My top 10 keeper lists seem to generate a lot of feedback - so far I have covered LW, D, prospect forwards, and prospect defensemen. Still to come - RW, C, PIM/combo players, G. I am open to other suggestions as well.
I have gotten some people who are wondering if I can expand to a top 20 or 30. I understand why - the top 10 are not usually available, so what is the point of ranking them? I am hoping the lists provide clarity for how players should be valued/ranked. A top 20 or 30 is even more subjective, and frankly I wouldn't be comfortable ranking 30 players - so many moving parts. I even find it tough to round out a top 10 list.
To find those sleeper picks and gems, there are several fantastic weekly columns, the different guides, as well as the forums. Oh, and the daily ramblings. Read further down to find out who I really like as a sleeper heading in to 2011-12.
My pick of Washington in four won't be happening. I was surprised with the lack of pressure they put on Tampa's defense - the Bolts play a solid system game in their own zone, but their defensive group lacks mobility and I figured Washington would want to get in there and force a few turnovers.
Mikael Samuelsson is playing hurt, I think that much is obvious. He has played with an abdominal issue all season (hernia I'd speculate). If it continues to get worse, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tambellini draw in. Vancouver doesn't want to mess with the Kesler/Burrows chemistry right now, either.
It's Pavel Datsyuk's world, and we are just living in it. Seriously though - he is far and away the best player in the world right now. Everywhere on the ice, all game long, he consistently makes the opposition look silly. Zero weaknesses, and I love the edge he brings to his game in the playoffs.
Teddy Purcell had an assist last night, but he needs to start playing with more jam. He got a penalty for throwing a hit on an icing call - I was surprised that he actually was engaging physically. Obviously his game is skill and playmaking, but he needs to bring more of an edge to his game if he really wants to show what he is capable of.
Simon Gagne left the game after smacking his head on the ice - awful news for a player with a history of concussions.
Steve Downie had a goal and an assist in only 11 minutes of ice time (less than both Nate Thompson and Adam Hall).
Nick Backstrom looks like a shadow of the player that was dominating the 2010 playoffs last April/May.
One of my favourite parts of the postseason hockey - the emergence of dominant checking lines. Tampa Bay’s trio was fantastic last night – Downie, Bergenheim, and Dominic Moore. Vancouver’s was their best line on Thursday night – Higgins, Lapierre, and Hansen.
A few years ago the Ducks won largely because of the play they received from Pahlsson, Niedermayer, and Moen. Last year Chicago had Versteeg, Ladd, and Bolland who completely shut down Vancouver and San Jose. Not really fantasy noteworthy, but something I enjoy watching as a hockey fan.
Sean Bergenheim is having a fantastic playoff run for the Bolts. He has four goals and has been buzzing all over the ice. He was criticized during his time with the Isles for his offensive inconsistency and lack of finish, but he seems to have found a home as a two-way energy guy for the Bolts.
Bergenheim has averaged 12-15 goals and 25-30 points for the last five seasons – I don’t see him progressing much beyond that. He has a bit of value in deep leagues, as he fills other categories (45-65 PIM and close to 200 SOG) as well.
The Oilers signed Swedish prospect Anton Lander to an entry-level contract yesterday. He projects as a very good third line center at the NHL level – responsible defensively, good leader. He’s not a great skater, and he doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside. However, he’ll fit in well with the Oilers because they need some of their young players to emerge as reliable bottom six players.
Hunch – regardless of his home city next season, Kyle Turris has a breakout campaign and remerges as a legitimate future NHL star.
A solid breakdown on how the Canucks can try to beat Pekka Rinne.
I love the direction that the Canadiens are heading – they have a great core of talent up front, on defense, and in goal. If they can find a way to shed the Scott Gomez contract, that gives them a big chunk of change to add another winger or a second line center to play behind Plekanec.
Price, Subban, Gorges, Cammalleri, Plekanec, Gionta – a solid foundation. I am not including Kostitsyn because he is incredibly inconsistent and I don’t see him sticking around. It will be interesting to see what they do with Markov and Wisniewski – do they let both walk (or in Markov’s case, hobble) away?
I liked what I saw from Lars Eller as the season went on as well – I don’t ever see him scoring more than 15-20 goals, but he started to play with more jam. He’s a smart player and big and fast – just a matter of time until it all falls into place.
I’m also interested in seeing what David Desharnais can do over the course of a full season. He avoided any sort of set back after a hot start, and he carried his strong play into the post season. The small, skilled guys usually take longer to make it as productive forwards (overlooked, and they need more time to figure out how to play the professional game).