Contributor article: 2016-2017 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers
The following article was contributed by Anthony Magliaro. He can be found on Twitter at @amags7.
Another fantasy hockey season is upon us. The importance of hitting on a few of your potential sleepers towards the back end of your draft and in free agency is imperative. It allows you to invest more picks into known commodities that you can count on helping you achieve your goal of winning your league.
Look at any championship winning roster and I guarantee you’ll find a few. Let’s flash back to my draft last season. While everyone was plucking goalies in the first couple of rounds, I’m sitting tight, grabbing the likes of Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Matt Duchene, and Max Pacioretty to lead my high-powered offense. Now lets fast forward about an hour later to the late rounds of that draft… “And in the 13th round, Magliaro selects….. Martin Jones”. The reactions of my league mates were priceless. “Martin Jones? He’s a backup!”
While Jones didn’t go on to win a championship last season, my fantasy team did. Now its time to make the case for a few that can do the same for you as you prepare for your drafts.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (ESPN Rank – 150, Yahoo Rank – 117)
After a season-long controversy with the Bolts last season, Drouin stormed back during the playoffs, recording five goals and nine assists for 14 points through 17 games.
Drouin recorded these numbers against top teams in the league and will do much more damage against teams that aren’t as skilled. Seven of these points were also recorded on the power play unit, which he figures to see more time on during the course of this season.
In addition, as it stands right now, Drouin will play on Tampa’s top line alongside gritty left wing Alex Killorn and one of the league’s best goal scorers in Steven Stamkos. With Drouin’s pass first mentality, I can see him accumulating tons of assists on Tampa’s high-powered offense.
P.A. Parenteau, RW, New York Islanders (ESPN Rank – 129, Yahoo Rank – 237)
I had to do a double take on the Yahoo rankings to make sure I was looking at this season’s when it came to Parenteau. Parenteau will be riding shotgun with John Tavares once again, a player which he has shared success with in the past. On two brutal Islanders teams with limited offensive options besides Tavares, Parenteau posted 120 points in 161 games.
Now, Parenteau rejoins forces with his old team and superstar on a much more revamped team that could see his production skyrocket even further. Parenteau will see time on the Islanders power play and will also have Islanders big fish signing Andrew Ladd on his opposite wing.
This is also a contract year for Parenteau, as he signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders this offseason. For his ranking on both sites (especially Yahoo), he’s a steal.
Aaron Ekblad, Defenseman, Florida Panthers (ESPN Ranking – 111, Yahoo Ranking – 83)
All things considered, Ekblad probably shouldn’t have made this list. He is a superstar defenseman who is getting better and better as each game passes. I put him on this list because of his ranking and how he may drop even further due to his injury concerns.
After suffering a concussion at the WCOH playing for Team North America, fantasy owners may stay away and look at healthier options to lead their blue line. This is where a savvy owner should pounce all over the Panthers franchise defenseman.
When looking at Ekblad’s career stats, in his rookie season, Ekblad posted 170 shots and a 7.1 shooting percentage. In this past season, Ekblad posted 182 shots and an 8.2 shooting percentage. Oddly enough, Ekblad posted 3 less points than his rookie year.
You can chalk it up to bad luck, but I’ll chalk it up to him never playing with a defenseman solid enough to set him up for offensive success. Ekblad has played with the likes of Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, and Erik Gudbranson. While they may have been serviceable for the Florida Panthers, they’re all defensive-minded defensemen.
With a revamped Panthers defensive core, Ekblad is keen for a breakout.
The Panthers power play was also already inside the top 10 last season, and now they will have a power play that features Ekblad, Huberdeau, Barkov, Jagr AND Yandle. Yandle has had at least 40 assists in each of his last three NHL seasons. If he is producing, there is a good chance Aaron Ekblad will be as well this season.
Adam Henrique, Center, New Jersey Devils (ESPN Ranking – 133 , Yahoo Ranking – 113)
The Devils made a huge splash this summer when they acquired Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson. A team that was desperate for scoring now will boast a more than competent first line in Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Kyle Palmieri. This line could be a dark horse for a top line in the league throughout the year.
Hall will do wonders for the game of Adam Henrique. The two played together from 2007-2010 on the Windsor Spitfires and have shown before that they have the chemistry that’s needed for instant production.
Henrique posted 30 goals on a lackluster Devils team last season. With the addition of Hall, expect Henrique’s point totals to increase, while also seeing an increase in his power play production.