Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Hockey News Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide 2015-16

This year, I spent some extra time prepping my pool projections and getting them all done, before I really had a good look at the other guides out there, but when you start seeing them on the shelf, it's hard not to take a peek.

Now that all 30 teams are published on the blog, I can really sit down with the pool guides and see how they differ from what I've done.  The first one up, from the Hockey News, has been on the shelf for about a week already and it has been just been teasing me, egging me on to get my stuff done just a little bit faster... and it worked.

I like the Hockey News' fantasy guide, it is fairly thorough and it gives you a pretty good idea of what's going on, but the tough thing about it is that it is released in August and for those people who wait until the night before to pick up a guide, usually in September/October, before their draft, they won't nearly be up-to-date.  Still, this year isn't a bad year for it, because a lot of the moves were done early, so they could make a good product.

It should also be noted, I use the Hockey News projections at my draft, in its own separate section.  If you haven't been to the draft before, I do have a screen up, which gives you the next best players, sorted by last year's points and the Hockey News' projections, just to save some time.

The last time I wrote about a pool guide on the blog, it was 2011 and it was still the Sidney Crosby love-in at the top.  At least the Hockey News has kept up with the times and this year's top star is a goalie and they have a good number of goalies right at the top of the list, headed up by Braden Holtby.

Holtby, according to the Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide, should be coming in at 43 wins and 7 shutouts, which tops out at 100 points.  Of course, there are assists that count for goalies in my pool, but you can't really forecast them that well, so I'm not too worried about it.

Last year's pool MVP, Carey Price, he is projected as the second-best player, scheduled for 41 wins and 8 shutouts, bringing his projected total up to 98 points.

Crosby doesn't fall too short of the top, ranking 3rd among all players in my pool scoring scheme, his projection coming in at 97 points.  I have Crosby up pretty high, especially given the changes in the Penguins lineup for the coming season, but after recognizing that goalies were the top six players in scoring last year, I wasn't in a big hurry to have a skater up really high.

The Hockey News' top 10 rounds out with Tuukka Rask in Boston, Henrik Lundqvist in New York, Steven Stamkos in Tampa, Pekka Rinne in Nashville, Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus and Connor McDavid in Edmonton.

Yes, the rookie comes in at 10th, fueling all kinds of excitement and furthering the idea that McDavid will go in the 1st round of a lot of annual pools.

Back to goalies for a moment, seven out of the top 10 players are goalies, which is a pretty good indication for the pool going in, they might not lead you astray, if you chose their magazine for my draft at the beginning of October.

Ben Bishop, Semyon Varlamov and Marc-Andre Fleury round out the top 10 goalies on their list and they're all very good picks, if you decide to take a goalie early on in the pool.

After Crosby, Stamkos and McDavid, the rest of the top 10 forwards look a little something like this: Tyler Seguin in Dallas, Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis, John Tavares on Long Island, Alex Ovechkin in Washington, Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, the Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn and Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals.  That's a pretty tight group of forwards, most destined for the 1st round of the pool draft.

The blueline is another contentious part of the draw, especially when you consider there is such a wide gap between the top end players and the depth guys, who end up at the end of the draft order.  The top 10 defensemen, according to the Hockey News, are as follows: Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, St. Louis' Kevin Shattenkirk, Montreal's P.K. Subban, Colorado's Tyson Barrie, Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, San Jose's Brent Burns, Anaheim's Sami Vatanen, Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and then an 8-way tie for 9th, with 50 points a piece.

The rookie class is also an important one this year and it's a good idea to wrap your head around the rookies in your homework sessions.  McDavid is destined to lead the way this year, but if you're looking to win your money back in the rookie race, you may want to consider Jack Eichel in Buffalo, Nikolaj Ehlers in Winnipeg, Max Domi in Arizona, Artemy Panarin in Chicago, Sam Bennett in Calgary, Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay, Anthony Duclair in Arizona, Valentin Zykov in Los Angeles or Sam Reinhart in Buffalo.  Those would be the top 10 rookies, according to the Hockey News.

I think one of the interesting points that was made in this year's edition of the guide, was the indication that Petr Mrazek may usurp Jimmy Howard as the number one guy in Detroit.  An interesting theory/gamble, one that does have some merit on the surface and certainly has a chance to play out, if Howard gets off to a rocky start.

Another interesting point, one that would play into this draft, especially if the participation levels are up is the number of goalies forecasted in the book.  By my count, there are only 45 goalies in there, which would be one short of last year's drafted total.  Something to seriously look out for, if you're late to the goalie party at the draft.

If you're going to use this pool guide at my draft this year, make sure you're coming in with a plan that doesn't leave you hanging out to dry in the player picking department.  Coming with your own list and only using this guide to provide some advice, would be best.

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