NHL Fantasy: Deep sleepers to target in your draft

In fantasy hockey, there’s sleepers and then there’s deep sleepers. Deep sleepers are players who taken near the very end of drafts, or sometimes not drafted at all. These players are perfect to take late-round flyers on, or watchlist going into the season in the event they go undrafted.

Hitting on a deep sleeper in your draft can provide a massive boost to your title hopes. With the below names being available late into your draft, there’s no risk in picking a couple up and seeing how it goes.

Eric Comrie – G – Buffalo Sabres

Eric Comrie was a highly touted prospect coming out of the draft, however he’s failed to live up to the hype in the nine years since being picked in the second round. Last season however he finally showed flashes of the goalie everyone thought he could be, posting a 10–5–1 record alongside a .920 save percentage and 2.58 GAA.

Among goalies with at least 15 games played last season, Comrie ranked sixth in the NHL for save percentage and 15th for GAA. This summer he signed a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, entering into a 1A/1B situation with veteran Craig Anderson. Anderson was dreadful last season, posting a .897 save percentage and 3.12 GAA. He’s also 41 years old. Comrie brings a ton more upside of the two for obvious reasons.

Comrie has every chance to become the go to starter in Buffalo sooner rather than later. The Sabres should also be an improved team this season compared to last. Comrie’s ADP on Yahoo! is currently 166th making him a good low-risk pick that carries some sneaky value. If he can claim the starter’s role, he’ll provide some solid goaltending depth to any fantasy roster.

Artturi Lehkonen – RW/LW – Colorado Avalanche

The two departures of Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky left some big holes in the Colorado Avalanche’s elite top-six. Enter Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen was picked up at the deadline last season and posted some impressive results during his time in Colorado. The 27-year-old put up 23 points in 36 games for the Avs between the regular season and playoffs while skating in their top-six.

He’s never been a big point producer in his career, however he’s also spent most of his career playing in Montreal’s bottom-six. As soon as he came over to Colorado he saw his role expanded. He went from averaging 14:44 per game in Montreal to 16:26 in Colorado. That number should go up even more with Kadri and Burakovsky out of the picture now.

To add even more intrigue, Lehkonen has been skating on Colorado’s top line in training camp so far. If he were to land a long-term spot there and gain exposure to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, the sky’s the limit for Lehkonen. He’s also a top candidate to feature on their stacked first power play unit that finished seventh in the NHL in 2021–22.

With an ADP of 165 in Yahoo! right now, Lehkonen is being severely underrated considering his situation and upside. He’s a perfect candidate for a late-round target that has massive breakout potential.

Jamie Drysdale – D – Anaheim Ducks

It’s easy to forget Jamie Drysdale is still just 20 years old. The 2020 sixth overall pick has already logged 105 games in the NHL and was playing top-four minutes in just his second season in the NHL in 2021–22. Drysdale’s ceiling is sky high and it seems like only a matter of time until he reaches it.

Last season in his first full year in the NHL Drysdale logged 19:53 minutes per game, and posted 32 points on a bad Anaheim team. With the Ducks being a young up and coming roster, the team should no doubt be better offensively this season after adding Ryan Strome, John Klingberg, and rookie Mason McTavish to their lineup.

Klingberg’s addition may stifle a bit of Drysdale’s upside for this coming season as they both play the right side, however he should still see a boost in his point totals as he continues to mature and get better with age. Add on the fact the Ducks should be an improved team this season and Drysdale has nowhere to go but up.

Drysdale’s ADP on Yahoo! of 170 makes him an incredibly cheap add, and one that carries a ton of upside. 40+ points is a very real possibility and a big number for a player that can be had in the 15th round. You really can’t go wrong with a player that possesses Drysdale’s talent and upside but such a low ADP.

Rudolf Balcers – LW/RW – Florida Panthers

Rudolf Balcers has been in the NHL for four years and is already onto his third NHL team. Not exactly a sign of relevance in fantasy hockey. That said, being fantasy relevant can sometimes be more about the situation than the player themselves.

Balcers was signed in free agency by the Panthers after they lost some considerable pieces. With Mason Marchment, Claude Giroux and Jonathan Huberdeau out the door and Anthony Duclair injured, it’s created a ton of openings in the Panthers’ top-six group. Right now Balcers looks like the main benefactor of those openings.

The Panthers have been experimenting with Matthew Tkachuk on the second line, and Balcers riding shotgun to Aleksander Barkov. In other words—he’s hit the fantasy jackpot. Balcers posted just 23 points in 61 games last season, however he’s shown flashes of taking it to the next level at times. He was a point per game player in the AHL in 2019–20 and is still just 25 years old.

If Balcers earns the coveted spot on Barkov’s wing he immediately becomes fantasy relevant. He’s never been given an opportunity like this in his young career, so it’s a big question mark how he handles it. He has the talent to capitalize on the opportunity. He’s currently going undrafted in Yahoo! so he could easily be taken in the last round of your draft. Literally for no risk, he has a ton of potential upside here.

Late-round fantasy hockey value is key

The later rounds of a fantasy draft are typically where the most important picks are made. Anyone can make a good pick early in a draft, but it’s the fantasy managers who find the late-round gems that typically see the most success. Taking one of the above players and seeing them hit big could provide a huge boost to your title chances.

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