Oh yes, it’s almost time. The World Cup of Hockey is winding down (RIP team North America, you were too beautiful for this world) and the actual National Hockey League season is coming up very, very shortly. Which means fantasy league seasons are beginning very, very shortly. Which means fantasy league drafts are coming very, very shortly (if they haven’t already). And there’s no better time to bring you the official AATJ 2016-17 Fantasy Mock Draft.
Our official AATJ fantasy league has all 12 teams filled up, and with 12 teams in our league, my mock draft will include 12 teams and three rounds. Anything after that is personal preference anyway. That’s website synergy right there. I’ll include Yahoo!’s preseason rankings in parentheses here since that’s the site our AATJ league will be played on (more synergy!). And here. we. go:
- Sidney Crosby (3) - He’s the surest thing in the NHL and in the draft. I understand taking Kane before him based on just last season, but when you can go with the best player in the league, I’d do that.
- Alex Ovechkin (2) - Nobody’s going to give you a better differentiator from his position group than Ovi will with goals.
- Patrick Kane (1) - The guy led the league in scoring last year. Easily. He could do that again. He probably won’t, but he could.
- Connor McDavid (5) - Probably the second best player in the NHL if you paid attention to the World Cup. Might be #1 by the end of the year if he stays healthy.
- Erik Karlsson (18) - Nobody else is putting up anywhere near his points from the backline except Brent Burns.
- Brent Burns (13) - Was actuall ranked higher than Karlsson in fantasy last season, but I believe in Erik moreso.
- Jamie Benn (4) - I don't think he's quite at the level of the others in terms of ability, but the numbers say otherwise.
- Braden Holtby (10) - This is a pick a la Karlsson. There's a big difference between Holtby and what you'd get out of slightly lower ranked goaltenders. He plays a lot and his team is good, so he wins a lot.
- Steven Stamkos (7) - The guy scores goals when he's healthy. He's scored 60 before and on a team this loaded, why can't he do it again?
- Joe Pavelski (9) - He just keeps having high point seasons and served as Team USA's top centerman. He's really good even if he's overshadowed by the big bearded men on his team.
- Vladimir Tarasenko (6) - This is simple. He's young and he scored 40 goals last year. He could score more this year if he matures as you'd think going toward his prime even if offensive numbers tend not to increase as you get older. But we can dream.
- John Tavares (11) - You've probably all seen him play when the Devils play the Islanders. He scores a lot of points on a team that has the potential to score even more if the young players are as good as you'd hope.
I may be more bullish on defensemen than most people but hey, there’s no bigger difference between the top and the rest of the top ten than there is there.
13. Carey Price (20) - When he’s healthy he’s been the best goalie in the league. Montreal probably isn’t going to be particularly good, but with him back, they have a realistic shot at the playoffs (even with the colossally stupid trade of P.K. Subban. Speaking of which...
14. P.K. Subban (22) - This is primarily based on a breakout in offensive production due to playing on a competently coached team with better players (except in goal) around him. Roman Josi can put up 60 points back there for Nashville. What can a former Norris trophy winner do?
15. Johnny Gaudreau (8) - This is a little low for Johnny Hockey, though that’s mainly just because I love defensemen and I think it’s a little easier to get wingers, as good as he is.
16. Evgeny Kuznetsov (17) - You may be shocked to find out that he, not Ovechkin, led the Capitals in scoring last season. There’s no reason to think the young star can’t do it again.
17. Evgeni Malkin (21) - He put up only 58 points last season, but when he’s healthy in on, he can be the best scoring center in the league. That’s a good value for the second round when an off year is still nearly 60 points.
18. Ben Bishop (14) - The Lightning are trying to get rid of him to protect Andrei Vasilevskiy in the expansion draft next year and to save a lot of money in the process, but Bishop is still holding strong for now. He’s on a team where he’ll generate wins and a lot of them. He was a top 6 overall Yahoo! player last year.
19. Claude Giroux (15) - He may not have turned out to be as good as Crosby, as many hoped circa 2012, but he’s still really, really good and can really, really score.
20. Anze Kopitar (26) - He may not be a spring chicken anymore, but he still put up 25 goals and 49 assists last year. I’ll take it.
21. Nicklas Backstrom (31) - He may not even be Washington’s best center with Kuznetsov around, but he still put up 70 points last year and will have a good +/- playing on such a good team.
22. Tyler Seguin (12) - He could lead the league in scoring if he’s healthy. Except he’s not and a hairline heel fracture doesn’t sound like something I’d be too keen on. I’d have had him in the top 10 if not for the injury but there’s certainly value with the risk down here toward the end of the second round.
23. Artemi Panarin (27) - How much he’s a product of Patrick Kane is anyone’s guess, but as long as he’s playing on his line, it doesn’t really matter for fantasy. He’s going to be set up and be able to set up Kane, though it may not be to the tune it was last year of 76 points.
24. Dustin Byfuglien (38) - Big Buff was a top 20 player last year and gives you a combination of scoring and penalty minutes on defense it’s hard to find elsewhere. Probably still underrated playing in Winnipeg, he should be higher than 38 for sure.
