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Sleepers by Team (Part 1)

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. In this one I’m going to throw out some sleeper or late round dart throws that could pay off big for your fantasy teams. Before I do that, I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon where I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Trevor Zegras’ points projection, Sam Bennett’s mustache, or anything else that keeps me awake at night.

ANA: Trevor Zegras

Zegras looked the part in his much-anticipated 2021 debut, scoring 13 points in 24 games with limited minutes. Zegras is a lock to stick with the big club from Day 1 of the new season, and Anaheim already has some underrated wingers in place who can finish his slick feeds. Zegras is a betting favourite for the Calder Trophy and for good reason; he fits the talent + opportunity criteria as well as any incoming rookie. If Zegras can find immediate chemistry with one or both of Rickard Rakell and Maxime Comtois, he has legitimate 60-point upside.

ARI: Lawson Crouse

With the exodus of talent in Arizona, there will need to be some players that step up into a bigger role. Crouse could fill that gap in the top six with his power forward style. If he can approach a 20-goal pace he will certainly have relevance in banger league formats given his propensity for hitting. It will be difficult to find gold in the desert, but Crouse might at least be worth a look.

BOS: Erik Haula

I’m not sold on there being a Bruins forward worth rostering after the top line, Taylor Hall, and occasionally Craig Smith, but if there is it’ll be Erik Haula. Haula posted 55 points for the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural 2017-18 season, but has bounced around the league since then and hasn’t found a spot to settle in. If he gets locked in on the second line between Hall and Smith, he could provide some fantasy relevance to us this year.

BUF: Jeff Skinner

It’s slim pickings in Buffalo, but Jeff Skinner is finally out from under the thumb of Ralph Krueger and is the most naturally talented Sabre forward left on the roster (assuming Jack Eichel doesn’t play). Look for Skinner, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt, and Rasmus Dahlin to form the basis of a serviceable if unspectacular power play unit and for Skinner to get 17+ minutes a night in a season where he will attempt to prove that his gargantuan contract was not a complete disaster.

CGY: Juuso Valimaki

With Mark Giordano selected by Seattle in the expansion draft, the Flames’ top power play unit will feature one of Valimaki, Rasmus Andersson, or Noah Hanifin in 2021. Valimaki is the one I would be most excited about as the most offensively talented of the three. We’ll have to wait and see if Coach Sutter is willing to allow the youngster to learn on the fly in that role, but the rewards could be well worth the final-round pick you’re likely to spend on him.

CAR: Tony DeAngelo

This pick has to be DeAngelo despite the controversy surrounding his signing in Carolina. My fantasy team doesn’t care about Mr. DeAngelo’s off-ice antics, and it looks like he was signed for the singular purpose of taking over Dougie Hamilton’s role as the top power play quarterback. It’s certainly a nice spot to be in given Carolina’s top-end talent at forward, but I don’t anticipate DeAngelo approximating Hamilton’s otherworldly production. Depending on how much even strength time DeAngelo sees, he could score anywhere from 40-50 points if he’s able to hold down the PP1 role all season long.

CHI: Kirby Dach

I don’t see how Dach doesn’t score a minimum of 50 points this year in his projected role centering Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, and there’s a chance he starts to put it all together on his own and morphs into a 70-point monster. That kind of floor and upside is well worth the double-digit round draft day price to acquire him (ADP of 170.7 on Yahoo).

COL: Alex Newhook

Brandon Saad’s departure opens up a top six wing slot in Colorado, and if I’m forced to pick a guy to succeed here I’m going with Newhook. The highly touted center is likely to open his NHL career on the wing and if he can find chemistry with on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky, he could vault into the Calder conversation. A former 1st round pick, Newhook has the pedigree and has impressed at every level he’s played at thus far.

