Chiding the Worldwide Leader + Three Legit Sleepers

Sleeper, my ass: ESPN.com lists Lighting C Steven Stamkos as a "sleeper." Do they believe their audience actually follows hockey?

Sleeper, my ass: ESPN.com lists Lighting C Steven Stamkos as a "sleeper," as if the first overall pick in 2008 were Steve the Obscure.

Is there anything more annoying in fantasy sportswriting than a sweeping generalization player labeled a sleeper who is not a sleeper?

When I write “sleeper,” I mean a player who is unlikely to be drafted.

I do not mean players like Lightning C Steven Stamkos or Rangers RW Marian Gaborik, who are on the sleeper list of ESPN.com’s experts. Gaborik, the third overall pick in 2000, scored 42 goals in 2007-08; he has been a point-per-game scorer for the past four seasons. How on earth is he a sleeper? Stamkos was the first overall pick in 2008. No, his rookie season was hardly The Crosby Show circa 2005-06. But pedigree alone puts  Stamkos on everyone’s radar.

A few days ago I participated in a 16-round live draft for a 12-team Yahoo! public league. Gaborik was the 22nd overall pick (Round 2, Pick 10). Stamkos was the sixth pick of Round 10. This alone disqualifies them from genuine sleeper-dom.

But enough kvetching about my dream employer the Worldwide Leader. I should be more positive; I should focus on quality sleeper content, such as this great list from Dobber. I should also provide my own list — guys you can safely nab in the last round. Each player here is ranked outside of the top 200 on both Yahoo! and ESPN.com; in addition, each player was not selected in the 16-round live draft I just completed:

1. Andy McDonald, C, St. Louis Blues. ESPN rank: 324. Yahoo! rank: 265.

  • Point-per-game track record (when healthy) and a rising team that might offset his biggest fantasy deficiency, the +/- category.
  • He could see time at LW, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. (David Backes would play C, David Perron at RW.) That would mean more goals (and more assists for Backes). In fantasy terms, LW eligibility would make McDonald an eminently valuable bench commodity in the Yahoo! format.

2. Willie Mitchell, D, Vancouver Canucks. ESPN rank: n/a. Yahoo! rank: 284.

  • Mitchell ranked ninth in the NHL — and fourth among defensemen — with a +29 mark. Despite this stellar stat, Mitchell does not crack ESPN.com’s top 72 defensemen. If you have the roster room for a fifth defensemen — the type of guy to keep around to ensure you reach games-played maximums — Mitchell is ideal for it.
  • Mitchell is no slouch when it comes to penalty minutes. He has exceeded 80 PIMs in four of his seven full seasons.

3. Steve Sullivan, LW, Nashville Predators. ESPN rank: 225. Yahoo! rank: 407.

  • He has been a point-per-game scorer in his last four seasons. He plays on a winning team, is an asset in the shots-on-goal category, and +/- has never been an issue.
  • He has two 40-assist seasons on his resume (1999-2000, 2000-01).

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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