Fantasy hockey sleepers: Mattias Ekholm, Jonathan Drouin and more hidden gems

Every fantasy manager wants to have a trick up their sleeve later in the draft — a low-risk pick with high reward potential. That’s where sleeper picks come in.

There’s not an exact science to spotting them, but our jumping off point for this exercise was a low roster percentage. To even be considered for this sleeper list, we only looked at players under the 30-percent roster threshold on Yahoo right now. 

Mattias Ekholm, D, EDM | 28% Yahoo

Ekholm’s game isn’t super flashy, but he’s all-around effective. That was true on a struggling Predators team, and a fast-paced Oilers club post-deadline — Edmonton proved to be an excellent landing spot for him. Alongside Evan Bouchard, a defenseman who brings a ton of shot volume, expect five-on-five scoring. While Ekholm probably won’t help you on the power play, he’ll chip in with other categories that defenders tend to be leaned on for. This is a stable, late-round pick to bolster defensive depth.  

Connor Brown, RW, EDM | 26% Yahoo

Considering its performance bonus structure, the Brown signing has the potential to be one of the most cost effective from the 2022-23 offseason. Between his rush-based approach and play-making ability, the forward has a lot of pop in his game. The big question is whether there’s a rust factor to worry about. But time in the Oilers’ top-six could help shake that off sooner than later. This is someone who shouldn’t be underestimated, especially if he ends up playing alongside his former junior teammate Connor McDavid for any stretches this season. 

Michael Matheson, D, MTL | 24% Yahoo

The #BadTeamEffect can be real. While we don’t recommend looking for depth players on a team projected to finish low in the standings, those in pivotal roles can have a lot of value. That’s the case for Matheson, who was solid on both ends last year at five-on-five, and a fine PP1 quarterback. With a healthy Cole Caufield, there’s a better chance of him picking up some points on the advantage. 

Andrew Mangiapane, LW/RW, CGY | 19% Yahoo

A coaching change couldn’t come soon enough in Calgary. The offense was suppressed and the vibes were off throughout the lineup, so Mangiapane’s one of a few skaters in line for a rebound. If he can build off his breakout season in 2021-22, expect a lot of rush-based goals from the skilled winger. 

Jonathan Drouin, LW, COL | 15% Yahoo

While there’s some flaws in his game, Drouin’s shown that he has high-end skill. With a team as stacked as the Avalanche, he should be in an ideal position to maximize his strengths and mask any weaknesses. That’s even more true if he ends up on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon, who had an influence on this free agent signing. Colorado has the space for Drouin in the top-six, he just has to maintain minutes there. 

Sam Montembeault, MTL, G | 13% Yahoo

If your league doesn’t count wins, or you’re simply not worried about that one category from a second or third goaltender, then Montembeault could be a solid option. The Canadiens kept him busy last year, but he stood tall against such a challenging workload. If he can show that season wasn’t just a fluke, he could push for more starts and really emerge as the team’s 1A this year.

Anthony Beauvillier, LW/RW, VAN | 12% Yahoo

Throughout his carer, Beauvillier’s struggled with consistency. But he got off to a solid start in Vancouver alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko, and that could be a recipe for success moving forward. The trio generated 59 percent of the expected goals share in their minutes and outscored opponents at five-on-five. If that’s a sign of what’s to come, he should be a solid producer worth adding late in the draft. 

Charlie Coyle, C, BOS | 11% Yahoo

The Bruins haven’t made any big additions down the middle yet to replace Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in the lineup. Coyle’s a player who is going to benefit from that, as it should solidify him down the middle of the top-six. A likely landing spot is alongside Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk, assuming Pavel Zacha shifts to center to skate alongside David Pastrnak. If that’s the case, he’s very likely in for a scoring boost. 

Matias Maccelli, LW, ARI | 8% Yahoo

Maccelli’s quietly effective rookie season makes him a player to watch, especially as the Coyotes improve around him with the arrival of Logan Cooley and free agent signing Jason Zucker. Some power play opportunities and potential top-six minutes with some of the Coyotes’ top offensive threats should help build on his impact. The one drawback is that he’s not the most frequent shooter, but he has a direct impact on the team’s offense with his primary passing. 

Anton Lundell, C, FLA | 7% Yahoo

Lundell’s developing into Aleksander Barkov Lite and could have himself a breakout season if he plays more meaningful minutes. Maybe he could solidify himself as the team’s 2C, which would mean minutes with Matthew Tkachuk. If not, that adds value back to Sam Bennett, who can chime in with secondary scoring and a physical edge. 

Thomas Novak, C, NSH | 6% Yahoo

With Andrew Brunette behind the bench, the Predators should have more offensive flair this season. That bodes well for players who started to pop despite the team’s style last year. Novak was a highlight, even post-Filip Forsberg injury in Nashville. In 51 games, he netted 3.45 points per 60 in all situations — ranked 20th in the league — showing how efficient he was in his minutes. At five-on-five, his puck-moving abilities helped add some pop to the team’s typically bland rush-based game. That’s something that should only grow under new leadership. 

Joel Hofer, STL, G | 4% Yahoo

This may be the biggest stretch of these sleeper picks because, as it currently stands, Hofer is a backup goaltender. But Jordan Binnington isn’t the most reliable starter, only making the position more volatile than it already is. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Hofer starts pushing for playing time. In deeper leagues, he could be a very sneaky late add. For everyone else, maybe he’s just a player to keep an eye on in the early goings of the season.

Yegor Sharangovich, C, CGY | 3% Yahoo

After a solid 2021-22, Sharangovich simply wasn’t very fantasy relevant last year. But a trade to Calgary may change that, especially if he ends up slotting on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm. If he moves down the lineup at all, his value will subsequently decline because he’s not much of a play-driver. But top-six usage should make him a secondary scorer on any team’s roster. 

Honorable mentions: Evan Rodrigues, Ryan Johansen, Kent Johnson, Gabriel Vilardi, Logan Cooley, Josh Norris, Dmitry Orlov

Data via Evolving-Hockey, HockeyViz, AllThreeZones, and NaturalStatTrick. This story relies on shot-based metrics; here is a primer on these numbers.  

(Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

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