I decided to give it a go on a Yahoo mock draft today. Standard categories were used, which were G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, HIT, W, GAA, SV%, SO. I started with the seventh overall pick. Here’s how I fared:
One important note: If you are forming a new league in Yahoo, the default settings now include hits, which are included in the projections. One of my leagues has used standard Yahoo settings for the past few years, so I’m trying to decide whether to change to hits. So I asked my league and only one league member responded. He was against the idea because he believed that hits are subjective in their recording. I’ll wait and see if I receive more responses before making any changes. Needless to say, penalty minutes seem to be on the way out as a fantasy hockey category.
Some of these are players I might be more positive about than you are, but it’ll at least give me some thought on how I draft in my pure single-season league and my keep 4 league. I surprised myself by drafting forwards with my first three picks, although I’ve noticed that only two defensemen (Brent Burns, Victor Hedman) and only five goalies (Andrei Vasilevskiy, Pekka Rinne, Connor Hellebuyck, Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky) are ranked within the top 30. No defensemen or goalies are ranked in the top 10 either. After seeing numerous top-level goalies struggle mightily last season, I’m not as inclined to use a high pick on a goalie as I have been in previous seasons.
I took care of my goaltending/defense problem between rounds 4 and 10. I thought Fleury was a bit of a reach, but I figured I should grab a goalie and I thought he was the best one available. Sandwiched in that group might be another reach in Jeff Skinner, but he might be worth a gamble at that point if he can find some success on the top line of the Sabres, who I think are a team that could take a big step forward.
I left myself thin at right wing with only Patrick Kane and Yanni Gourde drafted at that position. I don’t get too worried at this point if I have a shortage at one position, mainly because I know I’ll be heading to the waiver wire at some point during the season. But having trial run drafts at least identifies what I should look out for once the real thing comes along.
Earlier in the day I tried entering another mock draft, but my browser got stuck in neutral. So as it turned out, I was kept in the draft and the computer autopicked for me. Yahoo even sent me the results of that draft. Here’s how the computer performed:
Who did a better job, me or the computer? Personally, I like the team I picked better, but that's because I like the players I picked better, but that could also be my own personal biases.
I can definitely confirm that I reached for Fleury there. But could Fleury still come through at that spot? Things couldn’t have gone any better for the Golden Knights last season (okay, maybe if they won the Stanley Cup), so you’d expect some sort of sophomore jinx. But how much of a dropoff should we expect? Keep in mind that Fleury probably deserves this ranking, as he probably would have been a Vezina nominee had he not missed two months of the regular season. Age is also a factor, as Fleury is now 33. But also keep in mind that Fleury is under contract for four more seasons with a raise kicking in after this season. So he’s not about to get bumped out of his starting job.
I’m currently in the middle of another draft as I write this. Like, literally, as I write this. No, I’m not a superb multitasker. In fact, I’ve always taken great pride in saying I’m a horrible multitasker. Except to say that it’s not what you think. It’s an auction draft where bids are placed via a message board, with high bids requiring 72 hours (three days) before a player can be drafted. This draft started a week ago and should go on for at least another week and probably more.
Drafting well is important in this league, although you also want to leave some salary cap room for FAAB (free agent auction bidding) pickups during the season. Sometimes there can be crazy bidding on a player (and maybe even a harsh word or two for bids that aren’t placed according to league rules). I actually think that the bidding is more intense than the actual playing of the matchups during the season! On the other hand, sometimes you get players who can pass through virtually uncontested after a league member nominates him for bidding (ie. starts a thread). One such player who falls into that latter category in this league is Jesper Bratt.
It’s fine to view Bratt’s fantasy value with some suspicion. After all, he was a recent sixth-round pick who stormed out of the gate with 10 points over his first 10 NHL games. The production gradually fell after that, all the way down to just four points over his last 26 games. The slump resulted in his icetime dropping from 15-16 minutes to just 12 minutes over the final quarter, much of which included a drop from two minutes of power-play time per game to virtually none.
Much of Bratt’s success occurred when Kyle Palmieri was out of the lineup. Palmieri missed stretches of time during the first half of the season. But late in the season, Palmieri was back on the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, a spot that Bratt had occupied earlier in the season. Not surprisingly, Palmieri had a much more productive second half (30 points) than first half (14 points).
If you target Bratt in a deeper league, he may luck out for you if he’s back on the top line again. But if Palmieri misses time again this season, Bratt should be back on that line and should be a short-term waiver-wire pickup. The power-play time is more likely to be there as well.
With Semyon Varlamov now 30 with lots of wear and tear from injuries, the Avalanche planned for the future by trading for super backup Philipp Grubauer this offseason. Grubauer was then given a three-year contract worth $10 million, so unless he’s this season’s version of Scott Darling, he’ll likely be the starter for the 2019-20 season.
But what about this coming season? In case you’re ready to throw in the towel on Varlamov, he actually wasn’t that bad in 2017-18. He posted a very solid .920 SV%, which was eighth among the 32 goalies that played in at least 40 games. This was a better save percentage (albeit marginally) than higher-ranked goalies Andrei Vasilevskiy, Devan Dubnyk, Frederik Andersen, and Tuukka Rask. Assuming he can avoid the injury bug, he could still claim the majority of the starts.
The number of starts that Grubauer receives will obviously be tied to how well Varlamov performs. But a scenario in which I could also see Grubauer claim over 50 percent of the starts during the second half would be if the Avs regress to being a non-playoff team again. Nothing ever as bad as the 2016-17 season, of course, but the Avs may decide to look ahead to the future. The more likely scenario is that they will at least be a bubble playoff team, which might give a 60/40 split in starts in favor of Varlamov.
It will be interesting to see how Varlamov’s career progresses after the 2018-19 season. If he has a similar season to 2017-18 and is left as a free agent, he could still be sought after. Free agent goalies tend to be 1A-type goalies at best, as teams prefer to lock up their clear-cut starters long term.
In any situation where it’s anyone’s guess who will be the starter and the team isn’t terrible, it’s not a bad idea to try to acquire both goalies if your league is deep enough. But if I had to guess who will receive more starts, I’d say Varlamov.
Dobber’s own Cam Robinson made another appearance on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver. You can listen here (go to about the 1:10:00 mark). As you’d expect on the local sports radio station, Cam focuses on Canucks’ prospects along with his 2019 draft rankings at Dobber Prospects. If you live in the greater Vancouver area, one player that you can watch right in your backyard is Bowen Byram of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Byram is an offensive-minded d-man who is currently third on Robinson’s rankings. I’m hoping to watch him a few times this season. In fact, four of the top 10 players on the list currently play in the ‘Dub.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.