How to execute the perfect fantasy hockey draft


Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo won 3-2. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

For those who don’t eat, sleep and breathe fantasy hockey the annual draft can be a daunting experience. Everyone can use a little help. Maybe you picked up a draft guide from the local supermarket or ordered one online (the DobberHockey Guide is available for download for just $9.99) or perhaps you simply printed off a list of last year’s top scorers. For an extra leg up, the DobberHockey gang is back to offer some tips to help you pick the best fantasy hockey team possible. This week, we’ll look at which picks would make for the perfect draft.

Before getting into the picks, we must first provide context. Every fantasy league is different. With every rule change comes an alteration in player value. Factors like scoring system, number of teams, number of players you start, whether you start them weekly or nightly, etc., all influence what you should be looking for at the draft table.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll look at what a perfect draft would look like in a standard Yahoo league (12 teams, starting two centres, two left wingers, two right wingers, four defencemen, two goalies and three bench slots. Scoring: goals, assists, plus/minus, PIMs, power-play points, shots on goal, wins, save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts.) We will provide the average draft position (ADP) from Yahoo as well as other providers such as ESPN and Fantrax to provide further context. On to the picks! (ADP in brackets — average round followed by average pick number.)

Round 1 – Brent Burns – D (Yahoo: 1.06, ESPN: 1.08, Fantrax: 1.05)
Other Round 1 Picks: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Carey Price, Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Malkin, Braden Holtby, Jamie Benn

Since McDavid is only available to you if you win the first overall pick, we must look at options more widely available in the first round. So, we look to the only defenceman currently going in the first round of drafts. Brent Burns has been a monster, producing forward-level output at the defence position. His value above replacement is huge, especially when you consider that he has stolen away the title of shot volume king from Alex Ovechkin. It isn’t “sexy” to pick defence early, but you can set yourself up for success by snagging a blueliner who will likely produce twice as many points as the 40th-ranked player at his position.

Round 2 – Jack Eichel – C (Yahoo: 2.13, ESPN: 4.52, Fantrax: 3.26)
Other Round 2 Picks: Erik Karlsson, Brad Marchand, Patrik Laine, Leon Draisaitl, Matt Murray, Victor Hedman, Nicklas Backstrom, Tyler Seguin, Mark Scheifele, Sergei Bobrovsky, John Tavares

This seems like a reach based on the ADP for Eichel on Fantrax and ESPN, but the folks on Yahoo have it right. Eichel produced near a point-per-game when he returned from injury while also boasting the best shot output in the league. Barring a renaissance from Ovechkin, Eichel is going to lead the league in shots on goal, and he could do so for a while. While there is little positional advantage to grabbing a centre this early, Eichel is a high-floor and high-ceiling pick. Based on forecasted production Eichel should be a first round pick. Getting him in Round 2 is a bargain.

Round 3 – Joe Pavelski – C/RW (Yahoo: 3.32, ESPN: 2.14, Fantrax: 2.24)
Other Round 3 Picks: Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Talbot, Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Artemi Panarin, Max Pacioretty, Mitch Marner, Jake Allen, Roman Josi, Johnny Gaudreau, Pekka Rinne

Looking at the ADP for Pavelski on ESPN and Fantrax it appears that Pavelski is undervalued on Yahoo, which suits us just fine. Pavelski was a borderline Round 1 selection a year ago and with a solid rebound he should provide an excellent return in the third round. There are juicier picks in this round, like Steven Stamkos, but his injury history is growing worrisome.

We are opting for safe picks in the first few rounds because nothing can sink you faster than blowing an early pick. Choosing Pavelski means grabbing another high-floor option with a good track record of durability. Pavelski has missed just one game in the past six seasons. He also offers dual position eligibility, which is a nice feather in the cap.

Round 4 – Wayne Simmonds – RW (Yahoo: 4.43, ESPN: 4.37, Fantrax: 4.47)
Other Round 4 Picks: Kris Letang, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban, David Pastrnak, Blake Wheeler, Shea Weber, John Gibson, Filip Forsberg, Tuukka Rask, Devan Dubnyk, Martin Jones

We have eschewed goalies thus far with 11 already off the board. This would be a dangerous strategy in a larger league, but in a 12-teamer we should still find three good starters even with the talent that has already come off the board. If you pick your spots right you can fill your net with elite talent at below-market prices.

