Last night my fantasy hockey league held its annual draft. Since I am the commissioner it will most likely be asked of me to perform a power-ranking. I figured what better place to announce a power-ranking than on my personal blog!
For those of you unaware, fantasy sports are online games where a person manages their ‘fantasy’ team. The players consist of professional players and points are awarded based on a variety of actual statistics involved in the given sport. As a manager, you draft a team of players that you think will perform the best given the scoring system, league settings, etc.
The league I participate in is a Yahoo! fantasy sports league. We have 12 teams, with each team consisting of 2 center, right-wing, left-wing and goaltender slots; 4 defensemen slots and 4 bench slots. The scoring is head-to-head and whoever wins the most categories in a given week is awarded a win. A tie can happen if the two teams tie in the number of categories won. It does not matter is you beat the team 10 categories to 1 category or 5 to 4, it is still just considered one win for your team for the week.
Categories that apply to the scoring settings are goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, short-handed points, hits and blocked shots. For goaltenders the scoring settings are wins, goals against, saves, and shut-outs.
Based on the scoring settings, I have evaluated and analyzed our draft from last night. There a few things I want to point out to make sure you understand how I arrived at my ranking. First off, goalies hold 4 of the 11 statistical categories which means if you have solid goaltending, you will give yourself of a change every week. The second thing that I factored in was power-play points. It is only one category, but it also counts for a goal and assist. Therefore a player like Claude Giroux who led the league last season with 37 power-play points also double-dipped into the goal and assist categories. For instance, if Giroux registers one power-play goal, he will get credit for one score in both the power-play points and goals section. Having an abundance of power-play specialists will help your team excel.
I have broken up the league into thirds. The bottom third are the teams that I feel need to make some moves in order to salvage a season. Each team does have their potential superstar players, however, the biggest commonality amongst them all is ‘hope.’ These teams picked up players in hopes that they will be potential ‘sleeper’ (a player who comes in un-noticed and has an excellent year/a player who has a much better year than in previous years) candidates.
12 – Nogoalov: Unfortunately for my good friend Chris (pictured in my Rules of Engagement book wearing a chest protector) he was one of two people that did not make the live online draft. When this happens, the system picks for you based on your specific needs as a team and based on the pre-set Yahoo! rankings. Though he does have some scoring power in Stamkos, Tarasenko and Tatar; he drafted five defensemen (unheard of) and only 2 goalies. Both of his goalies (Howard & Hammond) may not even be their respective teams starting goalie by Thanksgiving. I don’t think Foligno will have as good a season as he did last year and Landeskog disappointed me last year so I have a sore spot for him. He does have some intrigue and sleeper capabilities in Scheifele, Gallagher and even Yakupov.
11- FlyerBillP: New to our league this year after a revamping of the managers, his first draft will definitely be one to forget. He did pick up Claude Giroux which saved him from being at the bottom of the list. He also got generational talent Connor McDavid and banking that he will put up the 60-70 points that the analysts are predicting. The rest of his picks aren’t bad picks, it’s just nothing to get too excited over. He had several guys that are more valuable to their teams in actuality then they are in the fantasy world. To top it off, one of his goalies (Rask) does not have the same defensive support he once did in once mighty Boston and his other goalie (Lehtonen) will be splitting duties all season.
10 – 3 Inches of Thunder: A + for team name, however, it ends there. Knowing this guy personally I think he drafted based on emotion. He is a Blackhawks and Pens fan (don’t ask me how) and you can see by his 5th overall pick of Malkin (too high) and Toews (also too high). Toews is probably the biggest name player in the NHL that absolutely transitions terribly to the fantasy world. He is a superstar, except in fantasy. 3 inches has plenty of veteran talent, placing him above the other two teams, but will Datsyuk, Neal, Hossa, Kesler, Weber, Letang, Koivu and Staal all remain healthy? Regardless of the predicted regressing of Braden Holtby, the hot and cold of Pavalec in net, if this team finds it stride I may eat my words.
9 – Injury Bugs: The name of this team should be ‘Bed Bugs’ as all he did was pick sleepers. Sure, he has some talent in Pavelski, Kopitar and the #1 goalie (Price), but he is really putting all his stock in the like of Monahan (I think he will perform well), E. Kane, Pastrnak, Green, Klingberg, Myers, Domi, and Ehlers. That’s not even all of them. The only reason why Bed Bugs is above three inches is because I think Carey Price will absolutely dominate again this season. The #9 and #10 teams are so similar but so different its odd. In three inches you have savvy vets and suspect goalies. In Bed Bugs you have a goaltender on his own planet and a bunch of young sleepers.
For the middle grouping we have some familiar faces. Three of the four managers are vets in this league and some of the draft choices by them absolutely shocked me. These are really the most interesting teams in this league because the good and bad is obvious in their draft selection.
8 – Hosers and Posers: Blaming internet connection issues, he took 4 goalies (Bernier-Awful, Schneider-Emotional Pick, Crawford-Somehow gets the job done, Lundqvist – 2nd best in the fantasy realm), Zdeno Chara who is injured and regressed considerably and suspect centers in a position that runs deep. I have to admit he got Turris well below face value, so that may pay off for him. Spezza should perform as he did last season in Dallas and Simmonds is probably the best category coverage player in the league. Karlsson is the best defensemen in the league and will continue to do well. As you can see it will be interesting how this team pans out.
