If you’ve gotten our Rotoworld Draft Guide before then you know that one of the many things we do for it is conduct a few mock drafts leading up to the regular season and then write articles where we outline and analyze what happened. Ideally that can provide you with a better feel for where players should be taken in a variety of circumstances (the mock drafts we conduct annually are for regular leagues, keeper leagues, and auction leagues) and what strategies you might want to consider.
On Tuesday evening we conducted the second of our mock drafts, but after that I immediately did another draft: this time for a keeper league with other hockey writers. It’s a very deep league with 300 total players taken (including the keepers), so I thought it might be of value to analyze my portion of the draft. Please note though that this is in a different style from the mock draft articles we do for our Draft Guide as while those analyze the drafts as a whole (and provide you with a complete list of where every player was drafted), I’m going to be focusing specifically on what I did and why.
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First it’s important to know the league rules. This is a Rotisserie-style league with the categories being goals, assists, plus/minus, powerplay points, shots, hits, blocks, wins, GAA, and save percentage. Each team can field four centers, four left wingers, four right wingers, six defensemen, two goaltenders, and they get five bench slots and two IR slots. There are 12 teams in total.
So right off the bat some players see a significant value hit by swapping penalty minutes with hits/blocks. I think Scott Hartnell is going to rebound a touch in Nashville and be a decent fantasy options in standard formats, but when you take away PIM he loses a lot of his appeal and, in fact, he went undrafted even in a league this deep.
We were allowed to keep four players and mine were Connor McDavid, Kris Letang, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Murray. Having a goaltender like Murray to keep was helpful, but keeping a netminder was also par for the course. Even in a league with seven skater categories and three goaltender categories, goalies are still seen as very valuable, in part because good ones are in such scarce supply, but also because a goaltender has so much more influence on their categories than any one skater does on his.
That’s why even after keeping a goaltender I had to use my first non-keeper pick (technically the 52nd selection overall) on John Gibson. In the first non-keeper round (fifth round overall) four of the first five selections were goaltenders and by the end of that round six of the 12 teams already had two goaltenders on their team, including my squad. So hopefully that highlights just how much we value goalies.
My next picks after that were Evgeny Kuznetsov (69th overall) and Alex Pietrangelo (76th overall). I think pretty highly of Kuznetsov this season as I see him as a bounce back candidate after dropping from 77 points in 2015-16 to 59 points last season, so that was a fairly easy choice for me even if his center-only eligibility is a downside. Pietrangelo is a great offensive defender who squeezed into 20th place in blocks last season, so he has some added appeal in this format. Also given that I would need to field six defensemen, I wanted to make sure I started filling out my quota fairly early.
My following picks were Jonathan Huberdeau (93rd) and Jordan Eberle (100th). Like Kuznetsov, Huberdeau’s another good bounce back candidate, especially given that he did do really well last season when he wasn’t hurt. You definitely want to keep him in mind if he’s available around that point of a draft in your league. Eberle is probably one of the picks of mine I like the least. I had really been hoping that Jonathan Drouin would slip a little lower, but he got taken with the 97th overall pick and in the end, I decided to gamble on the idea that Eberle and John Tavares would prove to be a good combination. Plus Eberle is a right winger and none of my first eight players were eligible for that position.
After that I took Conor Sheary (117th) and Jake Gardiner (124th). Sheary’s 23 goals and 53 points in 61 games last season obviously stood out, though he was far less of an offensive threat in the playoffs. He’s something of a gamble because it’s not clear where he’ll fit into this season’s lineup, but he definitely has the potential to over perform relative to where he went in the draft. It’s worth noting that fellow Penguins 2016-17 breakout forward Jake Guentzel was taken with the 66th overall pick, which speaks to how big the perceived value gap between those two players are. Gardiner doesn’t need much explaining as he’s just another solid offensive option as I try to add to my collection of defensemen before all the desirable ones are gone.
