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Friends and Family: Draft backcheck

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We're almost a week removed from the annual Yahoo! Friends and Family League fantasy hockey draft. Things went down to the wire last season with yours truly pulling away in the final days to secure the league title. The field is even stronger this year with the introduction of teams from NHL.com and McKeensHockey.com in addition to some of the usual suspects from Yahoo! and Rotowire.

Follow the link to view round-by-round results of the 2008 Yahoo! Friends and Family League draft.

After the draft I asked each participant two questions specific to their own selections or overall draft strategy. Owners were also asked to identify the overall steal and reach of the draft. To keep things fair, I was questioned by colleague Scott Pianowski. Here's a look at what each league member had to say, under oath.

(Participants displayed by draft order).

Rotowire – Janet Eagleson
Q: You expressed some despair upon learning you were drafting No. 1 overall in this league for the second straight season. Do you have a strategic objection to drafting from the top spot, or was this just a “not-again” reaction after drafting Sidney Crosby last year and dealing with his injuries?

A: My initial groan when I learned I was first was indeed tied to last year's debacle with Mr. Crosby and his injury – how could something so right go so wrong? There's more pressure than imagined on a first-overall pick, in large part because it's a snake draft. If something happens to my number one, I'm left with the 24th best player to carry my team.

I'd rather be further down a draft and get two of the top 15 or 18 picks – you end up with more elite guys that way, and if you know your stuff, you fill up the bottom with smart value picks.

Q: Speaking of injuries, you used your second-round pick on oft-dinged winger Marian Gaborik, who already missed a week of camp with various ailments. Did you budget in lost time and still like the value or do you think this is the year he stays healthy? What are your projections for Gabby?

A: Gabby will still get 75-80 points even if he plays 70 games. But I think he'll be better than that. There were a lot of things going on in my mind when I nabbed him. First, I was picking 24th so I had to take a risk with the best player on paper. Two, I figured Alexander the Gr8 was a durable pick so I'd be OK with a risk at 24.

Next, I thought Gabby plus Alex would catapult me to the top of the goals category and even PPPs – a jackrabbit start in two key categories, particularly goals which are harder to come by than most believe. Lastly, Gabby is playing for a contract, a trade or both. I think he'll be committed to off-ice routines to keep him in shape to put in a career season.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: There were four steals in my mind: a-mak15 taking Shawn Horcoff, a potential 65-70 point player, with his second pick of the reserve portion (14th round); FHC-Tony taking Scott Gomez, another potential 65-70 guy, with his third pick of the reserve (15th round); NHL-Rocky nabbing Shea Weber with his first reserve pick and a-mak15 (again! nice work!) with Manny Legace in round 11.

There were two reaches.

Y! Buser with Mark Streit at the sixth pick in Round 10. I like Streit but how do you pick a guy like that when there were multi-faceted defenders like Kimmo Timonen, J-M Liles, Marek Zidlicky, Rob Blake, Shea Weber and Andrej Meszaros still on the board? Streit earned a lot of his points on one of the league's best PPs in Montreal AND while playing forward. He will have neither of those this season. And no PIMs to compensate. And a bad plus-minus. Sorry.

FHC- Tony with Cam Ward in round 7. I think this was a panic pick as a bunch of goalies went right before this. Ward barely played well enough last year to keep the starting role. He earned wins and nothing more, as his save percentage and goals-against were among the league's worst. You can't afford to take a hit in the gut in cumulative categories like those two as you'll never climb back. I just think he'd have been better off marrying a high-ratios workhorse to his earlier pick of Marc-Andre Fleury, who'll get the wins he needs. Manny Legace dropped to round 11 – he would have delivered wins and all the ratios needed.


amak-15 – Roto Arcade commenter
Q: You drafted right wings in the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds, meaning you drafted a “bench” player in rounds that most managers used to address their No. 1 guys at multiple positions. Did you have a general draft strategy to just take the best available player regardless of position or did it just work out that way? Do you have any regrets about not addressing defense (8th round) or left wing (9th) until so late in the draft?

