Andrew Fiorentino, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Hitting on your early draft picks and high-priced players in Fantasy Hockey is a must — your team’s going to have problems otherwise. But smooth late-draft moves are what separate the winners from the also-rans. Getting breakout players at pre-breakout prices is the dream for fantasy owners in all sports, but it’s arguably harder in hockey than any other fantasy sport. The NHL is stuffed to the gills with high-upside players, but there are only so many minutes and scoring opportunities (and fantasy-team roster spots) to go around.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some undervalued, late-draft players who are poised to outproduce their Yahoo Fantasy Hockey draft positions — or, as you might be inclined to call them, sleepers.
Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers (ADP: 99.9)
Nowhere else by this point in a draft — nowhere for a while by this point, really — will you find a player who’s essentially guaranteed to operate at a 70-point pace, but that’s a precise description of Barkov. Over the last two seasons, he’s put up 111 points in 127 games, with the big knock of course being the time he’s missed to injury. There’s no doubt that Barkov has been prone to injuries and is coming off back surgery, but he’s also a 22-year-old first-liner who plays a strong two-way game and has the upside to be one of the game’s biggest stars. Around pick 100? Please and thank you.
Tyler Toffoli, C/RW, Los Angeles Kings (ADP: 130.9)
Selected at the end of the 12th round on average, Toffoli offers realistic 30-goal, 60-point upside even though he’s coming off April knee surgery. That’s well in the past now, and the 25-year-old — who’s starred at every level of hockey — is ready to resume a top-six role with major power-play time for the Kings. Last season was a disappointment, but we’re talking about a guy who went a combined plus-60 in the two years prior and already has a 31-goal, 58-point campaign in his back pocket. He’ll help you in every category but PIM.
Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche (ADP: 138.3)
Kicking around here in the middle of the 13th round we find the 2013 draft’s No. 1 overall pick and a star of international hockey. Sure, he plays for the Avalanche. Is that a great situation? Not during the games, no, but living in Denver seems lovely. Yes, his team context is a real drag and he probably won’t help you in plus-minus, but MacKinnon is a legitimate star talent and a high-volume shooter — attributes that serve fantasy owners well. We haven’t seen his best days yet, and at 22 years old, he should be entering them.
Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (ADP: 153.5)
Dumba’s coming off a well-rounded fantasy line — 11 goals, 23 assists, a plus-15 rating and 59 PIM — and yet there’s a feeling that he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Still only 23 years old, Dumba occupies a steady top-four slot on Minnesota’s blue line, and we should see his minutes continue to climb (from last season’s 20:20), as they have throughout his career thus far. Look for Dumba’s rise to continue with double-digit goals and 40-plus points, and if any blueliner at the back of your draft has the potential to explode for 60, it’s him.
Max Domi, LW, Arizona Coyotes (ADP: 159.0)
Domi is coming off a tough sophomore season that saw him miss time to injury and slump significantly on offense, but there are major signs that he’s in for a reversal of fortune this year. After all, he’s currently slated to line up on the Coyotes’ top line alongside new acquisition Derek Stepan (a defensively responsible and offensively diligent center) and Anthony Duclair… who’s more than likely to lose his spot to red-hot prospect Clayton Keller (more on him in a minute). With Keller’s high-octane offensive ability, Stepan’s steady two-way game, and Domi’s combination of skill and pugnaciousness, this has the makings of a killer trio — which should result in a well-rounded and impressive fantasy line from the son of legendary enforcer Tie Domi.
Clayton Keller, C/LW, Arizona Coyotes (ADP: 168.4)
Buried in the rankings, we find Keller, last year’s No. 7 overall pick. He had only a brief taste of the NHL last year, but Keller has lit the ice on fire on Boston University and for the U.S. National Under-18 team, and now he’s doing it in preseason action for the Coyotes. Widely compared to Patrick Kane because of their similar builds and skill sets, Keller could actually come close to living up to that aggressive billing, and you can get him for practically nothing on draft day — or even off your league’s waiver wire. The multi-position eligibility doesn’t hurt either. And let me just say that there’s zero chance Anthony Duclair manages to hold him off for top-line minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Duclair to some degree as well, but Keller could be one of the top few players of his generation.
Kyle Okposo, RW, Buffalo Sabres (ADP: 169.9)
A two-time 60-point man alongside John Tavares, Okposo had a tough first season in Buffalo punctuated by some unusual medical issues that ended his campaign early. The total of 45 points that left him with made many in the fantasy community get off the bus, but it’s time to hop back on — after all, we’re talking about a talented scorer with a strong track record who gets to line up to the right of either Ryan O’Reilly or Jack Eichel, which is a great position to be in. The Sabres look like a team on the rise, and Okposo will be a key part of that.
Charlie Coyle, C/RW, Minnesota Wild (ADP: 170.6)
A 56-point man last year, Coyle has emerged as one of the Wild’s most valuable players, a talented distributor who can also shoot the puck — although it’d be nice to see him do that more often. The 25-year-old has grown steadily during his time in the NHL, and there’s no reason to believe that he’s reached his ceiling. His eligibility at both center and wing helps, and so does his reliable power-play role; while Coyle hasn’t broken out as a major man-advantage performer yet, it seems like just a matter of time.