In part one of our 2014 Fantasy Hockey Draft Preparation, we gave a general overview on how fantasy drafting works, some shrewd strategies, as well as highlighted a few players that are often overlooked. Click here to check out part one, in case you missed it.
This week we’re looking at potential sleepers and busts in this year’s fantasy draft. It’s never easy prognosticating what will happen during the season, but there are signs you can look at that indicate when a player is ready to break out, or when a player might be regressing.
2014 Fantasy Hockey Draft Preparation – Part Two: Sleepers and Busts
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals, C/LW (ESPN Rank: 95; Yahoo ADP: 133): A seasoned veteran of the KHL, Kuznetsov made his long awaited NHL debut at the end of last season, scoring 3 goals and dishing 6 assists in 17 games. Likely to play on the first line of the NHL’s best PP last season, Kuznetsov should only see his numbers get better.
Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild, C (ESPN Rank: 206; Yahoo ADP: 157): Not only did Granlund have 30 points in his final 40 games last season, but he also tied for the team lead in goals during the playoffs. The Wild have a great group of offensive wingers for Granlund to center. Don’t be surprised if he outscores first line center Mikko Koivu this year.
Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers, C (ESPN Rank: 120; Yahoo ADP: 161): Yes, he’s a Panther player, and traditionally Panthers players are not good fantasy players. However, Barkov will be the #1 center in all situations this year and someone will need to score for Florida. This team did improve during the off-season and Barkov should be better in his second year. Had he stayed healthy last year he would have led the team in scoring. Expect him to do so this year.
Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks, RW (ESPN Rank: 253; Yahoo ADP: 166): Silfverberg battled injuries last season and we didn’t see him produce like we expected. This season Silverberg will most likely be on a line with newly acquired center Ryan Kesler. This should help to increase his overall production, especially playing a full year in Bruce Boudreau’s offense. 20-25 goals is a realistic expectation this year.
Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars, RW (ESPN Rank: 236; Yahoo ADP: 172): The big right winger from Russia didn’t have a spectacular rookie season, but he still showed flashes of brilliance at times. It seems his low ranking in drafts stems from the fact that we aren’t sure if he’ll be on the first line with Seguin and Benn. However, during the off-season the Stars upgraded by getting Jason Spezza to center the second line. This means that whether Nichushkin plays on the first or second line, he’ll have a stud centerman to get him the puck. This should be a breakout year for him and the Stars.
Semyon Varlamov – Colorado Avalanche, G (ESPN Rank: 35; Yahoo ADP: 29): Unless Colorado’s defensive system improves, it’s unrealistic to assume that Varlamov can duplicate his stats from last year. Every team in the Central division improved in the off-season, so there will be very few easy games for the Avs and Varlamov. It’s hard to imagine they win the division again, or that he wins 40 games again.
Keith Yandle – Arizona Coyotes, D (ESPN Rank: 44; Yahoo ADP: 60): It’s odd that Yandle is being drafted ahead of so many other defensemen, including his teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yandle generated most of his fantasy value last season by assisting on 45 goals. The Coyotes are not a great offensive team, and that won’t happen again this year. Ekman-Larsson gets more of the goal scoring opportunities from the blueline, which limits Yandle’s upside. Lastly, Yandle was -23 a year ago. If he does that again, and his scoring falls off, that’s going to hurt you.
Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks, LW (ESPN Rank: 13; Yahoo ADP: 27): There have been trade rumors all summer regarding Sharp. Chicago is over the salary cap right now and someone will have to be moved. It seems like Sharp could be the odd man out. If this does happen, Sharp’s fantasy value will drop. The Blackhawks were the second best scoring team last season. If he doesn’t get moved, expect him to continue to be a great fantasy option, but if you do draft him and hear more rumors about him being traded, it might be wise to sell high with him.
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