Top 10 fantasy draft questions

by Tom Collins on August 19, 2019

With Yahoo opening its fantasy hockey website last week, many people have already gone through a dozen mock drafts.

Mock drafts are an excellent tool for preparing for your regular league. As long as there aren’t too many inactive teams, after a while, you can get a good sense of trends and players that are going higher or lower than their ranking shows.

I’ve also seen some people report that their Yahoo leagues have already started drafting. It’s a little early for my liking, especially since training camps haven’t even begun yet, but GMs in these leagues don’t get to wait to see what shakes down over the next couple of months.

Of course, drafting brings many dilemmas. Below are 10 questions fantasy general managers should have answers to before they draft. Keep in mind these are all for one-year pools only.

Here’s an extra bonus tip. Last season, some general managers were drafting Martin Marincin despite him being in the minors, and Klaus Dahlbeck, who was in the KHL. This year, Martin is still listed in the top 200 (and was an autodraft pick in two separate mock drafts I was in on Sunday night) and Dahlbeck is still in the top 300, so there are going to be some autodrafts that are going to select these guys. Don’t be that GM and make sure your own list is up to date.

 

10. When should you select rookies?

The easy answer is almost never. Maybe if you get great value late in a draft, but there’s no point in using a high- to middle-round pick on a player that has never seen NHL action. In mock drafts, I’ve seen Kaapo Kakko go in the ninth round, over more established players such as Brendan Gallagher, Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Cam Atkinson. You’re better off taking proven production over a rookie that you hope might be as good as what the proven producer will give you.

 

9. Do you know why certain players are so high or low in the rankings?

When drafting in Yahoo, you have the option to sort by your own rankings, the experts’ rankings, or the rank based on the league settings. If you sort by the last one, you’ll see some crazy rankings. Devan Dubnyk, for example, is the fourth-ranked goalie. That’s because Yahoo has Dubnyk winning 44 games. Clayton Keller is ranked 342nd because of a low plus/minus (minus-14), low hits total (14), low points (47) and low shots (173). Some of the rankings will be changed over the next couple of months, but in the meantime, be aware of what some of the projections are.

 

8. Where to draft unsigned RFAs?

This year has fans and fantasy hockey general managers a little worried as there are still plenty of excellent unsigned RFAs (including Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy, Mikko Rantanen, Mitchell Marner and Brayden Point). People forget we went through the same thing in 2016, when Nikita Kucherov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Johnny Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, and Sean Monahan were all unsigned on Aug. 18. Monahan signed Aug. 19, the rest signed at the end of training camp, and Trouba missed the first 15 games. However, there are still people concerned for this year and it will affect draft values as we get closer to the season beginning. Are comfortable drafting Marner ahead of Brent Burns, Aleksander Barkov and Artemi Panarin? Are you confident enough that Laine won’t miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the season? It’s tough to use draft picks in the first four rounds on players that may not even play until the end of November.

 

7. Which players are sliding?

Mock drafts are a good way to gauge where certain players are targeted. Remember during mock drafts to ensure that every other person in the league is actually there, or else the autodraft will simply select the next player on the pre-selected list. Anyway, there are three players that I have been noticing that have been sliding pretty dramatically so far in mocks: Matt Duchene, Dylan Larkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Despite a ranking in the high 60s, Backstrom went 146th in one mock draft Sunday night. 

 

6. What are some good later bargains?

In the spirit of this list, here are 10 players that are ranked lower that you could look at grabbing earlier (A top 10 inside a top 10 list: This is some Inception-level stuff going on here).

Ryan Getzlaf: Health is a big issue, but if he can get 75-plus games, lots of value.

Shayne Gostisbehere: Could be in line for a rebound season with a new coach.

Nick Schmaltz: Chance to play on the top line and was excellent in Arizona last year before his injury.

Nikolaj Ehlers: Down season last year means people have forgotten his back-to-back 60-point seasons.

Jacob Markstrom: Tough to find #1 goalies late, but Markstrom is a better option than anyone else in later rounds.

Ondrej Kase: Has improved every year, but injuries the biggest concern.

Nikita Gusev: Potential top power-play, top-line player available around round 17. 

Mikko Koskinen: Could be in a timeshare, could be a number one netminder.

Filip Hronek: Already the best defenseman on Detroit, could be the power-play quarterback.

Darnell Nurse: Likes to hit, took over Oilers’ top power-play last year, could be even more productive this season.

 

5. Should you draft an elite goalie early?

In years past, I would have said no. It was always my strategy to draft elite skaters early and then try to grab the number-one goalie on lesser teams and still get 25-plus wins out of them plus quality peripherals. However, that strategy may be no good this year, as teams either seem more willing to rest their starters or go into the season with a tandem. That gives the truly elite number one netminders even more value. Rick Roos will be writing his Roos Lets Loose column later this week about goalie tandems, and you can vote in the poll here).

 

4. Which goalie is giving great value?

That would be Connor Hellebuyck, who is somehow a mid-tier goalie in Yahoo drafts so far this year. He’s basically being targeted outside the top 10 for netminders, while goalies taken ahead of him include Pekka Rinne (who may not even be the starter by the end of the year), Carey Price (who is constantly battling injuries) and John Gibson (who is great but is on an awful team so wins will be tough to come by). Part of his lower drafting may be chalked up to the fact that he is ranked 15th among the experts’ rank. Truthfully, Hellebuyck is good for 60-plus starts, 35 wins, and a few shutouts. There’s not much more of sure thing out there.

 

3. Where to draft Taylor Hall?

I did about 8-10 mock drafts on the weekend, and Hall was targeted mostly in the late second/early third round. However, he has to be the toughest player to gauge this season. He’s an elite player stuck in a Band-Aid boy body. I could buy the argument that he’s too fragile and you can’t take the risk with such a high draft pick. I could also buy the argument that he is truly elite, and if he can play 75 games, he’ll be a top fantasy asset. Basically, it comes down to how risk-averse you are.

 

2. Who to take first overall in points-only pools?

There is always focus on basic Yahoo pools, but I have done some that were straight-forward points-only. This decision comes down to Connor McDavid versus Nikita Kucherov. There are benefits to both. McDavid is truly elite and can get to 100 points while dragging Alex Chiasson to a 20-goal season (of Chiasson’s 22 goals last year, 16 of them were assisted by McDavid). McDavid should be winning the Art Ross every year, but the problem is, he’s stuck dragging Chiasson to 20-goal seasons. Kucherov, on the other hand, has a much stronger supporting cast. You can’t really go wrong with either choice.

 

1. Who to take first overall in normal Yahoo pools?

Unlike the points-only league question, this one is tougher as you have four solid choices. McDavid is talented enough to lead in both goals and assists. Kucherov will dominate for power-play points and plus/minus. Nathan MacKinnon is good for shots and is underrated when it comes to power-play production. Alexander Ovechkin will lead in hits, and is always a contender for the Rocket Richard trophy and most shots. For my money, I would take Ovechkin first overall. He’s just too dominant, and can easily win three of the six categories on his own, and not be far behind the other three in power-play points or plus/minus. Look at last year. Despite Kucherov’s and McDavid’s insane point production, Ovechkin was the top-ranked skater in Yahoo pools (MacKinnon was sixth, Kucherov was 11th and McDavid was 45th).