Every year, when I think of playoff sleepers, I think of two players: Chris Kontos and John Druce. I might be dating myself to some of the younger readers, but here’s why.
During 1988-89, Kontos was barely noticeable in scoring two goals and an assist in seven games for the Kings. During the playoffs, however, Kontos went on a run for the ages, scoring nine goals in 11 games. After playing just six NHL games the following three years, Kontos re-emerged to score 27 goals for the expansion Lightning in 1992-93. He did not play in the NHL after that. If you don’t believe me, there is even a website created in Kontos’ honor.
The campaign after Kontos’ memorable playoff performance, Druce split tme between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks, scoring eight goals in 45 games with the Caps. During the playoffs, however, Druce inexplicably exploded for 14 goals in 15 games. Druce reached his regular-season career high of 22 goals the following year and managed to hang around the NHL until 1997-98.
We may never see a Chris Kontos or a John Druce ever again. However, every year there are a few players that stand out because of their playoff performance when compared to their regular season. The following players have been making a difference in playoff pools so far. Will they make a difference in fantasy leagues come 2015-16?
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
Ducks fly together… in pairs at least. The first line has the long-term combination Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, while the second line has newer linemates Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. In the Ducks’ four-game sweep of Winnipeg, Silfverberg scored two goals with four assists and a plus-five. Remember his name for redraft playoff pools and the late rounds of fantasy drafts next season.
David Jones, RW, CGY
Using his speed to his advantage against an aging Canucks’ defense, David Jones scored two goals and added three assists with a plus-five in the six-game series. Jones is a two-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL, but settled for 14 goals in 67 games this year. Don’t go out of your way to add him in your pool, but he is the kind of player worth adding in deep playoff pools that are quickly running out of eligible players.
Mikael Granlund, C, MIN
I had Mikael Granlund as a late-round sleeper in this season’s fantasy drafts, but I quickly dropped him after a slow start. He has turned it up for the playoffs though, scoring a goal and adding four assists with a plus-four in six games against St. Louis. Granlund has scored eight goals for two seasons running, so he might not be the player for you if goals are rewarded more than assists in your league. If it’s straight points, however, go for it.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
Evgeny Kuznetsov might be having his breaking-out party in this year’s playoffs, scoring three goals and adding one assist in seven games. His most notable goal was the game-winner in Game 7 of the highlight-reel variety. Regardless, the Capitals finally appear to have found their second-line center. Keep Kuznetsov in mind as a sleeper in next year’s fantasy drafts: his career path seems eerily similar to Vladimir Tarasenko, who broke out in 2014-15.
Kris Russell, D, CGY
With Mark Giordano still sidelined, Kris Russell was the Flames’ best defenseman in the first round. In each of the six games against Vancouver, Russell saw no fewer than 25 minutes of ice time. He also held up his end in the scoring department with four points in six games. Even though he is small for an NHL defenseman (5’10”, 173 lbs.), Russell held his own physically and even won a fight with Alex Burrows. Russell scored a career-high 34 points for the Flames this season, a sign that his career is on the upswing.
Petr Mrazek, G, DET
After splitting time between the Red Wings and Grand Rapids of the AHL this season, Petr Mrazek has two shutouts and a 2.29 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in the Wings’ first-round series with Tampa Bay. Mrazek has rendered Jimmy Howard obsolete in this year’s playoffs, but will that be the case moving forward?
Howard is signed until 2019, so he’s not going anywhere unless the Wings really believe in Mrazek long-term and can pull off a deal for Howard. But as it stands, this goaltending situation has the look and feel of a timeshare.