Fantasy Hockey Advice, From The Fantasy Sports Writers Association Draft

Recently, I participated in a 16-team, 27-round Fantasy Hockey draft for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). That’s 432 players to be drafted for those of you who are mathematically challenged; yeah, that’s pretty crazy. I had the 12th overall pick, not where you want to be in a league this deep. You’re going to be on the wrong end of quite a few runs when there will be more than 10 instances when you’ll have to wait through 23 picks before you select again.

This is a 7×4 league. The additional categories for skaters are Average Time on Ice (ATOI), Special Teams Points (STP) and Shots on Goal (SOG). I had never even heard of ATOI as a category, but this would seem to make defensemen more important, as they generally play more minutes than forwards, with three defensive lines compared to four offensive ones. As for STP, this is just combining power play goals and assists, so that doesn’t really change anything, and SOG means the top scorers once again have an additional category.

You draft 11 forwards, six defensemen, one utility player and two goaltenders. Now, you should be able to do the math here. There are 16 teams in this draft, each needing two goalies to start. Since there are only 30 teams in the NHL, two Fantasy teams will be missing a starting goaltender. This hurts when it comes to wins and shutouts. I’m not going to go through every round of this draft, which would take all night. The joke going around in the draft room was that by Round 15 we’d be drafting KHL players, hoping they return to North America because there won’t be anyone left (the joke wasn’t really funny when it turned out to be true). We will, however, take a look at the first 100 picks or so.

Round One
1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
5. John Tavares, New York Islanders
6. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
7. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
8. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
9. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
10. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
11. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
12. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
13. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
14. Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
15. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
16. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

The first four picks went according to script. I’ve seen some leagues in which Crosby went number one overall instead of Stamkos, or Ovechkin at number three instead of Malkin, but it’s always those four players in the Top 4. Subban going at 11 was certainly a surprise; as good as he is offensively, he has a ways to go on the backend before anyone would call him a great defensive defenseman. My original plan was to take Rask with my first pick but that plan hit the skids when he was taken with the seventh pick. I decided to take a chance on Giroux, hoping the surgery on his wrist doesn’t prevent him from having a big year. With the injury to Letang, you have to wonder if his owner is having buyer’s remorse right now.

Round Two
17. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
18. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
19. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
20. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
21. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
22. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
23. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
24. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
25. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
26. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
27. James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
28. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
29. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
30. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
31. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
32. Rick Nash, New York Rangers

I entered this round knowing I was going to draft the top goaltender available. I figured there would be a run and I had my heart broken when Quick went right before my turn. I was debating Luongo or Niemi and went with the former, hoping he feels like he has something to prove, and also thinking he will thrive in John Tortorella’s defensive system. The surprise pick had to be Zetterberg at 19. How can anyone take him over Neal, Nash, St. Louis, or several other wingers? The scoring hasn’t been there in years; this is a mistake. One benefit of this league is that we play 11 forwards rather than separating wings and centers. This puts all of the offensive players on an even playing field.

Round Three

33. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
34. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
35. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
36. Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
37. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
38. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
39. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
40. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
41. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
42. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
43. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
44. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
45. Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
46. Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
47. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators
48. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

I like Hall but I’m not sure I would’ve taken him among the Top 40, especially with his move to center. He now has more defensive responsibilities and that could take a toll on his offense. The Oilers also haven’t announced who will be on Hall’s line. Before Sam Gagner went down with a broken jaw Hall was going to center the second line, so things are a work in progress as of right now. I was always taking a forward here and was hoping for Daniel Sedin. I’m surprised that he is slipping so far in drafts. I settled for Parise, although, I gave serious consideration to Sharp.

Round Four
49. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
50. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
51. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
52. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
53. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
54. Dion Phaneuff, Toronto Maple Leafs
55. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
56. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
57. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
58. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
59. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
60. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
61. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
62. Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
63. Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs
64. Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

Fleury is a gamble almost anywhere you grab him, but someone is going to have to take a shot with him eventually. I’m on board with quite a few of the Jets players. This team can score goals. They can’t always keep them out of their net, but they can score. I wanted Couture but wasn’t all that upset when I had to settle for Benn. He’s the next superstar waiting to break out in my opinion, and now that he no longer has to play center this could be his year. Schneider is an interesting pick this early. Had he remained the starter on Vancouver he may not have gotten out of the first-round, but no one knows how much he will play with New Jersey since Martin Brodeur is still on board. Lupul is a great pick at 63 if he can remain healthy.

