Last week, the 2022-23 NHL schedule was released, much to the joy of hockey fans worldwide. For some, it represents a countdown to a new season filled with hope and opportunity. For others, it’s a chance to see everyone start with a 0-0-0 record. In the case of avid fantasy hockey participants, it’s a chance to embark on a new season.
With the start of NHL training camps in and around six weeks away, what better time to “get a head start” on your fantasy hockey teams and leagues by pinpointing a few “under-the-radar/overlooked” fantasy targets. Let’s dive in and meet this rendition’s trio of players.
Be sure to keep up with all of our NHL coverage.
Alexander Romanov, Defenseman, New York Islanders
First up on our list is Russian-born blue-liner Alexander Romanov. After being acquired by the New York Islanders in a trade from the Montreal Canadiens at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Romanov becomes the “shiny new toy” on Long Island. In addition, he has the potential to be a sneaky-good addition to your fantasy roster.
Last season in Montreal saw the 22-year-old Moscow, Russia native skate in 79 games. In that time frame, Romanov scored three goals and 13 points to go along with 20:24 worth of ice time. Known for his hitting and physicality, Romanov represents an intriguing player on the fantasy boards this fall. He’s young, agile, a good skater, and should see even more of an opportunity in the Islanders’ top-4 alongside the likes of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Noah Dobson. Early projections have Romanov slated on the second defensive pairing and in a key penalty-killing role. I’m a big fan of this kid’s upside, as he has all the makings of a fine, young blue-liner for the Isles. Romanov is certainly one to target in late-round drafts from a fantasy perspective. Happy drafting!
Ryan McLeod, Center, Edmonton Oilers
Next up is Ryan McLeod of the Edmonton Oilers. On a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl down the middle of the ice, you may be thinking, why him? However, McLeod is one of Edmonton’s prized youngsters, who carries a real savvy overall skill set. More importantly, this kid is poised for a big breakout season next year in Oil Country.
As a player, McLeod has scored at every level he’s ever played at. An absolute stud in junior with the Mississauga Steelheads and Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Oilers were beyond thrilled to secure his services at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The 2021-22 campaign saw the Mississauga, Ontario native skate in 72 games, tallying nine goals and 21 points in limited ice time (12:46). Long overdue for a “bump up” in responsibility and minutes, McLeod is ready to fully embrace an increased role in Edmonton’s middle-six forward group. So don’t hesitate for a second, fantasy hockey fans – target this player.
Frank Vatrano, Right-Wing, Anaheim Ducks
Rounding out our list is East Longmeadow, Massachusetts product Frank Vatrano. Fresh off a free-agent contract with the Anaheim Ducks, early indications are that Vatrano will be slotted in as the club’s second-line right-winger. His linemates? None other than talented centerman Ryan Strome and top prospect Mason MacTavish. This is excellent news for fantasy hockey gurus looking for an unexpected boost on their rosters.
As a player, Vatrano is a solid middle-six versatile forward who can play both left and right-wing. He’s quick, good around the net, shifty, and absolutely loves to score goals. In addition, Vatrano gets an excellent opportunity on an up-and-coming Ducks team. Playing alongside the likes of Jamie Drysdale, Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Cam Fowler, and the aforementioned MacTavish and Strome. Of course, this is music to the proverbial ears of fantasy players targeting Vatrano. Last season saw Vatrano score 18 goals and 32 points in 71 games split between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. Vatrano should be in line for a solid 20-25 goal campaign if he can stay healthy. Talk about a value pick-up and then some. Pick him up.
Follow Dom Lunardo on Twitter @DLunardoNHL1
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images