It’s day one of the NHL season, and honestly I’m a little more excited than I thought I’d be. Maybe part of it’s finally getting out of the stone age and getting an HDTV. Part of it is no doubt the Devils opening up with the recent news about Martin Brodeur getting his number retired this season. Also part of it’s just the fact I’m home tonight and with nothing else live to watch besides the NL Wild Card playoff (which is actually still a bit off my radar since I’m detoxing from baseball till Friday night when MLB conveniently scheduled the start of the Mets game post-Devils home opener).
I’m not even going to attempt to give a preview of my own aside from the Devils one I posted the other day. Pretty much the extent of my prep for the NHL season aside from keeping up on Devil news was reading dozens of player cards to get ready for the big NJDevs 14-team 23-player fantasy league draft on Monday night. We play with real rosters and 82-game limits at each position (i.e. 4 C, 4 LW, 4 RW, 6 D and one goalie) Of course if you’re a fantasy player you’ve no doubt heard about the recent DraftKings/FanDuel shadiness…after all it’s a DraftKings and FanDuel world, we’re just living in it. I finally gave in to the incessant ads and tried DraftKings for a couple of weeks at the start of the football season (of course not entirely free as advertised since you needed to put at least $5 in to get an account) but really it seemed like more of a weighted lottery to me. Still I’m more of a traditional fantasy player and while I’m fine with head to head during baseball and football seasons, I prefer straight roto in the hockey league. Especially with uneven schedules week-to-week.
We added a twist to our league this year, a limited (three player) keeper system, though all of the keepers had to be drafted after round 5 or picked up as UDFA’s during the season to preserve most of the integrity of the top part of the draft and reward ingenuity. Poor Sanborn jumped the gun on drafting Connor McDavid in round 3 – making him merely a redraft player, though he should still be a fairly good pick – but I attributed that to being at LAX allegedly during that time. Another player in our league lucked into Jack Eichel in the sixth round when he wasn’t drafted in the first five rounds and two teams foolishly passed on him in the sixth to draft other players. Thank goodness for those two teams we aren’t exactly playing for money here. I’ll get into my team shortly.
Apart from the scoring categories, we also have tertiary categories like hits, blocks and faceoff wins but no PIM’s. And with a 23-round draft it took two and a half hours to complete. Fortunately most of the league could make it for at least a portion of the draft so there wasn’t anyone competitively disadvantaged by time. Thankfully I avoided the kind of draft snafu I had last year when I had Vlad Tarasenko in my queue and assumed he’d be drafted when I got indecisive, but wound up with Clark MacArthur instead because my controller was highlighting him. That mistake arguably cost me the league last year when I finished second, only a few points back. Perhaps my biggest mistake this year was jumping on Mark Streit and passing on Paul Stasny when I already had a strong top three on defense and there were values to be had late as it turned out.
I wanted to avoid goalie early because I got burned with Jon Quick last year and Corey Crawford the year before but an early run on goalies precluded that and I jumped on Devan Dubnyk in the third round (as the tenth goalie off the board), instead of just taking Lundqvist or Rinne in the first. I did also get Jake Allen later, and if he ever puts it together could be a sneaky keeper choice or at least realistic insurance in case Dubnyk turns back into a pumpkin. I wanted to get Brian Elliott later too but he was taken a few picks before me in a late round, though I didn’t really want to have three goalies anyway with such a limited bench. Of course with such a big league solving the goalie question mark outside of the top handful of guys is key. Overall here’s my team – not taking into account multi-position eligibility but just slotting in players where my ideal lineup is:
C – Backstrom, H. Sedin, Ribiero, Kadri, S. Bennett
LW – Pavelski, Palat, Dubinsky, Elias, Raffl (Flyers)
RW – Malkin, O’Reilly, Boedker, J. Hayes
D – Pietrangelo, Barrie, Klingenberg, Streit, Franson, D. Savard (Jackets), Beauchemin
G – Dubnyk, Allen
For team-by-team draft results: http://hockey.fantasysports.yahoo.com/hockey/15065/draftresults?drafttab=team
And with post-draft pickups after Elias and Backstrom became IR eligible I scarfed up Anton Lander (who I was eyeing during the draft) and Joonas Donskoi (who a little birdie told me about) for early-season looks.
Perhaps my weakest points are +/- and the blocks category. Maybe SHP too, but I feel like offensively my team’s pretty strong otherwise. I wound up going with Evgeni Malkin and Joe Pavelski with my first two picks, and Nicklas Backstrom in the fourth much to my delight jacking the guy picking behind me. I got jacked on Eichel two rounds later but settled on the always steady Henrik Sedin. Usually my homer picks don’t work out very well but in the 21st round with my favorite player still on the board I more or less couldn’t bear to pass up Patrik Elias in what might be his final season. That was my only concession to homerism in this draft though, which is easy to do since Devil players are going to be overdrafted in a league with thirteen Devil fans and Sanborn.
Maybe the biggest surprise was just how early specialists like Brooks Orpik and Dan Girardi went, leaving me to scramble for hits and blocks later. I think I was able to get hits throughout the draft but blocks might be an issue though Franson and Beauchemin might be good value picks on D. Keepers weren’t a primary concern but I do have Barrie, Klingenberg, O’Reilly, Palat and Allen as my top eligibles atm, maybe Bennett if I keep him and he breaks out. Still it’s more important to get immediate scoring and worry about the secondary categories and keepers later. My bigger concern of course is going to be goal but with the Wild having a strong D that alleviates my concern a little with Dubnyk.
That’s all the rambling I’m going to do about my team and league…good luck to everyone else’s teams this season, real and fantasy.