With training camps in progress, the 2021-22 NHL regular season is inching closer and closer as each day goes by. There is a ton of excitement for the upcoming season, one that will see the league go back to a regular 82-game schedule. We will see some teams rise in the standings, others drop, and will also see a new team altogether in the Seattle Kraken, guaranteeing that there will be plenty of headlines to follow throughout the entire season.
Another big reason for excitement, particularly for the fans, is that fantasy hockey will soon get underway. With the regular season less than two weeks away, the majority of leagues will be holding their drafts in the coming days. These are very fun for some who get to put their general manager cap on for a day and try to assemble the best team they can.
For the most part, the early rounds of fantasy drafts are quite simple. With the amount of talent dispersed throughout the league, it is hard to make bad selections early on. For a team like the Calgary Flames, players like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are ones you can’t go wrong with in the early-to-mid rounds. However, once you get into the later stages of the draft, things can get trickier. And this article is here to help you navigate through it.
Oftentimes, individuals will look for “sleeper picks” in the later rounds of drafts. This generally means young and upcoming players who have yet to hit their stride in the NHL but have plenty of potential. It can also mean players who have had one, or possibly multiple down seasons, that could be primed for a bounce-back season. Take a look below to see who on the Flames roster matches this criterion, as they could be great selection(s) for your team in the final rounds of your draft.
Juuso Valimaki, Defencemen
Since being drafted 16th overall in the 2017 draft, Flames defenceman Juuso Valimaki has shown plenty of offensive potential. He played three seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL) from 2015-2018 before making the transition to professional hockey in 2018-19. Right away, he proved his offensive capabilities with four goals and 14 points in 20 games with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Heading into 2019-20, many thought Valimaki had a great chance at cracking the Flames roster out of camp, given the fact he was able to get in 24 games with the club a season prior. Unfortunately, an ACL injury prevented that from happening, and forced him to miss the entire season.
Fully recovered, Valimaki spent the first half of the 2020-21 season overseas in Finland due to the NHL delaying its season. He garnered plenty of excitement during this time from Flames fans, as he had 19 points in 19 games with Ilves Tampere in the SM-Liiga. As a result, many were expecting him to become a top-four defenceman in Calgary as soon as he arrived for the 2020-21 season, but that didn’t exactly pan out.
The 22-year-old struggled at times with the Flames last season, registering just two goals and 11 points in 49 games. He also failed to make a major impression on head coach Darryl Sutter, who healthy scratched him on numerous occasions after taking over. Nevertheless, Valimaki clearly has a ton of talent and was able to get his feet wet last season. He is an intriguing add for fantasy managers in the late rounds, as he has star potential and could get some looks on the power play at some point due to the departure of Mark Giordano.
Dillon Dube, Left Wing/Right Wing
Like Valimaki, Dillon Dube was a player that came into the 2020-21 season with some fairly big expectations after a solid 2019-20 campaign. The 23-year-old, who was drafted in the second round (56th overall) in 2016, had four very impressive years offensively with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL before his rookie pro season in 2018-19.
In that rookie season, Dube flashed his potential at the AHL level, recording 15 goals and 39 points in just 37 games. In 2019-20, he lasted just 13 games with the Heat before the Flames called him up for the remainder of the season. In 45 games with the Flames that season, he put up 16 points. However, it was his performance in the playoffs that really got the city excited for what was to come, as he scored four goals in 10 postseason games.
While the 2020-21 season wasn’t an outright bust for Dube, it wasn’t what he, management, or fans had hoped for. In 51 games, he scored 11 goals and 22 points. He, too, was healthy scratched late in the season, and will be motivated to turn things around in 2021-22.
If you are looking for a forward to add in the final rounds of your draft, Dube may be the perfect piece. Though he has struggled to bring his offensive game to the NHL level just yet, he is still quite young and has a ton of skill. The only issue here is that, as of now, he doesn’t project to see time on the power play. But if he is able to get off to a hot start at five-on-five, that could quickly change. He is worth taking a flier on late in your draft.
Andrew Mangiapane, Left Wing/Right Wing
One of the most exciting players on this Flames team right now is Andrew Mangiapane due to the fact that he seems to improve each and every season. The 25-year-old is a very solid two-way player who will likely be available in the late rounds of drafts since he remains quite underrated throughout the hockey world.
In 56 games last season, Mangiapane scored a career-high 18 goals while tying his career-high of 32 points. He could very well take another step forward this season, as he is coming in with a ton of confidence. After the 2020-21 season ended, he joined Team Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship and was better than anybody could have expected, helping his team to a gold medal while being named the MVP of the tournament.
For the upcoming season, Mangiapane will play in the Flames’ top six, and as of right now, is expected to start it off on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. His own skill, factored in with playing alongside two other highly skilled forwards, could make him a big-time steal in the later rounds of your draft. If he is still available in the final few rounds, don’t hesitate to grab him.
Blake Coleman, Left Wing/Right Wing
Blake Coleman is neither a young up-and-coming player, nor one who has struggled in recent seasons. However, he will be playing a new role on a new team and has the potential to increase his offensive numbers in a big way.
The Flames signed the 29-year-old to a six-year, $29.4 million contract this offseason and are certainly hoping he can add some offence to their lineup, paired with his great defensive play. During this past season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he put up a modest 14 goals and 31 points in 55 games. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but are pretty impressive when you consider the fact he did it while playing on the team’s third line and almost no time on the power play.
With the Flames, his role is expected to increase, as he has been getting reps on the team’s top line with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. If he sticks there, he should easily surpass his career-high of 36 points set during the 2018-19 season, and may be able to eclipse his career-high 22 goals as well. While he doesn’t hold as much potential as Mangiapane, he is a player to keep in consideration as you enter the final rounds of your draft.
Sean Monahan, Center
Whether or not Sean Monahan qualifies as a “sleeper pick” is up for debate, but there is no denying his stock has taken a major hit over the past two seasons, and it will certainly cause him to fall down draft boards. By all accounts, however, the 26-year-old is fully recovered from his hip surgery back in May and is ready to go for the upcoming season.
The 2020-21 campaign was a major struggle for Monahan, who put up the worst totals of his eight-season career, scoring just 10 goals and 28 points in 50 games. The season prior, he managed just 22 goals and 48 points in 70 games, which is a far cry from his career year in 2018-19, where he tallied 34 goals and 82 points in 78 contests.
If the Flames want to succeed as a team in 2021-22, Monahan will need to be much better than he has been as of late. It seems that many have written him off, but we are talking about a player who is still quite young and has scored 22 or more goals in seven of his eight seasons in the league. While it is far from a guarantee, he could very well record his fourth 30+ goal season while recording north of 60 points, which would be fantastic value for a guy who will likely go in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Keep an eye out for him.
Drafts Are a Crapshoot
At the end of the day, these drafts often times come down to luck. You can draft the best team to begin the season, but one or two key injuries could change the entire outlook of your roster. That is why it is important to remember to not take them too seriously and have fun with it. Having said that, if you are looking to add some potentially great value picks to your team, consider the names above with your final few selections.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.