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Being Ready on Draft Day

 by Jacob Phillips (aka J_Mac_13 on

Preparing for a draft is essential to success, and in that spirit I’m happy to present some top tips in advance of draft day.


You know how the saying goes, preparation breeds confidence and there is no better feeling than running through a draft knowing exactly who you are taking where and why. Even if it is only an hour spent before the draft, make sure you have an outline and a plan.  It’s amazing how flustered even the most knowledgeable hockey mind can get when suddenly their 2 minutes is on the clock. Have a solid plan going in and you’ll be amazed how much more confident you’ll be in your team after the draft.  Speaking of the list, there are a number considerations for me when creating mine. 


This seems to be a common idea but when creating your list make sure to create ranked tiers - groups of players that all have similar values. An example of tiers from my list for the upcoming year would be:


Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
Sidney Crosby Henrik Sedin Jason Spezza
Steven Stamkos Eric Staal Mikko Koivu
Evgeni Malkin Anze Kopitar Paul Stastny

I use the ranking system to provide me with quickly accessible comparisons on player production over the past few seasons for all the categories in my league scoring system.  I then bring in my own thoughts on projections for the coming year to fine tune my ranking and tiering of players. 


The lure to select the next superstar before he has his breakout season is hard for most of us to resist, but the reality is most of these breakout candidates fall well short of steady, reliable vets that get overlooked all the time.

Mike Ribeiro vs Patrik Berglund is a perfect example to use: watch on draft day and see who goes first out of these two - I would bet a whole lot of money it is typically Berglund and yet I would argue IF he breaks out, his CEILING for this year is what Ribeiro will produce in a regular year. If a solid prospect with a great chance of producing falls to you, then great, but don’t be the GM that gets caught up in the hype machine and overlooks steady producing vets that get undervalued every year. It might not be the sexy pick, but it’ll be the one that wins you the pool.


Let’s be real, the fun in the off-season is spending countless hours predicting what sleeper pick no one sees coming and snagging him in the 8th round just to be able to tell your buddies “I told you so!” (*cough* JVR, Benn, E. Kane *cough*). While I love doing this as much as the next guy, it’s simply not where pools are won. Make sure you are spending the majority of your time ranking and planning for the first 4-5 rounds of the draft. This is where the bulk of your stats are going to come from for the year, so it only makes sense to spend the most time here figuring out exactly who you want to target and why. You may not always end up with precisely who you want, but at least you’ll have a reliable plan you can feel confident in.


First things first - creating a list is really hard. There are so many opinions about who might be better and we’re basing it all on projections. Crosby or Ovechkin? Lundqvist or Miller? Kopitar or Staal? Deciding between players like this can be like splitting hairs, but here are a few factors I look at when deciding who to take:

Consistency - I value this probably more than most GM’s but that’s because it is something that I think is probably one of the most important factors with your first several picks. Knowing that you can count on someone to show up game in and game out is a very valuable thing, constantly worrying about injuries, slumps, and benching is not something I enjoy doing during the year. Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis, Henrik Lunqvist, etc. are guys that you know are going to play the bulk of games every year and that’s very valuable to me

Position - Most experienced poolies know that centers are deep, left wings are shallow and goalies are inconsistent but really putting this into play is what separates the good GM’s from the great. You will never catch me taking a center in the first round of any pool unless it’s Crosby, Malkin or Stamkos. I’m also the guy that waits until the 6th round to grab my first Dman. I like goaltenders and I like wingers and having elite players at these positions is a great foundation to a winning team.

BPA - Now this may seem a bit contradictory to my last post, but just like real NHL GM’s I am a strong proponent of drafting the Best Player Available. Too many times I see a poolie pass on what is clearly a player in a higher tier simply because they already have a player or two at that position. You have to remember that you aren’t drafting a real NHL team – don’t pass up on a player in a higher tier just for the sake of “balancing” your team. You can always fill in your holes with depth players or trades at a later time. The ONLY exception I make for this is goaltending – make sure you take a workhorse early.

My Bias Regarding Defensemen

I should come clean about defensemen,  because I think they deserve some extra discussion.

  1. Defense in my opinion is the second most volatile position in fantasy hockey (behind goaltending) and since I value consistency early in my draft I like to avoid a position that can feel like a crapshoot at times. Note I make a special exemption for Goaltenders in early rounds because despite their volatility they are an extremely important position.
  2. I am very confident in my abilities to find gems on defense late in the draft or through free agency - forwards have the problem of being overly watched or easy to identify on a hot streak while defenseman that plug away at a 0.5ppg pace can easily slip through the cracks even late into the year.
  3. The difference between a defenseman drafted in the 3rd round and the 8th round is often much smaller than forwards drafted in the same area. This is certainly more my opinion than fact but I would wager that there are a lot more 40+ point defenseman drafted in the 8+ rounds than 70+ point forwards. I would actually love to collect some data on this as it's simply one of those "feel" type arguments right now.
  4. Forwards will almost always have more trade value. The fact of the matter is that people just don't see 60 point defenseman as in the same tier as 90 point forwards. Looking back at when Mike Green was posting 70 point seasons as far and away the best defenseman in the league you would still have a very tough time finding someone willing to part with a Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin straight across.

How all of this relates to my BPA argument is actually quite simple: when I'm creating my list I often have defenseman ranked lower on the list than most others do on theirs. As a result it is going to be very unlikely in the first 5 rounds or so that a defenseman, that I would deem the BPA, is going to fall to me. It is simply a built-in bias in my ranking list that almost never sees me wind up with what the majority would consider to be a top defenseman. The same bias is present when I rank centers vs. wingers and will often result in the same lack of "top" centers on most of my fantasy teams. I'm not saying this is 100% the best way to go, but it is just something I've found to work for me.


Drafts are fluid and hard to predict, but doing good preparation in advance will make it much more likely that you come away with the team you want.

Another way to be seriously prepared for your draft is to use the Draft Guru.  Try it out today by signing up for a free account, which includes a free 24-hour trial!

Published Thu, Aug 18th, 2011