Round Five

65. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks
66. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
67. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
68. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
69. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
70. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
71. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
72. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
73. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
74. David Backes, St. Louis Blues
75. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
76. Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets
77. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
78. Matt Moulson, New York Islanders
79. Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs
80. Kimmo Timmonen, Philadelphia Flyers

I really needed to take a defenseman at this point. I’ve waited long enough and entered this round with Keith and Yandle circled on my draft list. I was not surprised that Keith was grabbed; he definitely slipped in the draft and would’ve been a steal for me at this point. But when Yandle also went, I almost start to weep. Now, I like Enstrom but he is more of a D2, so I will have to make sure to grab another blue liner earlier than I had planned. Defense is certainly deep, but I do feel like I lost my gamble here because I didn’t grab a true number one. Moulson still doesn’t get much respect for a guy who scores 30-plus goals, as he barely goes in the Top 80. Kadri is another potential superstar in the making.

Round Six

81. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
82. Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins
83. Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets
84. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes
85. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
86. Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
87. Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
88. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
89. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres
90. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
91. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
92. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders
93. Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes
94. Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
95. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers
96. David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs

Marleau is a gift this late in the draft, as 30-goal scorers are getting harder and harder to come by. I will never draft Gaborik again, as both times I did (granted this was years ago) he was injured and missed half the season. Yes, I hold a grudge. I know I said that I wanted another defenseman in this round, but I was staring at Backstrom and couldn’t pass him up. I may be weak on defense but I’ll be strong in net with Luongo and Niklas. I had to wonder if whoever took Nabokov at 92 was an Islander fan. Although Clarkson is suspended for the first 10 games for leaving the bench during a brawl, he still is a worthwhile pick here.

The rest of my team is as follows.

7/108 Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings: Couldn’t pass up a possible 30-goal scorer at this point in the draft. I had Bobby Ryan circled here also, but he went two picks earlier.

8/117 Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets: Now I’m not happy with my second defenseman either. Johnson has come into his own since leaving the Kings, but his +/- could be a big problem in Columbus.

9/140 Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks: I’m really hoping he can repeat what he did last season.

10/149 Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators: Not sure if he’s the goal scorer from two years ago or the injury prone player from last season.

11/172 Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings: He’s the second line center on Detroit, not too shabby.

12/181 Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins: If Letang misses more time than expected, he will take over the coveted role on the power play.

13/204 Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: I took him purely for the PIMs. I wanted Chris Neil but he went a few picks earlier.

14/213 Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild: Remember when he used to be good?

15/236 Dennis Seidenberg, Boston Bruins: This move was purely for the plus/minus potential.

16/245 Marc Staal, New York Rangers: Now I’m just grabbing any defenseman who is still breathing.

17/268 Dustin Penner, Anaheim Ducks: He could play in the top line with Getzlaf and Perry.

18/277 Erik Cole, Dallas Stars: You can never have enough possible goal scorers.

19/300 Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins: He is scheduled to play on a line with Malkin and Neal.

20/309 Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers: They should’ve traded him when he was valuable.

21/332 Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit Red Wings: I was pleasantly surprised to see him still on the board this late.

22/341 Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild: He’s my handcuff to Backstrom.

23/364 Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit Red Wings: He used to have solid potential, but it just never materialized.

24/373 Chris Higgins, Vancouver Canucks: He’s just a depth forward for me.

25/396 Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames: Someone has to score for this team.

26/405 Michal Neuvirth, Washington Capitals: He’s a dartboard throw; maybe Holtby falters or doesn’t start 60-plus games.

27/ 000 Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins: Just a depth defenseman.

Feel free to follow me and ask any Fantasy related questions you like on twitter, @georgekurtz.

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