Fantasy hockey mailbag: Why Vatanen is (mostly) for real and Brodeur is (mostly) not

Matt Larkin
Sami Vatanen may be playing slightly over his head, but his big point production was always supposed to happen. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s not…too…late.

So you’re mired in the basement of your hockey pool standings. Your dad, your boss and your friggin’ 10-year-old niece ridicule you endlessly. Don’t take your ball and go home. Fight back.

I’m here to (hopefully) help. I’ve collected your excellent Twitter questions over the last few days, and I’ll answer as many as I can below. You’re welcome for the good advice / Sorry for the bad advice.

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Top five sell-high players in fantasy hockey

Matt Larkin
Jakub Voracek's amazing start means fantasy players could get a king's ransom for him in a trade. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Look at your fantasy hockey pool standings after five weeks. How is the first-place GM behaving? Is he or she bragging about having the title won already?

Bad first-place GMs count chickens and don’t see regression coming. Good ones stay calm, realize it’s a long season and begin identifying which of their players off to sizzling starts will cool down based on career trends.

With that, here are my top five early-season studs to sell high.

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2014-15 THN office fantasy draft results

Matt Larkin
It was a mild shock when John Tavares went second overall in the THN draft. (Getty Images)

What’s best way to prepare for your fantasy draft? Checking out player rankings is a smart idea. But there’s something especially useful about studying other drafts. When poolies are on the clock, they make slightly different decisions. Gut feelings and biases steer them in unexpected directions. It happened often during THN’s 2014-15 office draft, which spanned 15 rounds in a snake format and included 150 NHL players.

It’s a points-only league, meaning no goalies and a lopsided forward-to-defenseman ratio. Here’s a look at the “experts,” in draft order:

1. Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer
2. Ronnie Shuker, associate editor
3. Jason Kay, editor in chief
4. Dominik ‘The Hammer’ Luszczyszyn, intern
5. Ken Campbell, senior writer
6. Matt Larkin, associate editor, a.k.a. me, a.k.a. the defending champion
7. Adam Proteau, columnist
8. Brian Costello, senior editor
9. Shea Berencsi, graphic designer
10. Edward Fraser, managing editor

I’m not gonna lie — I made up Dom the intern’s nickname. Like, right now, on the spot. He doesn’t even know it’s his nickname…yet.

Here’s a look at how the draft played out, round by round, pick by pick.

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THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Johnny Gaudreau's impressive pre-season has him shooting up the fantasy draft rankings, including THN's. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Last chance to cram. The 2014-15 NHL season starts Wednesday, and a bunch of fantasy leagues still have drafting to do. I’m here to provide some 11th-hour help.

Most of what you need to know is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.

One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?

I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on!

OCT. 6 UPDATE: The pre-season winds down, and we’ve learned a few things, from injuries to projected line combinations to buzzy rookies. With those factors in mind, here are my final rankings for 2014-15 drafts.

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Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Drouin consensus fantasy hockey picks of expert panel

The Hockey News
Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (Getty Images)

Fantasy hockey aficionados always have tons of questions about the NHL. So do people who work in the industry. That includes former players who, in their post-career days, became media analysts. THN canvassed a half-dozen of them in the off-season to answer 20 questions on a variety of fantasy-related topics.

1. What do you prefer: a straight points fantasy league or a head-to-head fantasy league with different stat categories?

Jeff O’Neill, analyst, TSN: Different stat categories. So many ways a player can show his importance.

Jamie McLennan, analyst, TSN: Straight points league.

Matthew Barnaby, TV/Radio analyst: Points. I like playing players as a whole, not a different team each week.

Mike Johnson, analyst, Sportsnet: Straight points. Easier to manage and follow.

P.J. Stock, analyst, Sportsnet: Straight forward points. The fewer math calculations I have to do…

Kevin Weekes, analyst, NHL Network: Head-to-head. It gives the players a more realistic feel.

2. What’s the earliest fantasy round you’d draft a goalie in?

O’Neill: Fourth round. I want to load up on studs.

McLennan: First round. Goalies always draft other goalies.

Barnaby: I never take a goalie early. Always look at about my seventh pick.

Johnson: Eighth round. You can find value in the depth around the league.

Stock: Late rounds. They are all so good.

Weekes: No limits. If he’s an impact player, why wouldn’t you pick him early?

3. Who wins the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy?

O’Neill: Sid. He’s the one player in the league that beat everyone by 20 or more points.

McLennan: Crosby. I see him looking for redemption for his playoff failure.

Barnaby: Crosby. Won by almost 20 points last year and has more to prove.

Johnson: Sidney Crosby.

Stock: Crosby. Did it on injury-plagued team & should have no problem repeating.

Weekes: Steven Stamkos. Read more

Top 10 players to avoid in 2014-15 fantasy drafts

Matt Larkin
Drew Doughty is all-world in real life, but he's a surprisingly lackluster fantasy hockey performer. (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The fascinating thing about creating a bust list: it’s complicated.

It does you no good to simply tell you, “Don’t draft Willie Mitchell in your fantasy league.” Nothing against Willie, as he remains a useful stay-at-home presence, but the tools in his belt aren’t used in hockey pools. Everyone knows that.

A proper fantasy bust list isn’t even a list of players I don’t like for 2014-15. It’s imperative I make that clear. My top 10 guys to avoid are not all guys I expect to have bad years. Factoring in my top 200 versus average draft positions in Yahoo leagues, as I did for the top 10 sleepers, I’m primarily identifying guys being drafted too early. Those who meet my criteria:

(a) Players whose production won’t match their average draft position
(b) Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them

Primary influencers: aging, new teams or linemates, and overhype. Hot rookies get drafted before Jason Pominville every year. Why? They labor to 45-point campaigns while Pominville calmly eclipses 60 points in his sleep. The key to avoiding a bust is ensuring you draft guys at the right moment. I’m plenty high on Jonathan Drouin, for example, but he’s going 10 picks before Pominville on average. That’s ludicrous unless it’s in keeper leagues. Everything has to go perfectly for Drouin merely to reach Pominville’s yearly production.

With those red flags in mind, here are my top 10 players to avoid in 2014-15 drafts based on their ADPs.

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Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more