Ramblings: Laidlaw Breaks Down his Recent Fantasy Drafts (October 1)

by steve laidlaw on September 30, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Laidlaw Breaks Down his Recent Fantasy Drafts (October 1)

Ramblings: Laidlaw checks in to break down his recent fantasy hockey drafts.

Hey – the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide already has projection and line combo adjustments based on the Janmark injury news and the latest camp cuts! Check it out here!

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This week was a big one for me for drafts with one on Sunday night and another on Wednesday. If you care to bear with me, I’ll review each of those drafts now. If not, you can skip to the news and Q + A sections below.

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My first draft was in a 10-team, points-based H2H league that I am joining for the first time. You get points for just about everything one can do on the ice including Goals, Assists, Points, Plus/Minus, PIM, PPP, SHP, SOG, Hits and Blocks and some other stuff too. Goalies get points for Wins, Goals Against (Negative), Saves, Shutouts and even Losses! We start three forwards per position, with four defensemen and two goalies nightly.

To me, this system is setting it up so that you want lots of goalie volume, with less care for quality of start. That means replacement value for goalies in this league is high. A good note since last week I talked about wanting to take a tent pole goaltender in the first round.

I got the ninth pick overall and sure enough not a single goalie went before my pick. I felt pretty safe that I could get one of Braden Holtby or Carey Price in round two so I jumped on Erik Karlsson with my first pick. The guy picking 10th took Holtby and Price with his wheel picks. Interesting strategy. I guess I am punting goalies.

Here’s how the rest of my draft went:

1.9 – Karlsson

2.2 – Tyler Seguin

3.9 – Blake Wheeler

4.2 – Filip Forsberg

5.9 – Taylor Hall

6.2 – Cory Schneider

7.9 – Jack Eichel

8.2 – Justin Faulk

9.9 – Dougie Hamilton

10.2 – Kyle Palmieri

11.9 – Brendan Gallagher

12.2 – Semyon Varlamov

13.9 – Mike Hoffman

14.2 – Ryan McDonagh

15.9 – Derek Stepan

16.2 – Ondrej Palat

17.9 – William Nylander

18.2 – Craig Anderson

19.9 – Nazem Kadri

With my goalie option taken away, I opted for Seguin at 12th overall. Pretty darn good value if you ask me. It was between him and John Tavares. I think Seguin offers more per-game upside so I rolled the dice. Tavares is the safer pick since he misses less time with injury. In H2H leagues I opt for more volatile options.

Wheeler has become a staple of mine in round three. I am noticing that the second tier of RW is vanishing faster than at LW in most drafts and Wheeler is often the last option left. The top tier options at RW are Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski, virtually guaranteed to go top-10. The second tier of Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov, Corey Perry and Wheeler is going fast as well. Tarasenko is pretty well locked in as a top-10 option and Kucherov rarely lasts beyond the top 25. I like Wheeler, however as he is gold across all categories. Not sure he’ll live up to last year’s showing but he represents reasonable value unless you are spending up for the other guys.

LW is more accessible. You won’t get Jamie Benn or Alexander Ovechkin without a top-five pick but the second tier of Filip Forsberg, Taylor Hall, Max Pacioretty, Johnny Gaudreau and Artemi Panarin, can frequently be mined in between picks 30-50. That I was able to get two here was something of a coup. Where I took Forsberg, I had access to the entire tier save for Gaudreau, while both Hall and Pacioretty were available with my pick in round five. Again, I went with the volatile option.

Schneider being available in round six feels like a steal as well.

I didn’t expect to be taking Kyle Palmieri in any leagues this year but with RW flying off the board and my previous investment in Hall, I figured I would give him a spin. This could really work out for me if they turn into an elite tandem.

The Nylander pick was a total shot in the dark but this is around where I want to take high upside options. I’ll drop him quickly if he doesn’t produce out of the gate.

I suspect that this is the only league where I’ll own Craig Anderson. There are lots of established starters sliding late into drafts and I’ll take him as my third in this league but I want a piece of other options in other leagues for diversity’s sake.

Looking back on how the draft unfolded, I went after centermen earlier than I like to but I got good value on both Seguin and Eichel where I took them. This hampered my ability to mine centerman value later in the draft. For instance, I wasn’t going to take Jason Spezza with Seguin already on board. Another example is Jeff Carter sliding to the 17th round. I would have loved to have jumped on him but I filled my third starting spot with Stepan a couple of rounds earlier.

