2023-24 Fantasy Hockey: An updated 12-team mock draft

As fantasy hockey season gets underway in short order, here are some more lessons you can take away from your mock drafts.

Mock drafts are a great way to ease into your real drafts: they give you an idea of what to expect from different draft positions and they’re fun to boot.

While these mock drafts and the resulting ADP are based on Yahoo standard categories, the very fact that this ADP will be visible to your league-mates while they’re drafting against you means that it'll be relevant no matter what the setup of your league.

I recently completed a 12-team, H2H Categories mock draft with the following standard Yahoo categories:

Skaters: Goals - Assists - Plus/Minus - Power Play Points - Shots On Goal - Hits

Goalies: Wins - Goals Against Average - Save Percentage - Shutouts

Here’s the team I was able to build, drafting from the back end with the 10th pick:

I took a unique approach with this draft to test some things and found some unique takeaways as a result.

Takeaway #1: Unique draft strategies are worth mocking

If you’re like me and end up doing a thousand mock drafts every September, they can all start to blend together after a while.

I took a different tack in this one and spent my first six picks on wingers before moving to centers for three picks, defense for four, and netminders for my final three. Holding myself to this rigid framework forced me to examine which players I really believe in at those individual positions in these ADP ranges.

I’d even recommend trying a draft where you flip it around and try drafting your C first, or even D first. The point is, trying new things often leads you to find a new perspective and you might come away with some new takeaways as a result. For me, that was re-realizing that Elias Lindholm is a smash play in the 9th round.

Takeaway #2: RW has to be prioritized early and often

If you’ve done a few mock drafts, you might have noticed what I have: it’s tough to fill out those RW slots with players you feel really good about.

In my last mock draft article, I wrote about prioritizing dual position eligibility. I still think that’s incredibly important, but if there’s a single position that needs special attention in the 2023-24 draft landscape it’s RW.

Mikko Rantanen in the late first round is a pick with plenty of opportunity to pay off handsomely. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

Simply put, it’s the weakest position in the game and if you get left behind early there’s a good chance you’ll be struggling for scraps all season long. In this draft I prioritized the position early with Rantanen in the first and three more RW-eligible players before round six; you don’t need to go that hard but it’s important to not be forced into sub-optimal picks late because you didn’t adequately prioritize RW earlier.

Takeaway #3: Drafting at the back of the first has never felt better

There’s no worse feeling than being super excited to learn your draft position and then realizing you’re one of the final three picks. Not having access to the elite tier of league winners like Draisaitl and Mackinnon can be frustrating, but more than any other season in recent memory I feel that effect is mitigated by the names available in the late first and early second.

In this draft I got Rantanen at 10 and followed it up with Brady Tkachuk at 15. You might not be able to replicate that in your leagues but I’m ecstatic with Kirill Kaprizov at his current 15.0 ADP and I’m not mad about having to “settle” for Alex Ovechkin (ADP 17.9). The point here is that you have a very legitimate chance at snagging multiple 100-point scorers if you have a 10, 11, or 12-spot pick this year which is not something you could have said in years gone by.

Takeaway #4: Defense has a massive tier in the mid-to-late rounds

I’d be jumping for joy if I was able to run nine straight forwards and still come away with Nurse, Letang, Chychrun, and Werenski as I did in this mock. This defense corps will cover categories for me nicely and I think the final three are some of the best bets to outperform their ADP among all players let alone defensemen.

Even if you’re not excited about these particular names, you’re going to have lots of options in this range with guys like Noah Dobson, Drew Doughty, and Morgan Rielly. It’s still worth paying up for some of the true elites like Cale Makar and Dougie Hamilton at their respective ADPs, but filling out your D corps with a bunch of picks in this range feels like terrific value.

Takeaway #5: Just one more time: Goalies are replaceable

I know I spend a lot of time in the pre-season hammering home the #ZeroG strategy, but I truly believe it’s the easiest way most fantasy managers can get an instant edge on their opponents out of the draft.

In this mock I took three shots at finding a decent season-long hold in Jacob Markstrom, Carter Hart, and Elvis Merzlikins. Bounceback candidates like Markstrom and starters on teams that could be improved like Hart and Merzlikins are exactly the types of bets I like to make late in drafts, and if they don’t pan out I don’t feel bad kicking them to the curb.

If you missed it earlier on, you can always check out my article specifically on the best way to attack the goalie position this year. As long as you’re not overspending at the position and committing to the waiver wire grind at the position all season long, you’re set in my opinion.

Nate Groot Nibbelink is the creator of Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and the originator of the #ZeroG draft strategy. You can find him pontificating about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server or on Twitter/X @applesginos.