A: My blueprint per round had me taking defensemen in the fourth and seventh rounds. Drafting 2nd somewhat complicated matters and forced me to make some adjustments. Scott Niedermayer at pick 47 would have been the more appropriate choice but I couldn't pass on the upside of Corey Perry. My fifth round selection came down to Shane Doan and Zach Parise. Doan's ability to contribute to every category, along with the Coyotes' addition of stud Olli Jokinen have me believing that he can build off last season's brilliant campaign.

Drafting my third right winger was unconventional and I don't endorse it, but it gave me a bargaining chip to pursue deals and address my team's shortcomings.

Q: There was a buzz in the room over your selection of Shawn Horcoff in the 14th round. He missed almost 30 games last year and the year prior it was linemate Ales Hemsky who missed a chunk of games. Can these guys stay healthy, and if so what are your projections for Horcoff in 2008-09?

A: Early reports have been good and this team should be dynamic on the power play. The additions of veterans Eric Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky, both underrated at their respective positions, give the Oilers a formidable line that should consistently rack up the points. Their poor play in the preseason is a reason for concern and a slow start can be expected, but the team remains optimistic and just needs some time to acclimate itself.

Horcoff was a key component to many fantasy squads prior to his injury in 2007-2008 and the Oilers showed faith by inking him to a lucrative long-term extension during the off-season. Projection (75 GP): 24/45/4/52/27/173.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: Jordan Staal in the 13th (No. 149) is slated to open the season alongside Evgeni Malkin and Petr >Sykora and could excel if he finds regular ice time on that line. Michael Cammalleri's production should exceed that of his ADP.

ROD: Kris Letang in the ninth. He's having an impressive preseason and there's certainly upside, however, with some proven names still left on the board, Jovo, Schneider and Kubina were the safer plays and I expect them to exceed Letang's production throughout the season. Bertuzzi in the ninth, especially since McLarney already had Kostitsyn, Cole and Huselius on his roster.


NHL.com – Rocky Bonanno
Q: You provided a couple of the early surprises of the draft, breaking up the traditional Ovechkin-Crosby-Malkin order by selecting Martin Brodeur No. 3 overall, then selecting defenseman Dan Boyle with the 27th pick, which made him the second rearguard taken. What motivated these decisions and what are your projections for Boyle in his first season in teal?

A: Brodeur is the closest thing to a fantasy no-brainer I’ve ever known. You can debate about Crosby and Ovechkin, Lidstrom vs. Gonchar, but when it comes to goalies, Brodeur is hands down the best. When he’s there, I’m taking him. A workhorse goaltender is the perfect building block for any fantasy squad. This is the advice I give to NHL.com readers and the advice I follow.

In my fantasy preview I raved about Boyle and my optimism remains high. Few defensemen have 20-goal potential and/or work the power play as effectively as Boyle, and that’s why I rated him the No. 1 fantasy defenseman. Throw out last season, when a freak injury limited him to 37 games. In his career season of 2006-07 (20-43-63 in 82 games), Boyle averaged 6:25 in power play ice time per game, scored 37 power play points (10-27), and took 203 shots on goal. The Sharks have a surplus to gifted offensive goal-scorers who will greatly benefit from Boyle’s puck carrying, passing and creativity, and vice versa. My projection for Boyle is 23-52-75.

Q: You are one of a few managers who exited the room with only two goalies. Is this a general draft strategy for you or a luxury you were afforded after drafting a workhorse like Brodeur with your first-round pick? Do you envision adding another goalie either via trade or free agency?

A: It was not my intent to only select two goaltenders, but I definitely have two that I feel I can count on on a nightly basis with little worry. Picking Brodeur first, I knew I would not get caught up in the first goalie run, so I could concentrate on selecting my No. 1 forward and defenseman in the next two rounds, then assess the goaltenders remaining. By the time I returned my attention to goalies in Round 7, four teams had already selected their two starters, so I felt the time was right to draft Martin Biron of Philly, another goaltender who should play 65 games with shaky backups and receive plenty of offensive support to rack up the W’s.

