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The Goods on Fantasy Hockey

Fantasy Hockey Top 5

In spite of a potential lockout, fantasy hockey leaguers will still need to plan for a draft. This date may occur well before this season actually starts, so be sure to check your league’s draft date.

Yahoo!, the top-played fantasy hockey game (and the site that started my fantasy addiction), is open for business. As usual, included are its rankings, which appear to be established by its fantasy hockey writing staff. During fantasy hockey drafts, participants will usually see a Yahoo! ranking alongside an average draft position, which is the average place in which a player is drafted in drafts conducted thus far. Keep in mind that the Yahoo! rankings will differ somewhat from the average draft position. This difference will be apparent even in this season’s top 5, where there usually isn’t much variance.

So where will the top 5 players actually be drafted? Keep in mind that my list below doesn’t necessarily reflect where I would draft these players. It’s more of a prediction of where I think they will be drafted, from 1 to 5.

1. Sidney Crosby (Yahoo! ranking: 4)
If you knew Crosby was no more of a concussion risk than anyone else in the NHL, would you not draft him first overall? His 1.68 points/game led the NHL, although the ratio is from a small sample size of 22 games. By all accounts, Crosby is back to 100 percent, but his decreasing tolerance to concussion symptoms will prove risky – at least over his next few seasons. Still, if you subscribe to the Ricky Bobby theory “If you’re not first, you’re last,” then Crosby is the player for you. Just keep in mind you could be waiting awhile for your next pick in a reverse snake order draft, which will be very risky if you lose Sid for any significant length of time.

2. Steven Stamkos (Yahoo! ranking: 1)
Goals carry more weight than assists in fantasy leagues due to the greater prevalence of assists, which is why Stamkos as the first overall pick makes sense. His total of 60 goals was 10 ahead of the second-place finisher for the Rocket Richard Trophy (Malkin) and 19 ahead of the third-place finisher (Marian Gaborik). There isn’t much downside to choosing Stamkos (aside from maybe average plus/minus), and he appears to be a safer choice over Crosby as a first overall pick.

3. Evgeni Malkin (Yahoo! ranking: 2)
So who would you draft first: Malkin or Crosby? Scoring 50 goals and winning the Art Ross Trophy should normally validate a player as the first overall pick in fantasy leagues. Geno has proven that he can carry the Penguins with or without Crosby, and he appears primed to add the fourth 100-point season to his resume. Malkin will keep his skills sharp by playing in the KHL if there is a lockout.

4. Alex Ovechkin (Yahoo! ranking: 5)
If you look at Ovechkin’s point total last season (65 points – tied for 37th), you could validly argue that he should not even be in the top 5. However, his name and reputation alone will probably propel him into the top 5. In spite of four previous 50-goal and 100-point campaigns, it might even be wise to even let Ovie fall out of the first round given his declining production over the last two seasons. A fair portion of his production will depend on what type of system new coach Adam Oates plans to implement.

5. Claude Giroux (Yahoo! ranking: 3)
The NHL 13 cover boy took the huge leap from super sleeper to superstar last season, finishing third in NHL scoring. The upside on Giroux is that he appears to have a 100-point season or two in his future. However, the downside is that he has never reached 30 goals and has only one elite-level season under his belt. Still, if Giroux falls to number 5 in fantasy drafts, I’ll happily snatch him there.

With the thought that usually goes into a first-round fantasy pick, keep in mind that fantasy leagues are usually won and lost with the later-round picks – the sleepers who far out produce their preseason rankings. So planning a draft will require more than just planning your first-round pick.

Back to the lockout: Will a lockout potentially affect fantasy teams? In general, no, but you’ll want to keep an eye on where players will sign if there is a lockout. The level of talent in Europe clearly isn’t as high as the NHL, but players are still at risk for injury. As well, perhaps players who opt to spend their free time living the good life instead of working out could be at risk for diminished returns if abbreviated training camps were to start at a moment’s notice.

Got a fantasy hockey question? Find me on Twitter.

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NHLJeff's avatar

If a lockout becomes official on September 15, will Yahoo still make leagues go ahead and have their drafts as if the season was starting on time?

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 08/31/12 at 09:26 AM ET

Ian Gooding's avatar

Yahoo hasn’t stated officially, but I would assume they will make drafts go ahead as scheduled. Much easier logistically than having to reschedule everything.

Posted by Ian Gooding on 08/31/12 at 11:39 AM ET

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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 gooding74@shaw.ca, or follow me on Twitter.