The 2017-18 NHL season is just over a month away. And to get ready the guys at Ridin’ Pine got together and put together a list of dark horse candidates for your NHL fantasy pools or daily fantasy games. You’re welcome.

Any one who plays NHL fantasy will know that you win and lose games by those dark horse pick. Those players that are rarely taken and constantly overlooked.

These players provide some cheap and much-needed production. They’re the ones that generally make or break that head-to-head matchup on a Yahoo! pool or put you at the top of that DraftKings tournament.

Everyone knows that taking Sidney Crosby or Conor McDavid is a good idea. But it’s once you’ve added those players, how do you use the rest of your roster or cap space efficiently? How do you maximize your roster?

You take any of these ten players. They’ll put up points and give you some love in other stats that will bump you up in the standings. More importantly, you’ll look like a genius for doing it.

Sam Gagner – Vancouver Canucks

Sam Gagner had a great season for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17. Signed to a single-year $750,000 deal he was also the steal of the season.

After a terrible 2015-16 season in Philadelphia, Gagner was bought out and many thought it would be the end of Gagner’s NHL career. But in 81 games with CBJ, Gagner put up 50 points.

Of those 50 points, 18 of them came on the power play. Looking over his career Gagner has four seasons where he’s put up 15+ points on the power play. There’s no reason to doubt that newly appointed Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green won’t put Gagner on the Canucks first or second PP unit.

Remember this was a team that languished at 29th in terms of PP efficiency last season with 32 goals on 227 opportunities for a terrible 14.1% efficiency.

Nolan Patrick – Philadelphia Flyers

Rookies are always poorly rated. No one knows what to think of them because we just haven’t been able to establish what they can do at an NHL level. Putting up 100 points in junior doesn’t mean a prospect will succeed once in the NHL.

But in Philadelphia Nolan Patrick is going to have a chance to shine. The Flyers already dealt Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera and a second round pick. Opening up the Flyers second line to be manned by their second overall pick in 2017.

And Patrick is going to have a chip on his shoulders. He went through the 2016-17 as the consensus no.1 pick in the draft. It almost seemed laughable to think of any other player being drafted ahead of him. And then the New Jersey Devils take Nico Hischier in Patrick’s anointed spot.

Sure he was injured and that’s ultimately what did him in. But Patrick isn’t going to dust this off and accept it. He’s going to prove he should have been taken first overall.

We often discredit these things as trivial. “Whatever. He was drafted. Why does he care?!” Trust me. Players care about going first overall. It’s a big deal.

Mark Stone – Ottawa Senators

There isn’t anyone better than Stone at stealing the puck from opposition players. And while takeaways aren’t counted outright in any H2H format, it does help pad the shots column. And ultimately the goals and assists columns as well.

Last season was Stone’s worst in terms of production and he scored 54 points. 2017-18 is going to be a bounce back year for Stone. Hitting North of 60 points shouldn’t be an issue for him. His down year in 2016-17 might just turn some off from taking Stone. I wouldn’t.

Derek Stepan – Arizona Coyotes

Why take a guy who’s playing in Arizona? It’s not like they put up a ton of points. Well, they didn’t this year might just be different. With Derek Stepan, they finally have a number one center in the desert. And a great linkup player to defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

It seems that Stepan has been in the league for years, but he’s only 27-years-old. He’s still got a ton of hockey left in him. He hasn’t scored below 45 points since his rookie year. Centering him around outstanding young talent like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Dylan Strome could pay some fantastic dividends.

Scott Darling – Carolina Hurricanes

After seasons of getting some of the worst goaltending in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes had enough. So they traded for pending free agent Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks.

In his few seasons in the league, the 6’6″ goalie will look to show his career 2.37 GAA and .923 SV% isn’t a product of his environment but rather his own doing. If Darling pans out he’ll get a number of starts to boost your goalie pool. And if you find yourself scrambling for a goalie after the first few round, look no further than Darling.

Ryan Pulock – New York Islanders

If you need some cheap and unheard of defense than the Islanders rookie blueliner is your man. He absolutely dominated the AHL last season with 46 points in 54 games.

Pulock has a fantastic point shot and is absolutely devastating on the power play. Something the New York Islanders struggled with last season. Pulock is going to get plenty of opportunities and plenty of points for the Isles. And no one’s even heard of him. Well, no one outside of Long Island that is.

Johnathan Marchessault – Vegas Golden Knights

The Florida Panthers were completely uninterested in protecting their 30 goal scorer from the 2016-17 season. They didn’t even try to make a deal with Vegas. Instead, living with the fact that they’ll lose a player with 30 goal potential making less than a million on the cap. Mind blowing.

So Vegas gets a free NHL level 30 goal scorer for their first season in the NHL. You know that Gallant and McPhee will do everything they can to get him to produce at that clip again. He’s not a name that will be taken in the first few rounds of any draft. But in the mid round, it will be well worth a shot.

Travis Hamonic – Calgary Flames

The will they won’t they trade dance with the New York Islanders and Travis Hamonic finally ended this offseason with a trade to Calgary. Hamonic gets to head back to Western Canada and be close to family, and the Islanders get a first round and two second round picks from the Flames in return.

Hamonic didn’t have a great 2016-17 season, but 2017-18 should be a good bounce back year. With the Islanders, Hamonic was used as a top line defenseman. That’s not his optimal role. Hamonic is a great second pair guy who can pinch offensively and put his body on the line when it matters. Expect more than his 14 points from last season and a ton of blocked shots.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights

While all of your opponents are taking Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist in the opening rounds you know you can focus on skaters and draft some goalies later. Because guys like the three time Stanley Cup winner marc-Andre Fleury will be available.

He won’t get a ton of wins (or at least he shouldn’t), but he’ll get starts and a ton of stops. he may not be the greatest DraftKings pick, but in a standard H2H league, Flower should be perfect.

Ales Hemsky – Montreal Canadiens

With Alex Radulov out, heading to Dallas sorry Harper) there’s a hole on the Habs wing. So Marc Bergevin decided to take a flyer on the aging right-winger. With only seven points last season – yeah seven – Hemsky will definitely be available for a draft, or real cheap on DraftKings.

But looking at the Habs depth chart Hemsky might just flourish in Montreal. I’m not talking about a return to that 70 point player from his Edmonton days. But a 40 point player is absolutely realistic.

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