Every Wednesday this summer, I will bring you a sleeper to watch for the 2009-2010 season (and potentially beyond). Released in no particular order, I will refrain from picking sleepers that have already shown glimpses of breaking out in the past – the obvious candidates. Time to go beneath the surface for some sleepers that you may have not thought about…
This week’s player is already established and is more than likely owned in your fantasy league(s). However, he may be undervalued, so now is as good a time as any to go after him. He has put up decent numbers so far in his career, and has shown flashes of breaking out offensively very soon. Brandon Dubinsky is still unsigned by the Rangers (as of July 14th), and if they don’t get him locked up soon, look for a team or two to come calling via the dreaded offer sheet. He has long been a favorite of mine, since he was ripping up the WHL for the Portland Winter Hawks. Dubinsky averaged around 65 points in his three final years with Portland, while racking up an average of 131 PIM over those three seasons. His rookie season with Hartford of the AHL (2005-06) was equally impressive. Dubinsky scored 21 goals and had 115 penalty minutes. The year before that, he joined the Wolfpack during their playoff run, and posted an impressive five goals and 10 points in only 12 games (with 24 PIM to boot).
Dubinsky has translated these numbers to the NHL as well. In his first two full seasons with the Rangers (playing the full 82 games each one), Dubinsky put up 40 and 41 points, and 79 and 112 PIM, respectively. He played very well with Jaromir Jagr in 2007-08, bumping prized free agents Scott Gomez and Chris Drury down the depth chart. Jagr was very impressed with Dubinsky’s game. Jagr said that Dubinsky was “more talented than a lot of people [think] he is… he’s strong on the puck, he’s not afraid to go to the net, [and he] has good moves one-on-one.” Those are pretty strong words coming from someone who has played with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Robert Lang, and Michael Nylander (the old Michael Nylander) among others.
Dubinsky started the 2008-09 season on a line with Aaron Voros and Nikolai Zherdev. The line started the season on fire. Dubinsky had seven points in the first five games, which coincidentally were all Ranger wins. The rest of his season was up-and-down from an offensive perspective. Dubinsky still broke the 40-point plateau, but he endured a few horrendous slumps. Dubinsky endured goalless streaks of 13, 19, and 23 games respectively over the course of the season. He was arguably the Rangers most effective forward after Ryan Callahan, as he played in all situations, worked his tail off, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up or drop the mitts if required.
Dubinsky’s long-term upside is 80 points. He will break the 50-point barrier this season, and may even break the 60-point barrier, given the right opportunity. Regardless of his offensive numbers, he can be relied upon for 100-150 PIM as well, increasing his value in fantasy circles. He is the best fit to play with Marian Gaborik, as he did a good job opening up space and finding Jagr rushing down the wing and cutting across in the offensive zone. However, the Rangers have limited cap space, and still need to fill some holes. It would be a major mistake to let Dubinsky slip away, but they may be forced to if a team comes in and offers him a salary north of $3 million per season.