Brodeur-Biron is a way-above-average duo I can be happy with. Soon after locking up Biron, the remaining starting goaltenders went quickly, and I was caught napping while I worked on my offense, but I’m not kicking myself for only having two. At some point I do anticipate adding a third goalie by trade or free agency. One or two or three always emerge out of nowhere, so I’ll be looking for that breakthrough candidate.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SODs: Paul Stastny, a-mak15, Round 7; Mathieu Schneider, Y! – Funston, Round 10; Tomas Plekanec, McKeensHockey.com, Round 11; Shea Weber, NHL.com – Rocky, Round 13; Peter Mueller, Maingot @ Rotowire, Round 13.

RODs: Dustin Byfuglien, Y! – Funston, Round 6; Wade Redden, Maingot @ Rotowire, Round 8; Pavol Demitra, FHC – Tony, Round 10; Mats Sundin, Y! – Funston, Round 15; Sergei Gonchar, a-mak15, Round 16.


Yahoo! – Matt Romig
Q: Only two of your first eight picks were wings, and one of those picks fell on Rick Nash, never a Romig favorite. Take us through the thought process.

A: You can respect a player's talent without liking his fantasy prospects and I'm on record as saying I don't like Nash, at least not relative to his ADP. The series of events that landed him on my roster started with NHL.com selecting Brodeur No. 3 overall. I was expecting Malkin to go there and was ready and willing to take Dany Heatley No. 4. That would have taken care of my LW1 spot right there and I would never have looked Nash's way.

I will say I like him better in a rotisserie format where his streakiness won't leave you with production holes in a short-window head-to-head matchup. Let's just say I'm hoping to eat my words after his second 40-goal and first 80-point season.

Q: Pascal Leclaire's 2007-08 numbers seem almost too good to be true; this guy was a full-fledged journeyman before the surprising breakout. How sold are you on him as your seventh-round pick, and did you just miss out on any other goaltending targets?

A: I'm not sure how you qualify as a journeyman when you're still with the team that drafted you, but I see your point careeer-numbers wise. To counter: He's not out of nowhere, having been drafted No. 8 overall in 2001. Sure those career stats don't look great, but he's been on some bad teams and in theory is reaching those goalie prime years (he'll turn 26 this year).

I can remember only one time all draft that the guy I wanted was snatched one pick before I was on the clock and in this case it was the 7th round with Biron still available before NHL.com grabbed him (dang, he got me twice).

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: I like Ty Conklin's upside to the point that he feels like a necessary handcuff to Chris Osgood. Even as a backup he figures to start 20-25 games and should provide outstanding ratios. If Osgood struggles or gets hurt, that value skyrockets.

ROD: Sure I went against my own advice on Nash, but I'm sticking to my guns on Todd Bertuzzi. Does anyone who drafts him honestly think, "OK, I just locked in 75 games and 65-80 points for my RW2?" Though I wouldn't do it myself, I don't hate Bertuzzi as a late-round flier. But in the 9th round I'd prefer something a little more reliable.


McKeensHockey.com – Gus Katsaros
Q: You were one of three managers who drafted two defensemen among their first five picks, selecting Mike Green in the 3rd round and Brent Burns (a very popular pick in the room) in the 5th. Was it your draft strategy to have a strong blueline, and if so, why favor D over another position?

A: Yes, defensemen are weighted high in my pre-ranking, and draft analysis. PP categories make PP QB's valuable. Green and Burns are the QB's, with added benefits of contributions to the assist category. Drafting the best, prime blueliner – justifying the higher draft pick – allows to focus subsequent picks on goal scorers over assist producers, e.g Pominville over Savard.

A secondary benefit, good solid defenders are plus/minus engines. (Most) prime blueliners play with first lines at even strength. To make gains in the plus/minus category, players have to be on the ice when even strength scoring results. Drafting players from defensive teams limits minuses, but is a 'prevent' strategy which doesn't take advantage of gains. Blueliners are usually better for this reason than forwards. High picks, but they pay off.

