It might be a little too early to think about this question, but who would you take first in your fantasy draft going into the 2011-'12 season? It has been a long time, from which I am trying to draw from memory, when there are a number of options in the 1st overall spot, which could be considered as reasonable picks. In recent memory, it really only seemed like there were a couple of options, even with a few of different Art Ross Trophy winners in the mix.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin have ran hand in hand over the past few seasons, working as the poster children for fantasy hockey drafts everywhere, the superstars of the league, the prized possessions of many. Now, with Crosby's concussion problems and Ovechkin's offensive cool down in Washington, I think this opens the door wide open for consideration to a number of players. Sure, you won't look uneducated taking either Crosby or Ovechkin for your team, but you may look like a bigger gambler.
Before having to leave the 2011 season with his concussion problems, Crosby was on a tear, scoring at a pace of just over 1.6 points per game, finishing up with 66 points in 41 games, ranking him 37th overall in scoring. In my 20-team draft last season, that would have been good enough for a 2nd round pick and he only played half the year. If he is getting the full bill of health in October, you can easily justify picking Sid first.
The questions that hang over top of the Russian superstar belong more to the team and how they are going to play. The Capitals were turned from an offensive juggernaut into a grinding playoff team with a focus on defense first. Well, that shift really took the sting out of the Caps' offense and the power play fell off, dropping down to 17.7% effectiveness, which was in the middle of the pack in the league. Ovechkin's numbers also tailed, but nevertheless, he's still Alex Ovechkin and he'll continue to be in the conversation at this time of year.
If you don't trust either one of the perennial favourites, how does one of the last two Art Ross Trophy winners suit you? Yes, the Canucks have one of the most formidable pairings in the league, led by the 2011 Art Ross winner, Daniel Sedin, who was the only player in pool scoring to finish over 100 points (picking up 104). With the 2010 Art Ross winner, Henrik Sedin, helping to put the puck in the net on a nightly basis, choosing one of the two twins cannot be a bad idea going into the 2012 season. The team around them hasn't changed a great deal, which should keep their options open, but which one will you take? Daniel the goal scorer or Henrik the playmaker?
Maybe you're not after the West Coast scoring touch, where you would rather head down to the sun belt and invest in another scoring tandem, this time from Tampa Bay. The sexy pick from the Lightning will be Steven Stamkos, who had an amazing 2011 season, which had potential to be off the charts. Stamkos finished with 91 points in all 82 games for the Bolts, but the smart money could be on Martin St. Louis, who finished right behind Sedin for the scoring race, picking up 99 points in all 82 games. Stamkos, the up and coming star on the NHL or St. Louis, the diminutive & crafty veteran.
I think we should also be looking to include the Hart Trophy winner from last season, Corey Perry. Perry finished 3rd in the pool scoring rankings, finishing up as the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL and he also finished with 98 points with the Anaheim Ducks. Yes, Perry lifted his team up and his stock went along for the ride, as he could be an outside shot at being a guy taken 1st overall in your hockey pool draft. I think you would have to be a pretty big fan to jump on the Perry bandwagon that high, you might get a few oohs and ahhs from your opponents, but you could look at that pick as being a shrewd one.
Maybe you're going to shock your other poolies and drum up a name that no one is expecting, yet might not drum up too many jeers when you call the name. Evgeni Malkin, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards or Jaromir Jagr, possibly? Okay, well, you're probably going to get a lot of jeers if you were to call out Jagr's name, but the others have their fair share of potential and all could be considered 1st round picks down the line. You may think of these guys more as good runner-up prizes for not getting the first pick in the draft, but not 1st overall picks... unless you really feel like gambling.
The last time a goaltender finished 1st in overall pool scoring was 2007, when Martin Brodeur topped everyone with 48 wins and 7 shutouts, so we could be due for a goalie to jump back up into the forefront and take the title as the pool's best player. Last year's overall top goalie was Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 98 points (36 wins, 11 shutouts and 4 assists), followed by Carey Price (94 points), Tim Thomas (91 points), Roberto Luongo (87 points), Miikka Kiprusoff (87 points) and Ilya Bryzgalov (86 points). There are plenty of good options on some pretty good teams, which would definitely make for a good 1st pick overall.
Well, if you have some idea of which way you are planning on going, put a vote down in my poll in the top right-hand corner of the blog page. I'm curious to know who you would take in the opening spot of the draft.