It's the middle of August, the hockey pool draft date has been set and now it's time to start looking at the pool guides that are being released for some Summer home work. Sure, we still have 44 days until the draft, but if you don't start doing your homework now, you'll rush yourself and possibly make some key mistakes when drafting, something you might regret 24 hours after the draft has concluded. Granted, last year, I wasn't paying attention while running the draft and I regretted a pick only 24 minutes after.
Generally, I like reading these books for the subtle reminders of certain players, more than their actual numbers themselves. Going into the hockey pool drafts, it is a good idea to have your own theories and projections, just so you feel a little more comfortable yelling names out at the draft. There looks like there is plenty of reminders for all sorts of players in this year's edition, so get a good look in.
Again, like last year, I'll work my way through, finding their top player according to points, then tops by positions for my draft and then we'll find some surprises and some other players to key in on. If you have a certain idea about a player or two, especially the rookies and such, and the guides are close to what you are thinking, you might have a pretty good match all the way around.
Last season, the Hockey News had Evgeni Malkin repeating as the Art Ross Trophy winner in 2010 and we all know how well that turned out. For the end of 2011, the Hockey News has gone with Sidney Crosby to take the title this year, projected to pot 116 points. That doesn't mean that they don't like Malkin anymore, since he's rated 3rd among skaters with 108 points and Alexander Ovechkin is slotted right in between with 115 points. Last year's eventual Art Ross Trophy winner, Henrik Sedin, is down in 9th with 90 projected points in 2011, with some of the usual suspects sprinkled in between.
I wouldn't say that there are any real surprises in the top 10 this year, possibly a bit in the order, but that's all personal preference anyways. I don't doubt that there will be a solid race between Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin for 1st overall at my draft this year and they are slotted about right in the rankings here.
In the goaltending department, the Hockey News has it out for Roberto Luongo to take advantage of all that extra defense in 2011, leading all goalies with 44 wins and 6 shutouts, which translates into 100 points for my pool, not including the possible assists that could be picked up as well. Jimmy Howard, Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Pekka Rinne and Steve Mason are all in the running with 90+ points according to their list, which makes it all very interesting and gives a little extra hope to the Central Division for more picks higher in the draft.
Antti Niemi is in the top 10 in wins on the list and he is still listed with the Blackhawks, which is a bit of a stretch, while Marty Turco is still an unrestricted free agent on this list and was given only 28 wins, which should go up with the Blackhawks.
The Hockey News doesn't seem big on Antero Niittymaki taking over the number one job with the Sharks, giving him only 28 wins and 4 shutouts with the Sharks, which I think is a huge issue. I like Niittymaki to just stand in there for 30 wins and steal whatever else he gets. That's just me though.
The defense scoring looks about right though with Mike Green continuing to lead the way into the 2011 season with a projected 76 points. Drew Doughty comes in second (and rightly so, in my opinion) with 68 points to his name this coming year. Duncan Keith, Sergei Gonchar, Lubomir Visnovsky, Dan Boyle and Mark Streit round out the names in the top 110 worth of skaters. I might have my order a little different, but the theme remains fairly similar at this point in the Summer.
As for the rookie class of 2011, there are some sweet names that you might want to pick up this year, but will you sell the farm and get them too high or wait them out and see if you can get them on a bargain. The Hockey News has Jordan Eberle as the top rookie point-getter in their projections, sitting with 59 points. I don't mind that number at all, it looks good on him. Tyler Ennis of the Sabres has shown some flashes in minor appearances, his inclusion doesn't surprise me at all at 56 points. Taylor Hall has 53 points on the list, Tyler Seguin has 47 points, P.K. Subban has 47 points, Nazem Kadri has 41 points and none of those numbers look unreasonable to me right now.
It's a pretty nice looking publication again this year and I'll probably be reading it from cover to cover a few times, just to get some good ideas. Don't forget to check out the sleepers!