Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pool Worthy Players in the 2017 Season

Well, since there isn't any playoff pool on the site this year, my off-season gets to start right away and it's a light load, up until the draft lottery, which happens next weekend.  Once the draft order is settled, I will begin my annual Pool Outlook, a pre-off-season look at all of the teams, as they are eliminated from the playoffs, piecing together my mock entry draft at the same time.

What you're going to see on these posts is the term, "pool worthy," which pretty well stands for a player of his position, who scored enough in the season to rank within the top number of players taken at that position, multiplied by the number of teams in last season's pool.  For example, as the pool is setup, we take eight forwards, four defensemen and a couple of goalies and in the 2017 draft, we had 25 teams, therefore, we're looking for the top 200 forwards, top 100 defensemen and top 50 goalies to be pool worthy.  You have to love easy math!

The hockey pool MVP was Washington's Braden Holtby, who finished with 102 points on the season and it was a good year for goalies, as five of the top 10 overall scorers were coming out from the crease.  Cam Talbot of the Oilers, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets, Tuukka Rask of the Bruins and Devan Dubnyk of the Wild rounded out the top five, which went down to 90 points on the year.

Six more goalies were ranked within the top 25 players, which means 11 goalies would have been 1st round picks in this year's draft, redone for the new scoring numbers, which is well below the 18 goalies taken in the 1st round, back in October.

50th spot among the goalies, officially belongs to Jacob Markstrom of the Canucks, who finished with 20 points, tied with two others, but had the most wins of the three goalies at 10.  I guess I could give the extra nods to Michael Hutchinson of the Jets and Jonathan Quick of the Kings, who were the other two goalies with 20 points, but this pool's tie-breakers starts with wins for goalies and the more shutouts you get, the lower you go.

There's no question that Connor McDavid of the Oilers has lived up to his billing, as soon as year number two.  McDavid was tops of all skaters, rounding out to the 100-point plateau in the final game of the season and he was worthy of the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft.  With five goalies taking the first half of the top 10 in overall scoring, the other five were forwards, rounded out by Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning.  Kucherov finished with 40 goals and 85 points this season, rounding out the top 10.

The forwards made up the better part of the top 25, as eight more forwards brings the position's total up to 13 players, starting with Brad Marchand of the Bruins and finishing with Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, down at 72 points.  It wasn't a bad year for forwards at all, but from 1st to 25th, it was a 30-point difference, but it is in those mid-to-late round picks where you make that up with a blend of luck and homework.

The last of the pool worthy forwards, 200th overall, was down at 10 goals and 29 points this season, where Joel Ward of the Sharks and Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens finished, Ward playing 14 more games than Gallagher as well.  I value games played more than points per game, because of the ability to stay healthy gives more chances than someone who is liable to get hurt more often.

In a pool of 25 teams this past season, it is still quite something that a defenseman can make it into 1st round consideration and that's just what Brent Burns of the Sharks did this year.  Burns played in all 82 games for San Jose, scoring 29 goals and 76 points, ranking him 15th overall in pool scoring,

There were two 2nd round picks from the blueline in pool scoring in Victor Hedman of the Lightning and Erik Karlsson of the Senators, then Kevin Shattenkirk of the Capitals was worthy of the 3rd round, followed by Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks, Dustin Byfuglien of the Jets, Justin Schultz of the Penguins and Torey Krug of the Bruins, all solid enough for a 4th round pick.  Schultz and Krug each finished with 51 points in the season, all of the above could benefit from a higher draft pick next season, because of the drop off in points, when you get deeper into the position.

Josh Manson of the Ducks, Brian Campbell of the Blackhawks and Chris Wideman of the Senators all finished with 5 goals and 17 points this season, ranking 99th to 101st, rounding out the pool worthy players on the blueline.  The difference from the top to the bottom is quite great, so if you can boost your blueline with at least one top 10 defenseman, you should be in great shape for the year.

Of course, these are only guidelines at best, because of the potential changes for next season.  Who knows how many teams will return for the draft, it could be more than 25 it could be less than 25 and let's not forget... the Vegas Golden Knights will be in and adding a bit more flavour to each position, especially the goalies.  Stay tuned for the Outlooks, we'll have some fun with all 31 teams, just as soon as we know the draft order for the entry draft next weekend.

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