The rankings and projections are in place, but who are the particular players you want to target later in your draft who are going to far exceed expectations? On the flip side, what players need to be avoided because they are getting drafted far earlier than they deserve to be? These are my sleepers and busts at the forward positions heading into the 2009-10 NHL season.
These players are coming off subpar seasons, or are primed for a breakout campaign. Either way, they are likely to be undervalued on draft day, and could reward whoever drafts them.
Paul Kariya, LW, STL – He was injured last year, and had a subpar 07/08 campaign. That being said, he was off to a great start last year before the injury, and could slip through the cracks on draft day.
Patrick O’Sullivan, RW/LW, EDM – O’Sullivan is a talented player coming off a bad year, and should see tons of time on the power play and top two lines. He could get a long look for the top LW spot alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.
Drew Stafford, RW, BUF – Stafford has improved steadily throughout his NHL career. An increase in playing time and responsibility should help him reach his offensive potential.
Chris Higgins, LW, NYR – Higgins tanked along with the rest of the Canadiens last year. The change of scenery should do him some good, and he will be counted upon to produce in a thin Rangers offence.
Alex Tanguay, LW/RW, TB – He has the ultimate motivator: a one year contract. Tanguay should also see quality ice time with the likes of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and will want to prove that he deserved better from the Habs.
Steven Stamkos, C, TB – He played very well in the second half of last season, and the Lightning have nowhere to go but up. Stamkos’ development should be a big part of Tampa’s improvement this year.
Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI – Played well with limited exposure in the regular season, and was awesome in the playoffs.
Peter Mueller, C/RW, PHO – The sophomore slump hit this guy in a big way. Don’t let that fool you though. Mueller is a big time goal-scoring talent, and the Coyotes will give him every opportunity to produce this year.
Ville Leino, LW/RW, DET – Detroit just keeps manufacturing defensively responsible players with offensive upside. Leino might see some time with the top six this year, and could surprise some people.
Sam Gagner, C/W, EDM – Gagner played well in the latter part of last season, and the Oilers will count on him to step up his offensive production this year.
These guys overachieved last year, inflating their pre-season value in the eyes of most fantasy junkies. You might be able to find better value at the spots in the draft where they’re likely to go.
Mike Cammalleri, LW/RW, MTL – He hasn’t been a model of consistency throughout his career, and last year was a contract year. He might approach 30 goals again, especially playing with a quality playmaker like Scott Gomez, but 82 points seems a stretch.
Todd White, C, ATL – His 73 points last year were nearly double the previous year’s output, and he’s 34 years old.
Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ – See above. Career offensive years at 34 are often followed by disappointment. A point total in the mid 50’s is probably a more reasonable expectation.
David Krejci, C, BOS – Krejci ended last season with a bit of a whimper, scoring 14 points over his final 24 games, after being better than a point-per-game player to that point in the season. He’s also coming off hip surgery, and might not be ready to start the season. A drop from last year’s 73 points seems likely.
Patrik Elias, LW, NJ – Season-to-season consistency has never been his thing. In the past, he’s followed up 96 and 81 point seasons with sub-par or injury filled campaigns the next year. Not saying he won’t be good, just don’t expect 31 goals and 78 points again. He is also likely to miss the start of the season with groin issues.
Vyacheslav Kozlov, LW, ATL – Jumped from 41 points in 07/08 to 76 in 08/09 and he’s 37 years old: be wary. Around 65 points may be a far more reasonable expectation.
Jeff Carter, C, PHI – Carter did the bulk of his scoring in the first half of last season, then faded down the stretch, and was invisible in the playoffs. 35 goals and 75 points is reasonable, but someone will draft him too high based on last year’s totals.
Keith Tkachuk, LW/C, STL – His production has been declining steadily, and he’s now 37 years old. The Blues have a plethora of young talent up front, and Tkachuk’s main impact will be in the dressing room.