In Part II, we look at a short (next season) and long term sleeper for Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, and Columbus.
This series has been published over the past few months, team-by-team, in the daily ramblings. Since many of these writeups were done last month (or before), not everything will be completely up-to-date from a timing perspective. I went back and changed what I could, and hopefully nothing slipped through the cracks.
2013-14 sleeper pick: Whoever the ‘Canes draft in the 1st round (Elias Lindholm)
Carolina should grab a top three or five pick at this June’s draft, and they are a team that could insert a young guy into the lineup next season (especially if it ends up being Seth Jones). The team needs help everywhere, but especially on defense. And they have showed in the past that they aren’t against playing teenagers (Staal, Sutter, Skinner, and so on) at the NHL level.
Update: Lindholm is the favourite to center the third line in Carolina next season, and the 'Canes will likely give him some talented wingers to play with. The Staal brothers - particularly Jordan - are strong defensively, which should ease his transition as a center into the NHL.
Long term sleeper pick: Danny Biega
Biega has a lot of defensemen to climb over on the depth chart before he makes the NHL, so don’t expect production from him for a few years. He’s slightly undersized but incredibly talented with the puck. Biega had 35 points last year for Harvard, but that number dropped to 11 this year (the Crimson lost a few players off of their team due to a cheating scandal at the school).
Ryan Murphy is a better prospect, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the ‘Canes move Jamie McBain to open up a roster spot for one of their young guys. Expect Biega to spend at least a year (and probably two) in the AHL with Charlotte before making the jump, though.
2013-14 sleeper pick: Brandon Pirri
Next year Pirri will finally get his shot to play regular minutes in Chicago. Unless the team goes out and signs someone, he is the second line center of the future. He’s more talented than Marcus Kruger, and Dave Bolland has struggled in that role this season.
Pirri has had a fantastic AHL season – from start to finish, he has been one of the most consistently productive and offensively dangerous forwards in the league. He’s a crafty center who sees the ice really well, and will excel with some scorers on his line (which he is guaranteed if and when he makes the Blackhawks roster). With Bolland now in Toronto, the opening is there for Pirri if he has a strong camp.
Long term sleeper pick: Adam Clendening
Clendening has had a phenomenal rookie season in the AHL – the two-way defenseman scored eight goals and had 44 points in total for the Rockford Icehogs in 2012-13.
Clendening played two years at BU before turning pro – he was a productive defenseman in both of those seasons. He was Chicago’s 2nd round pick from 2011. The Hawks have done a great job developing Nick Leddy, and while they aren’t the same defenseman, Clendening could have a similar impact for the Hawks in a few years.
2013-14 sleeper pick: Steve Downie
Downie will be a forgotten man at many draft boards this fall as he missed 2013 with a torn ACL. He is one of the best “combo” players in the NHL (points and PIM). He has learned how to tone down the after the whistle stuff, and his line with O’Reilly and Landeskog was one of the best two-way units in hockey in 2011-12.
Downie is a terrific playmaker and should be a contender for 45-55 points and 150+ PIM. Valuable indeed. Drafting Nathan MacKinnon only increases Downie's value, as he now has four really talented centers to potentially line up with.
Long term sleeper pick: Joey Hishon
Hishon returning to the ice this season has been a fantastic story. The former first round pick has been out of hockey for close to two years after suffering a serious head injury at the 2010 Memorial Cup. He was drafted in the first round back in 2010 because of his dazzling offensive abilities, but after a vicious hit in junior his career was put on hold.
Hishon returned to the Colorado organizaton (AHL) this season, and so far, so good. He has six points in nine games with the Lake Erie Monsters. His road back is far from over, and he will always be considered one hit away from being done. But he deserves a ton of credit and praise for how hard he has worked and how patient he has been. I can’t imagine having something you love taken away from you for that long (I am sure at many times he thought a comeback would have been impossible).
Don’t underrate that kind of dedication and focus - all of the greats have both attributes in spades.
Columbus Blue Jackets
2013-14 sleeper pick: Ryan Johansen
Johansen is a well-known commodity to DobberHockey readers, as many of us have been building his hype for the past few years. His NHL adjustment has taken time, but over the past few weeks he has really started to play good hockey at both ends of the ice. He is showing more confidence, and has really excelled defensively against some of the West’s best centers, too.
When his offensive breakout comes, it will be immediate. He has top line talent, and he will probably follow a similar progression to Patrik Berglund (who we are still waiting on… but his game has improved – the Blues are simply a really deep team).
Long term sleeper pick: Jonathan Audy-Marchessault
JAM (a lot easier to write) has had a phenomenal 2012-13 season for Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Springfield. He’s an undersized but extremely talented winger who thinks the game at an elite level. The Jackets are deep on the wing (for the first time in… ever), so he will be in tough to earn a spot at camp this fall (even with Prospal and Comeau set to hit the open market).
He plays with some jam, too (pun intended) – 65 PIM in 74 games, to go along with 21 goals and 67 points. He will probably spend another year in the AHL, but he has the tools to be a really good NHL player, even with his lack of height (5-9).
The 2013-14 DobberHockey Fantasy Guide will be released on August 1st.
The beauty of an online release, and what separates us from the competition, is that we are able to update it throughout the rest of the summer and right up to puck drop in early October. Other guides released in magazine format have to be written and submitted for publishing in late June with quick updates on free agency in early July.
As we all know, a lot can still happen in August and September. How about a strong training camp from a bubble player or a rookie? How about a late summer trade or signing? The fantasy impact(s) of these moves can be significant, and we will have you covered.
What the Fantasy Guide contains:
Team-by-team projections, line combinations (even strength and power play), and comprehensive analysis from Dobber.
A look at advanced stats and how they can help you become a better poolie.
Sleepers, buy low and sell high targets, salary cap bargains, goaltenders galore, draft strategy, and much, much more.
Support the website and win your pool. I’d call that a win-win.