We’ve also passed on what looks like a run on defencemen to grab our second RW. While defence is a position of need we’ll also find undervalued talent later on. Instead, we secure another safe pick in Simmonds, the best net-front man in the league, who skates on one of the league’s most consistent power plays. He’s a lock for 20 PPP, most of which will be goals and brings added value in the PIM category.

Round 5 – Andrei Vasilevskiy – G (Yahoo: 6.63, ESPN: 5.53, Fantrax: 5:55)
Other Round 5 Picks: Corey Crawford, Drew Doughty, William Nylander, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Quick, Patrice Bergeron, Zach Werenski, Henrik Lundqvist, Ben Bishop, Dougie Hamilton, Mike Hoffman

For the first time in this process we will reach for a player a round too early in order to make sure we get him. The bet is that Vasilevskiy will perform like a top-five fantasy goalie, which means you are still getting value on him even in the fifth round. While he struggled in his first go-around as the Lightning starter, Vasilevskiy will improve without the shadow of Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay should also rebound as a contender.

Round 6 – Frederik Andersen – G (Yahoo: 6.72, ESPN: 4.39, Fantrax: 4.38)
Other Round 6 Picks: Kevin Shattenkirk, Corey Perry, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Alex Pietrangelo, Brandon Saad, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, Mikael Granlund

The best fantasy hockey goalies usually play for the league’s best teams. Since Toronto is a leading contender to win the Cup, their starter becomes a valued commodity. While Andersen is our riskiest pick yet, given his injury track record, the sixth round is still excellent value for a goaltender with a chance of leading the league in wins. We’ve also managed to lock down our starting goaltending slots without using a top-50 pick.

Round 7 – Taylor Hall – LW (Yahoo: 8.93, ESPN: 5.57, Fantrax: 5.57)
Other Round 7 Picks: Jonathan Toews, Mark Giordano, Jonathan Huberdeau, James van Riemsdyk, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, T.J. Oshie, Ryan Suter, Justin Schultz, Jeff Skinner, Brayden Schenn, Logan Couture, Nikolaj Ehlers

It would have been awfully tempting to snag Oliver Ekman-Larsson here, but injury concerns bump him down. There’s also an argument to be made for youngster Nikolaj Ehlers, but Taylor Hall is too good to pass up. A year ago, he was going in the top 50, but after a season skating for an anemic Devils team his stock has fallen. Remember, while Hall carries risk he’s a high-shot player with experience producing for bad teams. He also should receive help from top pick Nico Hischier.

Round 8 – Jake Guentzel – C/LW (Yahoo: 9.102, ESPN: 9.106, Fantrax: 8.91)
Other Round 8 Picks: Alexander Radulov, Torey Krug, Jakub Voracek, Mike Smith, Jonathan Drouin, Sebastian Aho, Cory Schneider, Aleksander Barkov, Justin Faulk, John Klingberg, Ryan McDonagh

The Dallas duo of Radulov and Klingberg are both tempting, as is injury-prone star Barkov, but we will reach slightly for Guentzel knowing that we can’t wait too long for Sid’s favourite linemate. He offers upside similar or higher than other players going in this range. While there are warning signs his production alongside Crosby won’t continue at the level we saw in the playoffs, Guentzel remains a potential 70-point option.

Round 9 – Oscar Klefbom – D (Yahoo: 9.108, ESPN: 10.115, Fantrax: 8.95)
Other Round 9 Picks: Seth Jones, Jordan Eberle, Rickard Rakell, Viktor Arvidsson, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Johansen, Craig Anderson, Jake Gardiner, James Neal, Conor Sheary

There is a strong appetite for Anze Kopitar in a rebound year, but he is centre only, just turned 30, and has seen his shot rate fall dramatically in recent years. Instead, we’ll go for Klefbom as our second defenceman with the hope we’ll get some exposure to McDavid. With Andrej Sekera hurt to start the season there is no longer any question about Klefbom’s place on the Oilers’ hierarchy. He will see all the top power play opportunities and reap the benefits that those minutes provide.

Round 10 – Shayne Gostisbehere – D (Yahoo: 10.118, ESPN: 10.109, Fantrax: 9.92)
Other Round 10 Picks: Brian Elliott, Mark Stone, Aaron Ekblad, Jaden Schwartz, John Carlson, Jason Spezza, Colton Parayko, Evander Kane, Matthew Tkachuk, Zach Parise, Scott Darling

The point man on one of the league’s most consistent power plays is far too talented to ignore. Even in a bad season, Gostisbehere produced nearly 40 points and 200 SOG. He’s a high-floor option with the ceiling to score in the 60s should the Flyers improve at even strength.

