It’s the NHL-fantasy-draft-wisdom equivalent of that line in Moneyball where Jonah Hill’s character says, “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players; your goal should be to buy wins.”
In your fantasy draft, you’re also looking for wins. And you’ll get them by finding players who outperform their draft slot.
The three players below shouldn’t count as deep sleepers and are all well within our top 170 players (click here for our full top 250). But they are all coming off disappointing seasons and we’ve noticed them being ranked too low on rankings from other sites.
We couldn’t justify listing them with our draft-day sleepers, but we do want to put them on your radar because they have high potential to fall in drafts and return tremendous value.
RYAN GETZLAF, ANAHEIM DUCKS
SN Rank: 74
Position eligibility: C
Anaheim’s captain hasn’t had a 20-goal season since 2014-15 – he’s all about assists. So when the team around him crumbled last season and finished with only one 20-goal scorer (Jakob Silfverberg, 24), it made it next to impossible for Getzlaf to reach 50 assists a fourth consecutive season. With a little better injury luck in 2019-20, Anaheim should improve from their league-worst offence and Getzlaf is likely to return as a 60- to 70-point player.
From 2014-15 to 2017-18, Getzlaf was 21st in points and sixth in assists league-wide. He won’t be drafted that high this season because of built-in risk the Ducks do disappoint again, but if he keeps getting overlooked round after round he’s going to return value to some lucky owner.
NIKOLAJ EHLERS, WINNIPEG JETS
SN Rank: 51
Position eligibility: LW
If you just look at Ehlers’ raw end-of-season numbers, he might be an easy pass for you at the draft table. But let this guy fall too far at your own peril.
Ehlers’ goal rate actually continued on at a fairly consistent pace to his previous three seasons, scoring 21 times in 62 games on a 13.3 shooting percentage, which was slightly higher than career average. Given that, you may be inclined to believe his goals will slow without an uptick in shots – and that’s not an unfair assessment. But the more important factor to consider is that Ehlers is far more likely to see a rebound in assists.
He managed a career-low 16 helpers last season in 62 games, with just two secondary assists at 5-on-5. That’s a less predictive stat than primary assists, but as long as Ehlers continues to share the ice with another high-end player in Winnipeg’s top six, that total is far more likely to rise than not.
And this brings us to the crux of the case for Ehlers. If you believe Patrik Laine will a) work out a deal before opening night, and b) score with more consistency this season, Ehlers should in turn be on your radar for a bounce-back. The only part of his game that contributed to an underwhelming season was his assist totals, and assuming he returns to a line with Laine in October, success for the sniper will bring the same for Ehlers. And if Laine doesn’t sign (or is traded) rookie Kristian Vesalainen wouldn’t be a slouch replacement on the opposite wing. Don’t shy away.
IVAN PROVOROV, PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
SN Rank: 146
Position eligibility: D
The 22-year-old was tracking towards an absolutely explosive 2018-19, but it just never came to fruition. He got off to a bad start and, though his finish was better, it ultimately resulted in less-than-stellar scoring stats. That might be working against him in contract discussions this off-season, but don’t let it work against you taking him in your draft.
The thing about Provorov is he’s an elite point-getter from the blue line at even strength. Even in his disappointing 2018-19, he was top 50 in even-strength scoring among defencemen. He was top 30 as a rookie and cracked the top 10 in his breakout season. Despite being the Flyers’ second defence option on the power play, for whatever reason Provorov hasn’t figured out how to produce there yet. Once that unlocks (and it will), Provorov should immediately become elite, or close to it.
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With his great shot and that kind of output at evens, Provorov should give you a decent floor and is helped by the fact he’s a physical player who logs a good number of hits and blocked shots. It’s way more likely than not Provorov recovers from a down season of offensive output – and if he can finally convert the opportunity he has on Philadelphia’s power play (which could very well improve under Alain Vigneault) into points, Provorov will really reward someone who takes him later than he should be going.
Remember, he’s just one season removed from scoring 17 goals and 41 points – add even a decent level of man-advantage production, and look out.