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5 Late-Round Bargains for your 2023 Fantasy Hockey Drafts

Planning and research build fantasy hockey championships. This week, we’ll look at options for those late-round bargains where the names will be no surprise, yet, their availability in the latter rounds of fantasy hockey drafts might be.

There are a slew of draft strategies out there that bring more questions than answers. How early do you draft a goalie? How many defensemen do you draft in the first 10 rounds? Do you put in place the zero-sum goalie strategy?  Do you draft the best player available until roster positions are full? These strategies and philosophical questions could be covered in numerous articles of their own.

There’s a saying in most fantasy sports that goes something like this, ‘You can’t win a draft in the first four rounds, but you sure can lose one.

No doubt it’s important you hit with the early picks in your fantasy draft. Yet, it’s more important you don’t screw up the second half of your draft.

Nailing your late-round picks is where championships are won. Late-round bargains can make others feel silly when they realize this player or that player was still available.

This is where research and preparation will separate the pretenders from the contenders. It’s not rocket science to pick Connor McDavid going first no matter the format. There’s little debate that Austin Matthews or Leon Draisaitl are also first-round picks. Or that Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin will be two of the earliest goalies drafted. Or Cale Makar is a late first or early second-round selection, and the first or second defenceman taken.

These are the accepted truths of fantasy drafts.

But what do you do with your late-round picks when options abound and those obvious picks are long gone?

Well, you have three options.

  1. Draft a rookie
  2. Draft your sleepers
  3. Draft late-round bargains

I’ll rarely recommend drafting a rookie in a one-year league. Too often you waste your picks and they’re dropped by game 10 of the regular season.

Sleepers are the lesser-known names that stand in line for a significant increase in production. Usually, they’re last year’s late-round rookies that someone dropped 10 games into the season after they were sent back to the CHL.

Both are fun, both bring risk with potential reward. Both will be covered in future articles.

Today, we’ll cover five late-round bargains for your NHL fantasy draft. These are known names that continually produce, yet for one reason or another, they slide deeper in drafts than they should.

Late-Round Bargains for 2023 Fantasy Hockey Drafts

Tyler Seguin – C – Dallas Stars

The prototype late-round bargain, his list of injuries over the past couple of seasons is significant: hip and knee surgeries, a broken foot in game 1 of the 2022 playoffs, and a laceration on his left leg from a Jordan Greenway skate in March 2023. There’s no shortage of injuries that have affected Seguin’s ability to produce to levels we’re accustomed to.

When there’s injury after injury it becomes difficult to decipher how much of his reduced production is due to decline and how much is limited physical ability due to limited health.

The last two seasons have seen a 30% reduction in his shots on goal. When a volume shooter loses 100 shots per year you’re guaranteed a significant decline in production.  He needs a return closer to his usual 3.8 shots per game (300+ per season) if he wants to break the 70-point threshold this year.

Last year, Matt Beniers won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year with 60 points. That’s above Seguin’s expected floor. Now consider the upside (70) versus your typical elite rookie ceiling.

The Dallas Stars are a deep team, boasting three legitimate scoring lines. The support is there, Seguin just needs a clean bill of health.

Blake Wheeler – RW – New York Rangers

It was an odd ending with the Jets. His buyout wasn’t due to plummeting production. Yes, it dropped to a 62-point pace over 82 games (55 in 72). Yes, at 37, his age is concerning; and that is exactly the reason you could find him available in the later rounds

It’s rare to see players over 35 put up 70-point seasons. It’s even rarer to see players 6’5”, 225lbs have big seasons. Can Wheeler defy ‘Father Time’ for one more season?

Aging players is like a draft’s kryptonite. They drop. They sit.

A couple of things to keep an eye on during the Rangers pre-season. First and foremost, watch Kappo Kakko’s and Alex Lafreniere’s deployment, if they finally see a bump to the second line and more ice time, Wheeler likely sees third-line minutes.

Alternatively, Blake Wheeler and his $800K salary push one of them to the third line and limit them for another year.

Where Wheeler ends up; second or third line, first or second powerplay; will significantly impact his production.

A repeat of last season’s 62-point pace seems likely. Yet, Wheeler’s steely, ‘all business’ approach and the Rangers’ desire to win, could bump him up the line-up and create a potential 70+ point bargain in a late round.

Joe Pavelski – RW – Dallas Stars

If you’ve noticed a theme, you’re right. (Veterans, not two Dallas Stars)

At 39, Pavelski is coming off back-to-back 77- and 81-point seasons and is another player that will succumb to ‘Father-time’ sooner than later. Whether it will be this year or not, and how hard he will be hit remains to be seen.

The cast around him gets better each year, which could minimize a decline by 10% or so.

Of the three names mentioned so far, Pavelski should be the first off the board. He’s been the most consistent and best producer, even if he is the oldest.

Barring injuries, he should give you 65 points with the potential to replicate last year’s total (77).

He’ll slide in drafts due to his age.  If you’re in the final few rounds and you’re deciding between a rookie (IE: Matthew Knies) or Pavelski, take Pavelski. He should handily outperform any rookie available in the late stages of a draft.

Andre Burakovsky – RW/LW – Seattle Kraken

It seemed a good time to shift gears and go younger.

Unlike the previous names, Burakovsky won’t last as late, or at least he shouldn’t.

Limited to 49 games last year, there’s a good chance he has slipped off some GM’s draft radars and draft boards.

Until Burakovsky landed in Colorado his career high in points was 45. He broke out to the tune of 61 in his lone year with the Avalanche. Showing this was no fluke he put up 39 in 49 games with Seattle in an injury-shortened season; a 65-point pace.

The Kraken are a fast-improving team. There’s no reason Burakovsky shouldn’t repeat that 65-point pace. If not improve and give 70 a run for the first time in his career. A real late-round bargain option.

Nick Schmaltz – C – Arizona Coyotes

He might be one of the most underappreciated point producers in the NHL.

Injuries limited him to 63 games in each of the last two seasons. This is why Schmaltz could be available in the later rounds. Injuries also limited his production to 58 and 59 points.

Fantasy GMs would view Schmaltz a little differently if he had back-to-back 75-point seasons versus 58 and 59. Which coincidently, was his 82-game pace for both seasons.

The Coyotes don’t draw a lot of attention in fantasy circles. Players drop an extra round or two due to wearing the ‘desert dog’ on their jersey. This perception can be used to your advantage.

The big thing to keep in mind with Schmaltz is the type of league you are in. The more peripheral categories you use, the less valuable Schmaltz becomes. He provides such limited peripheral coverage, I’m not sure he can spell it.

You get points and that’s it. He’s not a big hitter; 12 last year – not a volume shooter; barely 2 per game – and if you count face-offs, he’s not much help there with volume or percentage.

Know that you’re drafting a player that has a chance for a point-per-game season. Also know that expecting help in any other category will lead to disappointment.

Health is the only thing keeping Schmaltz from going four to five rounds earlier in most drafts.

If these names don’t come as real surprises well, that’s kind of the point. If you’re looking for lesser-known names you can pull out as bombshells or surprises in a draft, stay tuned, they’re coming.

That’s a wrap for this week, thanks for reading.

Give me a follow on twitter @doylelb4; where you’ll find as many hiking musings as you will fantasy hockey.

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