The two picks from me that followed were Nino Niederreiter (141th) and Keith Yandle (148th). One of the nice things about Niederreiter is that he has both left wing and right wing eligibility, which also works in Sheary’s favor as well. That kind of flexibility should never be overlooked when drafting a team. With Yandle I now had four defenemen and all of them had 40-plus point potential. One knock on my blues though is that none of them are particularly great physical forces. In fact through this stage was deficit in terms of hits and that’s something I was never able to fully rectify through the draft. In retrospect it would have been really helpful if I had taken Milan Lucic (who went 107th overall) over Eberle in part to up my hits total, but also just because I think he’ll have a solid campaign.
My next selections were Matt Niskanen (165th) and Kyle Turris (189th). Niskanen was taken in part because I wasn’t happy with how many sources of hits I had on the team. He also has the potential to be a fairly good source of blocked shots and is decent in terms of points and plus/minus as well. In other words, he’s just an all-around solid defender for a league like this. Turris isn’t exactly an exciting choice, but he’s a kind of safe guy and I have enough gambles on the team.
Speaking of gambles I then took Nolan Patrick (189th) and Vadim Shipachyov (196th). The Patrick pick in particular is worth emphasizing. This is a keeper league after all so you think if any format would go crazy for the second overall pick, it would be that type (even with the caveat that we only get to keep four players) and yet we were still 16 rounds deep before he was finally scooped up. So if you’re in a standard league, the question shouldn’t be: How high should I draft him? It should be: Should I draft him at all? First overall pick Nico Hischier went a little higher, but even he was only the 158th overall pick. So again, there’s not much excitement about this draft class relative to what we saw for Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel or Auston Matthews/Patrik Laine. As for Shipachyov, I see him as a big roll of the dice, but at this point in the draft I didn’t mind doing that. If one of Shipachyov or Patrick end up paying off then I’ll be pretty happy.
Continuing my late round gambles I then grabbed Joshua Ho-Sang (213rd) and Loui Eriksson (220th). I’m hoping for a 40-50 point campaign out of Ho-Sang and given how his first pro season went, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation. Eriksson is coming off a really rough campaign and he’s playing for a really bad team, but at the age of 32 there’s still hope there. He’s another guy I’m penciling in for 40-50 points and given that 219 other players were already spoken for at this point, that point output would be fine. It’s worth noting that I was also pushing for right wingers at that stage of the draft and both of them are eligible for that position. Before those two picks, my only players with RW eligibility were Eberle, Sheary, and Niederreiter, so that’s a position of obvious concern.
I took a pair of Detroit players next in Gustav Nyquist (237th) and Mike Green (244th). Nyquist has some upside, but I don’t have a lot of hope in him: Nor did the rest of the league I assume given how late he was available. I’m just hoping for 40-50 points here and his dual right wing/left wing eligibility is a big perk. Green got me to the minimum six defensemen and despite his long injury history, he’s played in at least 70 games for four straight campaigns, so the concern there has diminished. The bigger problem with Green is actually his plus/minus, which was minus-20 in 2016-17 and might be bad again this season given that Detroit doesn’t have a great squad.
I next took Petr Mrazek (261st) and Andrew Ladd (268th). It was important that I had a third goaltender and while Mrazek isn’t that desirable, he is something of a bounce back candidate. It’s worth noting that the league wasn’t terribly excited about Jimmy Howard either, who was selected with the 233rd overall pick. I think Ladd is actually a pretty solid pick at that point of the draft. He was a disappointment last season with 31 points, but he was adjusting to a new team and playing through a nagging injury in the early months of the season, so there are reasons to believe he can bounce back in 2017-18.
My final selections were Jack Johnson (285th) and Matt Martin (292nd). Johnson doesn’t do much offensively anymore (23 points last season), but he’s a decent source of hits and blocks. Then of course Martin is the best source of hits in the NHL. I wouldn’t have taken either of them in a standard format.
Overall this team has a fair amount of gambles on it and it could use some help in terms of right wingers so it will be interesting to see how it does. There’s certainly potential with this squad.