With the NHL season kicking off in less than a week, fantasy draft season is fully upon us. As usual, every manager is looking to get the leg up on their opponents as they plan out their draft strategy.
Perhaps the best strategy to gain an advantage is to find players deeper into drafts whose value will likely exceed their current ADP. For whatever reason these players are being overlooked in most drafts which presents the perfect opportunity to gain some value deeper into drafts. Let’s take a look at some players to target based on their current Yahoo! ADPs.
Andrew Mangiapane, LW/RW
Yahoo! ADP: 171
Andrew Mangiapane was a big-time sleeper going into the 2021–22 season and the bet paid off as he exploded for a career-high 35 goals and 55 points. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down last season as he saw his goal total drop all the way to 17. Due to his down year, he’s entered the sleeper category again and is currently being drafted all the way down at 171. That’s a bargain for a player who scored 35 goals just two years ago.
Going into the 2022–23 season, Mangiapane’s career shooting percentage was right around 17%. Last season it was just 9.3%. It’s not like he was shooting less either as he posted just three fewer shots than he did during his breakout 2021–22 campaign. Odds are Mangiapane’s luck bounces back this year and his shooting percentage rises back to around his career average. If that happens, there’s a good chance he’s right back in the 30-goal range.
Another major variable working in his favour is his current status in Calgary’s lineup. Going into the season he’s currently lined up on the Flames’ top line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm, as well as their top power play unit. That kind of exposure is invaluable and is further reasoning why a big bounceback for Mangiapane could be on the horizon.
Artturi Lehkonen, LW
Yahoo! ADP: 169
After being labelled as a sleeper last season, Artturi Lehkonen had a career year playing in Colorado’s stacked top-six. Despite that, he’s once again being undervalued in drafts which opens up some easy pickings for fantasy managers.
Currently, he’s being drafted around 170th in Yahoo! leagues, after players like Ivan Barbashev, Josh Anderson, Nikita Zadorov, and his own teammate Tomas Tatar. That just makes no sense for a player coming off a 21-goal, 51-point season in 64 games. Across a full healthy season that’s a 27-goal, 65-point pace.
Perhaps his situation in Colorado’s lineup has soured some on his impact as he’s currently skating on the team’s second line behind Jonathan Drouin. However, given his success playing on the top line last year there’s a good chance he find his way back there quickly. On top of that, he’s still skating on the Avs’s top power play unit which ranked sixth league-wide last year. At an ADP of 170, Lehkonen is an easy bet to make.
Nick Schmaltz C/RW
Yahoo! ADP: 174
If Nick Schmaltz played in any other market there’s no way he’d be ranked this low coming into the season. At an ADP of 174 he’s currently going near the very end of most drafts. Now consider that Schmaltz is coming off back-to-back seasons with a point-per-game rate right around 0.92. Getting that kind of value near the end of your draft is unheard of.
His 0.92 point per game rate last season ranked 48th league-wide among all forwards with at least 50 games played, ahead of fantasy mainstays like Brad Marchand, Anze Kopitar, Matthew Barzal and Andrei Svechnikov among others. Getting him in the 170–180 range is a steal.
Schmaltz has carved out a role on the Coyotes top line and as long as he’s skating opposite budding superstar Clayton Keller he provides tremendous fantasy value. After posting point totals of 59 and 58 in 63 games the last two seasons, it’s only a matter of time before he hits the point-per-game mark. Sure there are question marks around his health as he’s failed to play at least 70 games since 2019–20 but at his current draft spot, it’s an easy risk to take.
Yahoo! ADP: 170
Never known as a fantasy asset, Michael Matheson came out of nowhere last season on a bad Canadiens roster to post 34 points in just 48 games. That total beat his previous career-high despite playing 26 fewer games. On 90% of teams in the NHL Matheson would have little value in fantasy but on a team as shallow as the Canadiens he’s been thrust into a prime role on the blueline and took full advantage of it last year.
He’s once again lining up on the team’s top pairing and top power play unit entering the 2023–24 season so there’s a good chance he continues the point pace we saw from last season. On top of his point totals, he also posted career-high shot rates with around 2.6 shots per game last season. Now with a healthy Cole Caufield back in the fold and on the Habs top powerplay unit, Matheson should be in an ever better spot to produce than he was last season.
Even if he fails to live up to his offensive production from last year you’re not sweating considering how deep into drafts you’re able to pick him up. Low risk, high reward.
Make your fantasy draft count
Finding sleepers during a draft can literally make or break a season. There is no shortage of high-quality sleepers to take chances on this year. Good luck with any upcoming drafts!