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NHL: 5 fantasy draft sleeper picks

10/05/2014 10:50 EDT | Updated 12/05/2014 05:59 EST
With the NHL season just a week away, fantasy owners are feverishly stats and roster lists before they make their final draft picks.

It is pretty clear which NHL stars will go in the first round. What's more difficult is finding those final round sleepers who could be the difference week-to-week.

Here are a few names you might want to keep your eye on.

As with any good team, build from the crease out:

Chad Johnson - Goalie

Chad Johnson has split time with several teams since being drafted by Pittsburgh in 2006.

The journeyman goalie spent three-years with the New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate, followed by a stop in the Phoenix Coyotes' system.

Johnson signed with Boston prior to last season and quickly became one of the most effective back-up goalies in the league.

In 23 starts, the 28-year-old went 17-3-3, posting a 2.10 goals against average and .925 save percentage, while averaging over 28 shots per game.

Following the Bruins' signing of 24-year-old goaltender Niklas Svedberg​ this summer, Johnson was the odd man out.

In July, Johnson signed with the New York Islanders, where he again will fill a back-up role behind recently acquired Jaroslav Halak.

But unlike in Boston, where there was no chance of taking over the No. 1 spot, there is a history of Jaroslav Halak struggling to secure the starters role.

If Johnson can repeat his performance from last year, and prove the stats were not just reflective of the defence corps in front of him, Johnson could be a strong contender to become a mid-season starter, especially if Halak stumbles.

Jake Muzzin - Defence

The Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup run was a coming out party for Jake Muzzin.

Not to say the 25-year-old was not already an important piece in the defensive lineup for the Kings, but Muzzin's play made him the latest household name on the L.A. roster.

Muzzin's 2013-14 regular season numbers do not jump off the stats sheet at first glance. But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear the defenceman is much more valuable than his five goals and 24 points indicate.

In his first full season with the Kings last year, Muzzin proved to be all about the possesion game. His Corsi stats were the best in the NHL among defenceman.

What is Corsi? It's an advanced metric that measures a teams combined shots on net, missed shots, and shots that are blocked. The point is to measure how many shot attempts the club is taking, versus how many its allowing.

In Muzzin's case, he was on the ice far more when his team was taking a shot then when it was allowing one.

This stat should inevitably reflect in his plus-minus statistics, especially when his defence partner, Drew Doughty, has the second best Corsi numbers among D-men.

Muzzin scored on just 2.9 per cent of the shots he took last year, which may turn some owners off. But that went up drastically when it mattered, as Muzzin found the back of the net 12.5 per cent of the time in the postseason.

If he can build upon that rate, and match or exceed his 2013-14 totals in hits (169), blocks (82), and shots (175), he'll be a very valuable fantasy defender.

Be sure to get in on the ground floor with Muzzin, because as Doughty has made known to whoever will listen, he wants to play with Muzzin for a very long time.

Dany Heatley - Left wing

Dany Heatley has been one of those players whose fantasy value has faded, and faded fast.

It has been five years since Heatley posted a campaign with any relevance to fantasy owners, and has not been a keeper since his 100-plus point seasons with Ottawa.

But this year could be different.

Heatley signed a one-year deal with Anaheim in the off-season, and quickly made an impact in his first-game on the top line.

The two-time 50-goal scorer netted a goal 48 seconds into the game, skating on the left side of Ryan Getzlaf, with Corey Perry on the other wing.

Of course it was just preseason, but it made a strong impression on his new head coach Bruce Boudreau.

The 33-year-old will no doubt get overlooked by many owners. His combined minus-30 rating over the past two season, paired with just 23 goals and 49 points in that stretch do not inspire much confidence.

But if he can play well enough to stay on the top line and the first power play unit, Heatley could see his tallies in goals, points, power-play points, plus-minus, and shots all trend upward.

The Ducks can only hope Heatley is the left-winger they have been trying to find to play with Getzlaf and Perry, who combined for 169 points, a plus-60 rating, and 484 shots.

If Heatley cashes in on some of that action, chances are he will not last long on the waiver wire.

Carl Soderberg - Centre

The cap-strapped Boston Bruins appear to have found an effective centreman to provide scoring depth from the third-line.

Carl Soderberg will begin his second full season with the B's, and is slated to see a larger offensive role with the team.

Soderberg was impressive in 2013-14, netting 16 goals and 48 points. The 6-foot-3 Swede was a force on the power play, tallying 16 points, third most on the club.

The creative and skilled play-maker will need to do more of that if the Bruins want to make another push for the cup.

Soderberg will be required to fill the void following the loss of 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla.

If Soderberg proves he can be a reliable source for scoring, do not be surprised if he is shifted to the wing. The Bruins are deep down the middle with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron filling the first and second lines respectively.

However, owners in fantasy leagues that use faceoff percentage may want to steer clear of the 28-year-old, as he won just 42.7 per cent of the faceoffs he took last season.

Jori Lehtera - Centre

If you have not heard of Jori Lehtera, get ready.

The 26-year-old Finn was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2008, and will finally make his debut with the club this season after signing a two-year deal.

The creative centreman brings a high skill-set to the Blues' third-line, and is known for being strong on the puck and having great vision.

Last season, the 6-foot-2 Letera, posted 12 goals and 44 points in 48 games with Novosibirsk Siber of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Lehtera is expected to centre Magnus Paajarvi and Vladimir Tarasenko, who he was a linemate with for an entire season in the KHL.

That familiarity, the Blues' balanced attack, and Lehtera's maturity has well-researched fantasy owners foaming at the mouth.

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