high in points last season with 54, 11 points were on the power play, which was also a career high. Detroit is developing good talent as they continue to improve, which will solidify Athanasiou as a staple on a second line that will see plenty of scoring action. Plus, he will also be on the power play. Athanasiou is only 25 years old and in every season his production has increased, which is why it’s troublesome to see him being drafted on average over 20 spots behind someone like Anze Kopitar (ADP 150.3).
Duncan Keith (CHI) – ADP: 162.0 | Percent Drafted: 14
Former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith has seen better seasons. Each of his two Norris Trophy campaigns was capped by 60-plus point seasons. However, if we look at Keith’s career as a whole, his average is in the 40s for points per year since 2008-09. Keith has also reached double digits in power-play points in all of those seasons with the exception of last season, but he was still able to obtain 40 overall points. With surrounding young talent and a growing mentor role, Keith may have one or two more good, if not great, seasons left in him. Players being drafted before Duncan Keith are Brent Seabrook (ADP 161.3 – 28 points last season), Jake Muzzin (ADP 138.9 – 37 points last season), and Shea Weber (ADP 81.4 – 33 points last season).
Darnell Nurse (EDM) – ADP: 169.5 | Percent Drafted: 42
Nurse is a young talent that has been on the rise since he came into the league. I expect that, by the time this article is released, the weekend drafters will make all my hopes come true and bump Nurse into the top 150 in ADP where he belongs. This year, Nurse will have an even larger role in the Edmonton offense and, with that, we should see an increase in power-play time and on-ice time. Add those positives to a defender that can hit, gain assists, and rack up shots and we will see his numbers rise even more than last season, provided he stays out of the penalty box. Each player listed in the Duncan Keith assessment correlates with players I would not take over Nurse.
Noah Hanifin (CGY) – ADP: 173.7 | Percent Drafted: 4
Hanifin is the youngest player on this list. At the age of 22, youth and production were factors to put him in this article. Calgary will be in the playoff hunt again this year and a productive offseason should help keep this a high-scoring team. Hanifin will be on the defensive second pairing, but he will receive plenty of power-play time as well. Hanifin has slowly increased point totals since entering the league in 2015 and this may be his breakout year. Calgary had 289 goals last year and, with that type of offensive production, I want to grab any part of it I can early. Look for Hanifin to make the leap into the high-40s/low-50s point range this year.
When looking at goalies for sleeper status, we need to simplify the process and look at players that have higher upside than others being drafted ahead of them. Most goalies are going around their expected ADP, but there is one that needs to be talked about.
Jacob Markstrom (VAN) – ADP: 155.9 | Percent Drafted: 99
The Canucks have gotten significantly better this offseason and should see improvement on a sub-.500 season last year. Markstrom finished 12th in wins last season with 28 and he also was fourth in saves and seventh in games started. Having better players in front of him should lead to more wins, and if we estimate just three more wins to his stats, that brings Markstrom inside the top 10. He is the 27th goalie coming off the board as of now behind goalies such as Corey Crawford (ADP 142.8), who will be splitting significant time with Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss (ADP 130.6), who had only 23 wins last year, and John Gibson (ADP 53.0), who achieved 26 wins in 58 games played last year.
Mat Vilcek is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Mat, follow him @Mat1Thockey.