While nailing your early-round draft picks is a vital part of building a winning Fantasy team, picking up players in the later rounds that go on to outperform their draft stock is arguably equally important. Here's a list of players that will likely be overlooked on draft day that could go on to have excellent 2023-24 campaigns.
Pavel Zacha (BOS)
The Bruins will undoubtedly take a step back this year as a team after setting an NHL record with 64 wins last year, particularly when factoring in the losses of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement. However, those losses should lead to a major opportunity for Zacha, as he's poised to start the season centering the team's first line and top power-play unit. Zacha had his best season yet with 21 goals and 57 points last year while being limited to middle-six usage, so another career year for the 26-year-old forward in 2023-24 seems more likely than not at this point.
Connor Brown (EDM)
Brown's stay with the Capitals was short-lived -- he appeared in just four games with Washington before tearing his ACL last year. He signed a one-year deal with the Oilers this summer and it looks like he'll be stepping into a major role with his new team, as he's been skating on Edmonton's top line alongside his former teammate with OHL Erie Connor McDavid. If he can hold on to that role throughout the 2023-24 campaign, it wouldn't be surprising to see Brown set new career highs across the board this year.
Gabriel Vilardi (WPG)
Drafted No. 11 overall by the Kings in 2017, Vilardi finally seemed to be figuring things out in 2022-23, setting career highs in goals (23), assists (18), power-play points (nine) and shots (122) while averaging 15:36 of ice time through 63 contests, but he was nonetheless shipped to the Jets in the trade that brought Pierre Luc-Dubois to LA in June. That may have been the best thing for the 24-year-old Vilardi, as it looks like he'll be seeing first line and top power-play usage right out of the gate with his new team in 2023-24. He's struggled to stay healthy in the past, but if Vilardi can shake the injury bug this year, he could break out.
Jakub Vrana (STL)
Most will likely be overlooking Vrana on draft day, and for good reason – he's been limited to just 51 games over the past two campaigns, picking up 35 points over that span. However, there's reason to be optimistic heading into 2023-24. Vrana started 2022-23 with Detroit, appearing in just five games before entering the player assistance program. He was then dealt to St. Louis at the trade deadline, and he made the most of the opportunity, racking up 10 goals and 14 points through 20 contests with his new team. Vrana may not produce at quite the same clip this year, but if he's able to stay healthy and in the lineup, he could easily outperform his later-round draft stock.
Filip Chytil (NYR)
Chytil has largely been limited to third-line usage through the first six seasons of his career, but it looks like that's about to change in 2023-24, as the 24-year-old pivot has been centering the Rangers' second line alongside Artemi Panarin during training camp. Chytil set new career highs in goals (22) and assists (23) last year, and with better usage alongside better players this season, he could threaten the 60-point mark.
Jonathan Drouin (COL)
Aside from a pair of 53-point seasons he's sprinkled in, Drouin's NHL career has largely been a disappointment since he was drafted third overall by the Lightning in 2013. However, now with the Avalanche and with Gabriel Landeskog set to miss the entire 2023-24 campaign with his knee condition, Drouin looks like he'll get an opportunity to skate on Colorado's top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, at least to start the year. If he's able to hold on to that assignment throughout the season, Drouin's production will almost certainly jump dramatically, an enticing prospect for a player available in the late rounds of Fantasy drafts.
Sean Durzi (ARI)
Following a trade from LA to Arizona this summer, Durzi's role is expected to grow significantly in 2023-24. Still just 24 years old, Durzi picked up nine goals and 38 points, 16 of which came on the power play, last year while averaging 19:47 of ice time through 72 contests with the Kings. Although he'll now be skating for a lesser team in the Coyotes, his increased usage should more than offset any decrease in production caused by his less-talented teammates. He put up 16 points while skating on the Kings' second power-play unit last season, a number he should easily surpass while quarterbacking Arizona's No. 1 unit this campaign.
John Klingberg (TOR)
Klingberg had a bit of a disappointing year in 2022-23, tallying 33 points through 67 games split between the Ducks and the Wild. However, the 31-year-old Swede signed a one-year deal with the Maple Leafs this summer, and he appears poised to open the season skating on the team's formidable No. 1 power-play unit. If Klingberg's able to stick in that role throughout the campaign, he could threaten his previous career high in power-play points of 23 set with the Stars in 2017-18.
Rasmus Sandin (WAS)
Sandin started the 2022-23 campaign in Toronto, picking up a lackluster 20 points in 52 games while averaging 17:59 of ice time, but a trade deadline deal to the Capitals led to his production skyrocketing the rest of the way, as he went on to rack up three goals and 15 points through 19 contests while averaging 22:59 of ice time with Washington. Four of his helpers with the Caps came while skating on the team's No. 1 power-play unit, a role he'll no longer be filling on a full-time basis with John Carlson, who was out with an injury, back in the fold. However, Sandin should see top-pair minutes at even strength and time with the second power-play unit, putting him on track to have his best season yet in 2023-24.
Cam Talbot (LOS)
Talbot's sleeper value is more about opportunity than anything else – his play last year (17-14-2, 2.93 GAA, .898 save percentage) with the Senators didn't exactly inspire confidence. However, with Jonathan Quick, Joonas Korpisalo and Cal Petersen all now with different teams, Talbot will only have Pheonix Copley to compete with for playing time. Copley's record last year (24-6-3) was outstanding, but his peripherals (2.64 GAA, .903 save percentage) behind a strong Kings team weren't great. Talbot has proven to be a rock-solid goaltender in the past, so if he's able to outperform Copley early on, he could earn the lion's share of the starts for an LA team that should win a lot of games this year.
Logan Thompson (VGK)
While many will have their sights set on playoff phenom Adin Hill when trying to secure a piece of the lucrative Golden Knights goaltender room, Thompson could easily perform just as well, if not better than Hill in 2023-24. Thompson was rock solid as a rookie last year with a 21-13-3 record, a 2.65 GAA and a .915 save percentage, and if Hill falters or suffers an injury this season, Thompson's Fantasy value will jump dramatically.