The difference-maker when it comes to building a solid fantasy team is not necessarily how you draft in the top, it’s how you draft in the bottom. You can make all safe and solid selections in the top 50, but if you fail to get productive depth in the late rounds, you will be struggling to find depth on the waiver wire all season. In this four-part series, we’ll be dissecting each NHL division to find the best sleepers to help you win your league.
Note: All projections and pre-ranks provided are courtesy of Yahoo Fantasy Sports.
Vincent Trocheck – FLA (C)
Definitely one of the more obvious choices on the list, Vincent Trocheck is currently pre-ranked at 151. The biggest reason for his fall in the rankings was due to his ankle injury that kept him out for a large chunk of the season. He surprisingly returned in January and was obviously playing injured. Fractured ankles normally take a lot longer to heal up and he had numerous pointless streaks down the stretch. Not to mention, a career-low shooting percentage of 6.3% compared to his usual career 10.3%.
Overall, everything about Trocheck was just off last year. With a full off-season to recover, he will look to return to his 2017-18 form where he totalled 75 points in 82 games along with 287 shots and 145 hits. Whether he gets close to those numbers again or not, he will always have relevance in banger leagues and will be safe to put up 50-60 points.
Brady Tkachuk – OTT (LW)
Ranked very similarly to Trocheck, Brady Tkachuk is currently pre-ranked at 159. Tkachuk’s fall in the rankings doesn’t have much to do with his talent, rather the talent around him. He impressed in his rookie season, putting up 45 points along with 214 shots and 174 hits. There were a lot of claims that he benefitted from playing with Mark Stone, however, he disproved these claims pretty quickly.
After the trade deadline that sent Stone, Ryan Dzingel, and Matt Duchene away, Tkachuk compiled 14 points in 20 games. The trades also increased his ice-time by one minute and he averaged more shots per game. He is more than capable of holding a line on his own and is only getting better as time goes on. His potential linemates in Colin White and Drake Batherson are expected to much be better this year and will help his point totals out.
Like Trocheck, he will be a solid banger league option if things don’t go as expected, but should easily surpass 45 points this year. Fantasy owners should be more than comfortable picking him well before his pre-rank.
Dylan Larkin – DET (C)
While not necessarily your stereotypical late-round sleeper, Dylan Larkin’s pre-rank of 85 is worth talking about. Larkin broke out and showed the Detroit Red Wings that he is the building block of the future. In 76 games, he compiled 73 points along with 80 hits and 287 shots. He produces on offense, shoots the puck, and gets a respectable number of hits that would easily hold top 50 value in most leagues.
However, like Tkachuk, Larkin’s fall is for the same reasons. He is the best forward on a rebuilding team. Those who make the rankings tend to undervalue these types of players tremendously simply due to +/- being a widely counted stat. But even then, Larkin was only a minus-six last year, far from being a detriment.
Related: Is Dylan Larkin the Next Captain?
The Red Wings were the fourth-worst team in the league while also being the fifth-worst team for goals against. The number of goals his team allows will not affect his points whatsoever. He’ll most likely hit or even surpass his 21:51 of ice-time and for a player of his caliber to be outside of the top 50, this is a must-snag before 85.
Sam Reinhart – BUF (C, RW)
Sam Reinhart finds himself in sleeper discussions once again, with a pre-rank of 189. Reinhart has slowly improved every single season, most recently getting 65 points in 82 games. Along with the point increase, his average ice-time also increased by 1:51. He spent 44.5% of his ice-time last year with Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner, an 82-point scorer and a 40-goal scorer respectively. His linemates most likely won’t change this upcoming season.
Reinhart is still only 23 with lots of room to improve offensively and comes with C, RW dual eligibility. While he doesn’t provide the shot totals that one could desire with only 180, his point totals for a late-round draft pick will certainly make up for it. Potential fantasy owners should expect his points to slightly increase like they have the past four seasons.
Jeff Petry – MTL (D)
To conclude the list, Jeff Petry is currently pre-ranked at 225. Petry has done more than enough to prove his fantasy relevance, as he’s put up over 40 points in the last two seasons. Last season, he put up 46 points in 82 games with 172 shots, 190 hits, and 123 blocks. While this can be boiled down to him taking advantage of Shea Weber’s absence, Petry still averaged 2:32 of power play ice time last season.
His point totals may come down slightly, but overall, he brings everything to the table for both banger and standard formats. If he reaches 40 points in three consecutive years, he will be an absolute steal of a late-round choice.
If not, he can still provide value through hits and blocks. Potential owners should feel no shame in drafting him before his projected pre-rank.