Drafting to me is like the 1st time you have sex with someone you’re interested in having a relationship with. As it’s happening, you feel great and you’re certain you’re pushing all the right buttons and making all the right moves. Then immediately after it’s over, you can’t imagine how perfect everything went. You’re a STUD. She’s liquefied… But 2 hours later, you’re alone in your room and you can’t sleep. Terrible thoughts start to seep into your brain: Did I reach for John Tavares in the 4th round? Why did she leave so fast? Did I really think Kari Lehtonen is going to stay healthy all year? Why didn’t she text me when she got home? Will I be able to find a 4th Defenseman on the waiver wire? How come she mentioned how big her old boyfriend’s junk was? Uuhhh, nevermind. The point is, the draft is the beginning of what you hope will be a long, happy, and fulfilling relationship. But for most of us the reality is 6 months later your in 8th place and she’s back with her old boyfriend. So to give yourself the best chance at a happy future, I’ve laid out some draft day strategeries:
Don’t get defensive: My general rule is to wait until at least the 5th round to take a Defenseman. They’re too flukey and injury proned. Just as an example, in both my leagues last year 5 of the top 6 Defenseman taken were: Mike Green, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle. Not one finished the year in the Top 8 amongst Defenseman. Sure there are guys like Nicky Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara who are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part good defenseman can be found really late or even on the waiver wire during the season.
When in doubt, take the Left Winger: Just like in other sports, there’s usually 1 or 2 positions that don’t have enough talent to go around. Right now in the NHL that position is Left Wing. Now I’m not saying you should draft Patrick Sharp over Jonathan Toews, but if you’re in the 7th round and you still need a Left Winger, take the best available LW rather than a Right Winger, Center, or Defenseman.
Anchor & Wait: You can’t win a fantasy hockey league (or a fantasy hockey pool for my friends North of the border) without good goaltending. Half of the categories (or less) are determined by only a couple-3 spots on your roster. In general, I like to get 1 elite Goalie somewhere in the first 5 rounds (the Anchor) and then target 2 lower tier guys who I think have some upside. It’s important to get a feel during the draft of when Goalies start coming off the board and react accordingly.
The Setoguchi Effect: Also known as a *Poutine (riding the gravy train). This simply means it’s important to identify average players whose value’s inflated because of his linemates. I call it the Setoguchi Effect in honor of current Minnesota Wild (how can a team name be an adjective? I mean why not call yourself the Minnesota Great? Or the Minnesota Best?) Okay okay, the Setoguchi Effect. Back in 2008 Setoguchi was on the San Jose Sharks and he lucked his way onto the top line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He ended the season with 31 goals, 34 assists, +16 and 246 Shots. It was the first and only year he was on that line, and it was the first and only year he’s been fantasy relevant. Many of the sleepers I will identify over the next few weeks fall into this category.
Power-Play Production Probability: Every year, about 30% of all goals scored are on the Power Play (real stat). Coincidentally, 30% of all Canadians grow up to be hockey players (made-up stat). So it’s important to recognize which players are a part of their team’s power play. The upper echelon guys, for the most part, get a ton of *PP time. Where you need to keep this in mind is the later rounds. I typically move players up my draft board if I believe they will see significant PP time (significant meaning 1st unit minutes). Also if you can nab a Power Play “quarterback” late in the draft, specifically a Defenseman, give yourself a big pat on the back. Those are the guys that win you your league (or again, Pool for you crazy Canadians!)
Don’t blame me, Stupid: In the end, it’s up to you. This applies to all sports but the bottom line is you need to identify guys you want and draft them when they’re available, regardless of their pre-draft ranking. Corey Perry went in the 3rd round last season, Tim Thomas went in the 8th, Kris Letang went in the 11th or 12th, and Logan Couture & Jeff Skinner didn’t even get drafted. Bottom line – draft who YOU want. It’s the best way to win your league and more importantly, it’s the best way to shield me from any blame…