My introduction to the world of fantasy hockey came in the Fall after I had begun my first “real-world” job in 2013. It came in the form of a Weekend Winners pool branded Shotty’s Picks, so named after the headmaster of the weekend focused pool. I think this type of an introduction is the same for many of us – as much as a workplace is just that – a place of work, over my relatively short career I’ve found the watercooler talk and the comradery that is concentric of fantasy sports, is a staple of a healthy work-life balance, but I digress. My involvement in Shotty’s Picks lasted as long as my tenure at that job – one season. In the meantime, I had also begun to curate my own year-to-year fantasy hockey league with a group of friends that I had grown up with. We dubbed it the Long Lake Fantasy Hockey League, a namesake that was derived/stolen from our regional senior hockey league. It began as a rotisserie-style league and has since undergone several format revisions with the core group remaining intact.
After leaving my aforementioned job, I was fortunate enough to land myself in an environment where fantasy hockey was considered by some, a religion, or even a political affiliation. I quickly found myself deeply involved in a similar Weekend Winners pool as well as jointly managing a fantasy team in my first ever keeper style league. The commissioner of that league, the DHL, or The Don as I’ll call him (that’s actually his real name, but I’ll touch on that later) introduced me to Dobber Hockey in the Fall of 2014.
While I gradually became more dependent and involved in the Dobber world, my fantasy hockey relationship with Don, and his right-hand-man, Grant is what has truly helped me to maintain what I see as the spirit of fantasy hockey – the comradery.
Eventually, I became the sole owner of the franchise in that league and began to really enjoy the format. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that three years after joining, I openly plagiarized their constitution while forming my own keeper league (the YHFHL) with a similar group of owners to the Long Lake Fantasy Hockey League. We were lucky enough to bring both Don and Grant on as what we called “incubating owners” – essentially fantasy and formatting consultants who helped us to get the league off its feet. To my earlier point, this is where the Don term becomes relevant. It seems like an appropriate moniker for the 31-year fantasy commissioner who we often refer to as the Godfather, and has spearheaded a deep (much deeper than what I’ve alluded to) web of fantasy. Low and behold, they’ve stayed aboard and we couldn’t be happier.
What it really boils down to, is that since being introduced to Dobber, my vision of fantasy hockey has changed drastically, and at the root of it all, I while there is plenty of thanks to go around to the Dobber crew, I owe my passion to Don and Grant.
For the core of today’s ramblings I wanted to (and some of my fellow GM’s asked me to) review the results of our recently completed entry draft for the YHFHL (which if you’re curious is the YellowheadFHL, again a regional reference). For quick reference, the criteria of our draft are as follows:
- Players MUST be drafted into the league before ever becoming eligible for the waiver pool. This rule basically means that unless a player has been worthy of the draft in previous years he’s not available in the league and thus he’s not eligible to be claimed in the midst of a breakout season (See Jordan Binnington)
- Players must be the property of an NHL team
- There are 12 teams and 5 rounds -> 60 picks
- Teams can only protect 23 of their own players prior to the draft, any remaining players are eligible to be “stolen” by other teams, or redrafted by the current owner.
If you care or are interested here is a read-only copy of our very rough, sometimes bastardized, sometimes binding constitution. Truly, the criteria made for a super interesting draft. Because of each team’s unique position, each team had a very unique list – I’ll try to be gentle.
Unlike the NHL pick value curve which is universally accepted to look like this
The way I’ve interpreted our league over the last three years, ours probably looks more like this:
Here’s how it shook out. First off, I’d like to highlight and recognize some of what I consider the best picks, ballsiest picks, and… least best picks of the draft…
15th Overall – Cole Caufield
This wasn’t my pick, and I’m included in the group of GM’s responsible for allowing him to slip to this point in the draft. He wound up being the NINTH player from the NHL’s 2019 Entry Draft selected in our points only fantasy keeper league – needless to say, I think it was a steal by my good friend Tyler. He made the best of a mere three selections through three rounds of the draft and each of them was quality. His team has struggled mightily with goaltending over the past two seasons, so using his fourth overall selection to draft Jordan Binnington was a risk that paid off, especially when Caulfield was still available for his second pick.
34th Overall – Taro Hirose
So far this summer, I’ve participated in two fantasy entry drafts. In both of them, Hirose has been a sleeper who seems to drop past the point where I would’ve expected him to be selected. His average draft position in one-year Fantrax leagues is 542.5, with an ownership rate of 52%, leading me to believe that not nearly enough people have acknowledged both his short and long term potential. Dobber’s Pool Guide has Hirose penciled in for a 33-point rookie campaign with a 44-point 3YP, and 75-point ceiling.
55th Overall – Grigori Denisenko
Last year’s fifteenth overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft didn’t quite crack our top 60 last year. One of the veteran owners, Grant, managed to nab him at 55 which I think was quite a savvy pick. The Panthers prospect had an outstanding game versus the Czech Republic at the Four Nations Tournament where he tallied five points – the rest of his tournament was equally as entertaining. He’ll play one more year in the KHL with Lokomotiv before the Panthers take a serious run at him.
