Draft Day Strategy

It is NHL Fantasy draft time again where all you think you know gets tested to the max.  Here is how I prepare for this all-important exercise.

The very first step you must take before you enter your draft or auction is to create your very own cheat sheets with “Tiers of Players.”  You should have one for goalies, forwards, defensemen, and one that combines all of the above.  Once your draft or auction begins, you will be placed under a great deal of stress and, with the clock ticking, you don’t want to waste time with a lot of self-doubt or false impressions.

Always track the full draft on your cheat sheets and cross out any players who have already been taken as you go. This is crucial to having a successful draft.

Most leagues are 10-12 teams. If you are picking early in the first round, snag an elite forward first. If you’re picking late in the first round, you might want to snag your number one goalie or an elite defender such as  P.K. Subban or Erik Karlsson (and you do want them – see below).

In 2014-15, if you choose to pick a goalie in your first round, your options are Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price or Jonathan Quick. Picking one of these elite goalies will allow you more time when it comes to drafting their backups (see “goalie third look” below).

Drafting Goalies

You will need three goalies.

First look: Draft your number one goalie from the first tier “green” or second tier “yellow” in the chart below. As long as you get one of the top eleven goalies, it really doesn’t matter which one.

Second look: Your second goalie pick should come from the second tier “yellow” or the third tier “blue” and will become your number two goalie.

Third look: Draft the backup for your number one goalie who will then become your number three goalie. You have to be disciplined about this. It will feel wrong but it is very right. How long you wait to make sure you can do this, will depend on the backup goalie’s placement on the tiers. The higher up he is, the sooner you will have to pull the trigger. If somebody else snags him, keep a watch on the waivers for him to be dropped. Otherwise you should try to trade for him.

If your number one goalie gets injured during the season you can relax. You already have his backup. All you need to do now is go to the waiver wire and get the backup for your number two goalie for insurance – most of the time, that’s where you will find him.

Drafting Forwards

As already noted, in the first round you can either pick an elite forward or an elite goalie. If you choose a forward, it should be from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, or Corey Perry.

Total number of forwards is eight or nine (depending on your league standard). How these get divided between left, right and centers depends on your league rules. The more specific your league is, the harder it is to draft and play. Bear in mind, there are 300 forwards as opposed to 75 defensemen; almost 3-to-one viable options.

First look: The first power play squad from playoff contenders.

Second look: First power unit from a non-playoff team.

Third look: Secondary power play unit from playoff teams.

Now before you skip ahead… I have given you a list of goalies and and defensemen but not forwards.   Oh, come on.  Stop whining. Outside of the elite few and a handful of viable specialists, you are looking for a group of eight or nine forwards who need to generate roughly 60 points each and their names do not matter. I am dead serious.  Focus on skill sets, job security and defined roles, period.  When it comes to forwards, you are building a fantasy team not collecting hockey cards.  Trust me.  At the end of the year, it will be all about who has the most productive collection of forwards not the team with the flashiest names. In the coming weeks I will speak a lot more about this topic – and many others – in  Inside Hockey’s new Webinar Series for the ambitious fantasy player.  Stay tuned to this column for more details.

Drafting Defensemen

You will need five or six defensemen on your roster and you want as many of these from the top two tiers as possible.

First look: In 2013-14, two players are unique and their abilities can make a huge difference in your season. They are P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson. Don’t wait too late to get them in the draft. At this position, you need two-way talent and they are the best. If you miss these two, Shea Weber is your fall back. Remember playing time and plus/minus stats are critical in making this selection.

Second look: You want your second defenseman to come from the following group: Kris Letang, Dustin Byfuglien (if he qualifies in your league), Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle and Victor Hedman. You will need to spend a fifth or sixth rounder to get one of these guys. Remember, availability of two-way talent at the back end is scarce these days.

Third look: Second power play units on playoff teams.

