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Five Fantasy Hockey Sleepers for 2019-2020: Centers


The primary goal in any fantasy hockey draft is to maximize value at every pick. As a fantasy owner works through the early rounds of the draft, the difference in the players available on the board can be somewhat insignificant. Most of the league's top scorers (like Nathan MacKinnon or Sidney Crosby) come with a fairly high floor – making draft pick decision-making considerably easier. However, it always comes down the work put in during the later rounds of the draft that separates the league champions from the rest of the pack. As a result, those that can identify cost-efficient, hidden value at the back-end of drafts are the ones that have the best shot at making noise throughout the season.

Over the course of this week, RotoBaller will be featuring a series of articles called "Five Fantasy Hockey Sleepers" that will focus on the talent you don’t want to miss towards the end of your draft. We will provide five highly undervalued players for each position that should be on your draft list as you make your later selections.

Today, let's take a look at the deepest position in fantasy hockey: Center.

As you're prepping for your drafts, make sure to check out RotoBaller's Consensus Fantasy Hockey Rankings:

 

Five Fantasy Hockey Sleepers: Center

Dylan Larkin (DET - C) - ADP 124.9

Headlining our sleeper center piece is a guy who's current lack of love from the fantasy community is mostly due to his presence on an expected bottom-dwelling team in 2019-2020. Is his laughable ADP justified? I don't think so. Fresh off a career-best 73-point season, Dylan Larkin has established himself as one of the game's premiere fantasy centers. Not only did the 23-year-old eclipse the 30-goal mark last season but he proved to be a valuable contributor across the board. The Michigan native checked in at ninth in the entire league with 287 shots on goal, added a healthy amount of power-play points (15) and posted over a hit-per-game (80 hits).

Bonus stat: he racked up 75 penalty minutes for those in leagues rewarding trips to the sin bin. The concern is not totally misguided as the lack of surrounding pieces will likely lead to a minus-rating (-6 last season) but it also means he's locked on his team's top line and first power-play unit (21:50 average time-on-ice in 2018-2019). Entering his fifth NHL season, Larkin will only continue to evolve both offensively and in his own end and should be labeled as a bonafide steal if he falls into your lap in the 12th round in a 10-team league.

Mathew Barzal (NYI - C) - ADP 134.6

It's not a secret that Mathew Barzal failed to meet the lofty expectations he set for himself following his stellar 85-point rookie campaign. Barzal's 2018-2019 season was your prototypical "sophomore slump". The 22-year-old's point total took a dramatic hit - 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) and he seemed to struggle with the transition to new head coach Barry Trotz' ultra-defensive system and new role as a top-line center. With a second full NHL season under his belt, Barzal serves as an excellent bounce-back candidate.

He possesses absolutely electrifying, game-breaking talent, soaks up top minutes at even-strength and on the man advantage and will adjust to seeing the oppositions top defenders on a nightly basis. The British Columbia native might not rack up peripherals (179 shots, 25 hits) for your fantasy team but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better natural scorer than you can with Barzal in the 11th round. Don't sleep on this budding superstar - Barzal's point production in 2018-2019 might serve to be the outliar.

Vincent Trocheck (FLA - C) - ADP 143.9

There will be a time in which fantasy hockey owners don't undervalue Vincent Trocheck but that time sure hasn't come yet. Stuck on the draft board until the 143rd pick (14th round in a 10-team league) in standard Yahoo! leagues, this cross-category monster has the ability to change the outlook of your draft in one pick. After missing 27 games last year due to an ugly knee injury, the 26-year-old Trocheck wasn't quite healthy enough to replicate his break-out 75-point (31 goals, 44 assists) 2017-2018 campaign. Despite that, he still posted a respectable 35 points (51 point pace) and filled peripheral categories as per usual with 158 shots, 112 hits, 54 PIM's and 13 power-play points.

Following a long summer to rehabilitate and get stronger, the seventh-year NHL'er should be a more consistent scoring threat playing in a dangerous top-six forward group in Florida. Given the fact that Trocheck has been fairly injury-prone prior to last season - played a full 82 games two prior years - I think we can expect him to return to 60+ point, 15+ power-play point, 225+ shots and 150+ hits range. If does, you're getting a potential top-25 player in a standard Yahoo! format.

Ryan Johansen (NSH - C) - ADP 171.8

With the Predators landing prized free-agent center Matt Duchene over the summer, Ryan Johansen talk has been at an all-time low. With Duchene's getting PAID to come to join the Preds this past summer, many expected Johansen to take a backseat at the second-line center. And while that may be a threat down the line, head coach Peter Laviolette has preached his desire to keep the Johansen-Forsberg-Arvidsson trio together on the top line. As if that's not good enough news for Johansen's fantasy stock, the 27-year-old looks primed to retain his spot on the top power-play unit as well (with Duchene serving as a net-front-presence).

As a result, Johansen can be considered a must-own fantasy asset - sitting in the free-agent pool in more than half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues (43% ownership).  Johansen is coming off his second most productive NHL season yet, having posted 64 points (14 goals, 50 assists), a plus-seven rating, 95 hits and 16 power-play points in 80 contests last season. The 6-3' playmaking center has proven to consistently produce stout cross-category production and seems like a no-brainer selection in the latter rounds of fantasy drafts.

Roope Hintz (DAL - C,LW) - ADP 172.2

You didn't have to be a Stars fan to quickly learn the name "Roope Hintz" last spring. The young, explosive forward put his name on the map with multiple highlight-reel goals throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs, bursting onto the scene with eight points (five goals, three assists), 27 shots and 16 hits in 13 playoff contests. The 6'3", 215 pound center carries a unique blend of speed, power and high-end skill and combined with his production, has locked down a spot in Dallas' strong top-six forward group.

With an ability to play on both the left wing and up the middle, Hintz multi-position eligibility is an added bonus to be able to slot into fantasy lineups. The Finnish native looks poised to take another step forward in 2019-2020, building upon the final quarter of last season in which he posted 13 points, 50 shots, 29 hits in 20 games. The former second-round draft pick should be in line for a 50+ points, 200+ shots, 100+ hits in his first full season in Dallas - making him worth more than just a late-round flier.

 

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