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2023 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers: Vegas Golden Knights

The five-year plan came to fruition. The Vegas Golden Knights are the 2023 Stanley Cup Champions. Shrewd planning and shrewd decision-making led to their crowning moment.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the only other team to make significant and frequent off-season moves. Combined, they have won three of the last four Stanley Cups. Perhaps, shrewd is the way to go. There’s a loyalty in Tampa Bay that doesn’t exist in Vegas, but I digress.

Cup celebration be damned, the Knights were shrewd once again. Reilly Smith, an original misfit, was traded to Pittsburgh two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup. This gave the Knights room to sign Ivan Barbashev to an extension.

Beyond that, the Knights are rolling back almost the exact same line-up as last season. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for rookies or players to move up the lineup. However, there is always hidden value to be found.

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2023 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers: Vegas Golden Knights

Nicolas Roy (Soft Breakout Candidate)

After back-to-back seasons averaging half a point a game, Roy seems primed to turn it up a notch. He’s at 233 career games, which is just past most player’s breakout threshold.  Roy, at 6’4″ fits into the ‘big-man theory’. If unfamiliar, the theory suggests larger players (over 6’3″ 215 lbs) and undersized players (under 5’9″ or 160 lbs) require more games to reach their potential. Their breakout threshold lies at 400 games played. If true for Roy, he is two full seasons away from truly breaking out.

Bigger players have broken out at the 200-game mark in the past. It’s not as if the 200-game marker doesn’t apply at all. It is more of a warning not to give up on bigger or smaller players. Tage Thompson, example number one.

The biggest roadblock for Roy is depth. Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, and William Karlsson all line up ahead of him on the depth chart. Perhaps Stephenson will move to the wing, allowing Roy to claim a spot on the third line. Regardless, ice time will be difficult to come by. He will need to take a large step forward and pressure Bruce Cassidy into moving him up the lineup.

A little more ice-time and a step forward and Roy will be staring down 55 to 60 points.

Pavel Dorofeyev

Very few Golden Knights draft picks get to play NHL games with them. Most are traded for more established players before they ever get the chance. He’s a sniper, plain and simple. He has a lethal NHL-ready shot.

Dorfeyev should also develop into a volume shooter. His 2.2 shots per game in only 14 minutes of average ice time is just a snippet of what to expect. There is a good chance Dorofeyev can land a second-line wing slot and run with it.

The sample size is small, only 18 games last year. Of note, Dorofeyev needs to clear waivers if he doesn’t make the team. There’s no way the Golden Knights will risk putting Dorofeyev through waivers.

A player with such limited NHL experience is a 50-50 bet to put up 25 points or put up 50 points. He could struggle over a full season. He could, just as well, score 30 goals and 50 points.

Paul Cotter

This is a deep sleeper. Cotter is unlikely to have enough impact in smaller leagues to be given waiver wire consideration.  For deeper pools, Cotter’s value is more tied to the volume of hits he provides, 168 in 55 games. This will draw owners to him, initially. He was on pace for 19 goals, so there is offensive potential.

He will be stuck in a bottom-six role, which means his offensive chances will be limited.  If you’re in need of hits, Cotter is a great depth option. The fact he could score 25 goals and hit 40 points makes him a good sleeper option. Even with limited ice time.

Nicolas Hague

It’s hard to expect much from Hague while he is getting 18 minutes a night and no power-play exposure. Even with the injury to Shea Theodore last year, he didn’t bump up to either power-play. It’s an uphill battle with Alex Pietrangelo and Theodore hogging all the prime real estate.

More is expected of Hague than what he has produced to date. It is time for him to move up the depth charts and push his ice time over 20 minutes per game. At age 36, Alex Martinez may start to switch off and give Hague 5-on-5 shifts with Pietrangelo. Vegas needs to find out if he can step up and handle big minutes.

He could very well double his production, from 17 to 35 if he can bully his way up the depth chart. Keep an eye on this one.

Thanks for reading. 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!

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