It’s important to make the most of your top picks in Fantasy drafts, but it’s also crucial to find value in the later rounds. Identifying sleepers, players poised for breakouts, and rookies set to have key roles can help tremendously in that regard. I won’t be covering players who will be in the running for the Calder Trophy here. However, the majority of the players on this list have tremendous upside thanks in large part to improved situations and increased roles expected to come their way in 2022-23.
Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers
Trocheck accounted for 21 goals and 51 points in 81 games for Carolina last season. It marked the first time he’s hit the 50-point plateau since 2017-18 when he exploded for 31 markers and 44 assists in 82 matches as a member of the Panthers. Trocheck will have an excellent chance to get back into the 60-70 point range in 2022-23 after signing a seven-year, $39.375 million contract with the Rangers this offseason. He’s slated to center a line alongside Artemi Panarin at even strength following Ryan Strome‘s departure in free agency, and he should also land a spot on the team’s top power-play unit.
Tyler Toffoli, Calgary Flames
Toffoli finished the 2021-22 season with 20 goals and 49 points through 74 games. He generated 11 goals and 12 helpers in 37 appearances with Calgary after being acquired by the Flames in a trade with Montreal in February. Toffoli logged most of his ice time on the second line with Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, but he’s slated to skate with Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm on the top line in 2022-23. That increased role could lead to a career-best campaign for Toffoli.
Jakub Vrana, Detroit Red Wings
Vrana has been a goal-scoring machine since being acquired by Detroit from Washington in 2020-21, having found the back of the net 21 times in 37 outings with the Red Wings. Unfortunately, he missed 56 games last season following shoulder surgery. The Wings’ improved their forward depth this offseason with several free-agent additions, which could lead to additional competition for power-play time, but Vrana’s spot on the second line should remain secure. Vrana’s offensive instincts make him a potential breakout player this year, and he may fly under the radar a bit because of the time he missed last season.
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers
Bouchard filled the stat sheet during his first full season as an NHLer in 2021-22, registering 12 goals, 31 assists, 112 blocks and 80 hits in 81 matches. Bouchard also ranked eighth among defensemen last year with 205 shots on net. His power-play time may be somewhat limited behind Tyson Barrie again this campaign, but his multi-category contributions make him a great option for Fantasy managers.
Artturi Lehkonen, Colorado Avalanche
Lehkonen notched 19 goals and 38 points in 74 games last season. He picked up nine points, including six markers, in 16 appearances with Colorado after he was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline. Lehkonen also added eight goals, including four game-winners, and 14 points in 20 playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup championship. He mostly played with Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri during the postseason, while logging some minutes with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon as well. Lehkonen has been back with MacKinnon and Rantanen during training camp. With Landeskog set to miss the beginning of the year due to a lower-body injury, Lehkonen could also find himself on the top power-play unit early on.
Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
Heiskanen still hasn’t reached the 40-point mark in a single season despite teasing Fantasy managers with six goals and 26 points through 27 games during the 2020 playoffs. He stands a great chance to fulfill his intriguing scoring upside in 2022-23 following the offseason departure of John Klingberg, who signed with Anaheim as a free agent. Heiskanen should see an increase in offensive opportunities, including a hike in power-play time this year. Additionally, he brings solid category coverage to the table when it comes to shots on goal and blocks. Heiskanen finds himself in a great position for a long-awaited offensive breakout this season.
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jenner was well on his way to a career year in 2021-22 before he was sidetracked by a back injury. He sat out the final 23 games of the season due to the ailment, but before hitting the sidelines he racked up 23 goals, 21 assists, 160 shots on net, 56 blocks and 80 hits in 59 appearances. Jenner’s multi-category coverage makes him an intriguing option for Fantasy managers heading into 2022-23. His Fantasy value will also improve significantly if he manages to earn the top-line center role between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. Jenner is expected to get the first crack at that role, but he could face competition from Jack Roslovic and Cole Sillinger.
Seth Jarvis, Carolina Hurricanes
Jarvis made an impact during his rookie season in 2021-22 with 17 goals and 40 points in 63 appearances despite averaging just 13:53 of ice time per game. His playing time increased down the stretch and in the playoffs, and his role with the Hurricanes is expected to expand even further in 2022-23. The fact that offseason addition Max Pacioretty is projected to be sidelined until at least February after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles only further supports that notion. Jarvis spent most of his playing time with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen last year, and that is unlikely to change this campaign. With Pacioretty set to be unavailable for most of the season at a minimum, Jarvis should also see more time with the man advantage.
Ondrej Palat, New Jersey Devils
Palat signed a five-year, $30 million contract with New Jersey after playing the first 628 regular-season games of his career for Tampa Bay. He also piled up 138 career playoff appearances as a member of the Lightning. Palat is expected to take on a leadership role with the developing Devils and is slated to play alongside Jack Hughes, who is a breakout candidate this season, in the team’s top six. Palat could also see time with New Jersey’s top power-play unit.
Gustav Forsling, Florida Panthers
Forsling reached new personal bests in goals (10), assists (27), points (37), shots on goal (145), blocks (86) and hits (45) in 71 games during the 2021-22 season. He also tied for the sixth best plus-minus rating in the league last year at plus-41. Forsling is expected to take on a larger role in 2022-23 after MacKenzie Weegar was dealt to Calgary in the offseason. He’s slated to move up to the top pairing alongside Aaron Ekblad. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 26-year-old blueliner’s statistics improve across the board for a second straight campaign.
Other potential sleepers/late-round gems: Alex Tuch (Buffalo), Elvis Merzlikins (Columbus), Vince Dunn (Seattle), Phil Kessel (Vegas), Max Domi (Chicago), Connor Brown (Washington), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Seattle), Nick Schmaltz (Arizona)