Fantasy Pool Look: Five lesser-known sophomores to bank on next season

Beau Bennett

On Thursday I looked at five rookies who are flying under the radar with modest point totals now – but who will be good bets to do well in 2014-15. Keeper league owners should target those players now while their price is low.

In keeping with that theme, I looked at some sophomores who either took a step back this campaign (a polite way of saying “sophomore jinx”) or they have yet to really get things rolling in the NHL. Right now these players can be acquired for a quarter of the price their fantasy owner will ask for a year from now if (when?) they break out as third year NHLers.

Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins
There aren’t a lot of skilled wingers in the Penguins’ system, but as you know they aren’t lacking in skill up the middle. So for a first round pick such as Bennett, the opportunity is huge. However, he gets injured. A lot. If that turns into a trend we may never see this guy reach the 50-point mark. However, if it’s just a couple of setbacks early in his professional career, he could still be everything Chris Kunitz and James Neal are and then some.

Today, I would have trouble getting a good prospect straight up for Bennett in the keeper league I own him in. So I know his current value. But if he can stay out of the injury ward next season, his value will be sky-high in a matter of eight or 10 months.

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
Were it not for a broken hand, I think we would see Galchenyuk experiencing a second-half surge. His production is slightly down from his rookie year and he has so far been pretty streaky, but he’s the best all-round player from his draft class (third overall in 2012). Thanks to the time missed, he may not reach the 35-point mark this season. That usually pushes a player’s fantasy stock down. But I feel pretty confident he’ll top 55 points in 2014-15 with a breakout possibility of 65. Long term, he can be a point-per-game player.

Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
Granlund should end the campaign with around 45 points, but he’ll get 41 of them over his last 58 games (I’m not counting the game in which he played just 29 seconds). As soon as Mikko Koivu went down with injury, Granlund was able to really show his stuff. The added ice time and improved linemates have raised his stock significantly.

While Koivu will push him back to the second line next season, that line will play a much bigger role. His young linemates (potentially Charlie Coyle and/or Nino Niederreiter and/or Jason Zucker) will be better players and the line itself will see more ice time. Granlund is also shooting the puck more. Generally speaking, he’s been a set-up man at the NHL level, but in his past five games he has been credited with 20 shots on goal. He had just 54 in 41 games prior to that.

Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
It has been my experience that those rookies 21 years of age or older tend to experience sophomore slumps more than the rookies 20 years and younger. Schultz, 23, is in that high-risk group and his step backward this year (from 0.56 points-per-game to 0.46) is a one-off. Not only will he improve in 2014-15, but the team around him will take a step forward (you’d think anyway…can the Oilers keep taking steps back?).

He has played 100 NHL games and has 51 points. Not too shabby. That’s a 41-point pace over an 82-game season. I fully expect 50 points from him next year.

Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks
While many of his fantasy owners are wavering when it comes to Silfverberg’s potential, I’m not one of them. A broken hand further hindered what was already going to be a transition year. The Swedish League MVP (2012) has all the talent in the world to be a first-liner, but it will just take three or four years to show it. If it’s three, we’ll see a big step forward in 2014-15. Either way, pick him up for the cheap price he will come at right now.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

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