Every year a few players fly under the radar and end up being just as beneficial to your fantasy teams as some top round selections. Here at Illegal Curve, we bring you five ‘sleeper’ picks who have the potential to breakout for this upcoming season.
F Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabers
A frequent call up last year, Stafford became a force in Buffalo’s offense, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in 41 games. Had he been an everyday starter last year, the young forward would have surely made more noise, seeing as how he registered 16 points in the Sabres’ last 17 games. Finishing the season strong, Buffalo rewarded Stafford with a spot on their playoff roster giving the young forward some much needed playoff experience. With top players, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury no longer on the team, Stafford will be given an increased role, and has the chance to breakout playing within Buffalo’s high powered offense.
F Scottie Upshall, Philadelphia Flyers
Beginning last season on Nashville, Upshall only appeared in 14 games before being shipped off to Philadelphia in the trade that brought Peter Forsberg to the Preds. Buried on Nashville’s depth chart, Upshall had trouble cracking the lineup and only ended up playing a total of 77 games for the club that drafted him sixth overall back in 2002. In Philadelphia, Upshall came to a team that was dead last in the league and was looking for any positive way to finish off the season. Instantly gelling with Philly’s young talent, Upshall provided a scoring boost, recording 9 points in his last 12 games with his new club. Signing a two year deal in the offseason should give Upshall more confidence as he begins his fresh start in Philadelphia.
F Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabers
After announcing that he would be out indefinitely to begin last season, some owner in your fantasy league probably thought they were really smart by using a late round pick to grab the forward, hoping that he would pay dividends come mid-season. Unfortunately for them, Connolly only played two regular season games last year, as it took him an entire season to recover from post-concussion syndrome. Healthy enough for the playoffs, Connolly recorded four points in eight games while averaging over 15 minutes per contest. Entering this year at full strength, Connolly should see plenty of ice-time as he looks to regain his 2005-06 form, where the former sixth overall pick scored 55 points in 63 games played.
F Alexander Radulov, Nashville Predators
Radulov was Nashville’s first round pick back in 2004 and after tearing it up in the QMJHL, the dynamic Russian forward finally cracked the Pred’s starting lineup last year. A pure goal scorer, Radulov collected 18 goals and 34 points in 64 games played with the club. What also should be noted is that Radulov was plus 19 last year, third best on Nashville. With Steve Sullivan out indefinitely due to back problems, and the organization’s many losses to free agency, look for the Preds to lean on Radulov a lot more to begin the year; this should result in a significant increase in points for the young star.
F Kyle Wellwood, Toronto Maple Leafs
Wellwood started last year on fire, scoring 11 points in the first month of the season. Slowly emerging as a legitimate center, Wellwood went down with a slew of injuries over the next few months and only appeared in 48 games last season. Nonetheless, the young forward managed to rack up 42 points giving him a new career high. If Wellwood is able to stay healthy for the entire year, a 65-70 point season is not out of reach.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Jonny Remis