Russ Miller, a.k.a. The Comish, reports on the Industry Experts League draft and comments on how it all went down.
First, a little background information on the league itself, which was started for the 2005-06 season. Former Dobber Hockey writer Eric Maltais took the title in its second year. It is a 12 team rotisserie league with daily rosters comprised of four centers, four left wingers, four right wingers, six defensemen, two goalies and five bench positions along with two injured reserve slots. There are ten scoring categories consisting of goals, assists, plus/minus, power play points, shots on goal, hits, blocked shots, wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Every year, each team protects four players, only one of which can be a goaltender.
Well, it took three cracks, but I finally won the Industry Experts League. Here is a quick summary of how I got there.
In my first year, I inherited Marian Hossa, Anze Kopitar, Dion Phaneuf and the wonderful Mike Smith as my four keepers. All things considered, I was pleased to finish in second place in my rookie season.
Heading into my sophomore campaign, I dropped the ageing Hossa, kept big Dustin Byfuglien and had to hope that Smith would find his groove again. I had a very good draft, grabbing Braden Holtby, Max Pacioretty, Blake Wheeler and Drew Doughty with my first four picks (after everyone's protections).
I was cruising along in second place when Steven Stamkos broke his leg. His owner, who was in first place, put Stamkos on the market. I made him an offer he couldn't refuse: Kopitar, Max Pacioretty and Drew Doughty. My rationale was that a top five keeper doesn't come on the market very often in a keep four and I wasn't planning on keeping Pacioretty (in hindsight, I may have actually kept him) or Doughty and Stamkos was a nice upgrade on Kopitar. I had lots of depth and naively thought that with a few breaks, I might still be able to compete, even after the trade. I was mistaken and finished in seventh place.
The bright spot was that in the space of two years, I was able to turn my keepers from Hossa, Kopitar, Phaneuf and Smith into Stamkos, Byfuglien, Wheeler and Holtby. Much better.
Below is the draft order (randomly generated) for this year and each team's protections:
1. Rotoworld (Ryan Dadoun) – Eberle, Hall, Letang, Bobrovsky
2. SiriusXM (Ray Flowers) – Perry, R. Nash, D. Sedin, Varlamov
3. TheSportsForecaster (Glenn Gingerich) – Ovechkin, Giroux, Tarasenko, Andersen
4. RW (Jan Levine) – Crosby, Gaudreau, Barrie, Price
5. TSN.ca (Scott Cullen) – Benn, Voracek, Pavelski, Quick
6. Yahoo! (Scott Pianowski) – Seguin, Toews, van Riemsdyk, Lundqvist
7. THN (Matt Larkin) – Tavares, E. Karlsson, Subban, N. Foligno
8. Today's Slapshot (Ian Gooding) – Kessel, Parise, T.Johnson, Rask
9. DobberHockey (Russ Miller) – Stamkos, Wheeler, Byfuglien, Holtby
10. NHL.com (Pete Jensen) – Getzlaf, Johansen, S. Weber, Bishop
11. Rotowire (John Toperzer) – Backstrom, Couture, Shattenkirk, Crawford
12. NHLTradeTracker.com (Eric Maltais) – Malkin, Pacioretty, Monahan, Fleury
As you can see by the above list, some teams have a decided advantage heading into the draft over other teams. After the protections, the league is essentially a one-year league and a large part of my draft strategy includes avoiding unproven, overhyped players. Drafting from the ninth slot, I would have loved to grab a second goalie and hoped one of Pekka Rinne, Devan Dubnyk or Cory Schneider would fall to me.
After everyone's four protections came off the board, round five opened with Connor McDavid, Rinne, Dubnyk, Patrick Kane, Kopitar, Nathan MacKinnon, Schneider and Doughty. That left me to choose between Filip Forsberg, Kucherov, Mark Giordano, Brent Burns and Roman Josi for my first pick. I went with Josi because he will help in blocked shots, shots on goal and plus/minus in addition to his 15 goals and 40 assists. Burns, Kucherov and Jack Eichel closed the first round of picks.
Giordano, Hedman and Roberto Luongo are taken before my second pick. Once again, I look at a defenseman and in leagues that count blocked shots, they HAVE to come from your defense. I take John Carlson and hope to get a decent goaltender with my next pick.
