We're only a couple short days away from the start of the 2015/2016 NHL regular season and I couldn't be anymore excited. Before the draft even started, I think it was already shaping up to be a pretty great year, with the inclusion of some new elements to the season and NHL teams making some very interesting moves and new and exciting players joining the league as well.
The draft was a complete success, as the 27 teams got down to business on the weekend and we all have our teams ready to rock and roll. Yes, you read that correctly, a pool record of entries, three teams better than the previous record and four teams better than the 2015 season. 378 players were taken in three and a half hours, working some record time, thanks to a good wireless network at the VooDoo Lounge, our spot for the draft this year.
If you haven't been on the website yet, all of the teams have been loaded up on the standings page and you can check out your team, as well as everyone else's. We have, what looks to be, a very competitive looking pool and with the talent pool being picked apart like it was, we hopefully will see some very tight races down through the year.
If for some reason (mostly a bad draft strategy), a team doesn't have a shot at the big money this year, we have some mini-games, which I had outlined before we started drafting this year. Here is a small preview of what we can expect in those games.
The real headline mini-game is the rookie pool, but surprisingly, there were not a lot of teams that jumped in on this one to start the season. Not even to give themselves a chance.
Only 10 teams featured rookies out of the 27 in the draft, which is far less than I had expected. One team blew everyone else away at the draft, as Ryan M. ended up taking four rookies, including the cream of the crop, Connor McDavid, as he prepares to finally win something after so many years in this pool already.
Of course, other teams will have a shot at this competition, if Ryan's bad luck continues through the year and other teams take advantage of some up-and-comers through the Waiver Draft this year.
Win and you stay in. That's the mantra of the goalie survivor pool this year and this one is a pretty interesting pool, as it was outlined through the year in the newsletter last year. As long as your goalies won one game between Monday to Sunday, your team stays in. Of course, goalies are going to be a hot commodity, if scoring stays down in the NHL.
For the purposes of getting an idea of what might happen in this part of the pool, we'll look at the number of teams that picked both their goalies in the first three rounds. 39 of 54 goalies taken in the pool were taken within the first three rounds, a massive rush to the crease this year.
Brenda & Seward, Dale B., Dale C., Derek W., Grant S., Jeremy, John R., John S., Kristy & Don, Mike, Scott, Stacey M., Stuart and Troy were all fortunate enough to grab all those goalies early on and these could be the teams that are in the race until the bitter end. Of course, the Waiver Draft could play a part for some of those other teams, but that's a long shot, if you've only got one big starter to start the year.
According to my projections through the off-season, I would give Dale C.'s tandem of Tuukka Rask and Kari Lehtonen the edge in this competition, as I have that tandem locked in for 150 points this season.
Finally, the penalty minutes pool. The goon show. The stat that has absolutely nothing to do with the scoring races, something completely separated from winning the big money.
In order to win this pool, your team, as a whole, including the goalies, needs to spend the most time in the penalty box, period.
Looking at last year's statistics, the favourite to win this pool is Wes M., who's team racked up a total of 614 PIM last season, 50 minutes better than the next punished team, which belongs to another pool newcomer, John R.. Wes' team is highlighted by Travis Hamonic, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Kesler, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Marco Scandella and Mike Ribeiro, who each spent over 50 minutes in the box last season. If his goaltending doesn't work out, he should be able to race for the PIMs in fine fashion.
I am currently working on the prize structure for the coming year and I am hoping to have a post done in the next week or so. I know Stuart was polling the audience for some side bets this year, something that we'll track on the website and the blog, so if you're in on those, you can at least keep him honest and take his money away this year.
Stay tuned to the blog for all your updates... and a hearty welcome to everyone involved in the pool this year!