15 late-round gems
Jakub Kindl could have a surprising year with the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
15 late-round gems
I love the throw-away picks in the late round of a deep rotisserie league. You know, those picks where you're just filling your bench. Because these are pretty much your "free waiver wire" picks. All you’re doing is grabbing players you could get off the wire, without being charged a claim. These players are risk-free, because you can turn around and drop them in favor of the aforementioned waiver-wire pickup in a week or two.
Besides grabbing a third or a fourth goaltender (depending on scoring categories and the depth of the league), I'll add three big homerun swings. Whether I make contact and actually drill it over the fence, well, those times are rare. But they do happen and they always give a nice edge to whoever scoops them early. Here are some long shots for you to consider rolling the dice on:
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim - Vatanen is a smallish, talented, puck-moving defenseman not unlike Tobias Enstrom. And like Enstrom, Vatanen could make a big impact as rookie. Then again, he could be a part of the final round of cuts. The long-term injury of Sheldon Souray certainly helps, but at this point Vatanen will get between zero and 40 points. As with many of the other players listed below, you can fix this via the waiver wire pretty early…but take that home run swing and see where the ball ends up.
Ville Leino, Buffalo - Just reading the name probably makes you cringe. Although it's pretty clear that Leino is not a $4.5 million player (cap hit), he's not going to be dead weight for your fantasy team, either. Leino's first season in Buffalo left something to be desired, but he's better than a 25-point player and with his salary he's assured of choice linemates and ice time. If healthy, he'll surprise.
Nathan Gerbe, Carolina - The talented Gerbe has looked very good in camp and has always had the upside to put up points. But injuries have dogged his NHL career - often just when things are starting to roll for him. If his durability will allow for it, he'll take that next step.
Jakub Kindl, Detroit - Kindl has developed slowly in Detroit's system, but really, who hasn't? The Red Wings like to take their time with their prospects and more often than not the team has been rewarded for that. Kindl's ice time increased steadily last season and he could surprise with 35 or even 40 points.
Mark Arcobello, Edmonton - Centermen are dropping like flies in Edmonton, with both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner on the shelf. Arcobello enjoyed some chemistry in the American League last year with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Although the Oilers are trying Hall at center, it is entirely possible that Arcobello initially makes the team and starts off with talented linemates. You can always dump him after Week 1.
Bobby Butler, Florida - Butler is as much a potential 25-goal scorer as he is a potential minor-leaguer. The good news is - you can correct this draft pick in a couple of weeks via the waiver wire. But if he sticks, his forte is scoring goals. In pre-season, he has been used primarily on the third line, which isn't very promising. But again - low risk.
Magnus Hellberg, Nashville - To me, Hellberg is the perfect No. 4 goalie if you choose to carry that many. Rinne returned Sunday after a lengthy recovery from a hip injury. The No. 2 goalie is the unproven Carter Hutton. If Rinne has a relapse, there is reason to believe the Preds will turn to the talented Hellberg. Another option for similar reasons: Pittsburgh's Jeff Zatkoff.
Craig Smith, Nashville - The sophomore jinx is behind him and now Craig Smith can go back to being one of the three or four most talented forwards on the Predators. With enough ice time he can top 50 points, which is great for a player picked in the 22nd round of your fantasy draft.
Cal Clutterbuck, Islanders - Sure, he's sidelined with a leg laceration, but that's what the IR spots are for in your fantasy league. In fact, he may slip to those late rounds thanks to said injury. Draft him, stash him, and enjoy the unexpected production. He was linemates with John Tavares in Oshawa (Ontario League) and I have to think that he'll get a look on that line again.
Benoit Pouliot, Rangers - With Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan both sidelined, Pouliot will see the ice time early on. It should be enough to provide early points for your fantasy squad, but when one or both of those players return, the production could dry up quickly. That's the perfect role (and result) for a late pick.
Michael Raffl, Philadelphia - I like this prospect because he's a mystery. Most of my competitors don't know about him. Will he be a “fantasy bust?” Well, odds are that he will when you consider that most prospects become fantasy busts. And by “fantasy bust” I mean that he will never post 40 points in a season nor enough penalty minutes to warrant owning. But he has a bit of upside and he saw time on the Vinny Lecavalier line. I see some of that Matt Read versatility in him. He could surprise.
Matt D'Agostini, Pittsburgh - This is a waiver-wire pre-claim if I ever saw one. You take D'Agostini in the final round, stick him on your bench and leave him there for four or five weeks. If any of Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Chris Kunitz or Beau Bennett get hurt, your patience will pay off. If not, dump him.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay - The reigning AHL MVP should make this team and is almost a lock for 30 points this year, minimum. But he could see as many as 55, depending on his consistency. He may not last until the "bench rounds," so you may need to look at him closer to the 17th or 18th rounds, but Johnson will still be a steal at that point.
Mathieu Perreault, Washington - I think Perreault could be your No. 4 center during those weeks in which the Capitals play four games and your other No. 4 center's team may only be set to play three. Because his healthy scratches are behind him, he'll be able to find a rhythm and flirt with 40 to 45 points. But there will be several hot streaks - he can be quite streaky - and that would help you tremendously provided you play it right.
Michael Frolik, Winnipeg - So far in camp Frolik has been lining up on a scoring line and the results have been promising. In his last 136 games he has just 34 points, which should see to it that he slides to the deep rounds. But now that he's in Winnipeg, he should become a 20-goal scorer again like he was in Florida.
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