Marv: My friend Pesos and I are pretty big into hockey (it’s a requirement up in Canada). We are very excited for the new hockey season and we hope you are too. Pesos, you’re really sticking with that name eh? Alright, there have been worse names I guess (Maple Leafs).
Pesos: Really? With a name like Marv you’re going to chirp me? When did we travel back to 1977? Anyways, the season is right around the corner and with the amount of changes league wide things are going to be as interesting and entertaining as ever.
This is our preseason article where we will present some of our targets in our upcoming drafts and some of the guys we are avoiding.
Marv: Can I just list the whole Leafs roster for players to avoid? Does that count?
(ADP based on Yahoo)
Nazem Kadri (TOR) C, 164 ADP – I know what you’re all thinking. “Look at this typical Leafs fan. There’s more teams in the league than just the Leafs bud!.” I’m having a difficult time finding a young talented player who’s been playing behind a far inferior player that gets as much negative press as Kadri does. He’s played behind Tyler freaking Bozak (who I’ll crush in a second), with worse line mates and still out produced Bozak. Now, Kadri has a new coach and a 1 year “show me” contract to prove what he is and I think it’s going to be his best year yet. Yahoo has Kadri’s ADP at 164 which I think is a little low. If you can get Kadri anywhere after the 10th round I think you’re in good shape.
Cody Franson (BUF) D, 171 ADP – I know, another guy who played for the Leafs. Last year Franson led a terrible Leafs defensive core in points with 32 in 55 games. That’s 3 more points than Dion Phaneuf in 15 less games. He has an underrated ability of getting shots through to the net which is a massive plus. He’s going to be the quarterback of the Sabres PP which will include Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Not sure if you know but both those guys are okay at hockey. Yahoo has Franson’s ADP at 171. Depending on how your league is set up I think picking up a guy like Franson can be hugely beneficial, especially if there’s a premium on PP points.
Marv’s Rebuttal: Do I really have to comment on these guys? I think you’ll have good value from Kadri around his current ADP, but I wouldn’t go much higher. It all depends on if he can swallow his attitude. Under a new coach’s system, there is a chance he turns into the new stud for the Maple Laughs. My only advice is if he starts reverting to his old ways (ie. all of a sudden every sports news has interviews of him bitching about something) I would move on. As for Franson I think he’ll do well in Buffalo (someone is bound to be good on this team, why not him)? It’s a young team and he’ll probably be top 2 on the blueline making him valuable at his current ADP. Pesos’ picks remind me of being the wingman for your best bud and taking the second girl. I’m sure she’s great, she’ll probably even give a great effort but clearly she would not be your first choice. Pesos and Viz, were all the NHL teams taken and that’s why you cheer for Toronto and Buffalo?
Now turning to some guys who can actually help your team this year.
Ryan Johansen (CLS) C/RW, 34 ADP – I almost chose Phil Kessel for this spot, but with the bias of my involvement in many keeper leagues this year, I had to go with the young gun. I will be targeting Johansen and his new line mate Brandon Saad in all my leagues. For Columbus, talk about getting what you paid for. For us hockey fans, we can finally get excited to watch a Columbus game again. He’s only 23 and with the addition of Saad on his line, I think he will only improve on last year’s point totals. Looking at his numbers, Johansen has increased his PPG over the last three seasons and he has no reason to slow down now. 2015-16 prediction: 33G, 40A 73pts.
Petr Mrazek (DET) G, 167 ADP – It’s tough not to get excited about the 23 year old Mrazek heading into this season. He started 29 games with a 16-9-2 record, 2.38 goals against average, .918 save percentage. Following his final game of the season shutout versus Carolina, he was awarded with the starting role in the playoffs. In 7 playoff games he had a 2.11 goals against average and .925 save percentage (with 2 shutouts). I’m assuming Detroit will start the year with both Mrazek and Jimmy Howard fighting for the starting gig, but you have to think Mrazek has this locked up. He’s the future in this organization and I think it will be his job to lose. He’s got one year remaining on his contract and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. To ice this cake, Mrazek has magic hands and amazing puck control, providing another advantage over the aging Howard. Did I mention Detroit’s new head Coach Jeff Blashill coached Mrazek in Grand Rapids (they even won a Calder Cup together in 2013).
Pesos’ Rebuttal: As much as I want to disagree with who Marv has picked, I can’t find much to say. Both players are young and ready to make substantial impacts for their respective teams. With scoring dropping significantly last season and no real sign of it increasing this season, I’m not entirely convinced that Johansen will break the 70 point mark but like Marv said, at the very least the Blue Jackets will be fun to watch this season.
Tyler Bozak (TOR) C, 238 ADP – As a Leafs fan I have to say it’s been difficult to watch one of the NHL’s premiere snipers have to play with Tyler Bozak. He’s put up back to back 49 point seasons, which at first glance doesn’t seem too bad until you see who he’s being playing with and the minutes he’s been playing. Not to mention the fact there’s a better C playing behind him (hint, it’s Nazem Kadri). On one hand, seeing where Bozak came from, getting near 50 points out of him is a positive but that’s the past. Going forward all indications are he’ll be getting less playing time on the PP and at even strenght which won’t help his point totals. If your fantasy league values FO wins, he might be an okay late round pickup but if you’re expecting him to replicate or even surpass his previous point totals you’ll be very disappointed. What I’m saying is, don’t draft Tyler Bozak.
