While the NHL offseason heads into the doldrums of August, the major landscape-shifting moves have all but died down as restricted free agents (finally) work out their contracts. In the meantime, it’s never too early to think about fantasy, right? First up are sleeper picks—players who could exceed expectations and outperform their draft-day rankings.
Kyle Palmieri (Devils) ESPN: 109 | NHL: 127
Before Taylor Hall missed more than half the season with a knee injury, Kyle Palmieri was playing close to a point-per-game pace (18 goals, 33 points in 35 games) on what was one of the league’s most prolific lines. Hall will be healthy for the upcoming season, and the Devils enhanced their arsenal with P.K. Subban, Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev. Expect Palmieri to continue to succeed on the power play and in the offensive zone with improved surrounding pieces.
Brady Tkachuk (Senators) ESPN: 129 | NHL: 159
The Senators are going to be dreadful, but production has to come from somewhere. Playing on Ottawa’s top line and power-play unit, Brady Tkachuk quietly ranked second among rookies in goals (22) and points (45) and led all first-year players in shots (214). He finished the season with 14 points in his final 20 games after the Senators traded Mark Stone to the Golden Knights. Players in leagues that count +/- might want to be cautious, but Tkachuk is poised to build off a strong rookie campaign as Ottawa’s top offensive weapon.
Anthony Mantha (Red Wings) ESPN: 130 | NHL: 147
After Dylan Larkin established himself as a bonafide first-line center, anyone in Detroit’s talented young forward group (Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha) owns sleeper value heading into 2019–20. Mantha, though, finished his fourth NHL season with 34 points in his final 40 games and capped the year as the sixth-highest scorer in the IIHF tournament. Larkin’s skating ability draws out Mantha’s size and speed—Detroit’s top line should blossom and Mantha has 30-goal potential.
Take a flier on: Nico Hischier (Devils), Travis Konecny (Flyers), Yanni Gourde (Lightning), Andreas Athanasiou (Red Wings), Kevin Fiala (Wild), Roope Hintz (Stars).
Miro Heiskanen (Stars) ESPN: 191 | NHL: 114
Rasmus Dahlin swallowed most of the hype for rookie defensemen, but Dallas’s teenage sensation, Miro Heiskanen, pushed himself into the Calder conversation by becoming the ninth 19-year-old blueliner to score at least 10 goals in his rookie season. After ranking 29th in goals-for per game, the Stars became less top heavy in the offseason. That’ll help Heiskanen, who plays with the team’s second power-play unit. With an impressive combination of speed, skill and maturity, Heiskanen should only get better in his sophomore campaign.
Vince Dunn (Blues) ESPN: 200 | NHL: 183
Vince Dunn set career highs in goals (12) and assists (23) and ranked top 20 among all defensemen in individual expected goals-for per 60 minutes according to Natural Stat Trick—a stat calculates how many goals are expected based on shot quantity and quality. Advanced stats won’t always translate into fantasy production, but it’s an encouraging indicator of the 22-year-old blueliner’s offensive impact. Dunn logged more power-play minutes than any other St. Louis defenseman (that will translate) and, with increased playing time, will continue to develop into one of the better up-and-coming producers from the backend.
Devon Toews (Islanders) ESPN: Unranked | NHL: 216
By the time Islanders had “upset” the Penguins and faced the Hurricanes, it was Devon Toews that was quarterbacking the first power–play unit—not Ryan Pulock or Nick Leddy. Toews was called up from Bridgeport shortly before Christmas and tallied five goals and 18 points in his rookie season as a 25 year old. The former fourth-round draft pick is a capable puck mover, excels during extra strength opportunities and has the tools to be a solid fantasy contributor as a late-round pick.
Take a flier on: Samuel Girard (Avalanche), Jaccob Slavin (Hurricanes), Mikhail Sergachev (Lightning), Filip Hronek (Red Wings).
Philipp Grubauer (Avalanche) ESPN: 116 | NHL: 77
Philipp Grubauer helped guide Colorado through its Cinderella playoff run—recording a .925 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average in 12 games against the high-octane Flames and Sharks. Now, with Semyon Varlamov out of the way, Grubauer will become the full-time starter for the first time in his career and command at least 50 starts for an Avalanche squad teeming with optimism and high expectations. His career numbers (.921 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against average) are solid, too. There’s nothing stopping the 27-year-old netminder from emerging as a top 10 fantasy goalie early in the season.
Petr Mrazek (Hurricanes) ESPN: 145 | NHL: 154
Petr Mrazek will return to his 1A role in net for the second consecutive season after re-signing with Carolina for a two-year, $6.25 million contract. Once the draft winds into the later rounds, there are riskier options than selecting a 27-year-old goalie who’s playing behind one of the league’s best blue lines on a playoff-bound team. Mrazek finished the 2018-19 season as a top 15 goaltender with a .914 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against average. His ceiling isn’t as high as Antti Raanta, but the Czech goaltender’s floor should be more stable than other tandem situations.
Take a flier on: Juuse Saros (Predators), Joonas Korpisalo (Blue Jackets), Mackenzie Blackwood (Devils), Thatcher Demko (Canucks).