Q: With the 5th pick in the draft you took Vincent Lecavalier, who is a fringe top-10 guy on a lot of rankings boards. Nobody can blame you for trying to keep your sanity so I'll ask: Was this related to you selecting Vinny in a previous experts draft we participated in? Are you willing to overlook your rankings a bit to own the same guys on multiple teams (I know I am)?

A: Yes, I would overlook my rankings to draft the same guys in multiple leagues, obviously within reason. But, I actually had Vincent ranked 3rd overall, in my rankings. So, in the other expert league, getting him 11th overall was a steal for me. I prefer goal-scorers over assist producers (Thornton, etc), and it was Vinny, Iginla, Heatley as my prime candidates. I think Iggy pots 50, Heatley will score 40-45, because Spezza shoots more often now, and doesn't feed him blindly anymore. Vinny has a rebound season in him (50 goals, 100 pts) and was being touted as the best player in the game half way through last season. Just a preference, but I have no problem with him at 5.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: Josh Harding, Round 16 – will have a great season.

RODs: Dustin Byfuglien, Round 6 – feel he's overrated, and wouldn't have drafted him this high.


Fantasy Hockey Cafe – Andrew O'Ddea
Q: You and one other manager drafted two goalies in the first three rounds. Was it your plan going in to be solid between the pipes? If so, why goalie over another position and how many games do you see Chris Osgood starting in the regular season?

A: Any good manager knows the dire importance of solid goaltending in a rotisserie league, and this is always my plan. The simple fact is that essentially you have two guys that make up 40 percent of the entire statistical categories and 10 skaters that make up 60 percent. Goalies win championships! With skaters in a varied number of positions, allowing flexibility goalies do not have, it’s easy to cover areas you may be lacking in (i.e. pick up a goon to catch up in PIM’s). Add to this fact that there are always going to be skaters that exceed expectation every season, making up for any shortcomings on your roster.

Lower-end goalies are next-to-never that reliable. There are typically only two to three goalie ‘gems’ each season. This is why goalies with a consistent proven track record MUST be taken in the first three rounds unless a steal presents itself. As for Osgood, I think he is good for 60 games. This of course brings with it a minimum of 35 wins and top 5 goaltending stats in GAA and top 10 in save percentage.

Q: You drafted four players who missed significant time due to injury last season (Simon Gagne, Patrice Bergeron, Philippe Boucher and Joffrey Lupul). Do you feel that fantasy owners have undervalued these players due to the lost time and how worried are you that health could derail your chances in this league.

A: Proven players coming off injury are always worth picking from mid-draft onwards. By round 7 or 8 you will likely have a solid core and this is where I believe it’s worth taking guys that people often overlook simply because they’d rather take a guy who had his status quo of 60 points the season before. However, this basically comes down to personal drafting strategy, and whether or not you think the player is worth the risk for potential reward at any point in the draft.

I’m very optimistic of good seasons since all of these guys are scheduled to be healthy and ready to play in their respective opening games. Gagne was a back-to-back 40-goal scorer pre-concussion; Bergeron will be manning the point of the Boston PP and was flirting with a point per game having only missed six games in two seasons prior to his injury; Boucher had a stellar 07-08 and will now be the go-to-guy with Zubov likely to miss a chunk of the season; and Lupul scored 46 points in 56 games in his first year as a Flyer. Worth the risk? In the end, only time (and hopefully a championship) will tell!

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: My vote for the SOD goes to Mike Ribeiro at pick 10 in Round 8. Simply no love for this guy after producing at a point-per-game pace last season.

RODs: My vote for ROD goes to Corey Perry at pick 11 in Round 4. I just think that it’s the wrong time to take a 30/30 right wing over say an 80-point centre or quality defenseman when there were a plethora of similar right wings left (Doan, Horton, Boyes, Hemsky to name a few). Or maybe he knows something I don’t?


Yahoo! – Matt Buser
Q: You’re the resident numbers guy on the fantasy staff and a relative newcomer to fantasy hockey. How much did data drive your decision making in this draft? Were you crunching numbers or just going by feel?