Draft Day Wrap-up

As soon as your draft ends, you should look at the remaining players in your league’s pool and identify 13 players – one goalie (he’s your messiah) and twelve disciples. Rest assured that some of your disciples are also on your opponents’ lists and you will not be able to get all of these. There are always folks with draft day jitters who jump into the waiver wire as soon as it’s available. From all the players who had been drafted and have since been cut loose, take the best of them to replace your disciples. This is a process you will repeat during the entire season and it is important that you maintain this list of thirteen back up players. During the course of the season, there will be 500 players on the waiver wire at any given time. Focus on your thirteen and you’ve made managing your team infinitely less complicated.

Goalie Chart

The following is a list of 80 goalies, most have fixed roles already assigned by their coaches but many do not. There are a number of brand name goalies without actual NHL jobs at the moment.  Please do not try to outwit me and draft these goalies. If you do, you will be playing with fire.  Last year in a very competitive expert league hosted by ESPN, one expert loaded up on forwards and drafted two goalies without actual NHL jobs. This “overthinking” cost his team dearly.

EST. GS = The number of games I feel each goalie might start.  WINS = Wins.  INJ RISK: Higher than usual injury risk.

RANKPLAYERTEAMEST. GSWINSSO1W+2SOINJ RISK
1Tuukka RaskBOS6335851
2Jonathan QuickLAK6336648Y
3Carey PriceMON6436648Y
4Henrik LundqvistNYR6537547
5Marc-Andre FleuryPIT6437445
6Sergei BobrovskyCBJ6233543
7Semyon VarlamovCOL6136342Y
8Ben BishopTBL6434442
9Pekka RinneNSH6433441Y
10Corey CrawfordCHI5935341
11Kari LehtonenDAL6433441Y
12Jaroslav HalakNYI5931541Y
13Cory SchneiderNJD6531541
14Antti NiemiSJS5933339
15Steve MasonPHI6332338
16Frederik AndersenANA4827435
17Roberto LuongoFLA6429335
18Brian ElliottSTL5026434
19Jimmy HowardDET5927333Y
20Mike SmithARI6325433Y
21Ryan MillerVAN5928232
22Jonathan BernierTOR5726332
23Darcy KuemperMIN4725331
24Braden HoltbyWAS6426230
25Ondrej PavelecWPG5926230
26Craig AndersonOTT5625229Y
27Jonas HillerCGY5321327
28Ben ScrivensEDM5121327
29Anton KhudobinCAR4120224
30John GibsonANA3221123
31Jake AllenSTL3219223
32Michal NeuvirthBUF4819121
33James ReimerTOR2515219
34Viktor FasthEDM3117119Y
35Antti RaantaCHI2316118
36Alex StalockSJS2314116
37Cam WardCAR4114116Y
38Robin LehnerOTT2613115
39Martin JonesLAK1912114
40Niklas SvedbergBOS1912114
41Reto BerraCOL2112114
42Jonas GustavssonDET2312114
43Jhonas EnrothBUF3412114
44Karri RamoCGY2312114
45Jussi RynnasDAL1811113
46Peter BudajWPG2311113
47Thomas GreissPIT1811113
48Niklas BackstromMIN1712012Y
49Chad JohnsonNYI2312012
50Cam TalbotNYR1711011
51Eddie LackVAN2311011
52Justin PetersWAS189111
53Josh HardingMIN179111Y
54Dustin TokarskiMON168110
55Keith KinkaidNJD1710010
56Ray EmeryPHI19909
57Curtis McElhinneyCBJ20909
58Evgeni NabokovTBL18808
59Al MontoyaFLA18808
60Devan DubnykARI18606
61Carter HuttonNSH15606
62Ilya BryzgalovUFA10606
63Martin BrodeurUFA20606Y
64Petr MrazekDET6404
65Tomas VokounUFA15404Y
66Tim ThomasUFA15404Y
67Nikolai KhabibulinUFA15404Y
68Mark VisentinARI5202
69Matt HackettBUF6202
70Johan GustafssonMIN7202
71Jacob MarkstromVAN5202
72Marek MazanecNSH3101
73Kristers GudlevskisTBL2101
74Anders LindbackDAL3101
75Michael HutchinsonWPG2101
76Jason LaBarberaANA2101
77Kevin PoulinNYI3101
78Jeff ZatkoffPIT2101
79Philipp GrubauerWAS2101Y
80Dan EllisFLA1000

