1. Valeri Nichushkin: Forward / RW
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Nichushkin is going to be a force for the Dallas Stars this upcoming season. He is a power forward with the offensive skills of an elite play maker. He is not going to be on many people's radar seeing as he only played 8 games this past season. In his rookie campaign in 2013-14, he put up 34 points in 79 games. He also managed to maintain a +20 plus/minus rating and average out at 1.6 shots per game. Given his development and the offensive support he should have in Dallas, there's no reason that he cannot put up 50+ points in 2015-16. Keep an eye on him prior to the draft to see where the coach has him practicing. If he finds a spot on the top line, we should see his point total skyrocket.
2. Sami Vatanen: D
Vatanen has been somewhat of a surprise for the Anaheim Defense since coming into the league. He was drafted in the fourth round back in 2009 and has been flying under the radar in many fantasy leagues. Despite being an undersized D-man, he is able to put up very impressive defensive statistics. Just last season, he had 36 PIMS, 75 hits and 123 blocked shots in 67 games. These are impressive numbers for a guy who was expected to be a pure offensive defenseman. In the same 67 games, Vatanen put up 37 points. Seventeen of these points came via the powerplay as Vatanen proved to be their most dangerous blue liner time and time again. Assuming he plays a full 82 games, he should put up a 40+ point season. In a pool which rewards defensive statistics, he is easily the best D-man on the Anaheim roster.
3. David Pastrnak: Forward / RW
On a team lacking offense, Pastrnak could come as a huge surprise this upcoming season. He is a tremendously gifted young player who has serious offensive upside to his game. He could be a perfect fit for fantasy owners looking to add some depth scoring. His fantasy value only increases for those playing in "keeper leagues" as he will eventually develop into a top line right winger. This past season he put up 27 points in 46 games playing a reduced role with the Bruins. However, I expect him to see a serious hike in his minutes, especially on the powerplay during his 2015-16 campaign. I imagine he will play with Krejci and Marchand, which should allow him a chance to succeed offensively. He is a major risk-reward type guy, but I believe he can put up a bare minimum of 40 points.
4. Nicklas Backstrom: C
Although, not a traditional "sleeper pick." Backstrom is the kind of guy who is overlooked each and every season. This year will probably be no different, as other centers like Toews, Getzlaf and Malkin always get the nod well before Backstrom. In 577 career games, Backstrom has 572 points, which includes a 100 point season in 2009-10. His last two seasons were both solid, as he put up 78 and 79 points in two full seasons. He is always in the Capitals lineup, and is definitely the #1 center again this year. Adding Oshie and Justin Williams will only increase his fantasy value. I expect an 80+ point year for the Swedish center assuming he stays healthy.
5. Mark Streit: D
Streit has always been an offensively gifted D-man who can help his teams' powerplay. At the age of 37, he likely only has one or two seasons left. Regardless of his age, he has managed to put up 40+ points in 3 of his last 4 seasons. He is coming off a 52 point year which saw him play considerable time on the PP with Giroux and Voracek. The lineup in Philly is looking almost identical and there's no reason why Streit won't be the #1 guy on their blue line. In many pools, he will fall outside the top 20 for defenceman drafted. He was 9th in scoring for defenceman last year, which makes him a very underrated point producer. Look for another 45-55 point season from the veteran.
6. Roman Josi: D
Often overshadowed by Shea Weber, Josi possesses all the qualities of a fantasy sleeper. For starters, he is a young, mobile defender who plays in all situations. He led the predators blue line with 55 points last season, which put him only 8 back of the teams' highest point producer, Filip Forsberg. Josi led the team in ice time in both the regular and post-season, averaging out at 31 minutes in the Playoffs. I expect the same from the Swiss born blue-liner this year. With the Predators getting better each season, there's no reason that Josi cannot continue scoring at this pace. I would lock him in at a minimum 50 points this season.
7. Card Soderberg: C
The signing of Carl Soderberg came as a huge surprise to many people, as he signed for 4.75 million dollars with the Avalanche. The 29 year old center has two full NHL seasons under his belt, both of which saw him getting 40 or more points in a limited role with the Bruins. I believe that Soderberg has 50-60 point potential as he will be playing on a team with much more offensive firepower. The past season saw the Bruins ranked 11th out of 16 Eastern conference teams in goals for. While many Bruins seemed to flounder offensively, Soderberg stepped up and had a fairly good season given the circumstances. I believe that the fast, youthful Avalanche roster can help Soderberg increase his point totals while playing a more significant role offensively.
8. Reilly Smith: Forward / RW
This pick might be a bit of a long shot, but Smith adds some firepower to the Panthers that they desperately need. After Jagr, the right side for the Panthers looks very thin. Smith should see decent minutes playing along side some skilled young talent. He struggled last season, as many Bruins did. However, he put up 51 the previous year and showed that he is comfortable playing power-play minutes. He has good speed up the wing and consistently gets pucks to the net. There's no reason that Smith cannot fill a second line role with the Panthers and put up 45-55 points.
9. Jonathan Huberdeau: Forward / LW
Much like his teammate Reilly Smith, Huberdeau is likely to slide to the later rounds because he plays in Florida. Last year the 22 year old winger broke out, putting up 54 points. Despite this production, the hockey world only noticed the play of Aaron Ekblad. For whatever reason, people have forgotten about the elite prospect which is Huberdeau. He was a scoring machine in junior which had him drafted 3rd overall in 2011. Skilled fantasy owners will have him on their radar, but he is likely to slide far beyond his fantasy worth. I expect a 60 point effort from the young left winger. If you can pick him up in the later rounds, don't hesitate.
10. Marcus Johansson: Forward / LW
Johansson is an often overlooked forward for the Capitals, seeing as they have considerable star power all through the lineup. After Ovechkin, Johansson is their best left winger and should easily maintain his spot on the second line. He put up 20 goals and 47 points last season, which was his third 40+ point effort. He is a very consistent player who should only continue to improve as the Capitals have added some serious depth at forward. Oshie or Williams will find themselves on a line with Johansson, which will result in a boost in offensive production for the Capitals second line. A fifty point season is inevitable for the young winger. If he finds himself in a powerplay role, 55+ points would not be out of the question.
11. Alex Semin: RW - Free Agent
Alex Semin is the very definition of a hail mary. He is currently unsigned and was recently bought out by the struggling Hurricanes. What shocks me the most is the past production that Semin had put up. He is a pure offensive winger who has the ability to put up 30-40 goals, as he did in 2009-10. Semin has made it clear that he is willing to take a one year contract. This leads me to believe that he is aware of his situation and must rebuild his value as a player. Many teams out there could use an offensive winger at a bargain price. It is not clear whether or not Semin will be signed. However, if he does there's serious potential for Semin to have a bounce back season. Once again, this pick is an extremely big risk. If Semin signs, consider taking him at the very end of your draft if he is available.
Don't expect Semin to put up 40 goals at the NHL level again. A more reasonable guess would be 20 goals and 50 points.
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