Yes, in this format I took Stepan ahead of Carter. Call it a hunch, but I don’t like how things were trending for Carter at the end of last season. That’s not enough that I am avoiding him entirely but I didn’t want to keep forcing centermen into my lineup.

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My other draft was in another 10-team H2H league, this one with category styled scoring. We score Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, PIM, PPG, PPA, SHP, SOG, FOW, Hits and Blocks, as well as Wins, Goals-Against Average, Save Percentage and Shutouts. We start three forwards per position, five defensemen, two goalies and one utility nightly.

There is a heavy lean towards skater categories but this league still goes hard after goalies so there is value in a tent pole. With five bench spots, one can easily roll out three goaltenders but they have to be good or else you are losing the two rate categories (GAA/SV%).

You’ll note that Shortanded Points rears its ugly head in this pool. I hate it but I’m not the commissioner.

I lucked out and got the third pick. You can win your league from anywhere but with this setup I think there is a clear advantage to nabbing one of Ovechkin, Benn or Sidney Crosby. Picking third I was guaranteed one of the above.

Crazy enough, Crosby and Kane went one-two, which left me a choice between Benn and Ovechkin. Fantasy Hockey Geek actually ranks Benn higher in this setup because of the faceoff boost but I’m taking Ovechkin in any league with SOG and Hits. I didn’t even think about it for a second.

Here’s how the rest of the draft went:

1.3 – Ovechkin

2.8 – Ben Bishop

3.3 – Kris Letang

4.8 – Cory Schneider

5.3 – Blake Wheeler

6.8 – Roman Josi

7.3 – Ryan Johansen

8.8 – Jakub Voracek

9.3 – Justin Faulk

10.8 – David Backes

11.3 – Tyler Toffoli

12.8 – Brandon Dubinsky

13.2 – Rick Nash

14.8 – Ryan McDonagh

15.3 – Derek Stepan

16.8 – Jaden Schwartz

17.3 – Vincent Trocheck

18.8 – Steve Mason

19.3 – Connor Hellebuyck

20.8 – Patrik Laine

21.3 – Nazem Kadri

22.8 – Radko Gudas

Brent Burns and Karlsson both went before my pick in the second round, which was a bit heartbreaking. Seeing goalies starting to go off the board I jumped on Bishop as a consolation prize. Sure enough, goalies started to fly off the board. By the time my fourth round selection was up Holtby, Price, Martin Jones, Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Corey Crawford and John Gibson were all gone.

There was value to be found on goalies late in this draft but I have Schneider as a top tier goalie. Not often you can get Ovechkin plus two of your top tier goalies. This came at a cost, however, as after I took Wheeler in round five (as per my strategy mentioned in the previous draft discussion) I watched my entire second tier of LW go off the board. I have Ovechkin though, so this doesn’t kill me.

I’d also mention that with Burns and Karlsson going I wasn’t messing around and made sure to grab Letang in the third. I’d have preferred to wait until the fourth for Letang but no such luck.

You’ll note that I grabbed Faulk in both of my drafts. I am targeting Faulk everywhere. He is slipping because he was hurt last season and has a bad plus/minus as a result of skating for a bad Carolina team. Carolina has some sleeper potential and a bunch of young talent up front, which might spark their offense.

I also grabbed McDonagh in both pools. He meets my cut-offs for defensemen value because both leagues score hits and blocks. He also has a chance of scoring a bunch as the primary defenseman for the Rangers now that Keith Yandle has moved on. McDonagh scored 43 points the last time he was the primary option for a full season and he’s only 27. Perhaps there’s another gear.

I am not touching Backes or Dubinsky in most pools but with FOW, Hits and PIM involved these guys are gold. Ryan Kesler is another sexy option in these sorts of pools. With FOW, the Utility spot we have essentially becomes a fourth center slot so I went heavy on centermen. FOW is an easy counting stat to load up on.

I grabbed Mason as my third goalie. I really like the value you can get with Mason going so late. He’s a starter on a playoff team and has done well since landing in Philly. Some think Michal Neuvirth will be the starter. In fact, Neuvirth went off the board before Mason in this draft.

I also took Hellebuyck as a fourth starter. I don’t intend on rolling out four goalies come the start of the season but we will know if Hellebuyck is sticking with the Jets by the time the season starts. If he doesn’t, I can drop him. If he does, I have a fourth starter to dangle for an upgrade elsewhere.

