Most likely to Succeed is our newest series which points out one player from every team and explains why that player is poised to increase their point totals. While some teams may have more than one player likely to breakout and some none, we will focus on the ones who actually should improve with a full healthy season. File this article under a sleeper-type but sleepers would not be called that if people saw them coming.
Brian Rafalski remains one of the more underrated players in recent memory. Even though his production has not slipped below 40 points while maintaining excellent ratios he fails to be considered among the top defenders both in fantasy and in real life.
How much more consistent can he really be?
Last season when everyone from Johan Franzen to Henrik Zetterberg missed significant playing time the undrafted defenseman stood tall in 78 games while playing important minutes in the playoffs and in the Olympics for Team USA. If memory serves correct he actually represented his country as the number one defenseman and scored a few timely goals on the big stage. He also won this thing called the Stanley Cup, a few times.
We know all these accolades struggle to compare to raw numbers but the pedigree is impressive.
While one or many forwards may break down, Rafalski shows the intelligence and tenacity it takes to be successful in this league. Selecting a player like him will not be the sexiest move, but it is a smart one and one that wins championships. Outside of the truly elite of Keith, Doughty and Green the level of production from say a Pronger to a Rafalski may buy you another strong scoring forward while waiting an extra round or two for a poor man’s top d-man.