One thing I recommend to all fantasy hockey gamers is to not let your actual draft be your first of the year.
In fantasy hockey especially, where scoring settings vary from league to league and heavily impact the way you're drafting, it's important to run a few mock drafts to see where exactly everyone's average draft positions are to ensure you're not overlooking anyone.
Time isn't always the easiest thing to find, I get it. That's why I went out and conducted three mock drafts so you don't have to.
Mock Draft settings
As mentioned earlier, fantasy hockey leagues tend to have different settings from one another. The mock drafts I conducted on Yahoo Fantasy had the following settings:
Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Power-play Points, Shots on goal, Hits, Wins, Goals against average, Save percentage, Shutouts
Each mock draft I participated in was a 10-team league.
Mock Draft 1
Above is the first team I drafted. I owned the seventh-overall pick and in all honesty, meh.
This is why I always recommend doing a number of mock drafts before your actual draft because the more reps you get in, the better you'll be.
What I like
I really liked the goaltending tandem I ended up with, and I actually snagged this duo in two of my three drafts. Since the 2017-18 season, Darcy Kuemper's .921 save percentage is tied for the fourth-best of all netminders with 30 or more starts. Leaving the Arizona Coyotes for the Colorado Avalanche represents a massive upgrade, and now playing behind arguably the best defense corps in the league, Kuemper has a legitimate chance to flirt with the top goaltending spot in all of fantasy hockey. His ADP is 17 slots behind Vasilevskiy, who also has a .921 save percentage since 2017-18.
I like Tristan Jarry because he is going to be the No. 1 on a team that'll likely return to the postseason, and probably finish top three in a good, not great Metropolitan Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins protected Jarry in the NHL expansion draft this offseason and exposed Casey DeSmith, a very good indicator that he's viewed as the top goalie on the team. The numbers may not be pretty, but he finished with an excellent 25-9-3 record in 2020-21, and Pittsburgh's running back a near-identical team.
What I don't like
In Round 4, I had my sights set on pairing Mikko Rantanen with Gabriel Landeskog to form a nice Avs stack. Unfortunately, Landeskog went two selections before my pick, but that's fine because I had Victor Hedman queued as my backup. Of course, in classic fantasy sports fashion, he went with the ensuing selection.
I panic-picked Matthew Tkachuk, which I'm not too upset about. I'm sure he'll bounce back after his points-per-60 dropped last year, but I like pairing either my first or second pick with a linemate and Landeskog going a couple of picks earlier put me in an uncomfortable spot.
Mock Draft 2
Holding the second spot in my second mock draft, I was much more pleased with how this team turned out compared to the first.
What I like
One thing you're going to see on almost all of my teams this season is a number of different stacking combinations (blog to come on the benefit of stacking). On this team, I was successfully able to group a number of linemates and power-play members together. Unlike my first squad above, I was able to draft Landeskog, and this time I paired him with Nathan MacKinnon.
Later in the draft, I was able to stack Bryan Rust and Kris Letang together. Those two will both be featured on the Penguins' top power-play unit and can contribute in all categories. In 56 games during the 2020-21 campaign, Rust finished with 42 points and 62 hits, while Letang suited up in 55 contests, recorded 45 points, and dished out 92 hits.
Similar to the first team I drafted, I was able to secure a Dallas Stars stack with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. With Seguin at full health ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, there may not be better value in fantasy drafts than him. Currently owning an ADP in the 80s, there's no reason why he should be going this late. He's a five-time 30-goal scorer who's a high-volume shooter. Prior to his torn hip labrum and the COVID-19-shortened regular season, Seguin had played 82 games in three consecutive seasons. Still in the prime of his career at 29 years old, he's an absolute steal.
The Benn selection is essentially an extension of my faith in Seguin, as the two will play together at even strength and on the man advantage. The hope is a fully healed Seguin can rejuvenate a downward-trending Benn.
What I don't like
Like a high school English teacher, I'm going to be very picky with what I don't like about this team because, in all honesty, I think it's great.
After snagging Kuemper early in the draft, I punted on selecting my second goalie and wound up with Carter Hart in Round 12. After being a consensus top-50 selection a season ago, the 23-year-old now holds an ADP of 135.7. There's a lot of value in selecting Hart at ADP, especially when considering the upgrades the Philadelphia Flyers made to the defense in front of him. The squad added Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle this summer — three moves that will certainly prevent the Flyers from finishing with the most goals against in the league for a second straight year.
I also liked the value in taking Mike Smith with my final selection. The Edmonton Oilers will return to playing in the Pacific Division, and it certainly looks like the worst in the NHL. After he posted a .923 save percentage in 2020-21, he showed that he still has something left. Of course, the bottom could fall out at any time with a 39-year-old goalie, but in Round 16, you could do much worse.
This was supposed to be a critique, but I think I ended up complimenting myself? I will say I prefer having Jarry over Hart as my second goalie, so there's some criticism.
Mock Draft 3
This team I drafted with the first-overall pick, and my word is it a beauty.
This was one of those mock drafts where I wished we were actually playing the season out with these squads because this one would absolutely crush.
What I like
What's not to like? Starting off with Connor McDavid is great, but everything that followed in this draft was equally impressive.
At the Round 2 and 3 turn, I snagged Kuemper and Aleksander Barkov. Barkov's 58 points in 50 games last season ranked seventh amongst all NHL middlemen, and on a Panthers team returning almost all of its core, the expectation is they'll find similar success even in the difficult Atlantic Division.
I took Aaron Ekblad in Round 5, because of stacking, of course. Ekblad is going to be quarterbacking Florida's PP1, which means he'll be playing alongside Barkov on the man advantage. He was also in the midst of a Norris Trophy-calibre season in 2020-21 before he fractured his leg. The two-way blueliner is on track to be ready for the start of the upcoming season, so there's no reason to be worried about him missing time.
It's first worth mentioning that Darnell Nurse is a top candidate for some goal-scoring regression this year. His career shooting percentage is 4.9 percent and he was firing at a 10.4 percent rate in 2020-21. Even with the anticipated dip in goals, there are a lot of reasons why fantasy managers should be in on Nurse. With the Edmonton Oilers' defense not improving very much this summer, the 26-year-old should continue to see ridiculous amounts of ice time. His average of 25:38 last season ranked fourth amongst all rearguards, and if he's going to play nearly half of the game on a consistent basis, he's going to compile hits, shots, and be on the ice with McDavid pretty frequently.
Sticking with the Oilers, I also nabbed Zach Hyman, who is another player on my must-draft list. Inking a massive seven-year, $38.5 million contract with Edmonton this summer, Hyman's going to see first line and top power-play unit duties. This means he's going to be attached to McDavid's hip; certainly not a bad thing. He produced 33 points in 43 contests last year and also registered 69 hits with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His speed and grit make him a perfect player to have riding shotgun with McDavid.
What I don't like
Not even the pickiest of English teachers could find an error with this team. It's gorgeous.