You already know about the Yakupov’s.Kreider’s and Granlund’s, but let’s take a look at some sleeper rookies who could fare well in the right situation. The right situation meaning the optimal circumstances for success their first full season in the NHL, not the only situation where they can be productive. I’m not saying one of these guys will win the Calder, just that they could surprise.
Torey Krug, D, Bruins
The Right Situation- Dougie Hamilton doesn’t make the team, and Krug does. Krug has good power-play skills, and will certainly see time with the man-advantage when he does arrive in Boston. He had 83 points in 114 career games at Michigan State, but must prove he isn’t too small to take on NHL forwards.
Brandon Pirri, C, Chicago
The Right Situation- Pirri wins a spot in the Blackhawks’ top six out of training camp. The fact that the Blackhawks didn’t add a second-line center, a team weakness the past two seasons, means one of two things: either thay are comfortable moving Patrick Kane there permanently (unlikely), and they are hopeful that a young player such as Pirri or Marcus Kruger will take the job and run with it. Pirri had 56 points in 66 AHL games last season, and was a confident playmaker. He also added two assists in five games with Chicago.
Peter Holland, C, Anaheim
The Right Situation- Holland wins a spot in the Ducks’ top six. In a similar situation to Pirri, in that it appears that there is a job to be won for the 21-year-old. Holland had 60 points in 71 games in an impressive rookie season in the AHL, and was rewarded with four games with the Ducks, netting his first NHL goal in that time. With Getzlaf and Koivu healthy, Holland would have to move to the wing to play on one of the top lines, but should at least make the team and is a good keeper pick.
Jeremy Welsh, F, Carolina
The Right Situation- One of the Canes’ top six gets an injury.While you can’t (and don’t want to) bank on an injury, Welsh will probably make the team or be on standby in Charlotte in case that happens. Regardless, if your league counts hits and penalty minutes, Welsh may be worth a spot on a deep keeper roster. He plays a mature, two-way game and is quite physical. Dobber talks about him more in the Guide, so get it now if you haven’t already.
Paul Postma, D, Winnipeg
The Right Situation- The Jets move Dustin Byfuglien up to forward for power-plays. Also not too likely to happen, because the Jets love Buff’s big shot from the point, but his big body and good hands in front of the net are nice to have as well. Postma is a talented defenseman who has scored double-digit goals in each of his three AHL seasons, and had 84 points in his last junior season with the Calgary Hitmen. The 23-year-old is NHL-ready, and should make the team and put up nice numbers anyway, but he won’t hit his peak for a few years.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado
The Right Situation- Barrie makes the team, and Stefan Elliott doesn’t. That would be the ideal situation for Barrie owners, but really all he has to do is make the team and he will get offensive opportunities. The Avalanche ar dearth of offensive defenseman, with Erik Johnson being the only one besides the two youngsters. That makes it all but guaranteed that at least one of Barrie or Elliott makes the team.
Leo Komarov, F, Toronto
The Right Situation- Komarov adapts quickly and develops a chemistry with either Grabovski or Bozak in the pre-season. The Leafs aren’t exactly deep at forward, and the 25-year-old is a veteran- of the KHL. Komarov doesn’t seem to mind a physical game, and if isn’t bothered by the smaller ice surface he could surprise.
Scott Glennie/Reilly Smith, F, Dallas
The Right Situation- Make the team. I include them together because I think the only way they make the team is if they play a regular shift, and I don’t think both will. However, both have outstanding offensive potential and could use another offensive-minded wing, a need that was addressed by adding Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr. Both would be great mentors for a young scoring wing.
Obviously, there are several more possibilities, which is why I enjoy the pre-season so much. Watching rookies battle for spots and seeing the deep sleepers make their way onto a NHL roster is what it’s all about.
Feel free to leave me a question, or you can send them to me via Twitter @RichDillon17 if you’d like.