Picking the right fantasy hockey sleepers can end up being the difference between you winning or losing your fantasy league.
Sleepers are players that tend to get drafted much later than they should in fantasy drafts.
Here are 10 fantasy hockey sleepers worth considering for the 2019-20 NHL season.
Robert Thomas, C/RW, St. Louis Blues
It’s always good to bet on players that win. Robert Thomas was the Blues first-round selection (No.20 overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, and he’s won at almost every level he’s played at. Thomas captured gold with Team Canada at both the 2015 World U-17 Hockey Challenge and the 2018 World Juniors, in addition to winning a Memorial Cup with the London Knights. In his first NHL season, Thomas casually won a Stanley Cup. His nine goals and 33 points in 70 regular-season games for St. Louis weren’t anything speculator, but he did play an important role in the Blues winning the Cup, Thomas recorded six points in the postseason and assisted on both of St Louis’ goals in their 2-1 double OT win over the Stars in Game 7 of the second round.
The Blues have a well-balanced offense and Thomas should take a step forward in a supporting role this season. The 20-year-old’s lethal combination of skill and tenacity indicates 20-goal potential. He sees the ice very well and his filthy edges and lethal shot are great assets. Given his skill set and likely role on the Blues’ second-power play unit, Thomas makes for a solid late-round fantasy target with 20-goal potential in 2019-20.
Nikita Gusev, LW, New Jersey Devils
The Devils made some great improvements to their roster this season, drafting Jack Hughes, signing Wayne Simmonds and trading for P.K. Subban. They also added a Russian KHL star by the name of Nikita Gusev. With all the focus on Hughes and Subban, Gusev may fall further than he should in fantasy drafts this season. The 27-year-old skilled forward was deemed the best hockey player not playing in the NHL before the Devils acquired him from the Golden Knights this offseason and signed him to a two-year contract with an AAV of $4.5 million.
Gusev is an incredibly skilled offensive forward with ridiculous hands and jaw-dropping playmaking ability. He exploded for 82 points in 62 games with St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL last season and should make an immediate impact in the NHL. He’s drawn comparisons to Artemi Panarin with his skill set and move from Russian to North America, but tread lightly. It’s always tough predicting how overseas players will perform in North America as it doesn’t always translate as you’d expect. Despite the uncertainty, I think Gusev is a great bet as a late-round fantasy target. He’s been over a point-per-game player in each of his last four years in the KHL and should get a chance in the top-six with either Hughes or Nico Hischier as his center. It’s a risky pick depending on how early you go for him, but there is massive upside here and his insane skill makes him worth betting on.
Devon Toews, D, New York Islanders
Toews is a promising offensive defenseman on an Islanders team that surprised last season. The 25-year-old put up five goals and 18 points in 48 regular-season games in his rookie season last year before adding a goal and five assists in eight playoff contests. Before making his NHL debut, Toews made a seamless transition from the NCAA to professional hockey. He put up 45 points in 76 games in his first year with AHL Bridgeport and was on track for a massive 2017-18 season with eight points and 22 points through 30 games before a shoulder injury ended his season. He was also close to a point-per-game player for Bridgeport (24GP, 5G, 14A, ) before his NHL call-up last season. Toews is an offensively gifted blueliner who knows how to create offense from the back-end. New York’s defense is lacking and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Toews becomes their No.2 blueliner this season and quarterbacks the first power-play unit with Ryan Pulock. His strong skating, excellent puck-moving ability and accurate shot making him worth a look in fantasy hockey this season.
Roope Hintz, C/LW, Dallas Stars
Hintz is an intelligent goal-scorer who has all the tools to become a fantasy weapon. The 6’3”, 205 lbs forward had nine goals and 22 points in 58 regular-season games as a rookie last year before breaking out in the playoffs. Dallas beat Nashville in the opening round and came within inches of beating the Blues in Round 2. Hintz played an important role for the Stars, tying for the team goal-scoring lead in the postseason with five goals and eight points in 13 contests. The Stars are unlikely to break up the Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov top line, but Hintz has a skilled new linemate arriving from San Jose. The Stars signed Joe Pavelski in free agency and the two-way stud is expected to become Hintz’s new center on the second line. The arrival of Pavelski pretty much guarantees Hintz won’t see first-unit power-play time, but I see great value with a full season of Hintz in a top-six role at even strength. He scored 20 goals in the AHL in 2017-18 and had 19 tallies in his final year in Finland before coming over to North America. Hintz is a proven goal-scorer who knows where to go to put the puck in the back of the net. Look for the 22-year-old to take another step forward in his second year in the NHL.
