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Draft like the pros, Part III

Just like last year, and the year before, I participated again in James Mirtle's super-deep Blogger Invitational fantasy draft this past weekend, one that includes a huge list of blogger know-it-alls. Dr. Mirtle, Matt of BoA, Puck Daddy, the Forechecker, Spector, Chris! of CiO, Kent of Five Hole Fanatics, Japers Rink, Pension Plan Puppets, Islanders Army, and even PJ of Sharkspage all took 2 1/2 hours of our Saturdays to prove once again the nerdly depth of our hockey knowledge.

All told, it was 18 teams each drafting 20 players -- a grand total of 360, 60% of the NHL's available positions. And if you think that's deep, this year represents a step backwards! The previous two years, this league has been played with 20 teams. On a general level, though, the rules are the same as before (head-to-head):

Positions: C x3, LW x2, RW x2, F x2, D x4, Util, G x2, BN x4, IR x4
Categories: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPG, PPA, GWG, SOG, W, GAA, SV, SV%, SHO

There are a few twists, though. One, it cost me money this year, which theoretically I could win back, but I'm not banking on that. Two, it promises to cost me money next year, too, because I'm allowed to keep two players for next year's team. Personally I feel like I'm a shell of a fantasy player; I managed to go this whole offseason without even seeing a fantasy guide. Still, without revealing too much about "who was available", here's how I managed this year, with some draft notes below:
Rd - Pick - Player
1 - 4 - Evgeni Malkin, C PIT
2 - 33 - Thomas Vanek, LW BUF
3 - 40 - Ryan Miller, G BUF
4 - 69 - Peter Mueller, C PHX
5 - 76 - Simon Gagne, LW PHI
6 - 105 - Teemu Selanne, RW ANA
7 - 112 - Manny Legace, G STL
8 - 141 - Drew Stafford, RW BUF
9 - 148 - Chris Kunitz, LW ANA
10 - 177 - Jiri Hudler, RW DET
11 - 184 - Jason Labarbera, G LAK
12 - 213 - Sergei Samsonov, LW CAR
13 - 220 - Joni Pitkanen, D CAR
14 - 249 - Brendan Morrison, C ANA
15 - 256 - Douglas Murray, D SJS
16 - 285 - Devin Setoguchi, RW SJS
17 - 292 - Shane O'Brien, D TBL
18 - 321 - Loui Eriksson, LW DAL
19 - 328 - Nathan Gerbe, C BUF
20 - 357 - Steve Montador, D ANA

C - Malkin, Mueller, Morrison, Gerbe
LW - Vanek, Gagne, Kunitz, Samsonov, Eriksson
RW - Selanne, Stafford, Hudler, Setoguchi
D - Pitkanen, Murray, O'Brien, Montador
G - Miller, Legace, Labarbera
One thing to stress about this league is the scarcity and importance of goaltenders. Each year some team realizes too late that goaltending decides a lot of standings points in this league, and with "saves" as a category, the need for starters is pretty critical (though it's only a 2 GP minimum). If you do the math, 18 teams means there's not enough starters in the league so that each team can get two. While my trio of Miller, Legace, and Labarbera may not seem overwhelming, the fact that it may represent three starters could prove huge for the Battlebots.

In terms of forwards, Mirtle's league has enough F and Util spots that it's not too important to worry about specific Yahoo! positions -- as long as there is some balance among the positions it's not too hard to get nearly everyone's GP in. Still, I tried to keep a focus of getting many of my scorers from the east, even though it's a conference I don't follow very well. I just went on the basic tenet that goals are easier to score in the east, and hoped for the best. I got a few light remarks on my picks of Simon Gagne and Drew Stafford, and probably I deserve them, but overall I was happy that none of my picks were openly mocked.

I went awfully light on defensemen, as I tend to do in this league (my first year I only drafted three defensemen). I think at the rate that players disappear off this draft board, it's better to focus picks on goaltending and scoring forwards, but we'll see. I can say that I wasn't the only person to wait until the 13th round to select a defenseman. I should point out that a lot of this advice pertains specifically to this league: in general I still value goaltending very highly but I'm more liberal picking defensemen. And generally in Yahoo! leagues I do pay more attention to LW/RW/C distinctions.

I will just add a general note that it's very cool to do a Yahoo! draft with Puck Daddy, and not only for his mid-draft banter. It's actually quite hilarious to have a Yahoo! employee, who has nothing to do with the fantasy technology at all, to yell at when things go wrong. Also, you can give him stupid orders. "Puck Daddy, tell the boys upstairs to give Peter Mueller LW eligibility, pronto!"

Anyways, I'm always a sucker for the BoC. I ended up with 4 Ducks, 2 Sharks, a King, a Star, and a Coyote. That brings my 3-year Mirtle draft total to 12 Ducks, 10 Sharks, 10 Kings, 2 Stars, and 2 Coyotes. I don't claim to be any master draft schemer (O'Brien's here for that), but it has landed me a 4th and an 8th finish out of a mean 20 the last two years. Oh yeah, that reminds me, here's PJ's team:
Rd - Pick - Player
1 - 2 - Evgeni Nabokov, G SJS
2 - 34 - Brian Rafalski, D DET
3 - 38 - Ilya Bryzgalov, G PHX
4 - 71 - Dan Boyle, D SJS
5 - 74 - Patrick Marleau, C SJS
6 - 107 - Ryane Clowe, LW SJS
7 - 110 - Dustin Brown, RW LAK
8 - 143 - Marco Sturm, LW BOS
9 - 147 - Jochen Hecht, C BUF
10 - 179 - Radim Vrbata, RW TBL
11 - 182 - Tomas Holmstrom, RW DET
12 - 215 - Tobias Enstrom, D ATL
13 - 218 - Nikolai Khabibulin, G CHI
14 - 251 - Matt Cullen, C CAR
15 - 254 - Christian Ehrhoff, D SJS
16 - 287 - Jonas Hiller, G ANA
17 - 290 - Niklas Hagman, LW TOR
18 - 323 - James Wisniewski, D CHI
19 - 327 - Brooks Laich, C WSH
20 - 359 - Steve Sullivan, RW NSH

C - Marleau, Hecht, Cullen, Laich
LW - Clowe, Sturm, Hagman
RW - Brown, Vrbata, Holmstrom, Sullivan
D - Rafalski, Boyle, Enstrom, Ehrhoff, Wisniewski
G - Nabokov, Bryzgalov, Khabibulin, Hiller
Now there's some BoC pride (whoa, and some pride for crazy Russian goalies, too!). Way to go, PJ.