Fantasy Hockey Sleepers & Values – 2011 

Strategy

During your draft, focus on power play points.
During the season, focus on power play ice time.

Why? You’ll be able to find guys during the year who can help you fill out the bottom of your roster in just about every category except power play points. The PP guys are the ones who will go at a premium. And picking up more during the season is difficult.

So make sure you get as many locked away with your top picks as you can.

And during the first few weeks of the season, look carefully at the NHL’s ice time leaders on the power play.

Especially look at defensemen. Those are the ones that change the most from year to year. This year’s prime example of that will be Eric Brewer. During the 2010-11 season, Brewer averaged 0:35 of power play time per game with the Blues and Lightning combined. Then Brewer was acquired by Tampa Bay and he was slowly eased in to while he got comfortable with Guy Boucher’s system.

Then during the playoffs, the Lightning rode Brewer as the team’s number one defenseman. And he was the quarterback of their power play, averaging 3:36 of ice time per game with a man advantage (stats.

Brewer signed a long-term deal with Tampa Bay during the offseason and is now a cornerstone of the Lightning franchise. He’ll be back at the point position of Tampa Bay’s PP unit for the 2011-12 season.


Value Picks – Sleepers and Risers

Every good team needs top tier production from their bottom tier selections. Here’s my list of guys this season who can offer you value at their current ranking:

Forwards

  • Spezza & Alfredsson – At the top of my list of value players. They will rebound a bit and give you excellent late round production. I’m seeing Alfredsson not even being drafted in some leagues.
  • Giroux – The must have guy for this year. He can’t be overvalued. Pay what you can to get him, but just get him. He’ll be a first rounder next year. Maybe even a top 5 pick.
  • Gagne, S – Always productive when healthy. And I think playing under a 2 year deal will help take the pressue off a bit. Hopefully being reunited with Mike Richards will get him going.
  • Tavares, J – Turned it on late last year. Reminds me of how Stamkos finished the end of his rookie season. The next year, Steven scored 51. Tavares could approach those same numbers this year.
  • Hall, T – Really got comfortable late in the season and was pushing his style of play on opponents. Then he got hurt in a fight and his season was over prematurely. But before he got hurt, he had the look of a 40 goal scorer.
  • Pavelski – Won’t come as cheap as some of the other names on this list, but his steady playoff performances have earned Joe increased ice time in SJ.
  • Setoguchi – Playing with Heatley and Koivu in Minnesota. Look for a ton of production from that line and 60-70 points for Devin.
  • Shannon, R – Could be playing with Stamkos and St. Louis if Downie sticks on the third line. Boucher will juggle his lines constantly but keep an eye on Shannon early.
  • Downie – Speaking of Downie, take the chance that he ends up skating with 91 and 26 more often than not and if he doesn’t, he’ll still likely give you 10 goals and 200+ PIM.
  • Purcell, T – A lock to be skating with Lecavalier all season as long as Teddy stays out of the doghouse. 25 goals and 60 points is possible. Steady 2nd PP time.
  • Johansson, M – Crafty youngster could be more talented than Backstrom. A real darkhouse for 60-70 points but can be a real difference maker. Worth the late round gamble or FA pickup.
  • Latendresse – If he’s healthy, he’ll score a cheap 30 goals for you.
  • Wolski – Really, this spot should just go to whomever gets to skate with Gaborik and Brad Richards.
  • Gionta – Cheap source of shots on goal and a candidate for 30 goals, 70 points.
  • Simmonds – Perfect fit in Philly. He’ll see a ton of ice time and get you 40 points + 200 PIM.
  • McDonald, A – Blues players are way too often overlooked.
  • Mueller – Someone I wouldn’t draft, but keep an eye on to see how his early season ice time and production are.
  • Pacioretty – The grit of Montreal’s first line, Max earns points and power play time to go with some pesky PIMs.
  • Seguin – Based on his playoff performance alone, the debate on his playing time has to be over, right? Anything less than 70 points would be a disappointment for me.
  • Konopka – Always overlooked but the most reliable source of PIM around. He stays in the league because he’s as good in the room as any and can win 60% of faceoffs. Oh, and he’ll fight anyone, anytime.

Defensemen

  • Letang – You’ll pay full price, but you’ll get my pick for this year’s Norris Trophy winner. The Pens only played 7 playoff games last year, but Letang was the best defenseman I saw in the entire playoffs.
  • Brewer – See above strategy section.
  • Pronger – Another guy you’ll have to pay full price for, but he’s back wearing the C and leading a strong team. Lots of ice time, points and PIM for the veteran.
  • Karlsson – The plus/minus will probably hurt you, and he’s probably another year away from maturing physically, but Karlsson has to be at the top of the list for best young offensive talent from the blueline.

Goaltenders

  • Rask – In his final year, even if Thomas stays healthy, I’ve got to believe the Bruins will want to see what they have in Tuukka. He could easily start 40 games this year.
  • Garon – Another backup, Matthieu will at least play in one of every back to back games Tampa Bay has. He’ll probably finish with 30 starts for a team that will be close to 100 points.
  • Smith, M – Smith’s late season and playoff performance for Tampa Bay wasn’t a fluke. And now he’s back playing with Dave Tippett, the coach he worked under while in Dallas. Smith will come cheap and should offer great value this season.