Angus looks at five multi-category fantasy sleepers for next season...
Here are five young defensemen who are ready to make an impact at the NHL level – either offensively or with other aspects of their game.
More and more fantasy hockey leagues are embracing hits and blocked shots as positive statistics. Why? Well, for starters, they are both recorded in every single NHL rink. The accuracy isn’t the same as a goal or an assist (the fluctuations in how these stats are recorded from rink to rink are quite pronounced, actually), but adding these statistics gives fantasy value to a wider net of players. It is widely known that the New York Rangers receive a significant home advantage when it comes to hit recording – the Madison Square Garden statistician is very trigger-happy.
If you learn which rinks tend to award hits more liberally, you can use that information to your advantage.
And it is a nice way to reward gritty forwards and defensemen who otherwise would get little to no attention in fantasy circles. Some leagues are also moving away from PIM (a subject that was debated here last year), as PIM are inherently a negative statistic. Debating aside, there is no arguing that including PIM, hits, and blocked shots in fantasy leagues makes it more challenging (and thus, more rewarding) to evaluate and rank players as draft day approaches.
Alex Petrovic – Florida
Petrovic is a big and mobile defenseman who looks to have a bottom pairing spot in Florida as his to lose for 2013-14. He has been productive at both the WHL and AHL level, and the Panthers have to love a future blue line that features him on one pairing and Erik Gudbranson on the other. The future bash brothers, perhaps?
If Petrovic’s play at the lower levels is any indication, he should have fantasy value as a rookie, even if he doesn’t put up any offensive numbers initially.
Cameron Gaunce – Dallas
Gaunce once scored 17 goals in the OHL (he also finished that season with 64 points). However, if he makes the Stars this season, it won’t be for his offensive prowess. He is a no-nonsense defenseman who likes to play with a physical edge, and he compliments an offensive defenseman quite nicely (which could make him the ideal partner for Alex Goligoski, or down the road, Joe Morrow or Kevin Connauton). Gaunce has consecutive 90+ PIM seasons in the AHL, and he blocks a ton of shots, too. Don’t expect much offense, though.
Radko Gudas – Tampa Bay
Gudas finished 2013 with 87 hits in 22 games. Over a full 82 game season, that would equate to 334 hits. Only Matt Martin (374 hits) had more than that in 2011-12. Gudas is built like a fire hydrant (heck, he looks like a fire hydrant skating around out there), and he is a pretty good overall defenseman, too. He had 20 points and 207 PIM in 57 AHL games in 2012-13 before getting the call up to Tampa Bay. Something tells me he won’t be back in the AHL any time soon….
Jared Cowen – Ottawa
Simply put, Cowen is a beast. He loves to punish opposing forwards, either with his fists or his 6-5, 235 pound frame. He’s a great skater and has a lot of offensive ability, but Ottawa is likely to place him in a defensive/shutdown role. He had 18 goals and 48 points in only 58 games in his final WHL season with Spokane. He has battled injury issues for most of his career, but the Senators are hoping that his recent hip surgery corrected any underlying issues that were effecting the rest of his body. He was in over his ahead against the speed and tenacity that the Pittsburgh forwards played with, though. But overall, Cowen's 2013 was very impressive considering he had no training camp and little time to prepare himself once he was over his hip injury.
Cowen had only 56 PIM as a rookie with Ottawa in 2011-12, but expect that number to be closer to 90 each season for the rest of his career. He finished that season with 217 hits and 74 blocked shots, as well.
Mark Borowiecki – Ottawa (RFA this summer)
Karlsson, Phillips, Methot, Cowen, Wiercioch, and Gryba will all be returning to the Ottawa back end next season. Gonchar is a UFA, but he may be back. I count six defensemen (seven if you include Gonchar). Where does that leave Borowiecki? And Cody Ceci isn’t too far off from NHL action, either.
Gryba is also a very good defenseman to keep in mind on draft day if you need to fill the peripheral defensive categories. But I want to give Borowiecki some attention, as at some point in the next year or two, he will find himself playing regular minutes in the NHL. He had 22 points and 127 PIM last year in Binghamton, and he had 14 points and 157 PIM in 2012-13 (in 20 less games, too). He has average size, but plays big and loves to mix it up from a physical standpoint. He’s a long shot to make the roster this season, but if he does, he will be a contributor right away.
In the coming weeks I will be profiling more multi-category sleepers (both forwards and defensemen). There will be a lot more on these guys in our 2013-14 Fantasy Guide, released as a PDF on August 1st. I received a lot of feedback that really reinforced the point - people want to read about multi-category sleepers! Fantasy hockey is trending towards these statistics as scoring categories, and we at DobberHockey will do our best to keep you in the know on the future greats.
Previous Posts from Jeff:
- Top 10 Keeper League Forward Prospects of 2013
- Top 10 Keeper League Defensive Prospects of 2013
- The 2013 Prime Cuts Roster
- Five Defensive Prospects You Need to Know About
- Five Forward Prospects You Need to Know About