Mock Draft Series
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Fellow fantasy hockey nut Iain and I participated in a mock draft this past weekend, to give us (and you) an idea when certain players are getting drafted, plus to highlight some strategy points and sleeper picks. I drafted 13th out of 14 teams, while Iain drafted in the 2nd position, so we can each give alternative perspectives if you happen to find yourself at the top or bottom of your fantasy hockey draft.
This mock draft is for a largely offense-based point system, where skaters receive 1.25 points for a goal and 1 point for an assist. Goalies get 2 points for wins and 4 points for shutouts (shutout victory is a cumulative 6). Plus/minus (+/-) and penalty minutes (PIM) are not rewarded. Most fantasy hockey drafts are solely points-oriented, so I felt like a mock under these circumstances would be the most beneficial.
The snake draft (picks go 1-14, and then 14-1 and so on) went 16 rounds, with the following starting positions: C, C, LW, LW, RW, RW, D, D, D, D, G, G, and 4 bench spots. Based on my results, a late draft position should be embraced – not feared. So don’t panic if you’re outside the top 3 draft picks and can’t get your hands on an Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Let’s take a gander at how I did.
1.13 (13) LW Dany Heatley, SJ – If you take a look at the updated projections, you’ll notice that I’m a big fan of the Sharks-Sens’ trade, particularly for the fantasy boost it gives Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton. Heatley’s numbers the last 4 seasons are 50/53/103, 50/55/105, 41/41/82, and 39/33/72. The reason for his dip to 82 points in 07/08 was because of a rare shoulder injury which limited him to 71 games. Last season, when he scored just 72 points, the entire Senators’ team was affected by coaching changes (they’ve had four in the last two seasons), and Heatley had a particular problem with coach Cory Clouston cutting his ice-time by two minutes per game. You may think of Heatley as a crybaby for demanding a trade, but I think being upset about a decline in ice-time is warranted. He’s proven over the last 5 years that he’s among the NHL’s top scoring threats (only Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk have more goals in that time period), and he probably deserves as much or more ice-time than any forward on that team. Now, you pair this 28 year old sniper with arguably the greatest playmaker of the past decade in Joe Thornton, and what do you get? A rarely injured stud who will be a legit contender to knock Ovechkin off his Rocket Richard Trophy-winning perch.
Mike Green’s name is screaming up at me from the top spot in my draft queue, and honestly, I can’t believe that he’s still left. But if I’ve noticed one recurring trend in fantasy hockey drafts, it’s that people rarely take a defenseman in the first 2 rounds, even though truly elite d-men are few. So I thought about it and realized that wingers are another rare gem, but conversely, are taken by the handful in rounds 1 and 2, and Heatley might not survive another 2 picks. So with that, Dany Heatley became the first member of my mock team.
2.02 (16) D Mike Green, WAS – Sure enough, “Jeffrey” grabs a pair of wingers with the 15th and 16th picks, taking Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla. Solid picks, but Nash signing the big contract and Iggy getting up there in years had me wary. After all the salivating I’ve done, I can hardly contain myself as I select Mike Green. As far as fantasy defensemen go, Green is in a class of his own. Here’s some food for thought: Sidney Crosby scored just 2 more goals than Green did last year, but in 9 more games. Heck, I wouldn’t fault you for taking Green in the top 5 with the numbers he puts up, but realize that there’s a chance you can get him in round 2 or even 3 in smaller leagues.
3.13 (41) C Jason Spezza, OTT – It seems like an eternity since I made my last selection some 24 picks ago. During that time, I watched all the elite – and some not-so-elite – goalies get picked up. Though in the past I’ve often targeted a goalie with my 3rd or 4th pick, I’m willing to wait at this point, as the production between the 7th and 17th best goalies probably won’t be that much different. RW is definitely the position with the least depth this year, and I’d advise locking a couple up early. On the other hand, there are literally dozens of capable centres. But I’d have to be crazy to pass on Spezza this late. A quick peak at Team Jeffrey (drafting in the 14th spot) shows that he’s in the market for a centre, and this solidifies my decision. Spezza is better than his 73 point output last season, and may have suffered from the same demons as Dany Heatley. He’s only 25, a former 2nd overall pick, and has averaged 85.5 points the last 4 seasons.
4.02 (44) RW Bobby Ryan, ANA – At this point, I know I have to take an RW, as all the top talent will surely be gone 24 picks from now. Martin Havlat? Incredibly skilled, but too fragile. Daniel Alfredsson? Still scoring, but he’s 36 now and I’d rather not put so many eggs in Ottawa’s basket. Devin Setoguchi? I really like him, but Joe Thornton’s got a new triggerman – see my first pick. Bobby Ryan? Well, he probably would have given Steve Mason a run for rookie of the year had he played the full season. He was a force in the playoffs last season playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and he looks like a natural goal scorer. Bobby Ryan it is.
5.13 (69) D Andrei Markov, MTL – Even though starting goalies are getting scarce (Tomas Vokoun just got drafted – I mean, really?), I know that drafting another stud defenseman will give me the greatest advantage at this point. Like I said earlier, elite d-men are few and far between, and Markov and Sheldon Souray are the only top 10 defensemen left. Souray’s had a history of injury troubles. Markov is coming off a 64 point campaign (39 of them on the power play), and even if he gets me 10 points fewer than that, he’s still worth it with the 69th pick. Besides, for netminders I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve…
6.02 (72) LW Alexander Frolov, LA – Now he’s fairly inconsistent, and this may look like a bit of a reach, but the LW are going fast. Frolov is the only LW remaining at this point who gives me a shot at 30 goals, and the fact that his contract is up at the end of the year might really ignite his spark. With no goalie yet, this could be a huge mistake, but I’m pretty sure the two I want will still be there 24 and 27 picks from now. We’ll see.
7.13 (97) G Semyon Varlamov, WAS – Success! Sure it hurt when “LAF” took Steven Stamkos right in front of me, but locking up the 21 year old wall more than soothes that pain. Scouts have called him a sure thing, and I saw all I needed to see in last year’s playoffs when he stole the starting job from Jose Theodore. This pick could be the steal of the draft, as Varlamov has 40 win potential.
8.02 (100) G Jonas Hiller, ANA – Another show-stealer during last year’s playoffs, Hiller was downright amazing. You have to be great to steal the starting job from a former Conn Smyth winner. My only fear with Varlamov and Hiller is that they may share a fair number of games with Jose Theodore and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, respectively, so it would be wise to pick another goalie, and preferably one who will start a lot of games.
So after 8 rounds, that’s Heatley, Green, Spezza, Ryan, Markov, Frolov, Varlamov, and Hiller. Keep an eye out for part 2 of my mock draft commentary which will cover my final 8 picks, sleepers included, and also for Iain’s picks from the 2nd draft position.