• Marcus Bender

Fantasy Hockey: Potential Sleeper D

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Last week we looked at different strategies on how to find next year’s Defence Surprise. This week we will try to employ our strategies and see if we can single out Defencemen who might be undervalued heading into this year’s draft.

But first, we should make a note about “Sleepers” and the Observation Effect.

Beware The Observation Effect

The Observation Effect is simply once we observe a player, that player’s value changes. Like the Stock Market, or anything else value based, it isn’t necessarily what is, but what people think it is. Perception of value modifies value.

For example, if someone writes a column about a certain player, they will have brought attention to this player, which will give him a slight boost in value. If enough people make this same observation the player's value will objectively increase by moving up the Draft Ranks.

His real value will soon be closer to becoming realized, therefore his Sleeper Value will be diminished.

A Sleeper only has Sleeper Value if he is picked in an undervalued position. We cannot stress this point enough. If we pick this player too early, if we “Reach” for this player in the Draft, this player loses his “Sleeper Value”.

Remember: Sleepers are only Sleepers if they are picked in undervalued positions.

The Observation Effect is responsible for many Draft “Reaches”. It is important when evaluating players we are aware of this Effect so as not to trick ourselves into drinking our own Kool-Aid.

Which, trust me. I've done.

Hardcore Poolies will know about the old 3am Alarm Set to "finesse" a player without having to use a Waiver Wire Claim.

This is a true story.

"Yes!" I fist-pumped whispered into the night.

"Honey? What time.. What happened?"

"Oh nothing sweetie. I just got Matt Niskanen off of FA without using my Waiver Wire. Niiiccce. Good night!"

**This actually happens across millions of homes across North America daily.**

We are now going to try to pinpoint some potential Defencemen Steals in this year’s upcoming draft.

Which Teams Don't Have A Clear #1?

Following the Strategies in our column from last week, let’s look at the teams where the Top PP #1 D isn’t yet 100% certain. These are the Teams we will focus on in order to put ourselves into a position to “get lucky” finding one of these gems late in the Draft, or off of FA.

(Some of) These Teams are:

Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Arizona.

Let’s go over these teams one by one.

Boston Bruins - The Grzelcyk Bears

With Torey Krug leaving the team, we now find ourselves with a power vacuum for the coveted top spot on a powerful Bruins’ Squad. Perfect opportunity for our potential D Steal.

The obvious choice is Charlie McAvoy. At 22-years-old McAvoy has already made a huge splash in the NHL making the League’s List of Top Ten D, and drawing comparisons as a young Drew Doughty. McAvoy will get first crack at the Bruins’ Top PP.

However, if we go back and look at McAvoy’s Junior Stats, they aren’t really anything to write home about offensively. He played Junior in the US University System, which sometimes makes it sometimes difficult to get a beat on a player. But he has never been a point-per-game player even at the University level. This would indicate McAvoy is not a super offensive-minded threat.

It’s entirely possible McAvoy starts on the #1 PP, but doesn’t end up there.

If McAvoy falters for whatever reason, the responsibility will likely fall to Matt Grzelcyk. He is our first possible undervalued target.

The Grz had nearly identical PPTOI as McAvoy last season splitting #2 duty behind Krug, which indicates the Coach is already aware of Gryleck’s cannon of a shot from the point.

Grzelcyk and McAvoy were actually teammates back in 2015-16 at Boston University, and at that time the Grz seemed to be the more offensive minded of the two (0.67 PPG to 0.85 PPG). The Grz had 10 goals to McAvoy’s 3 that season, suggesting again Grzelcyk was the more offensive of the two. But hold on, Grzelcyk is 4 years older than McAvoy, so it might not really be a fair comparison.

In any case remember, Grzelcyk probably won't get #1 duties. But if we want to put ourselves into a position to “get lucky”, he's a good one to target.

Maybe this is the year the Bruins become the Grzelcyk Bears.

Chicago Blackhawks - BoqvAnimal

Off the top of our head we all know Duncan Keith is the #1 in Chicago. But a very strange thing happened two seasons ago where a relatively unknown Defenceman named Erik Gustafsson came out of nowhere, displaced the legendary Keith, and either made or ruined a lot of Pools along the way (I remember the wailing Keith Fans well).

Could that happen again?

The Blackhawks are a fascinating study. They are a mix of legendary veteran players, and a battalion of top prospects.

Jeremy Colliton is an interesting coach. All season long he changed lines, often in the middle of a game. It was almost as though Colliton doesn’t subscribe to the traditional method of deploying lines (something to watch for going forward in Chicago). This gave us some very mixed results for Fantasy purposes.

In any case, Gustafsson is gone. The team wants to rebuild. Who could better fit into the role of the next Top D in Chicago than Adam Boqvist?

An 8th overall pick, going right behind Quinn Hughes, Boqvist had 60 Points in 54 Games with the London Knights two seasons ago. He is clearly an offensive talent who knows how to run a Power Play.

With a rebuilding Blackhawks’ Squad, Boqvist could be the biggest beneficiary.

