All fantasy sport lovers can appreciate the art of a solid sleeper pick. In a fairly deep hockey pool draft I took part in back in 2005, I selected a young Eric Staal with my last pick. It was a definite risk, as the lanky 20 year old and former 2nd overall NHL draft pick had just come off a disappointing rookie season where he tallied only 31 points. In ’05-06, he eclipsed the 100 point plateau, and needless to say, I dusted the poor saps in my pool.
While point increases as dramatic as Staal’s are quite rare, each new season produces at least a dozen players who elevate their game to that next level. Drafting these guys will separate you, the man, from the boys in your pool (or woman among girls, if that applies). With my last few forward picks, I like targeting players with exceptional breakout potential, while my ignorant buddies take washed up has-beens who put up their usual 40-45 points, but no more, i.e. Bill Guerin, Doug Weight. Obvious examples of potential breakout players this season, that your fellow poolies surely know about, include Corey Perry and Johan Franzen. These two may even go as early as the 5th round in a 12 team league. In the later rounds, see if you can snag talent-oozing young guns, like Drew Stafford, Phil Kessel, or Jiri Hudler. In a really deep draft, you may want to consider Bryan Little of the Atlanta Thrashers or Jiri Tlusty of the Toronto Make Beliefs (I had to).
On defense, no one’s stocks have skyrocketed faster than the Pittsburgh Penguins young guns Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. Here’s why: Ryan Whitney, the Pens’ 2nd d-man behind Sergei Gonchar, is out until February. Gonchar was just injured in training camp and initial reports indicate that he too could miss some time. Methinks the sophomore and rookie will see plenty of time on the Pen’s dangerous power play, and should reap monumental fantasy benefits. Letang is a viable option as your 3rd or 4th defenseman, and Goligoski worthy of a final pick, especially in pools where you can bench or add/drop. Goligoski tore up the AHL in the playoffs last year and looks ready to contribute. Your friends will initially exclaim “Who?!”, but will soon recognize “Goligoski” as the name constantly featured in the assists column next to the onslaught of goals supplied by guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.