August 20, 2008

The Rules To A Successful Fantasy Hockey Draft

Sean is on a much-needed vacation at the moment in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. In his place are a bevy of all-star bloggers from around the Internets.

Today, "Loser" Chris Yarbrough from Taking One For The Team and The Flower Shop will be your kind host.

I considered titling this post "The Rules To A Perfect Fantasy Hockey Draft", but quickly determined that there is really no such thing. To kick off my fantasy hockey posts here on GFH I am going to lay out what I think are rules everyone should follow in their fantasy draft. This is a bit of a balancing act for me as I try to enable you all without writing the plan for how to beat me in fantasy hockey. I will do my best to wear my fantasy hockey writer hat and not my fantasy hockey player hat. With that in mind, here are my keys to ensuring your draft in September allows you to celebrate come April.
  1. Be prepared: I will preface this by saying that you do not need to go overboard with your draft prep. That being said, you need to have a plan going in. Your plan can take many shapes, ranging from a stack of lists and cheat sheets to a basic idea of how you want to shape your team. The bottom line is that if you go into your draft blind you run a much greater risk of having a bad draft.
  2. Know who you really want: Determine before the draft the players that you really want to have on your team and try to pre-determine where in the draft you want to take them. These do not have to be big name players either. If there is a certain guy who you think would make a good third goalie or depth forward you need to have an idea of where you think you will need to take them to ensure they end up on your roster.
  3. Know who you really DO NOT want: This is probably the biggest part of my pre-draft prep work. Come up with a list of players you do not want and stick to it. Even if a guy on your list slips and starts to look like a good value pick do not take them. Stick to your list. Odds are that you were thinking much more clearly before the draft and there was a reason why you did not want that player heading in.
  4. Pay attention to the competition: Keep an eye on how the other players' rosters are taking shape and be prepared to adapt your plan accordingly. If there is a run on goalies early on, you may need to adjust and grab a goalie sooner than you planned. On the other hand, if most of the other players are pretty well stocked at a given position you might want to start looking at other positions as the top players at those positions are more likely to start coming off the board.
  5. Do not waste bench spots on defensemen: There are very few defensemen who are truly valuable fantasy assets. Do not waste a bench slot on an extra blue liner. I would even suggest looking into having an empty defenseman slot on your roster and carrying an extra forward or goalie on your bench. The exception to this rule is naturally if you have a Top 10 defenseman who is currently injured, but again you may want to just leave the injured player on your roster as you are not likely to get much production from a free agent blue liner.
  6. Assume everyone is onto you: This rule goes hand in hand with #2. Just because a player you value is down in the pre-draft rankings you cannot assume that he will be drafted that low. If I had followed this rule last season I would have had Eric Staal on my team instead of being stuck with Martin Havlat.
  7. Do not panic: There is a very good chance that your draft plan will be blown to pieces after a couple rounds. This happens all the time. Do not panic, just salvage what you can from your plan and keep plugging away. Do not make a bad impulse pick as that could have a very negative impact on your entire draft.
  8. Late round risks can really pay off: Do not be afraid to use one of your final picks on a high risk/high reward player. For example, in one of my drafts last season I used my final pick on Teemu Selanne. He only ended up playing in 26 games last season, but he was very productive in those games and helped give my team a nice late-season push. There are players like that in every draft, do not be afraid to roll the dice on one of them.
Some of these rules have gotten me through quite a few drafts, while others are a product of learning from my mistakes. The last "rule" I would give you is to have faith in your plan. Unless a Top 10 player comes out of nowhere to tear it up early on (I recall Alex Ovechkin getting off to a hot start his rookie year), and barring injury, do not make any moves for the first couple weeks of the season. There is a reason why you drafted the guys you did, so stick it out with them for at least a little bit. My personal opinion is that you more or less know just what you are going to get from 90% of the guys in the NHL. If a guy who is a consistent 30-goal scorer is off to a slow start, that just means you have more goals coming down the road from him as he will most likely still end up getting around 30 goals. Have patience a give your team some time to round into form.

That is all from me for now, but be sure to check back in next week when I will start breaking down the best players at each position. I will start up front with centers and then work my way back until I wrap things up with the guys between the pipes. Until then, good luck preparing for your draft(s)!

Ballhype: hype it up!


brian said...

great post, but:

If a guy who is a consistent 30-goal scorer is off to a slow start, that just means you have more goals coming down the road from him as he will most likely still end up getting around 30 goals.

try telling that to the guys who drafted michael ryder last year!

Loser Chris said...

Ryder was the first guy who went through my mind as I wrote that. Thus the "most likely" I safely inserted in there. There are always going to be a few guys every year who significantly over/underachieve, but overall most of the guys in the NHL are pretty reliable.