The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
When researching your draft options for your upcoming pool, be sure to use the following rule for your defense picks: Select 2 defensemen within the first 5 picks. Many poolers who have followed this and have come out on top, mainly due to point production drop off between the top tier and 2nd tier of defensemen. Although point-per-game forwards have become rarer and rarer, forward do tend to have many more players now averaging in the 80-60-point range. For defensemen, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are the only two defensemen to come close to a point-per-game in a full season, while all-star defensemen such as PK Subban or Drew Doughty come in at about a half-point-per-game. With Burns finishing last season with 76 points and Ryan McDonaugh, who finished 20th in points for a defenseman, finishing the year with 42 points, the point production drop-off becomes evident very quickly. This means that picking your defense is vital to the success of your pool and must be done wisely. Going into this season, there are many young defensemen that are looking to take the next step in their development. These players, along with the established defensive stars of the NHL will become the core of your hockey pool success:
The All-Star: At the beginning of your draft it is important to zone in on an elite defenseman right from the start. Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Duncan Keith, Roman Josi, Dustin Byfuglien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Kevin Shattenkirk rank as the highest scoring defensemen of the last few years and therefore represent sure bets to anchor any successful hockey pool. I would have also included Kristopher Letang, but his recent health scares have made him too high a risk for your first pick. Anyone of these defensemen would more than likely put up 50 points in a season, which will allow you the flexibility of choosing a strong, up-and-coming young defenseman for your second pick.
The Up-and-Comer: With the youth movement in the NHL, we’ve seen a recent surge in mobile, offensive defensemen. More so than in prior years, defensemen are being tasked with driving the play and joining the rush. This new generation of defensemen, headed by the likes of Seth Jones, Torey Krug, John Klingberg, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dougie Hamilton, Shayne Gostisbehere, Cam Fowler, Rasmus Ristolainen, John Carlsson, Tyson Barrie, Zach Werenski, Aaron Ekblad and Brady Skjei, are all poised to take another great step in their development and would make for excellent second and, if you’re fortunate enough, third round picks for your defensive corps. Other than Skjei, who has the luxury of playing behind Ryan McDonaugh in New York, many of these defensemen are rising as their team’s most important defenseman and are generally tasked with the most amount of time on ice. However, it is important to note that there already many young defensemen still on their entry level contracts that could breakout far earlier than the above defensemen. Once picks 1 and 2 are made for your defenseman, we can focus on rounding out your defensive core with the Anchor.
The Anchor : This is generally your third pick, which is used to select a defenseman who is not necessarily elite or up-and-coming, but solid and efficient nonetheless. Many people will call this pick the Anchor in a hockey pool. Such players as Keith Yandle, Ryan Suter, Mark Giordano, Kristopher Letang, Jake Gardiner, Sami Vatanen, T.J.Brodie, Ryan Ellis, Brent Seabrook, Matt Niskanen and Justin Faulk would be an ideal candidate for your next pick or two ( depending on the size of your pool), as they have shown a consistent track record of point production and show no major signs of regression ( with the exception of Letang’s health issues). These players will account for 30 to 45 points in a season and would be ideal as a third or fourth pick. The added advantage is that, your final pick could be more of a risk, with many young rookies and sophomore players ready to be scooped out by the learned hockey fan.
The Rook: This is the time to flip through your manuals and look at the biggest potential breakout stars on defense. With your last few picks in the draft, you can choose some new talent ready to hit the ground running, or a young sophomore that’s ready to explode and take the league over. Players like Ivan Provorov, Jacob Slavin, Jakob Chychrun, Josh Morrissey, Ryan Pulock, Josh Manson, Brendan Carlo, Shea Theodore, Charlie McAvoy, Mikhail Sergachev, Thomas Chabot, Travis Sanheim and Miro Heiskanen have all the potential to come in and immediately make an impact. With their best years yet to come, it would not be outlandish to see at least 3 or 4 of these players break the 30-point plateau and provide excellent depth to anyone’s successful hockey pool.
With forwards and defensemen covered, our next and final piece shall be looking at your choice in goal. This position becomes so important to study and understand due to unique statistics like save percentage, goals against and shutouts, but we’ll have the full analysis for you tomorrow. Stay tuned to see which goaltenders you should be looking for in your pool.