Fantasy Hockey 101

As we prepare our lists for fantasy pools and leagues this off-season, Inside Hockey takes you inside Fantasy Hockey 101. Whether you are in a Head to Head or Roto league, you have to know what you are walking into. Of course, with Keepers leagues things are much different as you are drafting from a pool of “free agents” as opposed to drafting from scratch with every player available to choose (unless it is a start up Keepers league).

This likely means that the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Lundqvist and Ilya Kovalchuk – to name a few – are unavailable. Yes, there are likely between 75 and 150 players that are protected depending on the size of the league and roster requirements.

If we were to get into every last detail here you would likely begin reading a novel on fantasy hockey. By this point, you should know your league and your league rules.

Keepers leagues to me, if space is available, are the most fun to join because you are creating a team and controlling it in-season and during off-season. You have full control over which players stay with your team for the next season and who you decide to let walk into the free agent pool for the upcoming draft. But for now, we will play keep away from the keepers leagues and strictly focus on the yearly pools and Yahoo leagues (or similar types).

What do I do with the first overall selection?

That all depends on how your league is structured. Every league commissioner creates a foundation for points categories. Depending on how your league is set up, first overall is usually one of the ‘usual suspects': Crosby, Ovehckin, Malkin, Brodeur – regardless of points structure.

However, pay close attention to the goaltender categories and how much they control for obtaining points. The common categories consist of Wins, Shutouts, Save Percentage and Goals Against Average.

Use your judgement wisely, but remember that each year there are always some goaltenders who rise to the top and others who fall off par. It’s always a tricky situation when you are getting into the middle rounds/deeper rounds of a draft and need to choose wisely.

What about the goalies?

Suggestions for goaltenders outside of the usual suspects of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Mikka Kiprusoff, Ryan Miller and Marc-Andre Fluery:

Tuukka Rask – Winning the No. 1 job from former Vezina trophy winner Tim Thomas proves to me that Rask is the real deal. Despite the teams collapse during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Rask can find himself amongst the Vezina candidates at seasons end.

Jaroslav Halak – The Habs playoff hero now gets to become a full time No. 1 goaltender with the St. Louis Blues. I expect great production from Halak and I would draft him early.

Antero Niittymaki – Playing with a poor team in front of him proved that ‘Niitty’ is a very capable goaltender and with a team like San Jose he can truly propel his value this year. A sleeper pick if you ask me.

Jimmy Howard – The kid can play and should be considered very early in any draft, especially playing behind that Detroit team.

Ilya Bryzgalov
– Vezina candidate and not because of a fluke. Bryzgalov is a very solid goaltender who proved just how good he is during the 2008 IIHF Championships where he brought home gold for Russia. When in need of a starter, Bryzgalov should be drafted as early as possible.

I would suggest staying away from Jonathan Quick unless it becomes a desperation move as Quick will likely have less starts this year with the team giving Jonathan Bernier a decent amount of games in order to lessen the load on Quck to keep him rested as well as trying to obtain the proper value on what Bernier will bring to the organization.

When it comes to pools and yahoo leagues or similar leagues, the common trend is to select the best players early. Some leagues have mandatory rookie rules while others are purely stats based.

Next week we will break down the skaters, starting with a draft order based on position. Centers are first, moving to right wings, left wings and then defensemen.

I am always available to discuss your fantasy drafts and in-season moves. You can reach me at my e-mail address here at InsideHockey or at ACHockeyGuys@gmail.com  I look forward to your questions and concerns. But most of all remember, fantasy hockey is all about how much fun we get to have playing armchair GM and attempting to create a winning team.

Bragging rights are always cool…

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