Live Draft Analysis, Neal, Injury Updates, plus more...
On Tuesday I participated in my first live draft of the season. The draft was for a team in the Experts League, which includes the likes of TSN, NHL.com, Yahoo, and last year’s champion, which happened to be Dobber’s very own Eric Daoust. You can check out full results of the draft here.
Here is my team listed below. The first four players are keepers, which aren’t selected in any particular order. Categories in this league are goals, assists, plus/minus, power play points, shots on goal, hits, blocks, wins, goals against average, and save percentage.
First, some updates with some keeper decisions, since I mentioned the keeper decisions on this team in previous Ramblings.
For skaters, I decided to keep both Drew Doughty and Dougie Hamilton and instead decided not to keep Phil Kessel. (My earlier Ramblings on the topic.) My rationale: Although Kessel was one of my top five goal scorers and my top assist provider last season (usually in his career it’s been the other way around), he provides absolutely nothing in the hits and blocked shots categories. Doughty and Hamilton are both better all-around performers, and it would have been tough to lose a defenseman that could reach 50 points. It’s a bit of a bold move that sacrifices some offense, but I’m more inclined to look at the offensive numbers than the peripheral stats when I decide who to draft.
I also decided to agree with the masses and pick Ben Bishop over Tuukka Rask as a keeper. Here’s my writeup from the previous Ramblings, and a forum thread on the topic. As it turned out, I decided to pick Rask with my first pick in the draft anyway. There was a goalie run to start the draft after the four keepers (I had the fifth pick), so I was considering Jonathan Quick or Corey Crawford, who were still available along with Rask. So sometimes things have a way of working out. As was mentioned earlier, we concluded that Bishop has more upside, but Rask is the safer pick. That could give me good balance in net.
Other picks I’ll mention:
Brayden Schenn: This one received a compliment from Pete Jensen from NHL.com because of Schenn’s hit total. As it turns out, Schenn had the highest hit total (189) last season of any player on this team. The Dobber projection of 70 points might be debatable, but throw in his power-play prowess and he will be an extremely valuable player for this team if he comes anywhere close to that point projection.
Torey Krug: I’m guessing his broken jaw happened at around the same time as this draft. No, I wasn’t watching preseason hockey while participating in this draft. I was trying to balance this draft while eating dinner with my wife and kids, and I’m already a notoriously poor multitasker. But preseason injuries are an unfortunate reality for those who happen to have early drafts. But the good side to early drafts is that you don’t have to wait so long.
Craig Smith: Just for fun, and because this was a deep draft (and because my kids needed to go to bed), I decided to put this on autopick for my final pick. I had no particular inclination to draft Smith, who is not particularly strong in any one category in this league. It never hurts to have a player or two at the start of the season that you’d consider dropping, as it keeps you on the lookout for top waiver-wire options as opposed to being content with your whole lineup. And being content can lead to missed opportunities.
Overall, I like my team. I emphasized drafting a strong defense, which is something that I have become more inclined to do in recent years. I’ve also attempted to make hits and blocked shots more of a priority than when I started in this league. My goal scoring is a bit light, but I tried to make up for that by trying to draft what I thought was the best player available in every round.
With two goals on Friday, Kailer Yamamoto has four goals in three preseason games. Right now he is a top-10 add on Yahoo, even though he was just drafted at 22nd overall (mainly because of his lack of size) and is likely headed back to junior. I’d be curious of Yamamoto’s chances of making other NHL clubs, since the Oilers are obviously deep at the forward position from years of high draft picks.
Assuming he is back in the WHL, Yamamoto stands a strong chance of scoring 100 points (he reached 99 in 65 games last season), even though his season will probably be interrupted by the World Juniors again. Because of his strong camp, move Yamamoto up your keeper rankings.
For more on Yamamoto, check out his profile on Dobber Prospects.
On one hand, a new opportunity in Vegas might give James Neal that boost that he needs for his fantasy value. On the other hand, he could be viewed as an overvalued player, having an average draft position of 107 on Yahoo. This is a grouping with the likes of former Nashville teammates Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen as well as Jake Guentzel and Mark Stone. Would you choose Neal over any of those forwards? I don’t think I would.
In his three seasons on a Predators team that has more offensive weapons than the Golden Knights team that he is joining, Neal cracked the 25-goal mark and the 45-point mark just once. Granted, he missed at least 12 games in each of those two seasons. But there should also be an injury deduction for Neal, who has missed at least that many games in three of his last four seasons overall. Yes, he’s a Band-Aid Boy.
Neal could be leaned upon heavily in Vegas for top-line minutes and first-unit power-play time. But where are you drafting Jonathan Marchessault? What about Vadim Shipachyov? Maybe you’re targeting them, but you’re not drafting them in the top 100 or even shortly after. We’ve gotten kind of used to ranking Neal high after his 81-point explosion in 2011-12 with Pittsburgh. But we shouldn’t be drafting him well before other Vegas forwards.
Where Neal could hold some real value, though, is if he is traded at the deadline. Should Neal find his way onto a line with a true top-end center (like Sidney Crosby when Neal was traded to Pittsburgh), then he would be a player to target.
In case you were wondering whether an NHL player would weigh in on U.S. President Trump’s recent comments on the national anthem protest situation in the US, after so many other athletes in other sports have…
It's the First Amendment to our Constitution. The First one!!
— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) September 23, 2017
Regardless of how it makes you feel individually, these are literally the principles the US was founded on. Come on, Mr. President
— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) September 23, 2017
Needless to say, this is not a discussion that will end anytime soon. I wonder if an NHL player will actually protest the anthem the way that NFL and now MLB players have. I would have to bet that it won’t be a Columbus Blue Jackets player.
The injuries are already stacking up for the St. Louis Blues. First Patrik Berglund and Jay Bouwmeester, and now Alexander Steen has a broken hand. Steen’s absence, however long it may be, could create opportunities for either Tage Thompson or Klim Kostin to crack the opening-night roster, or for Ivan Barbashev to earn power-play time.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (lower-body) will be reevaluated tomorrow. Too early to tell how serious injury is, Tocchet said.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) September 24, 2017
You’re probably best to lower OEL a few spots if you have a Sunday draft.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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