It's the most wonderful time of year for hockey poolies: draft time.
Before you get your friends together to make picks and bust chops over a few pops, get prepared with CBCSports.ca's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1.
Every Friday our resident nerds — er, experts — Jesse Campigotto and Jordan Shifman debate three hot fantasy hockey topics, including whom to add, whom to drop, and whom to track on your radar.
This week we answer three burning draft questions: Who's No. 1? Who's No. 2? And how early should you draft a goalie?
1. Say you're lucky enough to draw the top pick in your draft. Do you take Crosby, Malkin or Ovechkin?
JC: Let's assume, like most leagues, goals are more valuable than assists. I'd rather fight Georges Laraque than pass on Ovechkin. One of these years Ovie is going to score 70, and when that happens you don't want to be the guy who passed on him. Oh, and despite the fact he plays hockey with the ferocity of an NFL running back, he's one of the most durable players in the NHL: just two games missed due to injury in four seasons. Am I missing something?
JS: Yeah! Somehow you've managed to overlook the defending Stanley Cup champions and the two biggest reasons why they won: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Now I'm not saying that Ovechkin doesn't deserve serious consideration, but he's not a lock. He's far and away Washington's best player so he'll continue to garner the best checkers in the league every single night. In Pittsburgh, Crosby may be more of a playmaker, but he's versatile enough to take with the top pick. If you're looking for a top goal scorer, a multi-category producer and want to get a piece of the Penguins' high-scoring unit, go with Malkin. Don't be surprised if he pots 50 this season. And that's not even mentioning the fact that you could take a goalie first overall because goaltending stats are often more valuable than goals. But we'll save that for question No. 3!
2. OK, let's say Ovechkin goes first and you're sitting on the No. 2 pick. Which Penguin do you take?
JS: This year I think you have to lean toward Malkin. As good as Crosby is, there's no denying Malkin has become a dominant scorer in the league. And as long as Crosby's there to deflect some of the attention and distract some of the top defencemen, Malkin will continue to mature as a player. Throw in a little heated rivalry between him and Ovechkin and you have yourself a recipe for some career numbers.
JC: I'd probably go with Geno, too. He's the reigning scoring champ, he's averaged 41 goals over the last two seasons, and he hasn't missed a game since the beginning of his rookie year. But I can't shake the feeling that Crosby is going to be a man on a mission this season. You think it doesn't bother him that Ovechkin has taken over the unofficial title of best player in hockey? Or that some people are questioning whether he's even the best player on his own team? Crosby has been the least durable of the Big 3, but if he stays healthy there's a good chance he wins the scoring title.
JS: Crosby may not be happy about the growing perception that he's the second best player on his team, but it's true. The last few years he hasn't shown the fantasy hockey world that he's worthy of being a top two pick. Honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if his goal output actually dropped this year.
3. How high should you consider taking a goalie?
JC: First of all, you're nuts! Instead of picking a goalie first overall, why not just take a $50 bill out of your wallet and light it on fire. It's a lot easier. The problem with goalies is their fantasy value is mostly tied up in wins, which are too fluid for my taste. Remember last year when guys in your pool were patting themselves on the back for snapping up Brodeur and Luongo? Injuries limited them to a combined 85 games. Meanwhile, Cam Ward finished third in the league with 39 wins, and rookie Steve Mason recorded an insane 10 shutouts. Who saw that coming? As long as reliable scorers are left on the board (Parise, Datsyuk, Kane, even Daniel Sedin) you shouldn't touch a goalie.
JS: Wow. You must have been one of those guys that was patting himself on the back and got burned. It's OK Jesse, it's OK. Now take a seat and allow me to change your mind. Goalies are the most valuable commodity in the fantasy sports world because there are so few good ones to go around. Of the 30 NHL teams, let's be generous and say 20 of them have bona fide starters that will play a majority of their team's games. So if you're like me and you're in a pool with 10 guys and each team needs three starters, that means a lot of people are going to end up with at least a mediocre third goalie, if not worse. Their goalie rotation could look like this: Cristobal Huet, Peter Budaj and Jose Théodore. Wait, are those the three you had last year, Jesse? No wonder you're so sensitive. I say grab a solid set of goalies early and even stock up on some good spares, then show your drafting worth by using your later-round choices to fill out your offence. Then by the time Ray Emery gets suspended for an off-ice brawl, your fellow poolies will be coming to you begging for a lopsided trade.
JC: Well, glad you brought it up, because last year I won a pool with a goalie tandem of Hank Lundqvist (third-round pick), Steve Mason (waiver wire) and the immortal Ty Conklin (last pick of the draft). Would I advise that again for this season? Heck no. But one thing you can count on is that someone who's below everybody's radar right now will put up big numbers. Who, exactly? You'll have to wait til next week.
Next Friday: Who will be the top fantasy goalies? Are any rookies worth drafting?