Ramblings: 2016 Draft as a Fantasy Draft

by Ian Gooding on June 26, 2016

2016 draft as a fantasy draft, draft thoughts, Datsyuk trade explained…

It seems like yesterday that the NHL season finished. That’s why it seems hard to believe that the 2016 draft is already in the books. In other words, the NHL doesn’t waste any time in getting its offseason going.

Did the draft seem uneventful to you? Certainly when it comes to trades, it could have provided more. After all, the most significant trade involved Brian Elliott moving to Calgary (more about it here). As Mike said, this move helps both Elliott and Jake Allen, as both are out of the timeshare that never seemed to go away. That is, of course, unless the Flames decide to add another goalie. I can’t really see the Flames pursuing Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury any longer. If one of them happened to be acquired, then Elliott would really be the Rodney Dangerfield of goalies. But James Reimer could be a possibility.

As for the draft, everything started according to plan. Auston Matthews went #1. Patrik Laine went #2. But things really got interesting when the Blue Jackets chose Pierre-Luc Dubois at #3 over Jesse Puljujarvi. I was at the Canucks’ draft party, and you could hear the gasp as the words “Cape Breton Screaming Eagles” were uttered. Canucks fans figured they would be witnessing Dubois putting on a Canucks jersey and hat at pick #5. But it was not to be.

So why in the world would the Jackets pick Dubois at #3? This segment from the Sportsnet Magazine Live podcast offers up a couple of theories. For one, he's that big scoring center that's one important piece for a championship. But if this is such a terrible pick for the Jackets, let’s compare third overall and fifth overall picks through the years. I’d still give the advantage to team third overall, but the incremental difference doesn’t seem all that substantial to me. Demetri tells you how many first overall picks have won a Stanley Cup and are in the Hall of Fame in this week’s Contrarian.

I’m just more shocked that the Blue Jackets would trade Kerby Rychel to the Leafs for next to nothing. I know that Rychel had asked to be traded, but it’s not impossible to get a decent return when you know that other GMs won’t be offering full value. (By the way, Neil had you covered for the fantasy take of that deal as well.)

That Columbus pick changed the strategies of the Oilers, Canucks, and Flames. Edmonton probably had no idea Puljujarvi would be there at #4, so they picked the best player available. Matthew Tkachuk, who many thought would be the #4 pick, was still there at #6, so Calgary also picked the best player available. Some thought the Canucks were reaching a bit for Olli Juolevi at #5… or were they?

As a Canucks’ fan, I’m happy with the pick. Throughout their history, the Canucks have never had so much as a Norris Trophy nominee. Just about every Stanley Cup winner over the last decade (and perhaps even beyond) have had that one stud defenseman. Mattias Ohlund, who was coincidentally at the Canucks’ draft party, may be the team’s all-time best defenseman. That should give you an idea. But the Canucks still need that scoring center that will succeed Henrik Sedin.

On to Day 2 and what I thought were a few interesting picks:

Tyler Benson, 32nd overall, Edmonton: The local boy would have been a first-round pick if he didn’t miss the majority of the season due to injury (28 points in just 30 games). He was the first overall selection in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.

Alex Debrincat, 39th overall, Chicago: If he wasn’t 5’7” and 163 lbs., he would have easily been a first-rounder (101 points in 60 games in the OHL).

Carter Hart, 48th overall, Philadelphia: The first goalie drafted, Hart was the WHL and CHL goalie of the year. He has to be in the conversation as Canada’s goalie for the World Juniors.

Sean Day, 81st overall, NY Rangers: Remember when he was granted exceptional status to enter the OHL as a 15-year-old? The other three players who were granted exceptional status were all eventually drafted first overall in the NHL. That’s a lot to put on a kid, but it gives you an idea of how much his stock had fallen.

Ty Ronning, 201st overall, NY Rangers: The son of Cliff Ronning unfortunately has his dad’s size as well as his playmaking ability. (The 18-year-old me was surprised that I was taller than someone in the NHL when I got my picture taken with Cliff.) The younger Ronning impressed me when I saw him play, so he’s officially my deep sleeper favorite.

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In my keeper auction salary cap league, we hold an entry draft each offseason so that teams can claim one prospect from the summer’s draft class. So as a fun little exercise, I thought I’d redraft the 2016 draft, except this time for fantasy leagues. I’ve won the league three years in a row, so if anything I’m providing my league mates with a little cheatsheet (if they happen to be reading… but maybe they should be frequenting Dobber Hockey if they want to prevent me from channeling my inner early 1980s New York Islanders… needless to say, I’ll have the 12th pick for the third year in a row.)

For non-keeper leagues, your picks are basically Matthews and Laine. I wouldn’t argue about taking Laine over Matthews because Laine is more of the pure scorer, but I’ll have to give that one more thought. I can and will change my mind every so often. There could be others that make the NHL this season, but you’d have to think their chances are much slimmer than the first two picks.

So the focus of my list will be for keeper leagues. I’ll go 12 picks deep, since that’s the number of teams in my league. My system will be based on not only how early the pick is, but also offensive upside and how it relates to basic fantasy leagues. As well, the perceived degree of difficulty of the player’s league and player comparisons factored in. I’ll evaluate on basic scoring categories; peripheral categories not so much.

  1. Matthews
  2. Laine
  3. Puljujarvi
  4. Dubois
  5. Tkachuk
  6. Juolevi
  7. Clayton Keller
  8. Alexander Nylander
  9. Mikhail Sergachev
  10. Jake Bean
  11. Logan Brown
  12. Tyson Jost

Feel free to weigh in with your own picks. Again, this is a preliminary list and nothing is carved in stone. Just something to think about if you participate in a similar format or simply want to get a leg up on the competition.

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A friend of mine emailed me asking me why in the world Detroit traded Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona. Many of you will already know why. But in case you don’t, here’s how I replied. If you have an inside out knowledge of NHL contracts, feel free to comment below if I messed up on any particulars.  

“Detroit makes that trade because they would be stuck with Datsyuk's cap hit for one more season, even though he's retired from the NHL. It's a special rule that applies to players who signed a contract at age 35 or over. I believe it’s a rule that resulted from the Roberto Luongo contract (and others like it), where he's getting paid until he's 43, even though he probably won't play until he's 43. Wealthier teams did it so they can spread out their cap hit over more seasons and acquire more players. (Cap hit is allowed to be a different amount from actual salary paid.) Now Detroit has valuable space to make a run for other free agents, maybe even Steven Stamkos.”

“Arizona makes that trade because they are poor but need to reach the cap floor (aka cap minimum – there isn't just a maximum). They don't actually pay the money, but the contract still has to cover someone's cap space. If you go to capfriendly.com you'll see they also have Chris Pronger's contract, and for the same reason. Pronger's is on the books for one more year, even though he had to retire due to injury several years ago and never played for the Coyotes. Same with Marc Savard, whose cap hit was recently traded from the Panthers to the Devils. But if a team wants to, they can move the contracts to long-term injury reserve after the season starts and acquire more players. But they still have to be cap compliant at the start of the year.”

As I was writing this, I was curious. What happens if a team doesn’t reach the cap floor? Winging It In Motown does a great job of sifting through the legalese on this one. Basically the penalty seems to be at the league’s choosing, but it could be significant (large fine plus loss of first-round pick).

Yes, the balance of this trade could have helped Arizona more. But I’m not complaining if I’m Arizona snagging both Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun in the first round.

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Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.