24 APR 2016: Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) during Game 6 of the 2016 NHL Playoffs between the New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers played at the Braclays Center in Brooklyn,NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
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Fantasy Hockey: Three sleeper forwards with huge upside

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Injuries have the same effect on fantasy managers that the sound of a vacuum cleaner has on cats. Evgeni Malkin’s injury history is the main reason he usually isn’t taken in the first round. There is good reason to avoid big investments with early picks on players with storied injury histories. But if you run away from all of them, you will deprive yourself of some hidden gems later in the draft.

It has been four months since the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup. Injuries heal. Skilled players that missed significant time with injury the season prior are always huge value picks in the draft. And this year is no different.

Aleksander Barkov

Barkov scored more points in 66 games than Jonathan Toews scored in 82 games last season. Barkov’s average draft position is 91.3 according to fantasypros.com. Yet Toews has an ADP of  55.7. Barkov is a great example of why you should wait on drafting centers.

Barkov is just 21 years old and has already established himself as the Panthers’ top center. His ceiling is sky high. he scored 28 goals and registered 171 shots despite missing 16 games in 2015-16. So if he stays healthy, you can safely expect him to approach 70 points and put over 200 shots on net. Not bad for a guy that is going, on average, 35 picks after Toews.

What Barkov won’t give you is penalty minutes. Still, the Panthers’ offseason acquisition of Keith Yandle is great news for Barkov’s already solid power play numbers. Barkov has the potential to join fantasy hockey’s elite center class this season.

James van Riemsdyk

Two seasons ago James van Riemsdyk’s fantasy value was dragged down by a minus-33 plus-minus rating. And then he missed half of the 2015-16 season with injury. But things look a lot better in Toronto nowadays, and a healthy van Riemsdyk is one of the big reasons why. The potential and talent in Toronto’s top six is all the reason you should need to take him ahead of where he’s going in most drafts.

Still not sold on van Riemsdyk? Consider the fact that in 40 games last season he scored 29 points and put 129 shots on net. Double those numbers, and you’ll get an idea of just how good he can be. That kind of production is well within van Riemsdyk’s wheelhouse. The New Jersey native scored 27 goals and put 248 shots on net in 2014-15.

His plus-minus likely won’t do his fantasy value any favors, but shots, goals, and power play production make van Riemsdyk a hidden gem. Currently he has an average draft position of 136 according to fantasypros.com. There just aren’t as many valuable wingers as there are centers on draft day, which makes underrated players like van Riemsdyk huge value picks.

Brendan Gallagher

Gallagher missed over a quarter of last season nursing two different injuries. As a result, his numbers took a big dive from what they were in 2014-15 when he was a top 100 fantasy player. Gallagher is healthy again and even with the presence of Alex Radulov in Montreal’s top six, he’s one of the biggest sleepers available in fantasy drafts.

 

Gallagher had 40 points (including 19 goals) and 171 shots in just 59 games for the Canadiens. That means the pesky winger scored just seven fewer points than he did in all 82 games in 2014-15. Before missing all of December with his hand injury, Gallagher was having a career year. He had 19 points in 22 games and was crucial to the Canadiens’ hot start last season. Gallagher is just 24 years old, so chances are we still haven’t seen the best of him.

With an average draft position of 127.7, it’s hard to find a bigger value pick than Gallagher. Productive wingers that put shots on goal are incredibly hot commodities on draft day. You just can’t find players that put 250 shots on net and are good for at least 20 goals where Gallagher is going in most drafts. Gallagher should return to form regardless of what happens with Radulov and Shea Weber.

Fantasy Hockey: Three sleeper forwards with huge upside

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