Hockey season is upon us, and that means that hockey pools are also starting! Scrimmage and Stats has once again crunched the numbers for you to look at who you should pick this year to get you to the top of your pool. This analysis will focus on points projection of each player, while also having a section on projected points and their Salary Cap. That’s right folks, for those hardcore fans who want to know who the best bargain is in the NHL, we got you covered too!
Without further ado, let’s look at who you should be targeting for your pool.
The First Picks
When you make your first two or three picks at forward, you want to draft guys that consistently put up points and have a low-risk of injury. Connor McDavid, albeit injured in his first season, has been relatively healthy and should be a lock to be a top 3 pick. Claude Giroux should be at the top of everyone’s list as well, as the Flyers look poised to continue rising in the standings this year with key prospects set to make their debut. Nikita Kucherov has now put up back-to-back PPG seasons and seems like a safe bet to replicate, so do not shy away from the skilled Russian. I would also consider Malkin, MacKinnon, Wheeler, Matthews, Tavares, Marchand, Crosby and Ovechkin to be surefire top-3 forward picks going forward.
This is where you can stock up on high-end complimentary players that you know will be playing with superstars all year. Jakub Voracek, who is a consistent high-scoring winger, will likely play with Giroux and Couturier again this year. David Pastrnak, who plays with Bergeron and Marchand, also seems like a safe bet for 70+pts. The Dallas duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn should surely be an easy pick for anyone at this point, while not forgetting Alexander Radulov! Kuznetsov, often overlooked due to Ovechkin and other early pick candidate Nik Backstrom, should also net some serious value. Other names of note would be Tarasenko, Gaudreau, Forsberg, Barzal, Laine, Aho, Ehlers, Patrick Kane, Draisaitl and Couture. The player I would likely also suggest with great enthusiasm is Brayden Point, who is a Salary Cap sweetheart and an elite centre for Tampa Bay.
The Mid-Round Sleepers:
This is when you can get the most valuable players possible. Players than had sub-par seasons due to low playing time or injury that are set for a bounce back season. The top of the list is Mark Scheifele, who despite injuries, still put up 60 pts in 60 games. The player with the highest potential value that is overlooked would be sophomore Brock Boeser, who had 55 points in 62 games as a rookie. With a full season, more playing time and better line mates, he is set to take the league by storm. Similarly, Jack Eichel, a consistent point-per-game player (PPG), is set for a monster season with scorer Jeff Skinner on his wing. Ryan Getzlaf, who put up 61 points in 56 games, is also healthy and ready to dominate this season. The duo of Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have been increasing their point totals consistently for the past three years and look poised to break the PPG mark this year as well with Florida’s acquisitions.
Other names of note here would be Trocheck, Rakell, Granlund, Monahan, Marner, Schenn, Teravainen, Pavelski, Arvidsson, Pacioretty and Landeskog.
The Forgotten Players
Here is where things can get extra fun. This is where you can take players who have gone completely under the radar. Players like Dadonov in Florida or Riley Smith in Vegas are great adds later in the draft. Sophomores Clayton Keller or Kyle Connor are also poised to increase on last season’s totals with increase minutes and PP time. Ryan O’Reilly could also see a spike in scoring in St-Louis, as he will be able to play with Jayden Schwartz and Tarasenko all season. Nikolaj Ehlers and Dylan Larkin should also be a sure bet to continue putting up 60 point season and would likely provide excellent depth in any pool.
For those looking for safer picks, you can always select the likes of William Nylander, Matt Duchene, Corey Perry, Ryan Johansen and Paul Stastny. These players are all due for increases in their point totals, especially Perry, Johansen and Stastny and would probably pass under most people’s radar if they based themselves on last year’s stats alone.
Players That Are Likely to Regress:
This is always a tricky category because you really never know. However, when players have one good season under their belt, it is a pretty scary thing to waste a high pick on them and then watch said player regress. My likeliest candidate for a drop in points is William Karlsson, as his numbers were absolutely ridiculous during the season, but he lost considerable steam late in the season. We simply don’t see the Knights being able to replicate that kind of offensive output, and teams have had ample time to study Gerrard Gallant’s tactics.
Justin Bailey and Anders Lee also make us a little nervous now that Tavares has left the New York Islanders. Their rise in numbers often correlated to the play of John Tavares, and I don’t know if Matt Barzal can fill that hole alone, but certainly not impossible. Other candidates to stay away from are Gourde, Brown, Eberle and Galchenyuk.
What About Rookies?
At the top of our list for NHL rookies that can and will have an immediate impact, look no further than Elias Pettersson in Vancouver and Casey Mittelstadt in Buffalo. Both will get ample playing time in the top-6, with Mittelstadt already having 5 points in 6 NHL games last year. We expect these two to challenge for the Calder Trophy this year for sure. Other notable rookies would be 2nd overall pick Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina), Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville), Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa), Filip Zadina (Detroit) and Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton). Each of these players should, in theory, crack their respective team’s roster and could make a serious play for the Calder Trophy.
Salary Cap Strategy?
We’re glad you asked! The Salary Cap, be it real-life or fantasy, is a real challenge to work with. However, we have created a grid that shows you who the best players were last year, based on their Cap hit. We named this new metric Points Per Cap (PPC). We quickly see that Brayden Point was the most valuable player in the NHL in terms of PPC. He is quickly followed by Matt Barzal and Mikko Rantanen. Marner, Laine, Aho, Keller, Matthews,Debrincat and more are all on their Entry Level Contracts (ELCs) and therefore are paid less than $1 million per season. Their numbers make them a bargain for any pool with a salary cap restrictions.
Beyond young players on their ELC, the best deals, dollar for dollar, belong to Eric Staal, Nikita Kucherov, Erik Haula, Sean Couturier, Rikard Rakell and Anders Lee. These would be my mid-round picks in any Salary Cap draft , with the exception of Kucherov of course being most likely my first pick, because they provide incredible value in terms of PPC. Wheeler, MacKinnon, Hall and Panarin are also sure bets to give you solid offensive stats with a market friendly deal.
This raps up our list of players we would look for in your 2018 NHL Fantasy pool. We also have a specific section for defensemen, where we look at their point projections and their Salary Cap value, in order to determine key selections. Similarly, we will be doing an analysis for goaltenders in the case where you want to make sure you goalie selection (or selections) are sure to produce.
For a full a full Hockey Pool guide (Forwards, Defensemen and Goalies), click here!