A: Admittedly, I was almost completely data driven throughout the draft. I am venturing into new territory here, so I relied on a combination of o-ranks and ADP to point me in the direction of the best available players at any given point. From there I tried to compare the relative upside/downside – past stats, team situation, age, etc – of whoever I was considering before I settled on a specific pick.

Q: You don’t have a single 100-PIM guy on your roster and a few of your players (Pavel Datsyuk, Brian Campbell, Zach Parise) could be considered downright gentlemanly. Did you consciously draft without consideration for this category and are you concerned that there’s not enough grit in your lineup?

A: What I tried to do is find categorical balance with each pick and never at one point told myself "you specifically need to think PIM here." Nineteen of the top 26 players in PIM from last season are currently unrostered – clearly it's because the rest of their lines leave something to be desired, but if I find myself needing a PIM specialist in the early going or otherwise, it shouldn't be too hard to find one.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: One of the biggest steals on paper has to be Ryan Getzlaf, who finished 7th in season rank in 07-08 but was drafted with the 37th pick. Given my status as a rank amateur, I'm pleading the fifth on calling out reaches.


Fantasy Hockey Cafe – Tony Huang
Q: The Stanley Cup hangover has been particularly rough on goalies of late. Last year Ray Emery went off the deep end and the year before that both Cam Ward and Dwayne Roloson struggled after reaching the cup finals. Are you concerned that a short offseason will negatively impact your second-round pick Marc-Andre Fleury? And what about all those injuries on Pittsburgh’s blueline? You selected him ahead of last year’s No. 1 ranked goalie Henrik Lundqvist, so what are your projections for Fleury?

A: Yes Emery and Ward had bad statistical follow-up seasons but let's be objective here. Ward was 22 years old at the time, the season after his playoff run was his first full season, and he plays on a very offensive minded team. Fleury's skill-set and ceiling has never been compared to Emery's. These two are not even in the same league … literally.

Fleury had a glimpse of the Cup to end his season, so he should be hungrier than ever. As for the crippled Pittsburgh defense, I don't see Gonchar and Whitney as major defensive assets. Sure, it would ease my mind if they were there, but neither are going to draw Lidstrom or Pronger comparisons for their defensive coverage. Selecting Fleury wasn't a knock on Lundqvist but rather a knock on the efficiency of the completely rebuilt Rangers. I'm predicting a stat line of 40 wins - .918SV% - 2.30GAA - 6SO.

Q: Joe Corvo closed last season with 21 points in 23 games as a member of the Hurricanes. He’d never surpassed 40 points in a season before last year, and now he’s a 5th-round pick. Can he sustain that production in Carolina and what is it about his fit there that makes him such an attractive fantasy target?

A: I certainly don't expect Corvo to keep a point-per-game pace this season. Carolina is where players go to resurrect their careers with the likes of Samsonov, Justin Williams (before his unsuccessful knee surgery), Rod Brind'Amour, Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, just throw Corvo's name into the mix. Jim Rutherford is one of the best GM's in the league. He knows exactly how to get the most out of his players' skills without exposing their flaws.

Especially on a team that doesn't play a lot of defense, Corvo won't end up in the doghouse like Ottawa or LA. Also keep in mind that defensemen usually peak around the early 30's and Mr.Corvo is 31 this year. I have him penciled in for 60 points this year.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: Tons of centres could go here, but I'm going to give this award to Cammalleri for being selected with the last pick of the 6th round. He could easily put up better numbers than Rick Nash who was taken in the 3rd. Sure Keenan could destroy him, but he's a PPG player when he's healthy. Langkow and Iginla should do wonders for his fantasy status.

ROD: Daniel Briere went in the 4th round ahead of guys like Savard, Perry, and Mike Richards. To put things in perspective, Brad Richards was drafted 12th round and I do not believe Briere will outproduce him by much, if at all.


Yahoo! – Brandon Funston
Q: On paper, your team is a strong favorite for the league’s congeniality award. It’s hard to find more than one or two guys with a nasty streak and the player who carries the second-most penalty minutes over from 2007-08, Mats Sundin, isn’t a guarantee to pull on a sweater this season. Did you have any high-PIM guys targeted during the draft and do you have a plan for the category going forward?