As with Steve Yzerman selecting Moritz Seider at 6th overall, I find there’s something to be admired by a fantasy GM who is willing to make their pick, despite the optics.
9th Overall – Dylan Cozens
With Turcotte, Newhook, and Caufield all still available, I thought it was a shrewd selection by my friend Dean, GM of the Grocery Sticks to stick to his guns with the Whitehorse, YT native. Cozens will all but surely head back to Lethbridge after Sabres training camp. He should have a couple of opportunities to slide into Buffalo’s top-6 over the next two to three years though, and with a 3YP of 60 points, this pick could still pay off.
17th Overall – Victor Soderstrom
My brother has done well-drafting defenseman since the exception of the league and although I think he may have stretched a little to get Soderstrom at 17th overall, I have a ton of respect for the pick after talking about it with him. I might have even been sleeping on the Arizona prospect myself, who could have a shot with the Coyotes sooner rather than later. He’s already owned in 39% of Fantrax leagues.
…Least Best Picks
Truly, I don’t have it in me to call out any of my fellow GM’s for making bad picks. Quite honestly, I thought, for the most part, each drafted well for their specific needs. What I am willing to do, however, is put my own watchlist on the line and highlight some players that I was disappointed to see go undrafted
I think this was the time to get Miller cheap. He could’ve been had with a fifth-round draft-pick and simply slipped into his third year of collegiate competition unowned. It’s very unlikely that he plays his senior year at Wisconsin so news of his signing and inevitable NHL debut will likely push his value into the second round next year.
Sandin could very well play a handful of games or more in the NHL this year. While the offseason additions of Ben Harpur and Kevin Gravel likely hurt his chance of working in a depth role, there’s a very good chance that he’s the Leafs choice for an injury fill-in. Any level of offensive production could see him boost his value to the mid-rounds next time around.
Thinking of it now, I’m even more surprised now than I was when the draft was wrapping up. To have one of the most acute goal-scoring forwards of the NHL draft completely passed over in a points-only keeper league is somewhat of a failure on our part. I can’t think of a good reason why some of the rebuilding teams wouldn’t have taken a swing on the Hamilton forward in the fifth round.
After some powerplay time in the desert last year, I fancied taking Garland with one of my three fifth-round selections. The acquisition of Phil Kessel likely hampers his opportunity for the year ahead but I still believe there is a notable ceiling with him.
Secondly, I’ve had a couple of owners asking for draft grades… Since I feel like there is a conflict of interest in me ranking my fellow GM’s drafting, I want to open it up to the readers. Please reply in the comments, or find me on Twitter @olaf1393 to let me know who you thought had the best draft, and include some draft grades if you so choose! We’d love to hear from you.
BDW Nights | Defending Champion
4 Picks – Alex Turcotte, Evan Bouchard, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Ty Smith
Bleacher Creatures | Expansion Team last year, finished 10th
5 Picks – Bowen Byram, Nikita Gusev, Ryan Suzuki, Spencer Knight, Dominik Kahun
Connor McJesus’ Disciples | Middle of the pack roster, bad luck year
4 Picks – Jack Hughes, Brendan Gallagher, Jordan Eberle, Esa Lindell
F***Dean | Top-5 roster, bottom 1 goaltending
3 Picks – Jordan Binnington, Cole Caufield, Vasili Podkolzin
Grocery Sticks | Entering rebuild phase
6 Picks – Dylan Cozens, Alex Newhook, Roope Hintz, Jordan Kyrou, Tyler Benson, Alex Texier
Hurtin’ for a Virtanen | Middle-6 aging roster
7 Picks – Trevor Zegras, Adam Fox, Jake Bean, Joe Veleno, Taro Hirose, Rasmus Kupari, Jimmy Schuldt
Jagrbombs | Aging bottom-3 roster
5 Picks – Kappo Kakko, Vince Dunn, Mackenzie Blackwood, Ryan Dzingel, Jared McCann
Kaposvar Creek Walleye | Top-5 roster all around
4 Picks: Tomas Tatar, JT Compher, Grigori Denisenko, Tyler Johnson
Peck’s Predators | Bottom-6 roster
6 Picks: Kirby Dach, Victor Soderstrom, Tyler Bertuzzi, Tom Wilson, Dillon Dube, Troy Terry
Pine Riders | Consistent top-4 roster
3 Picks – Erik Brannstrom, Phillip Grubauer, Jaret Anderson Dolan
Saskatchewan Pirates | Coming out of a rebuild
5 Picks: Max Comtois, Erik Gustafsson, Ryan Poehling, Matthew Boldy
Knuckle Pucks | Top 3 roster
7 Picks: Drake Batherson, Alexi Heponiemi, Peyton Krebs, Jason Robertson, Filip Hronek, Emil Bemstrom, Elvis Merzlikins
Before signing off for the day, I wanted to mention one last thing. Don, The Don, the Godfather participated in this draft over the weekend. He’s also currently out of province helping his daughter’s family out with her four children (who are all big Canadiens fans), the youngest of which is currently battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I’d be remiss to not take this opportunity to share their family’s GoFundMe page in hopes that as a fantasy hockey community there may be something we can offer.
Thanks for reading. –@olaf1393