Hail, hail, the furious frenzy of live drafts is upon us. Like a chaotic midnight battle inside the realm of a black forest, survival comes by hacking your way through each round, fending off the heathens and securing prized players poised to bring you glory. We are the true Fantasy Hockey Warlords and we exist everywhere at all times. We all have different drafting skills, strategies and special sleeper picks ready to provide an offensive punch that will pulverize and demolish opponents.
And just behind your frontlines of forwards and defensemen stand your prized fighters, your goalies, the Sleeping Giants, secured by chains, bound by thick ropes and carried on a plank hoisted above the heads of one thousand fighters. The beasts of the crease and the masters clad in Kevlar masks become the real force behind winning and losing and they allow your frontline to advance almost completely unharmed by whatever the opposition throws your way.
Since offensive players – both scoring machines and hidden gems – can be a dime a dozen, winning your league obviously starts with strong goaltending. Every competent fantasy manager will take a goalie with one of their first picks, so after securing your own Tier-I goalie, now it’s time to crack those knuckles and fight for the best Tier-II or III goalies. Beyond the obvious goalies available to draft, a number of low-profiled goalies exist beneath the surface and become instant X-factors in your league. Furthermore, having a strategic advantage at drafting low-profile goaltenders will make your team even more powerful and allot earlier picks for those potent wingers that have enticed you all summer long.
So while you’re in the heat of a drafting battle, there’s a nice little trick that might help you pull a late-round miracle. This strategy has worked for me numerous times in live drafts. It’s called ‘baiting’ your opponents. Basically you fake managers into drafting a goalie that you have more or less persuaded them is a diamond in the rough. Next thing you know, there’s all this hype surrounding a goalie you never wanted in the first place, leaving your sleeping giant untouched. Crafty? Indeed. Can it backfire? Yep. And the war rages on.
Use the chat room (like Yahoo’s) to your advantage and lead people to believe that someone like Jason LaBarbera is a prized “sleeper” goalie. Hint that there’s still a “ton of good goalies left” and once you get past Round 10, the other managers will start rattling off names still available in an attempt to foil your secret plot. This plants seeds of intrigue and doubt into their minds, as other managers soak up information dropped in a live-draft chat room. But at the same time be aware that any goalie you choose in the second half of a draft is almost always an inherent risk. This is mainly due to the fact that they won’t see a lot of time in between the pipes, yet their output is weighed the same as others when it comes to save percentage and goals-against average. Nevertheless, their potential shouldn’t be tossed aside and forgotten like a rotten corpse.
With that in mind, below are my five prized Sleeping Giants – my ultimate low-profile, yet valuable goalies for this season. These are not Tier-I (some are not even considered Tier-II) goalies, but their position in the depth charts and their individual statistics may be a major benefit for your team of fantasy warriors.
Jaroslav Halak will get more starts than most managers think. Carey Price isn’t capable of playing every single g