4 fantasy hockey breakout candidates
Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Players available in the middle of a fantasy hockey draft who will greatly exceed expectations are just as important as the valuable sleepers in the later rounds.

Targeting players who are on the radar of most managers in your league by picking them a round or two ahead of where their career production dictates is a major key to fantasy success.

Here's a look at four players who could have breakout campaigns in 2018-19 and should be available at reasonable draft slots.

C/LW Alex Galchenyuk, Coyotes

The No. 3 pick from the 2012 NHL Draft was finally granted his freedom from the Montreal Canadiens after a trade, and he should instantly play a massive role for the Arizona Coyotes.

The 24-year-old Galchenyuk enjoyed a solid season in 2015-16 with 30 goals and 56 points. But he hasn't even hit the 20-goal mark in either of the two seasons since, and his shooting percentage dipped to a career-low 8.9 in 2017-18. Galchenyuk has never averaged more than 16:30 of ice time per game over a full campaign, and he's constantly been switched between the wing and center.

He'll battle with Derek Stepan during the preseason for the first-line center role in Arizona. The recent addition of winger Vinnie Hinostroza through a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks provides the Coyotes with sorely needed depth on the outside.

Galchenyuk ranked second among Canadiens' forwards with 240:01 of power-play time last season, totalling a team-best 24 points. Both of those figures exceed those of Stepan, and should provide the new addition with further fantasy opportunities.

LW/RW Pavel Buchnevich, Rangers

Buchnevich took a tremendous step forward in his sophomore season, playing in nearly twice as many games and more than doubling his rookie-year point total. His shooting percentage dipped to a more reasonable 10.3, but seeing just shy of an extra two minutes of ice time allowed him to register an additional shot on goal every two games.

The Rangers' thin forward depth should give Buchnevich an inside track to play on the top line beside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. He'll either be the focus of the second power-play unit or work the point on the top squad.

Losing J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, and David Desharnais since the trade deadline leaves 342 shots on goal from last season to replace. There will be plenty of chances for Buchnevich entering the third and final season of his rookie deal.

D Darnell Nurse, Oilers

Nurse has steadily progressed since being the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft.

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound defender showed some signs of offensive upside during the 2017-18 season, registering 194 shots on goal. He ranked second among Oilers skaters while averaging 22:15 of ice time per game, and only Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom fired more shots on target.

Had he been able to match his 5.9 percent shooting rate from the previous season, Nurse would've tallied 11 goals last year. He did, however, record 20 assists, largely as a result of playing with McDavid at even strength. Increased time with the man advantage, and some team success after the Oilers ranked just 20th in goals last season, should allow Nurse to approach the 40-point threshold.

C/LW Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blue Jackets

Dubois' ceiling is strongly tied to the whereabouts of Artemi Panarin in 2018-19. Panarin has been included in trade rumors following a report that he's not ready to sign an extension with the Blue Jackets.

Dubois finished third in team scoring as a rookie last season, behind Panarin and defenseman Seth Jones, despite trailing the two by averages of 3.5 and eight minutes of ice time per game. He's projected to serve as the top center this year with Panarin and Cam Atkinson filing in beside him.

If Panarin is traded for nothing more than draft picks and prospects, Dubois should be able to greatly improve on his rookie success. He'd likely be asked to take on a large share of replacing the 228 shots on goal left behind by Panarin, and push for a 30-goal season while riding his reasonably sustainable 12.1 shooting percentage in 2017-18.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

4 fantasy hockey breakout candidates
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