One of the exciting aspects of a new season is Fantasy Hockey. Finally with preseason underway calendar, we're closing in on 2011-12. While we try to predict where our teams wind up, fantasy drafts are heating up. As players gear up with ranking lists, fantasy magazines, etc, the more preparation the better your chances. Like my favorite teacher in high school once said:
"Failure to prepare is preparing to fail."
Of course, the Battle staff are all taking part in fantasy leagues. Whether it's Free Yahoo for Hasan or Sportsline with a bit more on the line for Brian and yours truly, it's supposed to be fun. You can certainly share laughter while also putting together a winning team. When it comes to competition, we all want to succeed. What would be the point? Nobody likes to come in last. Last year was a 180 for me going from the penthouse as league champ to the basement, finishing in the cellar. Such is life in fantasy where one great year can be followed by a complete dud. In our league, we have rental agreements that can help bolster contenders, who pay the price by coughing up high draft picks which can sometimes comeback to burn them. Let's just say I went for it and edged my brother Justin, who actually had the better team. It's not always how you draft but rather what risks you're willing to take.
I've been involved in Fantasy Hockey since the mid-90's when Mr. Sanborn introduced me. Even though I had no idea what I got into, I was hooked. The idea of drafting your own team was something I was familiar with from the classic days of Micro League with the VG crew. Now, I finally got to experience a rollercoaster of emotions with puck. One minute, you're up. The next, you're falling apart faster than Michael Douglas in Falling Down. So, what are the keys?
A.Best Available Player (BAP): A term frequently used by scouts in June certainly applies when drafting. Everyone has their philosophies but you can't go wrong getting the best player still around. Especially early on. These are where your stars come from who will get you valuable points/categories.
B.Team Need: Sometimes, you'll load up on one or two areas and forget another. Always check off by position(s). I usually try to have my goalies set up early and centers. Hence, the team name Centercessssssed. Without quality finishers and blueliners, I hurt my chances. In our league, we have five protects. I already have goalie covered and half my pivots along with a guy who should get a lot of categories.
G Carey Price
G Jimmy Howard
C Henrik Sedin
C John Tavares
W Jamie Benn
With higher picks recovered, the emphasis will be on scoring wings and D in this Saturday's Draft.
C.Potential: Around the mid-point is where your insight could pay off. There are always breakout players with potential who can make a difference between winning and losing. It's easy to draft proven talent. However, finding a gem or two are what separates contenders from pretenders. Whether it's a hotshot rookie or a player entering their third year, being able to forecast the future is key. Here are some candidates:
RW Chris Stewart 30+ goals, 65-70 Pts, double digit PPG, 5+ GW
LW Evander Kane 25-30 goals, 60 Pts, 100 PIM
C John Tavares 35-40 goals, 80 Pts, double digit PPG, 5+ GW
LW Taylor Hall 30+ goals, 60+ Pts, double digit PPG, 5+ GW
LW James Neal 30 goals, 60 Pts, double digit PPG, 5+ GW
C/LW Jamie Benn 30 goals, 30-35 assists, 100 PIM, 5+ GW
C Marcus Johansson 20+ goals, 30-35 assists
RW Devin Setoguchi 25+ goals, 55-60 Pts
RW Jakub Voracek 20-25 goals, 35 assists
D Alex Goligoski 15 goals, 55-60 Pts, 10+ PPG
D Cam Fowler 10+ goals, 50+ pts, 30 PP Pts
D Erik Johnson 10+ goals, 30-35 assists, 100 PIM
G Semyon Varlamov 28 Wins, 2.64 GAA, .910 Save Pct
G Jaroslav Halak 35 Wins, 2.38 GAA, .915 Save Pct, 8 SHO
G James Reimer 30 Wins, 2.65 GAA, .912 Save Pct, 5 SHO
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
LW Gabriel Landeskog
D Adam Larsson
LW Nino Neiderreiter
C Adam Henrique
C Mika Zibanejad
D Erik Gudbranson
C Ryan Johansen
D.Depth: Once you've covered every ground, it's still vital to bring in good depth in case of injuries. The IR is the most feared aspect of fantasy sports. Luck plays a role but also ensuring that you have decent options if a key cog goes down helps. In our league, I try to have at least six centers, three goalies and two extra wings. Seven D is fine if you draft well. It depends on what your biggest weakness is. Our league includes 20 starters and six minors. A quick breakdown:
If I go with two extra at center, there's four left for 1 goalie, 1 extra D and 2 more wings. A good balance. Hopefully, goalie is strong because if it isn't, it becomes a sore spot.
E.Categories:Last but not least, you must take into account the categories your league emphasizes. For us, we must also draft physical types who hit, block shots and rack up penalty minutes (PIM). A couple of power forwards or a great D (Chara) who gets all three along with the offense helps. Unless there are any changes, here's what it looks like for offense and goalies:
OFFENSE: Goals, Assists, PPG, SHG, GW, PIM, Hits, Blocks, +/-, SOG
GOALIES: Wins, GAA, Save Pct, SHO, Saves, Assists
Note: If you have a goalie who picks up an assist on a goal, that counts toward your points.
Whether it's head to head or overall, covering every category becomes a chore. Game-winners is the luck of the draw, which drives our Buffalo resident crazy. I still say it should be included cause it's part of fantasy hockey. When it comes to plus/minus, take players who play on good teams or are sound defensively. Offense is still the most imperative. If your team can score and the goalies do their part, that should boost your chances.
That wraps up this special Fantasy Hockey entry. Happy drafting!