So last night, my hockey keeper pool held it’s annual draft.
I had come in with a pretty good team already. My lineup looked like this:
Forwards: Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Michael Cammalleri, Patrice Bergeron, Derek Roy, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Brian Gionta and Brad Boyes.
Defence: Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Joni Pitkanen and Kris Russell.
Goalies: Carey Price, Steve Mason, Kari Lehtonen and Jonas Gustavsson
In total, eight forwards, five defencemen and two goalies count in our pool. So it’s a team that may be good enough to win this year, but it’s pretty young, and I’m still missing the dynamite goalie that will win it for me. I can wait until the young goalies emerge, but that’s a few years away. Most of my players are 25 years or younger, including my two studs, Malkin and Stamkos. So I need to remember to be patient.
So I went into the night with picks #1, #11, #13, #21, #43, #45 and #46 (there were a total of 50 draft picks).
It was difficult to figure out strategies. One owner, Matt, decided that since he won last year, didn’t have great draft picks or a lot of youth, decided to go after players that could help him win again this year, as opposed to building for the future. Other people had to build so they could be a contender in future years.
I was somewhere in the middle. I want some good youth, but ones that could help me within the next couple of years as well in case the stars aligned. I was hoping to get at least a goalie, a forward and a defenceman with my top three picks. But like all my drafts, that quickly went by the wayside.
Here’s how it shaped out:
Pick #1: Taylor Hall. Not as easy a choice as it seems. I was convinced earlier this summer that Tyler Seguin was the way to go. But looking at their numbers, I was worried that Seguin may have been a one-year wonder in the OHL (he jumped from 67 points to 106). Plus, when you look at the list of #1 draft picks in the NHL in the past 10 years, all the forwards have become superstars. So in the end, I went with Hall.
Pick #11: By the time this pick came, I was shocked. Out of the top 13 players I had ranked, only five were drafted. Antii Niemi was available, so I took him. I’m hoping that if he becomes the #1 goalie in San Jose, he’ll put up huge numbers. Plus, Glenn, the owner who had the #12 pick, had only Cory Schneider as a goalie. So I was pretty sure he would draft Niemi if I didn’t grab him.
Pick #13: I was wrong about Glenn. He took PK Subban, who I planned to take here. John Carlson, Tyler Myers and Michael Del Zotto were already taken, and it was too early to take guys like Jack Johnson or Nino Neidereitter, in my opinion. So my option was to draft either forward Tyler Ennis (who had nine points in 10 games last year with Buffalo) or defenceman Jamie McBain (who had 10 points in 14 games with the Hurricanes last season). I knew I still wanted a good defencemen, but there were plenty of good young ones in our draft. I had Ennis ranked sixth in my rankings, and McBain 12th. So I put my strategy on the wayside, and took Ennis with this pick.
As a side note, I got this pick in a deal earlier this summer. Now that the draft is over, the deal ended up being me trading Alexander Semin and Alexei Kovalev for Shea Weber and Tyler Ennis. I like that deal, and would do it again. That’s why it’s important to make smart trades, and to get draft picks if you’re able to.
Pick #21: As expected, McBain didn’t last to this spot. Ennis wouldn’t have either, so I feel confident with my choice. This was my last chance to draft a stud, as my next pick wouldn’t be until #43. Nazem Kadri, who I had seventh in my rankings, was still available. So I drafted Kadri.
Pick #43: With three of the next four picks, I was looking for youth, as it would be tough to get someone that could help my team here. Originally, I was thinking of not drafting a goalie near the top, and then maybe taking a flyer on a guy like Rick DiPietro or Dan Ellis here. But once I took Niemi, I wasn’t going to take another goalie. So I went with forward Michael Grabner. He had 11 points in 20 games last year with the Canucks, but was traded to Florida in the Keith Ballard deal. Florida doesn’t have a lot of good players, so Grabner has a chance to be a top-six player and get lots of minutes. Plus, it never hurts to take a rookie in this pool.
Pick #45: I still needed a defencemen. And since five defencemen count, and I only had four, I couldn’t take a chance on drafting a rookie that might not make the NHL this season. So that eliminated prospects like Paul Postma, Bobby Sanguinetti and Brandon Gormley from my list. So I went with John-Michael Liles. If he can stay healthy, he should be good for 35 to 40 points. All I want from my defencemen are at least 30 points each. So I like this choice.
Pick #46: My last pick. I had lots of options out there. I decided not to take another defenceman, and figured I can trade for one if I need to during the season. And no more goalies, as I have five. So that left just forwards to choose from. I decided to draft Kyle Beach for several reasons. First, with the Blackhawks player purge of the summer, they need someone who play on the top two lines. That’s Beach. The Blackhawks needed a power forward to replace Dustin Byfuglien. That’s Beach. And I wanted someone that is a rookie. That’s Beach. Most people forget this, but in 2008, Beach was expected to be a top-five draft pick, but dropped to 11th because some teams thought he had discipline issues. Beach has a chance to play with Patrick Kane or Jonathan Towes. So that was a smart pickup.
I did try to make a deal with Matt for the last pick overall, but he wouldn’t trade it. I was hoping to grab Lars Eller in Montreal, but it never happened.
There were some surprises throughout the draft, mostly players not taken: Eller, Brandon Sutter, Gabriel Bourque, Patric Hornqvist, Dustin Penner, Brian Elliott, Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Zheredev, Brooks Laich and Brent Seabrook were not drafted (nor any of the young defencemen I mentioned in pick #45).
As for my picks, I snagged four of the top seven players in my rankings. That’s a very good draft for me, in my opinion. So I’m pretty happy with the way it all turned out, and am looking forward to this season and a few trades.