A: I was actually targeting Dion Phaneuf with my early second-round pick, but he was nabbed by McLarney from RotoWire just two picks before me. That would have helped my goon factor tremendously. That said, I'm hoping for a group effort when it comes to PIMs. After all, I'm one of just three teams in the league with eight players that had 50-plus PIMs last season.

Like closers in baseball, I don't like going out of my way to satisfy one category. What I typically will do is designate one defensive spot for goons that I'll pick up in free agency as the season goes along. I don't need to win the PIM category, but this strategy manages to keep me competitive – I pulled 7 points from the PIMs category in the F&F last season with a roster that didn't contain one 100 PIM guy, other than those 10-day contract goons that rotated through my D spot.

Q: Speaking of Sundin, you got the guy who finished the 2007-08 season ranked 13th among all players (default scoring settings) in the 15th round. Seems like a steal, but of course there are no guarantees he plays this season. Did you have him targeted all along as a late-round flyer, and if you had your druthers would Sundin return to the Leafs or play his career out in another city?

A: There's no guarantee, but I'll take my chances. He's staying in shape and has said he won't play outside the NHL if he does return. Seems to me there's fire still there. As a 37-year-old unrestricted free agent who can pretty much pick and choose who he wants to play for, it makes sense to let some of the season play out, see how things are shaking out, then latch on with an apparent contender.

He's in that Roger Clemens cat-bird seat, really. As for who I'd prefer he signs with, I wouldn't mind a return to Toronto. There's a comfort level there and the team was strong offensively. But, whether it's Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or New York, I'd take it.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: Paul Stastny – Centers fall as a bi-product of depth, but it's a nice grab for our Average Joe to mine a still improving PPGer out of the seventh round.

ROD: Admittedly, my hockey knowledge is trumped by everyone in this league save Buser (and I'm sure Buser might take issue with this statement, as well). So, far be it for me to disparage another owner's pick. Thankfully, Romig let me off the hook by clowning his own Ryane Clowe pick.

His 12th-round expectations of Clowe were that he'd be teamed on a line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. I know enough to understand that that would be a lucrative appointment. But, alas, Devin Setoguchi appears to be stealing Clowe's mojo. And, if so, Romig's got a clear first-to-be-dropped candidate.


Yahoo! – Scott Pianowski
Q: You were the last manager in the league to draft a defenseman, waiting until the 10th round to fill your first D slot with Niklas Kronwall. What’s your stance on the value of defensemen in Yahoo! rotisserie leagues? Did you intentionally sit out the run on rearguards or were your targets simply not available? Bonus question: Care to introduce the masses to Alex Goligoski?

A: My first aim in any hockey draft is to start collecting wings and goalies. Supply-and-demand allows me to wait at center, and on the blue line I'm confident I can sniff out sleepers (at the table or on the wire) as the season goes along. If the value isn't glittering on a rearguard in the early rounds, I'll point and click elsewhere.

Goligoski is a boom-or-bust lottery ticket, an attempt to grab at some of the man-advantage production in Pittsburgh. He's not guaranteed a thing, but two things are certain: he can score (10-28-38 in 70 AHL games last year), and the Penguins have point spots available (Ryan Whitney is out 4-6 weeks, and Sergei Gonchar might not play all year). The passive fantasy owner takes a wait-and-see approach on Goligoski, but I play to win and I'm not afraid to drop guys later. Let's make a preemptive strike and see if anything sticks.

Q: You also held off on drafting goalies early, taking what some might call a quantity-over-quality approach by drafting four goalies, but none before the 5th round. Again, do you feel going goalie early isn’t justified, or was it just a matter of the right guy not being available at the right time? What do you expect from your quartet?

A: I see only two strategies in net – go with studs and love what you have, or go heavy and get a lot of options. I wound up in the second camp and I'm fine with it; starting netminders are a currency in 12-team leagues and I can probably trade one later if the need arises (I've already had some overtures).

