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Fantasy Hockey: Olympic Draft Sleepers

Last week I suggested you add a bit of fantasy fun to your Olympic experience by staging an Olympic pool draft with some of your hockey buddies.  I outlined some key strategic considerations that might give you an edge on your competition on draft day (See “Olympic Fantasy Draft Strategies”).  Among other topics, I mentioned players that were first round must-haves, elite picks.

Now it’s time to talk about the players that don’t get as much attention, but could be difference-makers for their country in Sochi... and for you and your Olympic fantasy team.  Here are my top-5 Olympic fantasy sleepers (based strictly on possible point production).

1-      Alexander Radulov (RW) – RUS: Remember him?  He’s the problem child that got himself unceremoniously kicked out of the NHL because of his blatant lack of off-ice discipline.  Regardless, the guy has undeniable offensive skills.  He’s produced 165 points in 131 KHL games over the past 2-and-a-half seasons.  He also proved his worth in international play with a 5-5-10 showing in 8 games at the last World Championships.  He will benefit from playing on a Russian squad that has the most dynamic group of forwards in the tournament.  Take advantage of everyone else forgetting just how good a scorer Radulov really is.

granlund2-      Mikael Granlund (C) – FIN: At only 21 y/o, this is one of the hottest players in the NHL at the moment (5-game point streak, 2-6-8).  His confidence is booming just in time for the biggest stage of all.  And this kid loves big stages (remember the “postage-stamp” goal during the 2012 World Championships?).  The Finns drew the only group (Group B, along with Canada) that will feature 2 teams with non-NHL goaltending.  Those two games versus Austria and Norway should be stats builders for Finland’s top offensive guns and I believe these Olympics will be Granlund’s coming out party.

3-      Joe Pavelski (C) – USA: Quietly having a stud of a season with the Sharks, Pavelski has been as consistent a point producer as there is in the NHL.  The Americans are relatively weak down the middle and even though he’s played mostly RW this season, there is little doubt that Little Joe will be cast as the U.S.’s top pivot.  If that means centering top wingers and NHL mates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, Pavelski could be vowing for the tournament scoring lead in a Group A that features weak defensive teams (Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia).

4-      Marek Zidlicky (D) – CZE: The 37 y/o veteran will represent his home country for the 10th time as a pro in Sochi.  His stats over the past two Olympics: 12-4-6-10.  If you believe in track record, that should be enough to get your attention.  If you need more data, just look at the type of bounce-back season he’s having with a mediocre offensive squad in New Jersey (55-8-21-29, +3).  Then consider that his Czech teammates Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias and the evident chemistry they’ve developed will be a huge advantage in a short competition like the Olympic tournament.  Zidlicky is a proven PP quarterback and although the Czechs lack overall depth, they do have all the elements of a deadly top PP wave.

pietrangelo player page5-      Alex Pietrangelo (D) – CAN: Duncan Keith and Shea Weber should man the points on Canada’s top PP unit, but the Canadians are the only team in the tournament with enough depth to ice a second unit that can match the top one.  Pietrangelo is an elite offensive defenseman who will benefit from the still elite offensive skill present on the second wave of the Canadian man-advantage.  He’s already proven he can thrive with the extra ice the international surface provides.  The 24 y/o produced 15 points (4-11) in 12 career games over two World Junior Championships and another 5 points (2-3) as a pro in 7 games at the 2011 World Championships.  He should also be well served by the familiar partnership with NHL teammate Jay Bouwmeester.