Boqvist feels like the next potential John Klingberg. You have to give a little added plus for Swedish Offensive Defencemen (Karlsson, Hedman, Lidstrom. We know the Swedish System pumps out incredible Offensive Defencemen).

If everything works out the way we are thinking here, we're looking at dishing off passes to Patty Kane. This is generally a good thing for Pools.

Boqvist definitely has “Draft Steal” or "FA Steal" written all over it. Even more so if this is a Keeper League.

New Jersey Devils - Release The Damon

Incredible a player named "Damon" ended up on New Jersey (I'm still upset Miroslav Satan never made it here). Damon Severson gradually took over the #1 last season.

At the beginning of the Season it seemed to be a split between Sami Vatanen and PK Subban, but this didn’t last very long. Subban faltered, and Vatanen left. Which gives the green light for Severson to show us what he can do.

Since January 1, 2020, Severson has an average of 2:46 PPTOI to become the bona fide #1 D in New Jersey. During that span, he put up 19 Points in his final 30 Games, which is a 50 point pace (very solid for a Defenceman).

Other Draftees will be sleeping on this guy. The Devils were rather weak last season, and everyone is focused on PK Subban.

Therefore, Severson has some excellent under-the-radar value. 45 Points isn't out of the question.

Anaheim Ducks - Shatterducky

This one feels a little bit like building Hotels on the cheap properties in Monopoly. Sure, you might get it right and pick the #1D in Anaheim. But as one of the lowest scoring teams in the League, it might not mean anything.

In any case, Kevin Shattenkirk should be the guy to run the Top PP this year in Anaheim. He has been getting absolutely no love from Poolies for some time now. Anaheim might be exactly what the doctor ordered for this former Fantasy Star. He might be worth a look for some greasy Power Play Points.

The other option would be Cam Fowler. As an aside, how appropriate a player named Fowler plays for the Ducks.

Fowler has had so many opportunities to take this team by the reigns, it just never seems to happen. He seems like a solid, middle-of-the-road option. A relatively "safe" option. "Safe" options don't generally have much upside.

Fowler might end up getting some Power Play Time before the end of the season; but given how weak Anaheim is projected to be this season, it might not be worth it.

If you're going to build a hotel on Mediterranean or Baltic, make it Shattenkirk, not a Fowler.

Calgary Flames - Rasmus Rising

The Flames were a weird team to try and figure out last year, and a lot of that has to do with the sudden coaching shift that occurred on November 28. They have not been the same team since. Whatever we thought we knew about the Flames is going to be completely different next season.

We’ve always known Giordano is “the guy” on D in Calgary. But for whatever reason, we kept seeing his PPTOI decrease over the course of last season. As the season progressed, we saw more and more of this ice time going to Noah Hanafin and Rasmus Andersson.

The Flames didn’t seem content with that bringing in Erik Gustafsson right before the playoffs. Gustafsson isn't there now, so forgetting about him for now, the trend seemed to be away from Giordano, and towards Hanafin/Andersson.

This might seem a little bit like our Rangers Trouba/Fox/DeAngelo scenario from last week.

We have narrowed it down to two players. Which of these two players do we go with?

Hanafin is a former 5th overall pick, so he is of blue chip pedigree. In the minors he seems to have played with Boston College in 2014-15. That year he was the third highest scoring Defenceman on the team. This is an excellent indicator that perhaps Hanafin is not the biggest offensive threat we would like to target.

Andersson played with the Barrie Colts from 2014-16 under Dale Hawerchuk. This is a good sign (players under good coaches develop good habits). He also played there with current teammate Andrew Mangiapane, who himself could be a Draft Steal next season. Andersson was nearly a point-a-game player there.

It feels like there may be a bit of a change happening in Calgary. In that case, this might be a perfect opportunity for a Defenceman Steal. Rasmus Andersson seems like he could be that player.

Philadelphia Flyers - Flyered If I Know

The Phlyers signed Erik Gustafsson in the offseason (Man, Gustafsson has been all over this column lol). So what's the deal with that? Is Provorov now doomed?

Philly seems like a weird one. What happened to Ghostbear?? Can anyone explain that to me?

Then you've got Travis Sanheim, who was an offensive force in Junior, just sitting there. He feels like he's ready to take a big step up, but then the Flyers just signed Gustafsson.

I have no clue what's going on with the Flyers. But knowing Vignaeault I suspect it will annoy the heck out of all of us Poolies.

I would go with Gustafsson to start, but keep an eye on this one. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanheim gain some sneaky value over the course of this Season. And Provorov seems like a future potential Norris candidate (so again, why sign Gustafsson?).

In any case, this is a tricky team. If you've got the beat on these guys, I'm all ears. There is a lot of talent on the back end on this Team.

Arizona Coyotes - Let's Have Our Dessert In The Desert

OEL is the guy for now, but keep an eye on Jakub Chychrun. He has a veritable bomb from the point. He will be given a bigger role with the Coyotes this season and could end up being a steal.


Thank you for reading this week's Fantasy Hockey Minute Column. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know! Who do you think will be the Defence Draft Steals next season?

If you are interested, please check out our Podcast and other Blog Entries. Thank you for stopping by!

"Have another doughnut Koharski!"


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