Tuesday, October 4, 2011

30 in 30: Top NHL Fantasy Sleeper Picks - Winnipeg Jets

It’s almost time for those annual fantasy hockey drafts. While most drafts feature the same players going in the first two rounds, it’s those players that you take in the mid-late rounds that will win you your league. Here’s the last of the thirty players that could be great sleeper picks in your draft this year.

Ondrej Pavelec – Winnipeg Jets
Position – Goaltender
Height – 6’3”
Weight – 220
Drafted – 2nd Round, 41st Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft
2010/2011 NHL Stats – 58GP, 21W, 23L, 9OTL, .914Save%, 2.73GAA

The Winnipeg Jets could be one of the bigger sleeper teams in the NHL this season. After playing in front of a near empty arena in Atlanta, the team has now moved north and will be playing in front of a very loud 15,000 fans every night in Winnipeg. How much of a difference the crowd makes remains to be seen, but it’s safe to assume that it will only help the team that finished last season 12th in the Eastern Conference and 20th in scoring and 29th in defense. It’s in the category of goals against that the Jets will be greatly improved in this season.

The Jets starting goalie will once again be 24 year old Ondrej Pavelec. What will help Pavelec this season is the great blue line that he has in front of him. The Jets defensive group includes Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, and Randy Jones. Not too bad of a group to have playing in front of you. Plus the Jets have Charlie Huddy as an Assistant Coach this season who will work hard to improve the team defensively. He had a similar role last season with the surprising Dallas Stars.

Pavelec had a rough start last year when he collapsed during a game on October 8. After his health scare he came back to start the majority of the games for the Thrashers and finished the season with a respectable .914 save percentage. According to a recent article in The Hockey News, Pavelec has been working on his conditioning in the off-season in hopes of being better prepared for this season. He’ll need to be prepared as the Jets are going to have a god-awful travel schedule since they’ll be playing out of the South-East Division. If the Jets can stay within the playoff hunt in the East (which they should easily be able to do), Pavelec could get you quite a few wins and will be a great fantasy option in goal this season.

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