Round 11 – Scott Darling – G (Yahoo: 10.120, ESPN: 15.179, Fantrax: 12.136)
Other Round 11 Picks: Jacob Trouba, Jaroslav Halak, Keith Yandle, Cam Fowler, Brent Seabrook, Tyler Toffoli, Robin Lehner, Tyson Barrie, Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Andre Burakovsky, Matt Niskanen

This is technically cheating as Darling is going as the last pick in the 10th round on average, but since we secured our top two goaltenders earlier we are willing to gamble that Darling slips a bit. This being the “perfect draft” scenario, Darling dropping one round is conceivable, especially when you consider where he is going on Fantrax and ESPN.

Darling has always boasted excellent rate stats with a career save percentage of .923. He brings those numbers to a team whose only weakness was in goal. That’s the recipe for a top-10 fantasy goaltender season.

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

Round 12 – Ryan Kesler – C (Yahoo: 12.137, ESPN: 6.63 , Fantrax: 9.99)
Other Round 12 Picks: Kyle Palmieri, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Hornqvist, Jared Spurgeon, Nino Niederreiter, Milan Lucic, Kyle Turris, Alex Galchenyuk, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Nazem Kadri, Mats Zuccarello

Draft and stash. With Kesler expected to be out until Christmas, he poses a hefty risk, but outside the top-100 it’s one you can afford to take. None of the players going in this range are “must have”. If they were, then the choice would be different. Instead of reaching, we snap up Kesler to stash for the stretch run. He’s a top-40 skater in multi-category leagues. If your league offers up IR slots, use one on Kesler. The upshot is that it gives you an extra roster spot to play with and experiment with early breakout candidates.

Round 13 – Nico Hischier – C (Yahoo: 14.160, ESPN: 15.174, Fantrax: 15.180)
Other Round 13 Picks: Chris Kreider, Charlie McAvoy, Patrick Marleau, TJ Brodie, Jakob Silfverberg, Jake Muzzin, Matt Dumba, Ondrej Palat, Henrik Sedin, Brock Boeser, Nick Foligno

Ryan O’Reilly would offer a ton of value this late, but in taking Eichel at the top of the draft we block this pick. Drafting two players off the same team at the same position is sub-optimal strategy. Instead, we go for a big swing on top pick Hischier.

Round 14 – Matt Duchene – C/RW (Yahoo: 14.161, ESPN: 16.192, Fantrax: 16.192)
Other Round 14 Picks: Henrik Zetterberg, Morgan Rielly, Marcus Johansson, Max Domi, Artem Anisimov, Nico Hischier, Joe Thornton, Alex Steen, Nick Leddy, Thomas Greiss, Zdeno Chara

As unenthused as Duchene appears to be in Colorado he is still a major bounce-back candidate at a prime position. The upshot is that if Duchene is traded to happier surroundings we have secured a top-100 player later than normal.

Round 15 – Shea Theodore – D (Yahoo: 15.166, ESPN: 20.230, Fantrax: 15.169)
Other Round 15 Picks: Dylan Larkin, Alexander Wennberg, Antti Raanta, Alec Martinez, Dmitry Orlov, Shea Theodore, Gabriel Landeskog, Anders Lee, Rick Nash, Vadim Shipachyov, Anthony Mantha, Steve Mason

This pick highlights why it was so important to fill those defence slots early. Theodore is a huge swing. Even if he is the top defenceman in Vegas there is no guarantee it will translate to a strong fantasy season. The upside is there for Theodore to be a homerun, making this a worthy pick, but you don’t want too many of these when filling active slots on your roster.

Round 16 – Jonathan Marchessault – C/LW (Yahoo: 16.180, ESPN: 16.189, Fantrax: 17.199)
With your last pick you have some room to take a big risk. In shallower formats many such options will be available. Don’t marry this selection. If a hotter option pops on the waiver wire, make a quick move. If Marchessault, who thrived in a top role for Florida, doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps you prefer Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz or Teuvo Teravainen.

The Perfect Draft Roster        
Taylor Hall Jack Eichel Joe Pavelski Brent Burns Andrei Vailevskiy
Jake Guentzel Ryan Kesler Wayne Simmonds Oscar Klefbom Frederik Andersen
Jonathan Marchessault Nico Hischier Matt Duchene Shayne Gostisbehere Scott Darling
      Shea Theodore

Could you draft a better roster? Make your suggestions in the comments below!

Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of DobberHockey. Follow him on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.