In my previous draft, I allowed having drafted Wheeler to get me to hold off from drafting Laine but considering how far Laine slipped, I had to take him. I then blew kisses to the rest of the draft party in celebration. Laine should not be falling that far in any draft. I’ll be hoping that he gains LW eligibility later on or that he hits out of the gate and I can swap him for an option on another team.

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As soon as that second draft finished I got to trading. I managed to work out this deal:

Nicklas Backstrom, Jussi Jokinen, Marian Hossa

For

Derek Stepan, Tyler Toffoli, Jaden Schwartz

I am stoked to be adding Backstrom to pair with Ovechkin. Ultimately, I got the best player in the deal, which is what I strive to do. I really am hoping that Toffoli and Schwartz work out as upgrades for the other guy though. I’d hate to gain a bad rep in this league. Some of the guys are already a bit intimidated because I write about this stuff. That makes the injury news regarding Schwartz all the more painful.

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Indeed, Schwartz will miss at least four weeks with an elbow injury and who knows how much longer after that injury will linger? I liked Schwartz for 60-65 points again this season. His absence opens the door for Robby Fabbri to step into some top power play minutes. He might not give them back either.

This elevates Fabbri from casual sleeper, to someone you should actively target, even in shallower leagues. If Fabbri is going to be a hit this season, we should know within the first couple of weeks, while Schwartz is on the shelf.

I also wonder if Schwartz’s injury doesn’t compound the Blues’ forward woes enough to push them into the much rumoured Nash from Kevin Shattenkirk trade. Remember, the Blues lost Backes and Troy Brouwer this summer and only brought in David Perron as a replacement. They were hoping Vladimir Sobotka would return from the KHL but it appears that he won’t.

A Nash-Shattenkirk deal would make waves. I don’t think Nash’s presence would hinder the Blues’ forwards that much as he hasn’t been a big power-play producer in a long time. Fabbri would remain a desirable option in that case.

What would be more important is that Shattenkirk would push McDonagh back to second fiddle, which would cap McDonagh at 40 points maximum. Shattenkirk could also spark the Rangers’ power play, which would help guys like Stepan and Mats Zuccarello.

Shattenkirk’s spot on the Blues’ top PP unit would likely be filled by Colton Parayko, which would shoot him up to top-20 among fantasy defensemen.

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Marian Hossa has indicated that he wants to keep playing past his current contract with the Blackhawks. That would push him well into his 40’s.

Smart players like Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr have remained effective into their 40’s so there is a template to follow here. Hossa isn’t quite at their level as a scorer though so it’s likely that he’ll be a more effective NHL player than fantasy option as he ages. We’ve already seen Hossa lose out on primary power play minutes as a member of the Blackhawks, which is hurting his fantasy potential.

Anyhow, this news means you may not want to jettison Hossa quite so quickly in your keeper leagues.

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More Q + A again this week. Thinking it will be a weekly feature.

Any defenseman with talent can get 40 in a season if everything breaks right but there’d have to be some lucky bounces and injuries. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect more than 30 from Noah Hanifin this season. Curious to see how he gets used. Long term, could be 50 but my concern is he is trending towards more of a two-way use. That’s fine, it just means he won’t be elite for fantasy.

The term “top six” is becoming antiquated. Teams are looking to roll their top three lines evenly and every team has enough skill that any of those lines can be effective at scoring. Line makeups still matter because lines like the “Triplets” can take off and score at five-on-five to extreme levels but those situations are few and far between. The more important question is about power play time and how it will be broken up.

In Tampa Bay, they divide the power play time relatively evenly between their first and second units and they can do this because they are stacked like a cargo freighter. It seems a good bet that both units will roll with four forwards and one defenseman with Anton Stralman on the first unit and Victor Hedman on the second unit.

There is an outside chance that James Wisniewski earns a roster spot and pushes his way onto one of these units. He has a long track record of productivity on the power play.

What’s more important is where all the forwards slot in. Even with eight spots there still isn’t enough room for all the talent that Tampa Bay boasts. It’s also worth mentioning that the Lightning sucked on the power play last season and that it carried over to the playoffs. I’d sooner see the Lightning stack one unit and overwhelm teams with it for 75% of the power plays than to do this split system that has resulted in diminished efficiency. Or maybe last season was a one-off.