7 – Go Nucks Go: He has the firepower in Patty Kane, the Sedin twins and MacKinnon and chose some great veteran players in Marleau, Iginla and Boyle. He has talent, or the potential for it in every player. Lupul was an emotional pick, Byfuglien was a pick in spite of another manager, but Skinner, Duchene and Ryan all have the potential to explode this year. He has what I predict the third best goalie I the league so where does he fall short? I didn’t like the emotional pick of taking his homeboy Ryan Miller. He hasn’t been valuable I fantasy in a few years now and isn’t getting any younger. Craig Anderson is a number one goalie, but has been struggling this pre-season. Why I ranked him in this spot and not higher is because in all of his emotional drafting he overlooked the nightmare it will be to generate a roster when Vancouver ad Colorado play on the same days. He has three forwards from the Avalanche and 2 from the Canucks. There are only 6 total spots. So who gets that last spot between Kane, Marleau, Iginla and Ryan when they all can produce?
6 – MC’s Alright: The reigning champion is going to be unhappy with this spot, but as he has proven in the past will probably make me eat my words. He could have very easily been in the bottom third with the wishful thinkers considering he is expecting a lot from players who have not been outstanding in recent years. His roster is strong top to bottom, but only has two standouts (Benn & Backes). He is expecting that new surroundings will make Saad more valuable and Shaw, Hartnell and Savard were all category coverage players. He got emotional with Talbot, but won’t regret it as Quick and Andersen will form one of the better duos this fantasy season. If it weren’t for his goaltending, he would be in the bottom third.
5 – Halak-Ness Monster: Rounding out the middle third is a team who is solid in coverage of scoring categories. In fact, they may be the most complete team in that factor. Where I see an issue with this team is the goaltending. I am not sure that Dubnyk and Halak will have the same success that they did last year. If they do, this instantly becomes a favorite to win the ‘ship. Led by Getzlaf, Pacioretty and Kessel; breakout candidates in Nyquist, Toffoli, and O’Reilly this team does have the potential to be magical. Will it all come together?
Now we round out the top four pre-season teams. These teams all seemed to come to the draft prepared and they all seemed to accomplish what they intended to. Each team has great category coverage with the advantage coming to the top two team in having outstanding picks in power-play points, hits and blocked shots.
4 – Shit Be Krejci: Showed up to the draft late, but obviously had his pre-draft rankings and analysis done ahead of time. He has the scariest roster with the likes of Ovie, Nash and Couture. Got some of the best value out of the draft in Nichushkin, Strome and Mrazek. His defensemen are all gamers and can put up points. Why this team comes in at this spot is the goaltending. Hiller probably won’t last until the trade deadline in Calgary, thought I think Jones and Mrazek become sole starting goalies. With that said the only thing separating Krejci and Halak-ness is the fire power. Both teams have goalies that could excel or fail, but shit be scary looking at this roster.
3 – Huron River Hitmen: Probably the best display of auto draft I have ever seen comes from a man I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post. He has top notch offense in Sequin, Hall and Perry. Perry is probably the second best category coverage player in fantasy hockey. Ennis was a bargain and will have a great year, but Eberle will miss the first month of the season due to injury. Vatanen will be a top 10 defensemen and the other three fill categories beautifully. Topping it off, he has a bonafide one-two goaltender punch with Bishop (top-5 goalie by seasons end) and Mason (will have career year). His third goalie is Antti Niemi who will see a lesser workload and will still produce eye-popping numbers. I am predicting Niemi will have a minimum of 25 wins and 4 SO this season. From your third string goalie, that is excellent. Only reason why he isn’t higher is because his team is not as strong as the top two in covering power-play points.
2 – 3 Jakes N 2 Jacks – Disclaimer. This is my team. Say what you want, but I have been absolutely awful the last two years since I won the championship. I changed up my draft style and like the #1 team focused on coverage of all categories, especially power-play points. Vorachek, Johansen, Zetterberg and Tavares will all have over 25 power play points. Jaden Schwartz is dubbed by NHL.com ‘the best player the average fantasy manager doesn’t know’. Forsberg will have a breakout year and continue the path he was on in the 2015 playoffs. Eichel is a generational player who will get over 50 points and was a steal compared to where he was predicted to be drafter. When was the last time Vrbata didn’t hover around 30 goals. The only sleeper, Vanek, who scores 25 goals and adds 25 assists this season. Josi will be a top 5 defensemen AND led the league in blocked shots. Don’t forget Weber’s ice time is supposed to be cut this season. Who do you think fills that role? This team doesn’t have a single player that recorded less than 20 assists last season and only 3 players with less than 10 goals. The complete package. This team would have dropped about 5 spots had the risky moves of taking Allen and Elliot in back to back rounds not paid off. Luongo will do well this year and be in the top 10, but having Allen and Elliot ensures 40 wins, a handful of shut-outs and takes the guess work out of goalie management. I’ll pat myself on the back now.
1 – Burns Notice: One of the veteran managers who knows his fantasy hockey like none other may finally get his chance to be the champ. His centers and left-wings will put up huge numbers this year. He covers the categories well with his defensemen. He has a 40 win goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury. Varlamov and the Colorado Avalanche will be back this season. Mike Smith is a great third string goalie and may even be trade bait (mark-my words) once his stock rises. This manager made draft day steals for undervalued players in Backstrom, Kunitz, Palat and Thornton. He has power-play points covered. His goaltenders are sound. There isn’t a kink in the armor. This will be the team to beat.
I will update the rankings throughout the season and keep track to what my predictions were. I am looking forward to the start of the NHL season and hope you are too!