If you’re going to walk away with a fantasy hockey title this season, it’s paramount that you hit on a couple of sleeper picks.
A sleeper can be categorized as someone who could or is very likely to punch above their weight in average draft position. From experiencing a classic bounce-back season to finally living up to expectation to erupting unexpectedly altogether (see Troy Terry), there’s no shortage of factors that could lead to a player’s sudden surge in productivity.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding value. With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 sleeper targets:
The below rankings are derived from Sportsnet’s top-250 pre-season fantasy rankings and are quantified based on past production, projection, age, and potential.
1. Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, Detroit Red Wings (SN Rank: 106) – ADP: 166.1
In 37 total games with Detroit scattered over parts of two seasons, the dual-eligible winger has tallied 21 goals and 30 points. Prorated over 82 games, that’s a 47-goal, 66-point clip. Even if Vrana scores at half that pace, it’s a bargain —especially considering where he’s been going in standard drafts. At the very least, the 26-year-old has set the foundation for a career year. Entering the season, Vrana’s expected to skate on the second line and also the first power play unit.
2. Alex Tuch, RW, Buffalo Sabres (SN Rank: 151) – ADP: 164.9
In 50 games with his hometown Sabres following offseason shoulder surgery and a trade from Vegas, Tuch tallied 12 goals and 38 points. Long story short, the 26-year-old was on pace for a career-high 62 points. Needless to say, the power forward validated the notion that he was ready for an uptick in responsibilities after being predominantly deployed in the bottom-six with the Golden Knights. In the blink of an eye, Tuch’s blossomed into a top-six fixture and a first power play unit type player.
3. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas Stars (SN Rank: 155) – ADP: 98
With John Klingberg out the door, the time is nigh for Heiskanen to take the next step offensively. In 70 outings last season, the 23-year-old tallied five goals and a career-high 36 points. With that in mind, realistically, 50 points – at the very least – should be an attainable number for the Fin to achieve this season as he continues to progress. Of course, Heiskanen put the entire hockey world on notice in the 2020 bubble playoffs when he racked up 26 points in 27 games in Dallas’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.
4. Tyler Toffoli, LW/RW, Calgary Flames (SN Rank: 161) – ADP: 165.1
After being acquired from Montreal last February, Toffoli was utilized largely in a third line role by Darryl Sutter for the rest of the season. Well, that’s about to change. In case you missed it, the Flames were busy this summer. And suddenly, a garden seat alongside Elias Lindholm has become available. Enter Toffoli, who not only has the first line experience but the credentials to back up promotion. Since the beginning of the decade, the 30-year-old has notched 61 goals and 114 points in 153 total regular season games. At this point, it’s highly likely that the sniper starts the season on a line with the aforementioned Lindholm and newcomer Jonathan Huberdeau.
5. Ilya Samsonov, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (SN Rank: 173) – ADP: 116.6
Given Matt Murray’s recent track record with inconsistent play and health issues, undeniably, the door is open for Samsonov to grab the number one job in Toronto. That said, the 25-year-old, who signed a one-year prove-it type deal in July, is coming off a dreadful campaign with Washington. In 44 appearances, he registered a 3.02 goals-against average and a 0.896 save-percentage. Samsonov will likely start the year as the backup, but again, he’ll definitely get a shot to prove his worth.
6. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Seattle Kraken (SN Rank: 202) – ADP: 167.3
To make room for Johnny Gaudreau’s monster contract, Columbus had no choice but to shed salary, which paved the way for Seattle to acquire Bjorkstrand. Simply put, both the advanced metrics and eye tests check out on the 27-year-old winger, who’s coming off a season where he notched a career-high in goals (28) and points (57). Bjorkstrand’s expected to start the year on Seattle’s number-one line. And that means tons of exposure to Calder contender Matty Beniers —which is a great thing.
7. Connor Brown, LW/RW, Washington Capitals (SN Rank: 215) – ADP: N/A
With Tom Wilson on the shelf to start the season due to offseason knee surgery, Brown will be given every opportunity to stick on Washington’s top line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. The 28-year-old winger, who was acquired from Ottawa in July, notched 10 goals and 39 points in 64 games last season. Most importantly, Brown’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July, so there’s the whole money motivation thing too.
8. Seth Jarvis, LW/RW, Carolina Hurricanes (SN Rank: 230) – ADP: 168.8
From the onset, Jarvis was a revelation in his rookie campaign for the Canes. In 68 regular season outings, the 20-year-old racked up 17 goals and 40 points. On top of that, all he did for an encore performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was tally eight points (three goals, five assists) in 14 games. Most importantly, as the season progressed, Jarvis became a mainstay on Carolina’s top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Look for more of that this season, they had some serious chemistry.
9. Phil Kessel, RW, Vegas Golden Knights (SN Rank: 243) – ADP: 179
After three seasons with Arizona, Kessel stayed in the desert this summer electing to sign a one-year deal with Vegas. While it’s unfair to expect the 34-year-old to return to his point per game glory days, there’s no question his fantasy stock can only be positively affected by the move to Sin City. Having said that, everything will depend on how he’s utilized by new Golden Knights bench boss Bruce Cassidy. At the very least, Kessel could help provide a boost for Vegas’ putrid power play, one that ranked 25th in the NHL last season under Pete DeBoer.
10. Adam Boqvist, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (SN Rank: N/A) – ADP: N/A
This one’s a deep sleeper but considering the position scarcity and his potential, it could be worth your time to take a flier on Boqvist. For starters, the 22-year-old has seen an increase in production in each of his first three seasons in the NHL going from 13 to 16 to 22 points in 2021/2022. In fact, he was operating at a 35-point pace a season ago. In terms of projected deployment, Boqvist will almost certainly receive top-four minutes at even strength in addition to his role running the second power play unit. Of course, that could also mean some juicy Zach Werenski exposure in there as well.