Now that the Washington Capitals have wrapped up their championship season for 2017-2018, it’s getting kind of late to look back at the fantasy season hockey that was, but better now than never. I feel like looking back on my season-long fantasy leagues is a good way to assess my recent strategies, and it also helps me figure out the larger lessons to be learned from the game. I can then review these lessons at the start of the next season to prepare myself for a new, successful season.
With that said, I want to turn my attention back to the 2017-2018 fantasy hockey season. Because I never got around to doing a draft review, here is an abbreviated one, starting with my league’s rules.
|Scoring||Head-to-head Points, 10-category|
|Roster positions||C, C, LW, LW, RW, RW, D, D, D, D, Util, Util, G, G, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, IR, IR|
|Categories||Forwards/Defensemen Stat Category
Goals (G): 6, Assists (A): 4, Plus/Minus (+/-): 2, Powerplay Points (PPP): 2, Shots on Goal (SOG): 0.9, Blocks (BLK): 1
Goaltenders Stat Category
Wins (W): 5, Goals Against (GA): -3, Saves (SV): 0.6, Shutouts (SHO): 5
My Draft Strategy: Zeroing in on Scarcity
At the time of the draft last Fall, I had the second pick and decided to use a slightly contrarian pick by drafting Brent Burns (Connor McDavid was taken first), and this merits some discussion. Burns was the top point generator from the previous season according to the league’s point system with 880 points (McDavid was second with 823 points). By drafting Burns, my hope was to get a repeat point performance while capturing an advantage in scarcity because defensemen as a whole trail far behind forwards in point production. It is far easier to find production among forwards on the waiver wire during the season than it is to find production among defensemen, so taking the top defender was a key strategy in building a successful team.
I also need to add that in custom points leagues, it is crucial to review the past season’s point production for your specific league instead of relying on general fantasy hockey rankings. If you see that the top point producers in your league are out of sync with general rankings, then you should investigate why this is. I was in a league a few years ago where this happened, and I noticed that a lot of mediocre players were among the most valuable players in the league because the category of Faceoffs Won was over-valued. Needless to say, I seem to have been perhaps the only manager who caught this on draft day, and I used it to dominate the league for the two years I was in it.
Because I had the second overall pick, I had to wait a long time for my next pick in Round 2. Having learned from past seasons about the importance of cornering the goalie categories, I decided I needed to make my move now and took goalies with my next several picks – Cam Talbot at #19 and Corey Crawford at #22. I also drafted goalie John Gibson with my fourth pick (#39 overall), which allowed me to have a considerable advantage against any opponent in those goalie stats. While drafting three goalies in the first four rounds might look like a luxury, it ended up being a necessity after Crawford got injured and missed about half the season. This strategy, of course, meant that I suffered from serious disadvantages in other categories, but I correctly anticipated that those could be addressed in later rounds.
In the next few rounds I continued to shore up on defensemen with quality picks in the fifth round (Shea Weber, #42 overall) and seventh round (P.K. Suban, #62) It wasn’t until my sixth pick that I drafted a forward with Patrice Bergeron, and additional forwards were drafted in rounds 8-13.
Here is how my draft ended:
|1.||(2)||Brent Burns (SJ – D)|
|2.||(19)||Cam Talbot (Edm – G)|
|3.||(22)||Corey Crawford (Chi – G)|
|4.||(39)||John Gibson (Anh – G)|
|5.||(42)||Shea Weber (Mon – D)|
|6.||(59)||Patrice Bergeron (Bos – C)|
|7.||(62)||P.K. Subban (Nsh – D)|
|8.||(79)||Aleksander Barkov (Fla – C)|
|9.||(82)||Alexander Radulov (Dal – RW)|
|10.||(99)||Brayden Schenn (StL – C,LW)|
|11.||(102)||Jonathan Huberdeau (Fla – LW)|
|12.||(119)||Ryan Strome (Edm – C,RW)|
|13.||(122)||Jakob Silfverberg (Anh – LW,RW)|
|14.||(139)||Antti Raanta (Ari – G)|
|15.||(142)||Anders Lee (NYI – LW)|
|16.||(159)||Ryan O’Reilly (Buf – C)|
|17.||(162)||Jakub Vrana (Was – LW,RW)|
|18.||(179)||Alex DeBrincat (Chi – LW,RW)|
|19.||(182)||Nick Leddy (NYI – D)|
So how did my draft strategy work out?
By the end of the regular season, my team had a record of 15-5 (.750 %), which was good for first place in my league. However, I had only the second-highest scoring team in my league with 8430 points (average of 421 points-per-week). In comparison, the highest team had 8632 points (431 ppw), and the average across all teams was 7850 points (392 ppw).
Based on these results, my draft strategy worked well. What’s interesting to me is that my team generated a lot of points despite the fact that Burns, my top pick (#2 overall), decreased in point production by about 130 points, or -15%. This meant that I had a balanced team and therefore didn’t have to rely on any single player to carry my team. I didn’t have any of the top ten skaters on my team, but I did have four of the top 25, seven of the top 50, and ten of the top 75. I also had three of the top 20 goalies in the league, and I think this really helped give my team a boost considering the scarcity of quality goaltenders.
It turns out that scarcity played a very important role in point production in my league, so drafting based on strategic considerations of player value rather than player ranking is important. It’s key to remember that most good forwards aren’t incredibly valuable on a fantasy team because there are a lot of productive forwards that are drafted in late rounds or picked off the waiver wire. In contrast, good defensemen and goalies are more valuable because they are scarcer.
Does this mean there’s a “magic formula” when it comes to fantasy hockey drafts? Should I draft Goalie-Defenseman-Goalie in the first three rounds, or some similar combination? No, I don’t think there is such a standard drafting formula. A draft strategy may differ depending on league settings (e.g. category vs. points league), but in general I would try to:
- Establish dominance in goalie categories by Round 5-6
- Aim for two Top-5 defensemen by Round 5-6
- Once goalie and defensemen talent has considerably dropped, target forwards
There might be circumstances which make this strategy unworkable, but in general it’s a good blueprint for success. Using it generally, my past two seasons have helped me stick near the top of my leagues, and I hope to use it again for success in the 2018-2019 season.
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