Next up in our 2023 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers series is the San Jose Sharks. Would I be cheating too much if I just said, everyone? That is how it kind of feels this year. They weren’t a very deep team to begin with. After trading Brent Burns, Timo Meier, and Erik Karlsson, they’re as thin as they come.
Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture will produce regardless. Everyone else, well, that’s what we’re here to discuss. Let’s sift through one of the worst rosters in hockey and find some potential sleepers.
Fantasy Hockey Sleepers from the San Jose Sharks
Filip Zadina (BREAKOUT CANDIDATE)
The best thing that could have happened to Zadina, happened. Detroit traded him and he gets a fresh start. To date, he has not lived up to his draft-day promise of filling the net with goals.
After four years of disappointment and diminished returns, fans are talking about him as a bust. With lowered expectations and lost faith, Zadina becomes a prototypical sleeper. Eyes now focus on other players, younger prospects with more shine and appeal. Players that have shorter trails of disappointment.
This seems like a good time to point out that Zadina has 190 NHL games under his belt. He sits on the cusp of his breakout threshold. The only expectation of the Sharks is to be a bad team. This lack of a spotlight should remove pressure off Zadina. Good things can happen when a player relaxes.
Saying Zadina is in line for a career year is not a bold statement. His career high in points is 24. Hitting 25 won’t open a lot of eyes. Zadina should be primed to double that career high. Can he break 50 for the first time? Yeah, I think so. This should be the year Zadina enters into fantasy relevancy even if it is on the periphery.
It’s been four years since Hoffman produced a stat line worth noting. Not since his last season in Florida where he produced 29 goals and 59 points in 69 games. He lost ice time and more importantly, power-play time in his one season in St. Louis. Things never did click in Montreal. That’s a spotlight that is hard to endure.
He’s not the most dynamic offensive player. At 33, it is easy to write him off. As players age their shot is usually one of the last things to go. Hoffman has a really good shot and release.
Now that the spotlight is gone, the pressure of playing in Montreal is gone. He has always been a one-way offensive player that can’t or doesn’t want to backcheck. I can see San Jose taking the restraints off to boost potential deadline trade value.
San Jose should give Hoffman all the power-play ice time he can handle. If they do there is a good chance he pushes for a 30-goal season. Hoffman is way down or off most fantasy draft charts. If you’re not convinced Hoffman is a good sleeper option, staple him to your watch list. Be ready to scoop him off the waiver wire.
Labanc has turned into a curious case. He broke out as expected with 56 points in 2018-19. And then never capitalized on it. Since then he has held steady at .5 points per game.
Maybe, this is what Labanc really is. Four years removed from a 56-point season, it may be a career outlier rather than his expected ceiling. It was the year the Sharks made the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s an important note. Everything went right for the Sharks that year.
It’s hard to bet against a player who bet so heavily on himself. The following year he re-signed on a one-year, one-million dollar contract. Labanc drives possession. A lot of his play in the last couple of years has been in more of a shutdown role. As the team shifts into full rebuild mode he might see more offensive opportunities.
He should receive every opportunity to surpass 50 points for the second time in his career.
Who? Exactly! That’s why you’re here. Look, I covered Henry Thrun in a previous article looking at deep sleeper options here. Rather than rehash content you can click and read I thought I’d throw down a super deep option. You won’t find Gawanke in any fantasy preview magazine or publication. He is a legitimate off-the-radar sleeper.
Let’s back up a bit on Gawanke. Last year he played for the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Jets affiliate. He produced an eye-popping 20 goals and 45 points in 68 games as a defenseman.
This summer Gawanke signed a contract with Adler Mannheim of the German, DEL league. This prompted the Jets to trade him to the Sharks for Artemi Kniazev. It appears his signing in the DEL was in part, a request to the Jets to play him or lose him. So, they traded him. Shortly after trading him, Gawanke signed a contract with the Sharks.
Gawanke is clearly looking for an opportunity to play NHL games. Henry Thrun is his primary competition for the first power-play unit. There’s also Shakir Mukhamadullin waiting in the wings. However, he doesn’t project to be a very offensive defenceman.
Gawanke could very easily become the next T.J. Brennan or Derrick Pouliot. Great offensive AHL defencemen that couldn’t translate their game to the NHL. This is what makes him such a sleeper.
Rarely does this type of player land on a team so desolate of offensive options on the blue line. If can make the jump there’s no one in his way for prime offensive minutes.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it and found this helpful as you prep for your draft.
Follow me on Twitter @doylelb4; where you’ll find as many hiking musings as you will fantasy hockey.
Make sure to check out all of the sleepers and breakouts of the 2023 fantasy hockey season!