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Alex Steen and Our Top 8 Playoff Sleepers

OK, fantasy hockey players, the playoffs are just about upon us. On Sunday night, the final regular season games will be played and the 2013 Stanley Cup tournament will open early next week.

For hockey fans and fantasy players alike, the post-season is the best time of the year. In most cases, it’s a brand new fantasy season as would-be general managers get to draft new players onto teams that were probably pretty lousy during the regular season (after all, there are more losers than winners in the fantasy world).

Winnipeg's Cody Eakin, Washington Capitals

Winnipeg’s Cody Eakin, Washington Capitals

However, the key to winning playoff fantasy games, office pools and money drafts is not necessarily knowing who led the league in scoring but who just might surprise everybody during Lord Stanley’s two-month tournament.

It’s great if you know Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Kane are the Top 5 scorers in the NHL this season. What makes you a winner, however, is knowing which one of, say, Patrik Berglund (152), Nathan Horton (153), Andrew Cogliano (154) or Cody Eakin (156) will explode in the playoffs (Frankly, Horton is the most likely).

Of course, you also have to determine which teams will play the most games and score the most goals in the playoffs and that’s not always easy.

For the sake of today’s little argument, we will assume the 16 teams that are in the playoffs today will remain in the playoffs for the final week of the season. Sure, Winnipeg in the East and Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix in the West still have high hopes of grabbing the 15th and 16th spots, but if the post-season started today none of those teams would be participating.

So here we go, a look into the future: Our projection for the Top 8 “Sleepers” in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs (if we’re right, we’ll be rich by the end of June).

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders: My favorite non-star heading into the playoffs. Bailey was hurt earlier in the season and missed 10 games. As a result he has 10 goals and eight assists in 35 games this season, 199th in the league with 18 points. But he’s 23 and a former first round draft pick (ninth overall) of the Islanders who is getting 25 shifts and nearly 19 minutes of ice time. On Saturday in Winnipeg, he had a goal and an assist playing on a line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. This is the best player with the fewest points in the NHL and think about this: If there is any team that will surprise in the post-season, it’s the young, determined Islanders. This is a sleeper team full of sleeper players.

Alexandre Burrows, RW, Vancouver Canucks: He’s played every game for the Canucks this season and has 13 goals and 11 assists. He shows up on the fifth page of NHL scoring stats in 121st spot, but he’s a plus 16 and plays 19 minutes a game. He’s a sleeper with a huge upside.

Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild

Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild

Charlie Coyle, RW, Minnesota Wild: In 33 games this season, 21-year-old rookie Charlie Coyle has seven goals and three assists. Those are not big numbers. However, the former first-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks is playing as much as 19 minutes a game. He’s a guy that will be on no one’s radar in your playoff hockey pool. But if you’re looking for a sleeper, a guy who plays as much as Coyle could be a good, cheap investment.

Michael Grabner, LW, New York Islanders: The 25-year-old Austrian who was once a first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks has only 21 points this season and is 164th in scoring. But he has 16 goals. I watched him score his 16th on Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg and it was a goal-scorer’s goal. He gets 20 shifts a game and he’s always around the net. As we said with Bailey, the Islanders could be the sleeper of the playoffs. Taking sleepers off the sleeper could win you some money.

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

Former Jet Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

Teemu Selanne, RW, Anaheim Ducks: Yes, that’s right, 42-year-old Teemu Selanne is a playoff sleeper. He’s 138th in scoring this season with 11 goals and 12 assists but he still plays 16 minutes a night and has taken 90 shots in 43 games. With a goal-scoring history like his, he’s hard to ignore.

Brandon Saad, LW, Chicago Blackhawks: Every day, he gets closer to being my choice for NHL rookie of the year. The 20-year-old from Gibsonia, Pa., has 10 goals and 15 assists and is a terrific plus 15. He’s a great checker with good hands and is always around the puck. He has two game winners, plays 22 shifts a game and gets an average of 16:30 in ice time per game. Sure, he’s 115th in scoring, but he plays for the Blackhawks. He’s going to play for a long time.

Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg’s Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

Alexander Steen, LW, St. Louis Blues: He has played only 37 games this season so some members of your playoff draft might ignore him for that reason alone, but this is a guy with only eight goals, but three game-winners. He has 19 assists for 27 points in 37 games and gets 28 shifts and 19 minutes of ice time. He might be the best seven-goal scorer in the NHL this year.

Jarret Stoll, C, Los Angeles Kings: After 44 games, he has only seven goals and 10 assists, but he plays almost 17 minutes a game on a team that should go deep into the post-season. The Kings are, after all, defending champions. In last year’s playoffs, he had five points in 20 games and yet played a lot. In 2010-11, he had a 20-goal season for the Kings. He’s one of those guys who just might be the surprise of the spring. He’s a sleeper that is unlikely to be taken by very many players and could be worth the chance.

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