Fantasy top 10 deep sleeper candidates for 2020-21

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MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Top 250

Sleepers | Breakouts | Rookies

 

NOTES: These are players who have upside but will likely be available in the final rounds or go undrafted in most standard, 12-team leagues. None of these players were selected in NHL.com’s first mock draft. Standard fantasy categories: goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal and hits for skaters; wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goalies.

 

Kaapo Kakko, RW, NYR
NHL.com rank: 200

The New York Rangers right wing had a disappointing rookie season; the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 66 games and was minus-26 in mostly a bottom-six role. But Kakko could reach his potential within the Rangers’ potent offense (3.33 goals per game; 5th in NHL last season) on either the first line with center Mika Zibanejad, who led the NHL in goals per game (41 in 57 games), or second unit with left wing Artemi Panarin (NHL career-high 95 points in 69 games). Kakko could also bring exposure to Zibanejad and Panarin on the first power play and is worth selecting in the final round of a standard draft or adding off the waiver wire.

 

Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJD
NHL.com rank: 201

The New Jersey Devils goalie went 22-14-8 with a .915 save percentage and three shutouts as a rookie last season. Blackwood’s win total and SV% were impressive considering the Devils had the third fewest wins (28) in the NHL and were tied for the fifth most goals allowed (224). Blackwood could split time with veteran Corey Crawford, who agreed to a two-year contract with the Devils on Oct. 9, but has a great chance to be the outright starter this season. Blackwood has a .916 SV% in 70 NHL games despite New Jersey missing the postseason in each of his first two seasons, making him a dependable No. 3 goalie option in late rounds.

 

Brandon Saad, LW/RW, COL
NHL.com rank: 207

The Colorado Avalanche left wing is expected to either play on the first line with NHL.com’s No. 1 ranked fantasy player in Nathan MacKinnon or second unit with valuable category coverage center Nazem Kadri. Saad has averaged 23.3 goals per season over the past six (since 2014-15) and has a higher gear within Colorado’s elite offense (3.37 goals per game, fourth in NHL last season). Saad is worth prioritizing in the late rounds to tap into the most valuable team in the fantasy power rankings.

READ: Avalanche lead fantasy team power rankings

 

Jack Hughes, C/LW, NJD
NHL.com rank: 213

The Devils center wasn’t fantasy relevant in his first season but remains worth selecting in a standard 12-team league based on raw potential. Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is expected to hold a spot on the first power-play unit this season with exposure to valuable right wing Kyle Palmieri, who has scored 11 power-play goals in four of his past five seasons. Hughes could also skate with Palmieri and/or left wing Nikita Gusev, who had 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in his first NHL season, at even strength. Hughes should be targeted in the final rounds of a standard draft as a bench center with a high ceiling.

 

Cody Glass, C/RW, VGK
NHL.com rank: 215

The Vegas Golden Knights forward could see a role on the second line this season after Paul Stastny was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9. Glass missed the entire postseason for Vegas after having knee surgery but scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 39 games as a rookie in 13:22 per game. Glass could see a big increase in ice time this season and potentially bring exposure to valuable wings Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, which would give Glass a floor of at least 45 points.

 

Linus Ullmark, G, BUF
NHL.com rank: 229

The Buffalo Sabres made one of the biggest signings of the offseason in valuable left wing Taylor Hall, boosting their overall fantasy appeal. Ullmark went 17-14-3 with a .915 save percentage and one shutout last season despite Buffalo lacking much secondary scoring. Ullmark started more games (34) than Carter Hutton (30) and could emerge as the clear starter for the Sabres, who haven’t qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011. With additional goal support from Hall and veteran center Eric Staal (acquired from Minnesota Wild on Sept. 16), Ullmark is a sneaky fantasy target in the final rounds with the potential for at least 25 wins.

 

Martin Necas, C/RW, CAR
NHL.com rank: 237

The Carolina Hurricanes forward quietly scored 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 64 games in his first full NHL season and had four points (one goal, three assists) in eight postseason games. Necas will likely start the season on the second line with forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter and could see time on the top power-play unit with elite forwards Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, valuable wing Teuvo Teravainen and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. With the right lineup placement, Necas could be the most valuable deep sleeper for this season.

 

Joel Farabee, LW/RW, PHI
NHL.com rank: 238

The Philadelphia Flyers wing scored 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 52 games and had five points (three goals, two assists) in 12 postseason games as a rookie. Farabee, one of two Flyers skaters to score a power-play goal in the playoffs (other: Jakub Voracek with three PPG), averaged 14:29 per game in the postseason and could skate on one of the better third lines in the League with left wing James van Riemsdyk and rookie center Morgan Frost. Farabee is an intriguing final-round pick in deeper leagues or should be monitored on the waiver wire early in the season in case he ends up with more favorable even-strength and/or power-play placement.

 

Rasmus Sandin, D, TOR
NHL.com rank: N/A

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman scored eight points (one goals, seven assists), two on the power play, in 28 games last season and had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 21 games for Toronto of the American Hockey League. Sandin could make the jump to a full-time NHL defenseman this season after the departure of Tyson Barrie (signed with Edmonton Oilers) in free agency, bringing exposure to one of the top offenses in fantasy with elite forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and John Tavares. It’s unlikely Sandin will see time on the top power-play unit, but even-strength exposure alone could be enough to make the 20-year-old fantasy relevant this season.

 

Matt Grzelcyk, D, BOS
NHL.com rank: N/A

The Boston Bruins defenseman scored an NHL career-high 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 68 games last season. No. 1 defenseman Torey Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 9, opening a spot on the top power-play unit. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy could get that coveted spot to begin the season, but Grzelcyk was more than capable of filling in on PP1 last season (seven power-play points). Even if Grzelcyk doesn’t capture a full-time power-play role, he will still bring even-strength exposure to elite forwards David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, making Grzelcyk an intriguing late-round target as a bench defenseman.

 

Other deep sleeper candidates: Cam Talbot, G, MIN (NHL.com rank: 188); Devon Toews, D, COL (206); Joel Armia, RW, MTL (211); Joel Kiviranta, LW/RW, DAL (214); Filip Hronek, D, DET (231); Alex Iafallo, LW, LAK (232); Craig Smith, RW, BOS (249); Ryan Donato, C/LW/RW, SJS (250); Anthony Cirelli, C, TBL (N/R); Marcus Johansson, C/LW, MIN (N/R)

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