Martin Gerber is a wild-card pick but this is a team-context position and I still see lots of upside in Ottawa. Mathieu Garon is the best game-stealer no one talks about; that's what happens when you hang your pads in Edmonton or LA. I feel great about Ilya Bryzgalov tied to an up-and-coming Phoenix club, and Vesa Toskala's situation figures to improve with Ron Wilson calling the shots. It's not a sexy group, but depth at this position goes a long way.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SODs: Peter Mueller at the end of the 13th round looks like a score, especially if he picks up wing eligibility as a holiday gift. The fist line in the desert is going to be a smash from the opening shift. Other hits: Mats Sundin as a 15th-round gambit; Daniel Carcillo in the 10th.

ROD: While I'm a huge Dan Boyle fan, 27th overall is far too ambitious for my blood. Other reaches: Kyle Turris (shouldn't be drafted yet), Ty Conklin (a backup goalie in the 11th round?).


Rotowire – Mark McLarney
Q: It’s been a while since Todd Bertuzzi was relevant in fantasy circles, yet you used a 9th-round pick on the Flames forward. What have you seen or heard during training camp that leads you to believe he can revive his career in Calgary? What are your projections for Big Bert?

A: I think Big Bert has some sleeper potential this year. First of all, he came to training camp in great shape – leaner and stronger than he's been in years. Flames coach Mike Keenan has been using him in various combinations on the top line alongside the likes of Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Mike Cammalleri and Matthew Lombardi.

He's getting a ton of ice time, especially on the power play. And he's been showing flashes of the 'old' Todd Bertuzzi, especially in a recent game against Florida where he set up a Cammalleri goal with a nifty no-look pass, then followed that up with a breakaway goal of his own that brought the Saddledome crowd to its feet. Most analysts have Bert pegged for roughly 40 points this year – the same total he put up last year – but with the right linemates, I think he has upside for 60-65 points.

Q: Daniel Carcillo’s name always attracts attention in draft rooms. Last year he scored 13 goals and had nearly 100 more penalty minutes than anyone in the player pool. Phoenix went out and added tough guys Brian McGrattan and Todd Fedoruk. Are you concerned the Coyotes are grooming him to stay out of the penalty box? What’s his offensive upside on a team with some promising young forwards?

A: Carcillo led the NHL with 324 penalty minutes last season. Despite all the time in the sin bin, he still managed to add 13 goals and 11 assists in 57 games. This year, even if the presence of McGrattan and Fedoruk results in fewer PIMs for Carcillo, his aggressive style won't change overnight and he should still be a monster in that category.

Meanwhile, his ice time is on the rise – more along the lines of a second line scorer than a third or fourth line checker – and he's even being used on the power play so far in the preseason. I think he will surprise a lot of people this year with just how far his offensive game has come along. A 35-point season is not out of the question.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SODs: Sorry, have to give myself a bit of a pat on the back for this one. Joe Sakic in the 11th round? 131st pick overall? C'mon, people. I know that C is probably the deepest position in all of fantasy hockey, but my adversaries seem to forget that Sakic is only two years removed from a 100-point season and was on a point-per-game pace last year when he had to undergo hernia surgery.

ROD: Ilya Kovalchuk, 9th overall. I really hope I'm wrong on this one, because I did take Kovalchuk in one of my other drafts – just not in the first round. Kovalchuk is one of the more gifted players in the NHL, no doubt. But each year he seems to wind up skating with fewer and fewer quality players. Instead of Savard and Hossa feeding him the puck this year, it's guys like Erik Christensen and Bryan Little. Yikes. Like I said, hope I'm wrong.


Rotowire – Peter Maingot
Q: You used the term “lemmings” in the draft chat at one point to describe the conduct of managers during a position run, yet you put on a run of your own by selecting defensemen in three consecutive rounds. Do you really have disdain for position runs or is the draft room chatter, to a degree, a tactic to get owners off their games?

A: Actually I only started two rounds with a choice of a defenseman, round 8 with Redden (Why didn't I take Visnovsky?) and round 10 with Zubov (Value pick:may only miss 10-14 games).