Because the Lightning power play is still a work in progress I don’t feel comfortable projecting where everyone will fit exactly but it is safe to assume that Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn will be involved. Ondrej Palat and Vladislav Namestnikov will also see some time and perhaps even Brian Boyle can resume his role as net-front presence, which he assumed during the playoffs.

The top power play unit, were I crafting it, would look like so:

   

Drouin (Right Pocket)

 

Killorn (Net Front)

 
     

Stamkos (Left Slot)

Kucherov (Right Half-Wall)

 

Wisniewski (Point)

 

 

This is the basic setup that most teams operate with. Kucherov would be the quarterback who has the puck the most. He has one-timer options across the ice to Stamkos or at the point to Wisniewski or even to Drouin in the pocket at the side of the net. It’s a replica of what the Capitals have run for years with great success:

The ultimate goal is to setup Ovechkin in his wheelhouse as they do above. Tampa Bay’s goal should be the same with Stamkos and for the most part this is what they do while he is out there but they don’t always have quite this arrangement. Having two excellent talents in Drouin and Kucherov as facilitators plus a real threat on the point in Wisniewski makes this a power play option worth throwing out there for the first 1:20 of every man advantage.

Lots of people want Hedman skating on the top power play unit but handedness matters. Hedman’s lefty shot makes him less of a threat for one-timers in this alignment, which is why he and Stamkos don’t share the ice as much as many would like.

I’d love to give a clearer answer but coaches shuffle the lines all of the time. And we haven’t yet seen how Jon Cooper will utilize Drouin and Stamkos in the same lineup since he was forced to finally use Drouin in a large role. Cooper’s tendency to split minutes evenly makes me wary of all Lightning forwards as it is possible none will see the big minutes that lead to huge fantasy production.

My guess is that we continue to see Stamkos and Filppula line up together because Filppula offers a secondary faceoff option but when the Lightning need a goal, the bench will shorten and we will see more of the Drouin-Stamkos duo everyone wants to see.

I’m not overly excited about Adam Larsson’s offensive potential. I think it’s more likely that Oscar Klefbom is the offensive dynamo for the Oilers this season. Could Larsson reach 30 points? Possible but if you read my piece last week, I don’t see Larsson as fantasy worthy in standard leagues.

As for Pageau’s excellence with shorthanded goals? Talent, opportunity, luck and a coach who preaches aggressive penalty killing. It remains to be seen if Guy Boucher will approach penalty killing in the same way as Dave Cameron.

First, that’s what she said.

Second, Drew Doughty is awesome in leagues that score hits and blocks, I would easily make him the fifth keeper.

I’m going with an emphatic NO. We all love Aleksander Barkov. He’s an amazing player. There are just too many reasons to go against him. Does Jaromir Jagr have another ageless season in him? Will Jonathan Huberdeau score enough goals to help push this line’s production up another notch? Can Barkov get to 70 if he misses 10+ games again? Are there enough minutes available considering the Panthers roll their lines and power play units evenly?

I don’t even have Barkov as the top fantasy centerman on this team. I like Vincent Trocheck more since I feel like he’ll be used in more of an offensive capacity and might be more durable. Trocheck is also sneaky good in leagues that score hits and SOG. Trocheck got bumped up to 18+ minutes per game during the second half of last season and over the course of 35 games he landed 100 SOG. Prorated for 82 games that’s 234 SOG. I feel confident projecting Trocheck to eclipse not only last season’s 174 SOG but the 200-mark as well.

Trocheck also scored 29 points over those 35 second-half games, a 68-point pace. I don’t project Trocheck for quite that many points but I like him to reach 60. So while all the hype is on Barkov, I’m going the Trocheck direction. There’s value to be found.

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A few things to announce/plug:

I’ve taken over Dobber’s weekly column on the Puck Daddy blog. Look for content every Wednesday. Thus far I have pieces on draft value on the wing, draft value at center and defense, and my tiered goalie rankings.

I will be returning to do spots on the Hockey Unfiltered show on Sirius/XM channel 91 every Sunday this season. First spot will be this weekend. Tune in!

I’ll be hopping on the Roto Hockey Show next week. They have one of the most entertaining fantasy hockey podcasts in the business. I love chatting with those guys. I recently did a mock draft with them along with Chris Wassel and some others in the industry – fun stuff. I know podcast listening minutes are valuable but these guys are worth your time.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.