25. Shayne Gostisbehere (53) - This is probably the first real shocker so far, but it really shouldn’t be. He put up 46 points last season, 17 of which were goals and registered 152 shots from the blueline. With a full season, he could jump to the tier below Karlsson
26. Corey Perry (16) - I don't even feel comfortable taking him here. He put up good, not great, stats last year and gives a decent amount of PIM, but playing for Randy Carlyle is probably going to sink his offensive stats and make his +/- go in the toilet when the team gets shelled every other night.
27. Joe Thornton (40) - I think he's only this low because people are tired of taking him. He was the 10th ranked player last season playing in Pete DeBoer's up tempo forechecking system. He put up 82 points last year. That's a steal this late but he may finally have age catch up to him.
28. Nathan MacKinnon (52) - Here’s a potential big time sleeper with Patrick Roy and his 1990s dead puck system gone. He still had 52 points last year, but he should be able to generate more shots and more goals just playing behind a competent coach.
29. Kris Letang (41) - He was a top 15 player last year in only 71 games. But there's always the health question with him. If he's healthy, he's obviously better than Gostisbehere right now. But if he's not, well, this is an early way to lose your league by taking a guy who doesn't play for you.
30. Jonathan Quick (19) - Here's a case of a goalie who's really not that good anymore but who plays behind a good defense and a team that wins.
31. Taylor Hall (48) - He's playing on a competent defensive team, at least compared to Edmonton, that won't allow his +/- to be as poor this year, presumably. He had 286 shots last year and plays every game. You'll be very familiar with his work very shortly.
32. Brad Marchand (58) - He was the 18th ranked player last season. He scored 37 goals and had 90 PIM. That's Sean Avery level of fantasy player who's not nearly as good in real life. Take him. Even if he doesn't score, he's still helping your team.
33. Blake Wheeler (16) - Do I think Blake Wheeler is a top 20 player again? No but he did not have a crazy shooting percentage, so he certainly could be up there once again. It comes down to assists and whether they're repeatable.
34. Cory Schneider (25) - I'm not as bullish on Schneider as others since I'm not sure the team will actually win more even if it's actually better this year. He's still possibly the best in the league in reality, but whether that shows up in wins and GAA is up debate.
35. Corey Crawford (30) - He’s not a superstar, but he’s really good and his team’s really good so he’ll get wins and likely have a low GAA. He was a top 15 player last year and there’s no reason to think he won’t be again or something close.
36. Auston Matthews (121) - This one's admittedly off the board but the guy played his way up from the reserves to Connor McDavid's wing for Team North America. We've seen his stickhandling and offensive capability. His +/- may not be there for his first year with his poor team and possible struggles on defense, but the offense looks sublime.
So that’s it for my three round mock draft. After that, it’s pretty much up to whatever you want to do and it’s too hard to really predict. As you can see here, things get weirder and more nonconformist once you get past the second round and sure-fire stars.
So here are a few other guys I think you should probably take more highly than they’re ranked, just not this high:
Jack Eichel (39) - Okay so this one's a cheat since I think he's perfectly ranked. He could break out though and become more of the rival to McDavid we hoped. He needs to get more shots to do it though or have a higher percentage go in.
Patrick Laine (145) - The guy's possibly the next Ovechkin. On a not half bad team. Get him and watch him score.
Filip Forsberg (50) - He's putting up around 60 points for a defensively responsible team. Now he has P.K. Subban to feed him the puck on the powerplay. I'm very hopeful here.
Ryan Johansen (61) - He escaped the toxic Columbus environment to get to David Poile's home for misfit toys and ended up in the top 45 last year. Now he's got P.K. too. I'm also very hopeful.
Damon Severson (474) - He's playing with Andy Greene at the start of training camp and we all saw how good he looked two years ago doing that. A breakout is possible. And he's only owned in 3% of leagues so he could really be the steal of steals.
And now here are a few to avoid like the Rangers and Flyers avoid the Stanley Cup:
Aleksander Barkov (46) - This is only based on his shooting percentage. He scored 28 goals on only 171 shots. That's not going to replicate itself. He's really good! Just maybe not yet in fantasy.
John Carlson (56) - He’s really good in real life too, but you can find 40 points on defense with the lack of other stats he’s giving you at a lower value than the 5th round.
Justin Faulk (78) - Another case of a really good player not helping much in fantasy. He scored 16 goals last year but playing against tough competition, he was -16 and didn't help much in PIM either. He ended last year ranked 232.
Andrew Ladd (79) - It’s probably coming to an end for Ladd. At least his time as a top liner. Forty six points last year aren’t worth being ranked 79 and he’s not giving you the PIM someone like him would be expected to.
Rick Nash (101) - I know none of you guys want to take him anyway, but in the old days, he was a steal. Now? He’s probably getting picked by Las Vegas in the expansion draft. If the Rangers are lucky.
So there you have it, my fantasy mock draft, along with sleepers and guys I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Have fun and good luck! Though I hope I beat you all.