I really don't like positional runs, tough it can create buying opportunities if you stay disciplined and stay true to your draft list. Speaking of that, I reviewed my draft list(s) after you sent me this question and it tunrs out that the second goalie run wasn't really that far off my projections. I may've been reacting to last year's first goalie run that I missed out on because I was in transit for the first two rounds (ironically, I got auto-picked Hossa and Alfredsson - Pianowski's pick in the first two rounds of this year's draft). I was also reacting to Pianow taking four goalies in the first 11 rounds. His fourth goalie selection, Mathieu Garon, really threw me for a loop as I was set to draft Garon at the bottom of round 11 and then take Ty Conklin (who's the golden goose of backups this year) to start round 12.

When a manager goes off board like that it's like someone at your blackjack table taking cards when they shouldn't. It messes up the whole order and flow of the draft. I had to take Peter Budaj, though in hindsight I may be okay, as Andrew Raycroft is unlikely to unseat him and I really like the overall defensive corps of Colorado.

Still, Pianow's goalie strategy left me a little shaken up and I felt compelled to grab Khabibulin in the last round when I could've used that pick on a young gun or depth winger. Now I glumly wait to see if Kahbby goes to Russia.

I wish I could say that my "lemmings" comment was a draft strategy but it was just a spur of the moment, off the cuff remark. I see myself as a bit of a maverick (sorry Ms. Palin) in the fantasy world as I tend to do things a little differently and can be known to stir the pot at times with occasionally blunt comments and Denis Leary-dry soundbytes.

Q: You selected four goalies, including a final-round flyer on Nikolai Khabibulin. Did you draft the extra goalie hoping two serviceable options will emerge among Budaj, Conklin and Khabibulin, or are you hoping to use the depth in a deal later? What’s your realistic best-case destination for the Bulin Wall?

A: The goalie mess came about thanks to Scott, which I've outlined above. Garon was the guy I wanted but the Avs have the better defense in my opinion (Oilers' D is long on puck-moving but short on grit) so things could work out fine with Budaj as my No. 2 to Roberto Luongo. I think Budaj has a better defense in front of him than he had last year or in 2006-07 when he went 31-16-6 in 57 appearances.

Conklin will get 25-30 starts on the best defensive team in hockey. As for the Bulin Wall, best case scenario is the Hawks put him through recallable waivers and another team, preferably Ottawa, picks him up and assumes half his salary. Unfortunately, I sincerely doubt that that will happen and he'll probably get loaned to a Russian team in the KHL. If that does transpire I'll drop him for a depth winger or another backup on an elite team. If Khabby goes to L.A., I'll have to think long and hard about whether I want that option as the Kings' team and defense are both very suspect.

Q: Overall, who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)?

A: SOD: The SOD was Paul Statsny in round 7. Here's a kid who scored 71 points and a plus-22 in just 66 games last year. He will play on the first PP unit with Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hedjuk, and John-Michael Liles. Stasny is just 22 and, though he was born in Quebec, he'll be a top-six forward for Team USA in Vancouver 2010. Stastny will play a regular shift between left wing Ryan Smyth (great in the corners and adept at standing in front of the enemy net and deflecting pucks and tapping in rebounds) and right wing Milan Hejduk (has averaged 31 goals over the past four seasons and is still just 32). If he stays healthy Statsny can be an 85-point center this year.

ROD: The SOD directly relates to the ROD, the selection of Jonathan Toews in round 4. Don't get me wrong, I love Toews as a player both in real and fantasy terms. Moreover, I believe that he is the best player from his draft year and will have an even better career than teammate Patrick Kane (no slouch himself, obviously!) The ROD is all about when, not who. To take Toews in round 4 (sorry Janet, I still think you rock) seems somewhat premature as his upside is 75 points this year and guys like Marc Savard and Mike Richards went in round 5, Anze Kopitar and Nicklas Backstrom in round 6, Statsny in round 7, and Henrik Sedin and Derek Roy in round 8.

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