Talking Fantasy Hockey Sleepers With... Batman

USA TODAY Sports

My subconscious managed to combine fantasy hockey and the Dark Knight himself. Naturally we decided to talk sleepers for 2013-14.

I spend too much time thinking about fantasy hockey – I mean WAY too much time.

As a result it’s starting to permeate through all parts of my life, including my subconscious. A couple of nights ago I dreamt that Batman and I, yes Batman, were sitting at a bar discussing fantasy hockey and what to look for this upcoming season.

I’m guessing that all the hoopla over Ben Affleck being chosen to play the role in next year’s Man of Steel sequel forced him to the forefront of my mind, where it mixed with thoughts of my fantasy roster.

I want the record to show that when I dream of Batman he is played by Christian Bale – even in a dreamlike state I can’t fathom Affleck as a capable superhero.

Keep in mind that I was asleep, so forgive me if I don’t remember the whole conversation. I know I was drinking a beer and Batman was sipping on a Shirley Temple cocktail, which at first struck me as an odd juxtaposition, but then I remembered he could be called out on a moment’s notice to wrangle in some hoodlums.

Turns out he has some interesting thoughts on fantasy hockey and the KHL.

Me: Batman! Taking a night off from protecting the streets eh, I’m prepping for the fantasy hockey season. Can you spare some time to talk shop?

Batman: Tell me who your sleepers are, then you have my permission to drink

Me: Whoa, I don’t really want the beer to get cold. But hey, who I am to argue.

This year there are a couple guys I’m targeting who have fallen under the radar, especially in yahoo. Nashville's Patric Hornqvist only played in 24 games last year, but put up 14 points and 87 shots (3.6 per game). Impressively, he has shot over 260 times two of the past four seasons (three if you count his 82 game pace last year - 297 ). 260 shots would put him in the  league’s top 20, 290 however, would put him in the top seven. If Patric can combine those shot totals with 50 points and a plus rating he’ll be a valuable roster player in most formats. Yahoo has him O-ranked at 245.

Batman: It’s not the team a man plays on, but what he can do that defines him

Me: Well put sir. I imagine Hornqvist goes unnoticed on a lot of draft boards because Nashville is rarely in the national spotlight.

Volume shooters can be difficult to find outside of the elite producers. In 2011-12 only six players recorded more than 300 shots. Only 20 surpassed 260,  with 30 finishing with greater than 240. Because shots obviously lead to goals, there is strong correlation between shooting and goal scoring. While guys like Hornqvist or Callahan or Vrbata aren’t generally considered elite players, they all shoot a reasonable amount while chipping in for your goal and assist categories.

As a general rule I find it easier to nab a point producer from the waiver wire as opposed to a shooter. I’ll target volume shooters with lower point totals to round out the bottom of my roster. There is such a limited supply of them.

Batman: Batman has no limits

Me: I don’t know, unless you are counting different categories - You must have some limits? Probably can only make one or two waiver claims a week in your format. Using those moves wisely is critical to success.

Batman: Well, can’t afford to know them

Me: Can't afford to know your league settings? It feels like you’re just regurgitating quotes from past films essentially out of context, man. Anyway, bringing it back to my sleepers.

Another guy I've had my eye on is Milan Michalek. He comes with injury baggage in recent years (66, 77, 77, 23 games played). However, he was relatively healthy as a Shark earlier in his career, meaning some of his band aid boy status may be overblown. In 2011-12, while on the top line, he produced 35 goals, 60 points and 212 shots. If he can skate there again this year there is no reason to think that 55 points, and close to 200 shots isn’t attainable. He is O-ranked at 250 in yahoo, meaning that the cost of acquisition will be low.

Make sure to monitor the health of Jason Spezza and his wonky groin, as his health will tie directly to Milan’s value. Maybe have Alfred checking Roto World with regularity.

Batman: A goal scorer can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as tapping in a crisp saucer pass from Spezza to let his teammates know the game hasn’t ended.

Me: Agreed. There are worse places to be than on Jason’s right wing.

One team that might end up full of potential sleepers is the New Jersey Devils. Their offence is a bit of a mixed bag, but there is fantasy value to be had.

Patrick Elias is one year removed from 78 points (29 on the power play) and 164 shots. I know, he is 37 years old, but he’ll once again be skating on the first line.

Michael Ryder seems to be undervalued annually, but he’ll also be playing in their top six. He’s scored over 30 goals on three occasions, and will be a threat for 200 shots as a primary option. It’s not unrealistic to aim for 55 points and 190-200 shots.

Corey Schneider has been my dark horse goalie pick all summer and has looked incredible in the pre-season (stopped 79 of 80 shots). Sure the games don’t mean a ton, but all reports are indicating he could be in for a nice season. Martin Brodeur’s swan song will hurt his total starts, but his skilled categories (GAA and Save%) will be fantastic. If you can survive the tandem approach this year he’ll be a top 10 option heading into next season and one of my favorite options in keeper pools.

Batman: Where is Kovalchuk!?!

Me: Wait, you didn’t hear about that whole debacle?

Batman: Where is Kovalchuk!?! Where is he!?!

Me: He’s gone, left for the KHL, playing for SKA Saint Petersburg

Don’t tell me you owned him? I did too. It was a sad day when he left. At the start of 2012-13 I sent Jamie Benn, Jonathan Huberdeau and draft picks for Dan Boyle and Kovalchuk. Him leaving for Russia left a huge whole in my keeper core. Star players leaving for the KHL is now a real consideration for poolies.

Batman: Today is the day Alfred gets to say "I told you so"

Me: Alfred knew about Kovalchuk? Interesting.

Similar to Ryder, another forward that is a perpetual sleeper is Florida’s Tomas Fleischmann. He was well known in Washington (playing on a team with Ovechkin, Green and Backstrom will do that). Since signing a four year, $18 million dollar contract in 2011 he has increased his production as a Panther.

In 2011-12 he suited up or all 82 games, ending with 61 points, 22 on the man advantage, and 217 shots. During the truncated lockout season his 82 game pace was 60 points and 207 shots.

The addition of Tim Thomas and continued evolution of Barkov and Huberdeau could help buoy Fleishmann’s numbers. At 29 years old he may even have some latent keeper value in deeper pools. He inexplicably has an average draft position of 163 in yahoo.

The past two years he’s done everything offensively for that team.

Batman: Not everything, not yet

Me: Are you saying you expect him to take another step forward? Or are you afraid he has essentially reached his ceiling offensively?

Batman: I’m not afraid, I’m angry

Me: I really don’t want to get roughed up by Batman in a dream, especially over the long term potential of a mid round guy like Fleischmann. If it’s going to go down let’s at least make sure it’s over Crosby or something.

Batman: (Heaving breathing combined with menacing glare)

Me: Listen. I don’t know what you’re getting your cape all twisted for. I really think there is value to be had with those sleepers, Hornqvist, Michalek, Ryder, Elias, Schneider, Fleischmann, all of them, I swear!

Batman: SWEAR TO ME!

Me: (Wakes up trembling in bed – immediately throws out Batman pajamas)

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