CLB: Max Domi

I’ll be interested to see what Domi can come up with in his second season in Columbus. Domi was yet another Blue Jacket who clearly didn’t jive with former coach John Tortorella but remains a talented player who could put up some points in the right situation. The Columbus depth chart is wide open and a slot next to either Patrik Laine or Oliver Bjorkstrand could re-ignite Domi’s game next year given the coaching change. He might not have 60-point upside, but 50-55 with a few hot streaks might be the best we can hope for out of this Columbus lineup.

DAL: Alexander Radulov

Alexander Radulov has had a terrible time staying healthy and it may be that his years of heavy mileage have finally caught up to him. But there’s no denying that when healthy, Radulov is still easily capable of a 65-point pace given the necessary opportunity. If your leaguemates are fading Radulov based on his injury history he could be available later than he should be. I will be watching closely to see if Radulov retains a top PP spot or if the breakouts of Hintz and Robertson push him down the lineup to less lucrative roles.

DET: Jakub Vrana

Jakub Vrana has been gifted a huge role in Detroit along with a fat new contract. Now it’s on him to prove he’s worth all that, and I’m not betting against him. Vrana is the most talented linemate Dylan Larkin has ever had and I’m very bullish on Vrana’s potential to eclipse 30 goals even on a basement-dwelling Detroit team.

EDM: Jesse Puljujarvi

I’ll admit that I was hoping that Puljujarvi would get the net-front power play role vacated by Alex Chiasson this offseason. But with Zach Hyman coming into town on a massive seven-year deal, that seems to be distant dream at this point. Still, Puljujarvi puts up terrific rate stats and appeared to gain some trust with coach Dave Tippett towards the end of the 2021 season. Puljujarvi begins this season as the obvious candidate for the right wing slot on Connor McDavid’s line, which is about as attractive an assignment as there is in the league.

FLA: Owen Tippett

The Panthers forward corps is incredibly stacked after a productive off season for GM Bill Zito, but Owen Tippett could force his way to the top of the lineup as early as this year. Tippett is a shot-producing machine, ranking 28th in the league in shots/60 last year as a rookie. I’m salivating just thinking about what Tippett could do if given the opportunity alongside Aleksander Barkov on the top line, or even Jonathan Huberdeau on the second. Tippett is very high on my list of potential breakout candidates.

LAK: Quinton Byfield/Alex Turcotte/Arthur Kaliyev

I was hopeful that Los Angeles would accelerate the Quinton Byfield timeline and let him start the year as the #2 center behind Anze Kopitar. However the Kings went out and signed Phillip Danault, muddying the waters for Byfield’s NHL timeline considerably. I am very interested in whichever of LA’s big 3 prospects gets a top six look first in 2021/22 between Byfield, Alex Turcotte, and Arthur Kaliyev. Kaliyev may be the best bet to see time early in the season and his sniper’s ability would be a welcome addition to a Kings squad desperate for goals. Turcotte could also work his way in on the wing to start and flash immediate fantasy relevance in the right spot. All told, the Kings’ prospects are worth keeping an eye on all season long as one of them will almost certainly be worth rostering when getting the opportunity.

MIN: Marco Rossi

Marco Rossi got a raw deal last year, contracting COVID and missing all of the 2021 season with complications. Skating since June, Rossi represents the Wild’s greatest hope of having a top-flight #1 center outside of a Jack Eichel trade. I believe in Rossi’s ability to translate his skill immediately to the NHL despite his year away from the game. A job centering either Kirill Kaprizov (please come back, Mr. Kaprizov) or Kevin Fiala and top unit power play work could see Rossi explode as a the Wild’s second straight Calder winner.

MON: Jonathan Drouin

I’m interested in Drouin after an injury and mysterious absence from the team derailed his 2021 season. He’s still got that God-given talent and someone will need to fill in on the left wing of the prospective Nick Suzuki/Cole Caufield line. Drouin certainly has the talent to keep up with those two, and if everything breaks right I could see a return to form for him. Keep an eye on those line combinations leading up to the season as the dropoff from Suzuki to the Canadiens’ other center options is precipitous.

That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter, on TikTok, and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

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Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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