Nick Schmaltz, C, Arizona Coyotes
Blackhawks fans are likely quite familiar with what Nick Schmaltz can bring to the table, but he might not be on too many people’s fantasy radars entering 2019-20. The 23-year-old was producing nicely for Arizona before a knee injury ended his season in January. Following an early-season trade from Chicago, Schmaltz potted five goals and added nine assists in 17 games with the Coyotes before the injury. He’s reportedly back to full health and set to center the Coyotes second line in 2019-20 with either Phil Kessel or Clayton Keller as one of his wingers. Schmaltz is worth drafting this season due to his lethal scoring ability and power-play potential. Four of his five goals with Arizona have come with the man advantage and he should get a look on that first unit quarterbacked by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Schmaltz has great individual skill, and he showed in a small sample last season that he doesn’t need Patrick Kane to be fantasy relevant.
Mackenzie Blackwood, G, New Jersey Devils
While projected starter Cory Schneider is a good bounce-back candidate on a revamped Devils team, 22-year-old netminder Mackenzie Blackwood has the potential to take over. The Devils No.42 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Blackwood impressed in his first NHL season last year. The Ontario native started 21 games for New Jersey, posting a 10-10-1 record with a .918 save percentage. Blackwood is a calm goalie with great size and strong positional play. At 6’4” and 225 lbs, he covers lots of net in the butterfly and has great lateral movement. Schneider’s recent struggles have been well-documented, so Blackwood is a great late-round fantasy choice in 2019-20. Even if he loses out on the starting gig and Schneider rebounds, Blackwood should still take another step forward this season and post some healthy fantasy totals behind a dangerous New Jersey team.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Montreal Canadiens
Kotkaniemi showed flashes of elite fantasy potential during a solid rookie season in which he recorded 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games. He was the youngest player in the NHL last season and just turned 19 in July. A full year of experience under his belt should help him become even more of a weapon on an exciting Habs squad. The Finnish forward has a great overall skill set that includes intelligent hockey IQ, great speed and excellent stickhandling ability.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi with a beautiful toe-drag goal pic.twitter.com/RczIQVvZJi
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 16, 2019
It’s unclear what line Kotkaniemi will center in 2019-20, but he should see an increase in playing time from the 13:44 average ice time he received in his rookie season. The Canadiens were in the playoff race right until the end last year and Kotkaniemi was utilized in more of a defensive centreman type role. He has great fantasy potential if the Habs expand his role in 2019-20. He did undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in April, but reports say Kotkaniemi will be good to go for training camp.
Troy Terry, RW/C, Anaheim Ducks
Terry is an offensively gifted forward who should take a step forward in his first full NHL season in 2019-20. The 21-year-old American forward managed four goals and 13 points in 32 games for an offensively challenged Anaheim team last season. Before his callup to the Ducks, Terry was having a fantastic season with the San Diego Gulls (AHL), recording 16 goals and 41 points in 44 contests. Terry is known for his incredible shootout performance at the 2017 World Juniors where he led the Americans past the Russians in the semi-final. It showcased his lethal hands and ability to deliver when it matters most.
Terry isn’t guaranteed a top-six role for Anaheim in 2019-20, but he should battle for one in training camp. He’s part of an impending youth movement in Anaheim that also includes promising prospects such as Maxime Comtois and Sam Steel. It may be hard drafting Ducks players in fantasy this season after they finished dead-last in goal-per-game last season (2.39), but there is plenty of young talent on this roster and Terry should be one of the reasons the team improves in 2019-20.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW/RW, Detroit Red Wings
Bertuzzi has lots of tools that make him an appealing fantasy sleeper in 2019-20. The 24-year-old winger plays with a ton of energy, physicality, and has the scoring finish to go with it. He broke out for 21 goals and 47 points last season and could line-up on the top line with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin in 2019-20. He was a 43-goal, 98-point guy in his final OHL season before turning professional and is the nephew of former NHLer Todd Bertuzzi. Multi-category fantasy contributors are hard to find, and I see great potential with here. Bertuzzi contributed 36 PIM, three power-play goals, four game-winners, 131 shots on goal, 76 hits and was a plus-11 in a down year for Detroit last season. His aggressive playing style, goal-scoring ability, and top-six role make him worth drafting in fantasy hockey this season.
Colin White, C, Ottawa Senators
With Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson no longer members of the Senators, it’s up to the younger player to carry the team moving forward. Colin White is a smart two-way center who is projected to center Ottawa’s top line with Brady Tkachuk this season. White is a gifted skater who had the potential to become a solid multi-category fantasy contributor. The 22-year-old played his first full NHL season in 2018-19, recording 14 goals and 41 points in 71 games. He’s going to receive a lot of responsibility this season and is one of the leaders of the team’s youth movement. White netted 35 goals over two years with Boston College and impressed for Team USA at the 2017 World Juniors with seven goals in seven games before turning pro. His guaranteed top-six role combined with his solid two-way game makes him a great fantasy sleeper in 2019-20.
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