Back-to-back seasons of 25 participating teams... that's just about right and I think just about everyone would agree. 350 players were taken again this year, 200 forwards, 100 defensemen and 50 goalies, which kept a lot of depth in the pool. Thankfully, we avoided a lot of the technical issues that we had last year and the Thanksgiving weekend disaster, so we were able to finish up all the picks in three and a half hours.
I like having a look at who came from where and what position players went in which rounds, so let's have a quick look at that, just for shits and giggles.
Well, there's no surprises here. The Calgary Flames were again the most popular team in the hockey pool draft. Last season, they were tied with the Penguins and the Jets for the most popular, but this year, they are all by themselves, as the pool took 14 players from their hometown team. Mike Smith was the lone 1st round pick, taken in the early goalie rush, 18th overall, while Johnny Gaudreau was taken in the 2nd round, 50th overall, and Mark Giordano was taken right next to him, 51st overall in the 3rd round by pool newcomer, Steve.
There were a couple of Flames players taken, which didn't hit my pool worthiness marks for the draft, so there are some teams in the pool that think they could really lift up and shoot out the lights.
The least popular team at the draft this year was the Los Angeles Kings with only eight players taken, while three other teams, the Panthers, Sharks and Golden Knights, all failed to hit double-digits in players selected, all three with nine picks.
Jonathan Quick was the top Kings player taken, 30th overall in the 2nd round and they were few and far between afterwards. In fact, there were no Kings taken after the 10th round of the draft, with the pool taking the scraps from other teams, no belief in the Los Angeles depth.
The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, don't have a lot of representation, but they do have a 1st round pick, as newcomer Scott opted to take Marc-Andre Fleury with the 22nd overall pick. The next Vegas player didn't drop until the 9th round, when Steve shocked everyone by taking Luca Sbisa ahead of some other key players.
Let's not forget... Ryan took one unsigned free agent in the legend, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr is still negotiating with teams to make a return and a signing has to be around the corner, with the puck dropping in a couple days.
19 rookies were taken in this year's hockey pool draft, with Nico Hischier leading the pack, taken in the 5th round of the draft. The top pick in this summer's entry draft has been impressive for the Devils in the preseason and Clayton is hopeful that the Devils are going to play well around him as well. Sadly, the rookie mini-game didn't hit on the wheel this year, so it is a bit of a moot point.
By my count, I am showing that seven hockey pool teams have a pair of out and out starting goalies, while there are still a few teams in the league that have their goaltending situation up in the air and that could lead to a few more, but we'll await some of their decisions before we get ahead of ourselves. Those seven teams have to be considered favourites for the goalie survivor pool, but Stacey M. won it with only one clear starter and a back-up that got lucky with extra starts, due to an injury situation.
On the opposite end, three teams in the draft picked up a pair outright backup goalies and they'll be hoping for the tides to turn in their respective NHL clubs. They'll certainly get some starts with lots of back-to-back nights on the NHL schedule, but they'll need a lot more starts, if they are going to keep the pace.
The other two mini games this season, the plus/minus mini-game and the All-Star Game competition are a little more difficult to project going forward, but they'll certainly be fun to watch.
It was a good day out and there are a lot of good teams in this year's pool. We'll be getting to the side bets here in the next day or two, as there were a ton of them going around and someone actually wrote them all down this year. Stay tuned to the blog and the website for those updates, when the season goes live.