Andrew Hammond (OTT) G, 136 ADP – Hammond is projected, on average, to be drafted ahead of guys like Craig Anderson, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier and Petr Mrazek. Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. In 25 games last year in the AHL, Hammond posted a 3.51 GAA and 0.898 SV%. That’s not good. Sure, he came up to the Sens and dominated for 24 games but let’s be serious, there’s absolutely no sane argument as to why you would draft Hammond over the guys I listed earlier. Bryan Murray and the Senaturds took a massive gamble by trading Robin Lehner to the Sabres. I has little to no faith that Hammond is capable of handling the load if Anderson gets hurt this season (which he will). If you’re looking to win your pool, you’ll stay well away from Hammond but if you want to be the laughing stock of the league, be sure to draft him early!
Marv’s Rebuttal: I can’t argue with avoiding Bozak as I generally steer clear of most Leafs. You know that in some leagues, he will fly off the board way too early and a rookie/unprepared drafter will think they got away with a deal only to drop him mid-season. I disagree with Pesos’ argument for completely staying away from Hammond. As you said Anderson will probably get hurt, Hammond will be the tender stepping into these games and he can get himself into some really great runs (I don’t think anyone forgets last season’s success). I will agree that Anderson, Mrazek and possibly Bernier should get drafted before him, but I think if he falls in draft there is some value to be had here, especially if he’s your 3rd or 4th tender.
Patrick Kane (CHI) C/RW, 12 ADP – I’m not stupid in saying this (although I have never been tested). If Kane clears up all this “rape” business and is ready for opening day, I’m sure he will come close to the top 50 ranking (40 G, 44 A, 84 PTS). I’m looking to avoid Kane if I’m in a 12 man draft, and I’m the 11th or 12th pick. If he falls to me, I might let someone else gamble with the uncertainty. I think Kane is amazing and I personally have a man crush on Jonathan Toews (Canadian shoutout, actually if I’m calling out amazing Canadian talent in the NHL, I feel like this article might run long). There are too many red flags to take the chance: 1) If the rape case against him runs longer than expected (into the season), 2) If he misses training camp or 3) That even if there are no suspensions or missed games, he will at the very least be a little distracted. Now there are a ton of exceptions, most notably if he falls to the end of the 2nd/start of 3rf round, or if you are in a keeper league, I’d still pull the trigger.
Nick Foligno (CBJ) C/LW, 46 ADP – I’m sure I will get a lot of chirps for avoiding Foligno (especially after targeting his line mate Johansen) but I just can’t justify where he’s getting drafted (average ADP of 46). For this reason, I’m avoiding him and focusing on the other talent available in the 4th-5th round, names like: Nicklas Backstrom, Taylor Hall, Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov. Don’t get me wrong, I love this top line of Johansen, Saad and Foligno but I just don’t see Foligno coming close to his 2014-15 numbers. He was lucky last year with some key injuries to Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky which led to an increase in ice time (from 16:03 in 2013-14 to 18:49 in 2014-15). Along with this extra 2:46 ice time, his shooting percentage was highly elevated to 17% (compared to his career average of 12.4%). With a proper correction to his shooting percentage and his ice time somewhere in between his 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, I feel Foligno’s overall points to will correct as well. 2015-16 prediction: 26G, 52-56pts. At those numbers, I will let someone else draft him based on last year’s numbers and I will simply wait and grab his line mate, Saad (LW,RW eligible with an average ADP of 94). Please note that Foligno does get a boost in leagues that count PIM’s and hits.
Pesos’ Rebuttal: It feels incredibly odd to say but avoiding Kane, at least in the early stages of the draft, seems like a logical thing to do at this point. Now, things change fast and if there’s a settlement in his case it might be worth while to take him high. That being said, the NHL should be suspending him. Just because there’s a settlement doesn’t mean nothing happened. The NHL doesn’t often do the right thing so this ones a tough call either way. I think it’s fairly obvious that Foligno over achieved last season and it’s also a fair assumption to think he will regress this upcoming season. I do like the addition of Saad to the Blue Jackets but if anything, I think it will take offense away from Foligno. He’ll still be a decent depth player to pickup but don’t expect him to improve on last year’s totals.
Marv: So there you have it, our targets and avoids for this year’s Fantasy drafts. Obviously there is a ton of potential out there and we tried to highlight a few in this article. We have also compiled some honorable mentions below. As always, ensure you understand the counting stats / rules / settings of your league as that can drastically bump up or downgrade a player’s value. What do you guys/girls (all three of you) think? Are we off our rocker? Hit us up in the comments below and share your thoughts. Do you like/hate my picks, or mostly dislike Pesos’ picks (most likely).
Honorable mention Targets: Phil Kessel, Jonathon Drouin , Evgeny Kuznetsov, Elias Lindholm, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, TJ Oshie, Derek Stephan
Honorable mention Avoids: Chris Kunitz, Shea Weber (at his current ADP)