2023-24 Fantasy Hockey Mock Draft (12 team)

With the fantasy hockey season right around the corner, here are the most important lessons learned through various mock drafts.

Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will be a hot commodity for fantasy hockey managers once again in 2023-24. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mock drafts are a great way to ease into your real fantasy hockey 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 in front of your league-mates while they’re drafting against you means it is certainly relevant no matter 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 middle with the sixth pick:

I recorded myself drafting this team live if you’re interested in my thought processes on-the-fly:

Overall I’m quite happy with this team, but I did come away with some takeaways I wanted to share with you as you perform your drafts.

Takeaway No. 1: Know your categories well

I continually harp on this point with newer fantasy hockey managers in particular (although experienced managers often need the reminder too). Understanding your categories should be the very first thing you do upon entering a league, as this will form the basis for your valuation of every player in the draft.

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For example, Timo Meier is an extremely valuable skater in Yahoo’s standard categories as he stands to be an upper-echelon player in goals, power-play points, +/-, shots and hits. Acquiring that kind of category coverage in the third round was a big win for this particular squad, but if I had been drafting for a league that didn’t have shots or hits as categories Meier would not have even been in consideration at this pick.

Knowing your league’s categories and how much that changes each player’s valuation is a core skill for any fantasy manager.

Takeaway No. 2: Dual-eligible players are at a premium right now

If you’re conducting an early draft for your fantasy hockey league this year, you might want to consider that very few skaters currently have multi-position eligibility, meaning those players are at a premium. These players are exceptionally valuable because of their flexibility to move throughout your lineup.

Yahoo’s standard roster positions include two each of C, LW and RW, with no Util spot (used for any skater position). Multi-position eligibility allows players to fit into your lineup in different spots on those heavier nights where having a whole roster of single-position eligible players might result in leaving players on the bench.

Consider a scenario in which you have three RW-only players all with games to play on a busy night but only one LW-eligible player with a game to play. If only one of those RW-only players also had LW eligibility you would gain an extra game played from your roster. Over the course of the season and multiple forward positions, those games played can really add up.

Takeaway No. 3: The biggest value late in drafts is at defense

I’m finding value at defense throughout my early mocks, but there are a number of defensemen who that really stand out. John Carlson is the earliest of this group with a current ADP of 91.9, but I’m bullish on Kris Letang (ADP 116.6), Jakob Chychrun (ADP 144.0), Bowen Byram (ADP 165.7) and Mike Matheson (ADP 168.6) — all returning plenty of value at their respective ADPs.

You could ostensibly build a killer group of forwards in the first nine picks, hit Letang/Chychrun/Byram/Matheson in rounds 10-13, and add a few goalies late to round out a very attractive #ZeroG team. I am a huge proponent of taking what the draft gives you in terms of value, and it’s very clear to me that the late value in drafts right now is at the defenseman position.

Takeaway No. 4: When drafting in the middle, you’ll have options

If you watch the above video, you’ll notice some of the players I was targeting were taken just in front of me. This can be very tilting for fantasy managers, but I found myself quite at ease in this particular draft, and a lot of that was due to my draft position.

Drafting from the middle can be somewhat stressful, as you don’t have much time between picks to think about how you’re building your team. But as I found out in this draft, there was plenty of value to be found and even when my primary target was taken, there were other options that were nearly as intriguing.

This realization made me feel more comfortable “playing the ADP game” and avoiding reaching for my favorite targets and hoping for players to slide to my next pick while scooping up value. There’s a limit to how much you can push it with this strategy of course, but when drafting from the middle you’ll definitely have options.

Takeaway No. 5: Still no need to draft goalies early

This will not shock you if you’ve ever encountered any piece of my content before, but I still have no interest in spending an early pick on a goalie when I can end up with Jakob Markstrom, Philipp Grubauer and Adin Hill with my last three picks of the draft as I did in this mock. If even one of those goalies pans out in a big way then I will have taken a big step towards equalling my opponents’ production at the position without investing much draft capital. Each of those three goalies represents a potential volume starter on a playoff-caliber team, even if they didn’t have a great season last year (Markstrom, Grubauer) or don’t have a long history of success (Hill).

I’ll have a later article on how I’m approaching the goalie position as a whole in 2023-24, but you can bet a lot of my teams will incorporate three late bets like this with the aim of finding just one season-long hold. I’ll find my mid-season Filip Gustavssons and Stuart Skinners again this year, and you can too.

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.