A good number of quality players come off the board, but I'm focusing on what's going to be left of the goaltenders when it gets to my pick. Unfortunately, the guy I really wanted (Halak) comes off the board early in round five. I thought about taking my first left winger (Palat), but decide that if I miss out on an unchallenged number one goalie, I might regret it. I take Steve Mason. Don't laugh. Last year, Mason excelled in goals-against average (2.25) and save percentage (0.928), two of our three goaltending categories.
As fate would have it, the player I seem to get in nearly every draft and the guy I passed on with my last pick is still there. I quickly press DRAFT for my first left wing, Palat. Back-to-back seasons of plus-30 to go along with 65 points and 135 hits makes him underrated in my books.
My queue emptied pretty quickly: Gustav Nyquist, Aaron Ekblad, Dougie Hamilton, Kyle Turris, Chris Kreider (argh) and only two picks in front of mine, Mark Stone. Still, my consolation prize was C/LW-Brandon Dubinsky, who should deliver 55 points and 240 hits.
Round 10 came down to Patrick Marleau or Patric Hornqvist. The choice was made easier due to a lack of depth on the right side and Hornqvist's decent number of shots on goal and hits. Last year, he scored 51 points in only 64 games, although he will have to battle for a place in the Pens’ top six this season.
For my next pick, I was determined to grab my fourth defenseman and watched them get whittled down in order; Mike Green, Torey Krug, Sami Vatanen and Jake Muzzin. I was left to choose between Mark Streit or Dennis Wideman. I didn't hesitate too long before taking Wideman. While he won't repeat last year's 56 points, he should still be good for nearly 180 blocked shots and get PP2 minutes.
I really wanted Evgeny Kuznetsov next, but he was sniped with the pick right in front of mine, so I went with another defenseman in Mark Streit. Yes, he's 73 years old, but he still had 50 points last year, 30 via the power play.
Round 13 saw me take young Ryan Strome, who last year finished with a sweet plus-23 and has a shot at 60 points and 100 hits this season on an improving Islanders squad.
The next round saw Tyler Myers and Jack Johnson come off the board. That left Niklas Kronwall as the highest ranked defenseman on my draft board by quite a bit, so I press DRAFT. I am a big fan of Jack Johnson, so I was a little disappointed not to get him here. With Kronwall as my number six defenseman, I may have the best blueline, one through six, in the pool. I sacrificed some points by my defensemen for guys who would give me plenty of blocked shots.
At this point in the draft, I have my two goaltenders, all six defensemen, three centers, one left winger and two right wingers. I was eyeing up Aleksander Barkov as the picks counted down, but he gets taken four picks before mine. He had a fantastic finish last year and I'm high on him this season. I settle on David Krejci, who should return to the 60-point mark and top PP duty with the Bruins.
I consider taking Troy Brouwer next, with his 200 hits and what should be a nice plus/minus, but I was unsure if he was going to receive consistent top six ice time with the Blues and decide to gamble a little, taking boom or bust Valeri Nichushkin as my third starboard winger. Of course, Brouwer went before my next pick as did David Perron, causing me to select Mika Zibanejad, who I have down for 55 points and 150 hits.
I'm full up at G, D, C and RW, but have only one LW, although Dubinsky does have dual eligibility. I am not thrilled with what's left on the port side, so I look at Nazem Kadri and Tomas Hertl, deciding to go with Kadri with the promise of number one center ice time. He also throws some hits and will contribute in shots on goal.
I miss out on Hertl, Michael Del Zotto and Boone Jenner, so I decide that enough is enough and address my glaring left wing issue, selecting Matt Moulson, Carl Soderberg and Mathieu Perreault (last minute change by Yahoo! adding LW eligibility) with consecutive picks. Moulson was rumoured to ride shotgun with Jack Eichel and is a decent rebound candidate. Soderberg was also being auditioned for a top six role and Perreault had 41 points in only 62 games last year.
I take Kyle Palmieri next, hoping that he gets all kinds of opportunity in New Jersey. I welcome Matt Beleskey and perennial NHL hits leader Matt Martin to my roster and with my final pick, I scoop Jacob Markstrom. I really think Markstrom has a chance to unseat Ryan Miller at some point this season, however, an untimely injury right before the season started puts that idea on hold.
Before the season began, I made one move, plucking young Dylan Larkin off the free agent wire and dropping Palmieri. In one year leagues, I'm not usually interested in rookies, however, when I found out that Larkin is going to be playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, I thought it was worth a shot.
Taking part in a draft against so many knowledgeable hockey writers was tough, but what a blast. Only time will tell if it's good enough to repeat in this tough league.