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Trade Fever: Drafts


The draft is about to start. You feel everyone’s hype with their lists in hand. Like you, they did their homework and are just as anxious to pick the team that will carry them through the highs and lows of the season. You think you have the perfect game plan? So do they. It’s funny how you can spend countless hours trying to predict who’s going to be available (by crossing out the obvious choices, of course) in the 10th round, 15th round etc… Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t. This article is aimed at increasing your chances of getting it right.   


Every draft that you go through adds to your resume. It’s like an interview. Being prepared definitely goes a long way but trying to predict the unexpected is key, and you can benefit from it. By dissecting the flow of the draft, you’ll quickly start to notice behaviour patterns. Note that the difficulty level of spotting patterns varies between each league, its type (offline, live or timeslots) and the skill level of the GMs present. As different as the drafts may be, most behaviours stem from the same premises; positional requirements, categories and favouritism.  It’s a lot to soak in at first, but understanding these fundamentals and knowing how to apply them in your drafts may lead you to greener pastures.

Offline drafts are usually the easiest of the league types to spot trends in. Why?  Because most of the time you’re drafting alongside buddies and family, the people you know most about. This draft is generally repeated year after year and consists of the same faces, give or take a few, meaning you already know what to expect. Every season, these guys fall in the same drafting routine, and their picking style becomes very evident. Take advantage of it. By noticing their behaviours, especially favouritism (explained later), your success rate in the league will rise dramatically. Suddenly you find yourself winning back to back championships and your friends are wondering how in the world you repeated the feat.     

At a glance, you’ll be able to separate the diamonds (studs) from landmines (duds) in drafts like these. Most inexperienced GMs will fill up their roster according to what they feel will get them the best team (on ‘paper’) based on projected points and favourite go to names. But, what they sometimes don’t realize is that a projected team of ‘big names’ won’t necessarily get you the most points, according to the league’s categories and their team will start to sink in the standings. If your league counts anything other than G/A = 1 point, you really need to take the categories into consideration. For example, if your league counts G/A = 1 and PIMs = 0.25, then it’s a whole different ballgame and you get these results (based on last year’s standings):

Corey Perry – 27g, 49a, 111pim = 104.75 league points
Ryan Kesler – 25g, 50a, 104pim = 103.5 league points
Steve Downie – 22g, 24a, 208pim = 99 league points
Ryan Clowe – 19g, 38a, 131pim = 90.75 league points
Chris Stewart – 28g, 36a, 80pim =  86.5 league points

As you can see, every 40 PIM’s adds 10 league points to that given player’s total. And to think, this is only one added league category; imagine leagues that have 15+ categories! You’ll be surprised on how many different formulas commissioners have at their disposal when creating a league. In most cases though, if you adjust your draft list according to your league categories and truly understand them, you’ll be in a much better position than those that didn’t. 



Now, if your draft has positional requirements, you’ll quickly notice that all GMs fill their respective positions differently than your own. By looking at their squad once in awhile, you can maximize the value of your draft position and feed off their selections. Realizing this calms you down when you’re on the clock and saves you from picking a certain player far too early, due to feeling rushed, instead of selecting them at the right time. But don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. For example, say you’re picking 11th in a 15 team, 15 round snake draft. You need to draft 10 forwards, 4 defensemen and a goalie. It’s the 7th Round and you notice that the GMs picking 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th have already chosen their tenders. You now know that no one is going to pick a goalie in the next 8 picks, so you can wait until the tail end of the draft cycles around to you. Now you’re back on the clock in the 8th, do you take a chance on a G here? Well, look at the other 10 GMs, how many of them still need a goalie? If you predict 2-3 will be picked before you and you’re comfortable with that, you’ll be able to wait until the 10th Round, allowing you to pick up an extra forward (or defence) which might not have gotten to you otherwise. Think about it. You were faced with a challenge; stayed cool, played your cards right and now you landed the goaltender you wanted, three Rounds later.

Know your opponents remaining requirements, and try to predict their next move. It’s a basic logic to follow, and you can really benefit from it. Prepare for this by writing down all the teams present and assign the amount of positions required on a spare paper (or excel if you want to be fancy) before the draft begins. Using the positional requirements from the example above (10F, 4D, 1G), it should look a little like this: FFFFFFFFFF DDDD G. Simply cross out the appropriate positions as they get picked. It`s a given that you’ll need to keep track of yours, but it should be as equally important to keep track of the teams around yours.


When doing Live Drafts like the ones on Yahoo!, there’s usually a pre-made draft system that does an excellent job in keeping track of your opponent’s selections and organizes it in such a way that facilitates quick viewing. This is extremely useful due to the fact that you’re drafting on the fly and well, every second counts. There’s no denying that live drafts tend to be a bit harder to notice rival GM’s behaviour patterns because there is so much going on. Having a non-stop timer clocking down each selection definitely adds a certain degree of pressure, and much less time to really let you get a good analysis. Although, by Pre-ranking players and preparing your ‘go to’ draft lists, you could really take that extra time between picks to track down those drafting trends and preferences of others. Again, the key is to stay calm, utilize your time and stick to your game plan.

On the other hand, Time slots or Time span drafts are most commonly seen during the slow summer months. These leagues take about a month or more to draft since there are so many rounds (up to 40+) and managers (20-30) included. These dynasties are my personal favourite to sit down and analyze as days can pass between your next selections.  The biggest things you’ll notice during these drafts are players picked ahead of their due time. The reason for this often lies in the fact that you can go up to 59 picks before selecting again. It’s a constant struggle of do I want him? Or do I need him? Example: In my most recent draft, a 30 team salary cap Dynasty, I selected Erik Karlsson at the end the second round, 59th overall. He was the 5th defenseman to be chosen in the draft at that point, after Green, Doughty, Weber and Myers. Was it too early? Probably, but after my pick at 62nd, due to the tail spin of the snake draft, I wouldn’t be selecting again until 119th (Though I ended up moving up in the draft to select JVR at 101st). I knew Karlsson would be gone by the 119th so I took a gamble on his projected upside. Same can be said about Claude Giroux, who went 34th overall in the draft. Was that too early? Maybe, but our league has positional requirements (C, LW, RW) and Giroux being a RW was very attractive. This particular GM knew that if he passed up on Giroux with that pick, that he would never make his way back around.  You can only imagine the struggle of wanting to pick guys a Round or two before, since like you, there are 29 other GMs thinking the same thing. Were both of our selections good? Sure they were, since it’s a keeper league. For one year value though, we could have gotten a better bang for our selection. But we’ll go more into depth on that subject in the next edition of Trade Fever.


That said, every offseason debrief yourself. Whenever you get that craving for hockey, break down your season’s success and mistakes. Learn from them. Then, adjust your game plan and make notes on how to avoid repeating costly mistakes in future drafts. Understand that there are quite a few factors at play when drafting your team, and being aware of that greatly increases your odds at achieving better success. It might be tough to do at first and maybe you need to come in from a different angle. Simply observe the other managers, find their patterns and feed off of them.  Doing so will give you a better feel for the flow of the draft. Ultimately, this will allow you to be in control of your surroundings and help you make more profound selections. You’ll thank yourself at season’s end.

Good Luck,

GMG (GMGates) signing off!

In the next article Trade Fever II, I will tackle the remaining topics:




  • Bias & breaking down the experience level of GM’s
  • Keeper league vs. One year league (Upside vs. One year value)



Published Mon, Aug 09th, 2010