Defensemen Chart

The following is a list of 83 defensemen.  Like their brethren goaltenders, most goalies have fixed roles already assigned by their coaches but many do not. Remember that defensemen who tally less than 30 points are generally almost useless in modern fantasy games, so we have a very steep drop off in viable options after around 70 defensemen.   The tough guy factor:  There are lots of tough defensemen but there are a few that deserve special mention.  Defensemen who play a lot of minutes – including the power play – can score a few points and rack up a lot of PIM’s.  These guys can really help your team and must be considered strongly when you round out your team.  In 2014, you should look to grab Radko Gudas, Dion Phaneuf and/or Kevin Bieksa to name three.  The key to these projections is as follows:

PTS = Points.  PP Unit = which unit I feel each defensemen might skate with.  INJ RISK: Higher than usual injury risk.

RANKPLAYERTEAMPP UNITPTSINJ RISK
1Erik KarlssonOTT173
2P.K. SubbanMON157
3Shea WeberNSH156
4Keith YandleARI152
5Alex PietrangeloSTL151
6Alex GoligoskiDAL151Y
7Jake GardinerTOR151
8Victor HedmanTBL150
9Kris LetangPIT150Y
10Duncan KeithCHI147
11Ryan SuterMIN147
12Roman JosiNSH146
13Niklas KronwallDET145Y
14Kevin ShattenkirkSTL145
15Jacob TroubaWPG245
16Seth JonesNSH245
17Oliver Ekman-LarssonARI144
18Brent BurnsSJS144
19Mark StreitPHI144
20Mike GreenWAS144Y
21Zdeno CharaBOS144
22Mark GiordanoCGY143Y
23James WisniewskiCBJ143Y
24Morgan RiellyTOR243
25Dan BoyleNYR143
26John CarlsonWAS142
27Justin SchultzEDM142
28Drew DoughtyLAK142
29Brian CampbellFLA142
30Ryan McDonaghNYR141
31Christian EhrhoffPIT141
32Andrei MarkovMON141Y
33Torey KrugBOS140
34Tyson BarrieCOL140
35Dougie HamiltonBOS239
36Dion PhaneufTOR139
37Sami VatanenANA139
38Kevin BieksaVAN139Y
39Tobias EnstromWPG138Y
40Brent SeabrookCHI238
41Cody FransonTOR238
42Dennis WidemanCGY138
43Tyler MyersBUF138Y
44Erik JohnsonCOL137Y
45Jay BouwmeesterSTL237
46Alexander EdlerVAN137Y
47Ryan MurrayCBJ237Y
48Andrej SekeraCAR136Y
49Cam FowlerANA136Y
50Jack JohnsonCBJ136
51Slava VoynovLAK136
52Hampus LindholmANA236
53Connor MurphyARI236
54Nick LeddyNYI135
55Marek ZidlickyNJD135Y
56Jake MuzzinLAK235
57Danny DeKeyserDET235
58Justin FaulkCAR134
59Matt NiskanenWAS234
60Trevor DaleyDAL234
61Patrick WierciochOTT134
62Michael Del ZottoPHI134
63Jason DemersSJS234
64Eric GelinasNJD134
65TJ BrodieCGY233
66Jason GarrisonTBL133
67Matthew CarleTBL33
68Dan HamhuisVAN232
69Zach BogosianWPG232Y
70Jon MerrillNJD232
71Jared SpurgeonMIN231Y
72Fedor TyutinCBJ231
73Ryan EllisNSH229
74Andy GreeneNJD229
75Dmitry KulikovFLA128Y
76Matt DonovanNYI228
77Michael StoneARI227
78Olli MaattaPIT227
79Dan GirardiNYR227
80Radko GudasTBL226
81Aaron EkbladFLA225
82Andrew MacDonaldPHI225Y
83Jonas BrodinMIN224
84Griffin ReinhartNYI224