Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

It can be said that this area of fantasy sports is where we separate the contenders from the pretenders. The ability to identify and draft bargains who turn into fantasy gold are what make fantasy sports fun for a number of passionate fans. Finding sleepers takes muscle memory, research and some luck, but it is worth the extra effort. Injuries usually have a major impact on the sleeper category, whether it be for a returning player who might now be flying under the radar or for an opening due to injury that could lead to someone else's big breakthrough. Here are 20 sleepers to keep an eye on for this season:

1. James Reimer, G, Panthers

While the 29-year-old puck-stopper might still be considered the backup to veteran Roberto Luongo in Florida, Reimer is primed to take over the starting role this season. Luongo's bad hip may make this a non-contest.

2. Shea Theodore, D, Golden Knights

One of the prize acquisitions by the expansion franchise this off-season, Theodore is one of the organization's most talented young assets. He stands a good chance of becoming Vegas's power-play quarterback in '17-18.

3. Colin Miller, D, Golden Knights

If Shea Theodore does not lead the Golden Knights from the back end with the man advantage, it will probably be Miller (a very good offensive D-man). There is likely not enough fantasy value available for BOTH rearguards.

4. Timo Meier, LW/RW, Sharks

The Sharks lost long-time veteran Patrick Marleau in the off-season, who usually played left wing with either the Joe Thornton unit or the Logan Couture line. Power forward Meier is a good bet to land one of those two gigs. 

5. Michal Neuvirth, G, Flyers

It seems Neuvirth's name has been appearing on the list of sleepers since he entered the National Hockey League! Now 29, Neuvirth will compete with vet Brian Elliott for starts this season. Advantage Neuvirth.

6. Connor Brown, RW, Maple Leafs

With so many elite rookies on Toronto's roster last season, it is easy to forget about the second wave. Brown appeared in every game in '16-17 and produced a 20-goal campaign. He should only get better in Year 2.

7. Phillip Danault, C/LW, Canadiens

The Canadiens were expected to land a true No. 1 center this off-season but it never happened. As a result, Danault could reap the benefits. His trustworthy play may land him a gig alongside newcomer Jonathan Drouin.

8. Jaroslav Halak, G, Islanders

Left for dead last season when the Islanders decided to go with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube, Halak dominated the AHL and found his way back to the big league. The veteran will challenge Greiss again.

9. Sven Baertschi, LW/RW, Canucks

His first two seasons in Vancouver have been a mixed bag, and injuries have taken a bite out of his production. That said, the talented Swiss winger might be at the perfect age to finally bust out with a career year in '17-18.

10. Evgeny Dadonov, RW/LW, Panthers

Gone from the Panthers are veteran wingers Jaromir Jagr, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Jussi Jokinen. That may be bad news for Florida hockey fans but good news for newcomer Dadonov, a slick winger.

11. Mike Condon, G, Senators

In his first two NHL campaigns, the 27-year-old Condon has had to replace Carey Price (injury) in Montreal and Craig Anderson (person reasons) in Ottawa, with a pit stop in Pittsburgh in between. He weathered the storm.

12. Joel Armia, RW, Jets

The Jets are blessed with loads of young forwards, but few have Armia's all-around upside. Injuries cut his sophomore campaign short in '16-17, but he should become an important piece to the puzzle this season.

13. Nathan Beaulieu, D, Sabres

It was a bit surprising that the Canadiens gave up on Beaulieu in the off-season, let alone their decision to trade him to a division rival. With a new lease on life in the NHL, the talented blueliner may make an impact in Buffalo.

14. Steve Mason, Jets

Consistency continues to elude Mason, which is why he is now with his third NHL organization after stops in Columbus and Philadelphia. He will challenge the younger Connor Hellebuyck for playing time in Winnipeg.

15. Jordan Weal, W/C, Flyers

Were Weal's 12 points in 25 NHL games last season a fluke, or the start of his burgeoning talent finally paying dividends? The Flyers will probably give him a legitimate opportunity to prove himself and he could surprise.

16. Nic Petan, C/LW, Jets

There are not many openings up front with the Jets, so Petan may not even be in the NHL when the regular season commences. However, his offensive talent should not be ignored. He may make an impact with ice time.

17. Matt Benning, D, Oilers

The Oilers may sorely miss veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera, who would often play on the team's first power-play unit. Oscar Klefbom should take over for Sekera, with Benning seeing time on the second unit--at least.

18. Gustav Forsling, D, Blackhawks

Chicago was expected to upgrade their blueline this summer, but instead traded away stalwart defender Niklas Hjalmarsson and lost Brian Campbell (who retired). Forsling may emerge as a top-four rearguard this year. 

19. Evan Rodrigues, C/W, Sabres

Buffalo is looking for consistent center play behind Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel, with Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Rodrigues among the candidates to win jobs. The latter can also play wing, which helps him.

20. Tim Heed, D, Sharks

The Sharks are looking to replace David Schlemko on the third defense pairing. While Dylan Demelo may be the favorite to see the most minutes, do not sleep on Swede Heed. The 26-year-old is too talented to ignore.