The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 09/02/12 at 11:13 PM ET
To help fantasy leaguers prepare for their drafts, I will be answering the age-old question of "Where should I draft (insert name of player here)?" To kickstart this segment, I will examine two players whose fantasy values have changed dramatically from this time last season: James Neal and Cory Schneider.
I would like "Where Should I Draft..." to be based on questions from you, the Kukla's Korner site visitor. So please post the name of a player you're wondering about in the comments below, through email, or via Twitter.
Neal is one of those players whose fantasy value skyrocketed via a trade, as the 2010-11 deal that sent him with Pittsburgh meant guaranteed minutes with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It didn't start off so well, as his first 20 games as a Penguin included only six points with a somewhat disappointing 45 points when all was said and done on the season. But last season, Neal proved that Ray Shero knew what he was doing in making the deal with Dallas, scoring 40 goals (4th in NHL), 41 assists, 30 power-play points (4th in NHL) with 329 shots on goal (2nd in NHL) while earning a First Team All-Star berth.
Neal's success last season has earned him a #15 ranking by Yahoo. One nice fringe benefit of drafting Neal is that he is eligible at both left wing, where he has played most of his career; and right wing, where he played most of last season. However, given that last season was his only elite-level season, I wouldn’t draft him any higher than where Yahoo has him ranked. I’m not assuming that Neal will be a bust by any means, but remember that most of the forwards being drafted ahead of him are more proven commodities in putting up the kind of numbers you need from a first or second-round pick in fantasy leagues.
Schneider has clearly earned the right to be an NHL starting goalie, whether it be with the Canucks or another team. His 1.96 GAA was only higher than that of Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott for goalies with at least as many games played, while only Elliott had a superior save percentage to Schneider's .937 SV% last season. One could argue that Schneider's strong ratios were due to matchups against weak opponents, although the decision to start Schneider over Roberto Luongo during the Canucks' first-round series against Los Angeles was intended to permanently alter the direction of the team in net.
You can probably already put two and two together to determine that Schneider's value all hinges on whether Luongo gets traded. If Canucks GM Mike Gillis can work out a deal with Florida or Toronto (or some other unknown team) before opening night (whenever that may be), then Schneider should start three-quarters of the Canucks’ games and be a potential top-5 goalie based on strong totals in all categories. But Schneider looking at a potential timeshare if Gillis doesn’t find a deal to his liking. Based on that worst-case scenario, in addition to the fact that Schneider has never appeared in more than 33 games in an NHL season, let someone else draft him earlier than the third round if that's what your draft market dictates. (Schneider is currently ranked 28th by Yahoo.)
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter.