This has to be the best time of the year, no? Aside from going back to school (yes!), the weather going from warm to cold (double yes!), and the NFL season kicking off (YES! Sincerely this time), NHL drafts are in full swing. With less than 3 weeks until the puck drops, leagues will be forming and ready to go. Before analyzing the stats and players to choose from, here are some basic tips for the “beginners” out there ready to enter to the world of fantasy hockey.
DO: Review your league’s stats before drafting
The last thing you want is to draft a team full of grinders who rack up penalty minutes, when the majority of the league’s stats reward goal scorers, playmakers, and top point getters. Take the time before your draft to analyze what stats will be needed in order to build a championship squad. Whether you want to balance your roster for a competitive head to head team, or stack it with pure goal scorers to dominate a rotisserie league, drafting players with statistical value that corresponds to your given league is essential if you want to win.
DON’T: Underestimate the value of plus/minus
Plus/minus is often indicative on what team the player plays for. Compare superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, and their stats are almost identical. Both 30+ goal scorers, 90+ point players; in other words both fantasy studs. The most underlining statistic however is their plus/minus. Datsyuk +34, Kovalchuk -12. Clearly Datsyuk is the beneficiary of playing on a deep Red Wings team, while Kovalchuk has the daunting task of performing on a lowly Thrashers squad. This deficiency however is important to note when valuing players because plus/minus can be a key statistic in your league, and is often ignored or forgotten when forming your team. If you pay attention, this stat can be won easily. Suggestions to do so: draft players on good NHL teams. Teams like Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago; all possess elite talent and their players are put in a great position to succeed and perform.
DO: Pass on “elite” goaltenders early in the draft
Two words: Steve Mason. Last season the rookie standout posted 33 wins and 10 shutouts for the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets, en route to their first postseason birth in team history and landing himself the Calder trophy (best rookie) for his efforts. It’s highly unlikely anyone drafted Mason going into last year’s fantasy drafts, making him the ultimate pickup during the 2008-09 season. Throw in Tim Thomas to mix, who also led the Boston Bruins to tops place in the east in what was a remarkable season for the 35 year old netminder. Thomas was considered at best a late round pick last year, to only become the Vezina winner as the league’s best goalie. My point being, you can find late round goaltending gems in your draft, without spending that valued high pick on a goalie. Ask Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo owners last year how that worked out for them.
DON’T: Be Intimidated!
My favourite piece of advice! If you’re a rookie who claims to know nothing about hockey, I can understand it may seem a little intimidating going up against the heavyweights in your league. You don’t want to make any drafting mistakes, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself as you’re just learning the ins and outs of fantasy hockey. My advice to you: just have fun. Fantasy hockey isn’t hard to pick up. Just review the stats and take the best players out there. There are so many talented NHLers it’s nearly impossible to draft a lousy team. The more you become familiar with the game, the more you’ll learn fantasy tendencies and tricks on how to put together a competitive squad, which players and teams to target, etc. Prepare your crib sheets (or use an expert one), and don’t be afraid to select the players YOU want – as opposed to letting your friends criticize you and force you to make bad decisions. When it’s all said and done, only you can know what’s best for your team.
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