Fantasy Hockey: Mock draft takeaways and strategy tips

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·6 min read
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Rasmus Dahlin offers huge upside in fantasy hockey. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Rasmus Dahlin offers huge upside in fantasy hockey. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The best way to test out some draft strategies before you sit down for your actual fantasy hockey draft is by conducting some mock drafts on Yahoo. There are no stakes or consequences to your selections, so you’re able to get a risk-free idea of how your draft is going to run and what you can expect depending on where you’re selecting.

If you don’t have the time to do so, the next best thing is to allow me to be your test dummy. I have conducted several mock drafts in the lead-up to this season and I’ll share with you my findings from one of them.

Scoring settings: Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, PP Points, Shots on Goal, Hits, Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, Shutouts

Roster Positions: 2 Centres, 2 Left Wing, 2 Right Wing, 4 Defense, 2 Goalie, 4 Bench

League size: 12

Draft position: 6

My Team

  1. (6) Jack Eichel, C, Sabres

  2. (19) Connor Hellebuyck, G, Jets

  3. (30) Tuukka Rask, G, Bruins

  4. (43) Dougie Hamilton, D, Hurricanes

  5. (54) Brayden Schenn, C/RW, Blues

  6. (67) Neal Pionk, D, Jets

  7. (78) Quinn Hughes, D, Canucks

  8. (91) Rasmus Dahlin, D, Sabres

  9. (102) Kevin Fiala, LW/RW, Wild

  10. (115) David Perron, LW/RW, Blues

  11. (126) Victor Olofsson, LW/RW, Sabres

  12. (139) Dylan Strome, C/RW, Blackhawks

  13. (150) Bryan Rust, LW/RW, Penguins

  14. (163) Oliver Bjorkstrand, LW/RW, Blue Jackets

  15. (174) Sam Reinhart, C/RW, Sabres

  16. (187) Matt Grzelcyk, D, Bruins

Forwards

Despite center being such a deep position, I took Eichel with my first-round pick given his reliability and that he’s only 24 years old and still may be able to take his game to another level.

After that though, I turned my focus to players with wing eligibility, specifically right wing as I find that pool of players is not nearly as deep as left wing, and especially center. Players like Schenn, Perron, Olofsson, Strome and Bjorkstrand all figure to be first-line guys and top power-play fixtures, while Fiala and Rust are players coming off of career years who will likely receive fantasy-friendly opportunities from their team. Notice that aside from Eichel, all forwards on my team have dual position eligibility. That’s something to keep in mind when drafting, especially in the later rounds.

Defense

In fantasy hockey, having a strong defensive core is a staple of my teams. I find the position typically thin, but considering you need to start four defensemen as opposed to only two of any of the forward positions, you can create a real edge on your opponents by loading up on some of the higher-end options. Hamilton, Pionk, Hughes and Dahlin are all top-20 players on defense, according to Yahoo ADP. This strategy is increasingly effective in points leagues, but there’s still some value in deploying it in head-to-head and rotisserie leagues as finding goals, assists, shots and power-play points from the blue line can be difficult after the draft.

Pionk had a surprising breakout last season, becoming a solid contributor to most applicable categories. Now that fantasy managers have to draft Pionk with a mid-round pick, there could be some concerns given his unexpected rise. I’m not worried. What he did best, hits and shots, are much easier stats to replicate than goals and assists. Additionally, Winnipeg’s blueline isn’t the deepest in the league, meaning he will likely see similar deployment in 2021, which will include some time on the top power play.

Dahlin is on the verge of a massive breakout. He has an elite prospect profile, and now entering his third season at just 20 years old, this could be the year he puts it all together. He’s already posted impressive numbers, finishing eighth among defensemen in 2019-2020 with 2.108 points per 60 minutes. Now that Buffalo has added Taylor Hall, the team has a pretty impressive power-play unit. He’s someone I’m actively targeting in my drafts.

As was the case when Torey Krug was out of the Bruins’ lineup, Grzelyck will likely be the defenseman who’ll step in on the power play now that Krug is a member of the St. Louis Blues. The Bruins have finished with a top-three power play in each of the past two seasons, and while Krug’s presence factored into that, Grzelyck has an opportunity to provide similar numbers. Heading a man advantage that features players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak when fully healthy can be an extremely rewarding position. He’s one of the better draft values regardless of position.

Goalies

My approach for goaltending typically depends on where I’m slotted in the draft order. I’m not going to draft Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round and if I have an early pick in the second round, I’m probably not going to end up with Hellebuyck. If you have a mid-to-late pick in the second round and you’re not in love with any of the players at the other positions, the Jets goalie is a nice target.

The best thing to then do after selecting either Vasilevskiy or Hellebuyck is to follow that selection up with another goalie. This allows you to really establish an edge over your competition at the position. In this instance I was hoping Carter Hart would fall to me in Round 3 but ended up with Rask, something I wasn’t overly upset about.

The opposite is true if you don’t end up with either of the two workhorses. If you miss out on Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck, it’s best to wait it out and select netminders much later in the draft. As mentioned earlier, fantasy managers should be looking to build edges in certain categories. The delta between the top-two goalies to the rest of the field is pretty steep in my opinion, which will make it harder for fantasy managers to make up ground.

The Results

I was pretty happy with how this mock draft went. I ended up with the best goaltending duo and figure to do well in the assists, power-play points and shots on goal categories.

I punted hits for the most part and don’t figure to win the goals category often, but that’s totally fine. The goal for fantasy managers in head-to-head category leagues is to create a distinct edge in a handful of categories, not to draft the most well-rounded squad. The issue of being the jack of all trades is that you’re the master of none, which translates to a lot of week-to-week variance in fantasy hockey. If you grade out as an average team across the board, you’re going to meet teams, like the one above, that are more likely to outperform yours in a number of categories.

Keep these tips in mind and you should perform well in your fantasy hockey draft.

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