It’s September everyone! You know what that means, don’t you? Fantasy hockey pools are starting up as friends and families scramble to convince undecided members to join their league. Most people will shy away from hockey pools because of the daily upkeep and the lack of statistical knowledge, but Scrimmage and Stats has you covered for the 2017-2018 NHL season! We’ll be releasing a detailed look at can’t miss picks for forwards, defensemen and goalies, along with a detailed list of dark horse picks that will make or break your pool. This edition will dive into the forward groups for this upcoming season and will shed light on who will continue to shine, who will bounce back and who will regress. Without further ado, we’ll give you a breakdown of can’t miss players to draft at the top of your draft:
Can’t Miss: We begin any good draft by picking your surefire point producers. If your pool point calculation only takes players’ goals and assists into consideration, it is always best to seek out players that drive the play. Obvious choices would be the likes of Connor McDavid, Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Kane, Alexander Ovechkin or Vladimir Tarasenko. Each of the aforementioned players would be a cornerstone to any pool, as they have consistently been a point-per-game player over multiple seasons. However, Alexander Ovechkin has been known to be a little bit unpredictable, which is why I would only pick him if the rest of the aforementioned players have all been taken at the forward position. His 69 points in 82 games last year was a huge drop off, when fellow teammate Backstrom was over a point-per-game at 86 points in 82 games. Even with the help of T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ovechkin was not able to return to point-per-game form this year and, with the major losses the Capitals sustained on defense this offseason, I would wager that the Capitals are set to regress this season. However, there are many risers that may break into the point-per-game club and would present themselves as much higher value picks than aging veterans like Ovechkin or Patrice Bergeron.
Risers: The benefit of having a strong youth movement in the NHL is the fact that many newcomers are knocking on the door of greatness at a very rapid pace. The days of generational super rookies like Ovechkin and Crosby are long gone, as it seems a new superstar rookie is born every season. After a few questionable drafts in 2011 and 2012, it seems the last few drafts have provided the NHL with a strong jolt of youth and skill. Other than Connor McDavid, the likes of Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Drouin, Leon Draisaitl and Artemi Panarin are but a few names that come to mind when thinking of players under 25 that could possibly breakout and hit that coveted point-per-game mark. In the cases of Eichel, Draisaitl and Panarin, they have already hovered around that mark prior to the 2017-2018, but a full and healthy season where they can silence their doubters would certainly make them can’t miss 2nd or 3rd round picks for your upcoming drafts. Although it would be great to pick up at least 2 of these forwards, it’s always your mid-round picks that make or break your pool’s success.
Mid-Round picks: This is when you need to look for the consistent 50-60-point players that always seem to produce. A good trick to use is to always pick players on the final year of their contracts, as it is more likely that they will push for a career year or, at worst, similar numbers to their personal best. Mats Zuccarello, James Van Reimsdyk, TJ Oshie, Sean Monahan, Mark Stone, Bryan Little, Alexander Steen, Wayne Simmonds, Ryan O’Reilly, Derek Stepan, Brayden Schenn, Kyle Turris and Ryan Kesler are just a few surefire picks to produce at the same pace as the year prior, if not better. These players will represent the backbone of your pool and acquiring at least 2 of these players should guarantee you scoring success throughout the length of your pool. The players mentioned above drive the play and often find themselves with a consistent amount of points all season, which rarely makes them potential drop candidates during your roster evaluations. Once these players have been picked, it comes time for you to take a few risks as you finalize your forward group.
Dark Horse picks: Once you’ve gotten to this point, you should have 1-2 picks to finalize your forward group, and this is when you should take boom-or-bust players that could breakout this season. I’m not talking about surefire Calder favourites like Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick, who will most likely be gone by the time you’ll be making your final picks, but under-the-radar youths like Arizona’s Clayton Keller, New York Islanders’ Matthew Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang, Colorado’s Tyson Jost or Buffalo’s Alex Nylander. These rookies represent the next wave of talent coming into the NHL, but most poolers will not expect that these youngsters could hit the 50 or 60-point range before they’ve played more than 20 or 30 games. Another group of dark horse players are sophomore players and third year players whose entry-level contracts are coming to an end. Those players include Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennet, Sam Reinhart, Sebastian Aho, Robbi Fabbri, Christian Dvorak, Max Domi and William Nylander. With 1 or 2 of these players to round out your forward group, you should be well on your way to the top.
That’s it for the forwards this week! Stay tuned for our next piece on hockey pool defensemen strategy, as we’ll be giving you all the details on which D-man to pick and who is flying under the radar prior to the start of the 2017-2018 season. Training camp is just around the corner, and Scrimmage and Stats will be there every step of the way!