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Dominate Your Fantasy Hockey Draft with Fantasy Hockey Scouts

You want fantasy hockey?  We've got your fantasy hockey discussion here.  Fantasy Hockey Scouts is quite possibly SB Nation's most underrated site in the entire network.  Managing Editors Jay Meyer and Cam Collingwood pump out a wealth of information throughout the season and keep working during the summer.  

All of that work culminates in their yearly reports.  This year's version includes their Fantasy Scouting Report with a SuperStats spreadsheet, the Breakout Bible and the Fantasy Prospects DB.  It's an avalanche of information, perfect for the fantasy junkie with four or five teams or the single league players looking to dominate their draft.

I caught up with Jay to talk about the upcoming season, the Oilers' place in your fantasy draft and the relative fantasy value of Oilers' goaltenders.

Copper & Blue:  Does fantasy hockey affect the players you root for?  Meaning, is there a player that you've had on a team or two that you still root for just because he was in your fantasy lineup?  Does it work the other way as well?  Do you still dislike players that let you down a few years ago?

Jay Meyer:  Well, when I was just an 'amateur' fantasy player that would have been true.  I still haven't forgiven Andrew Raycroft for being so terrible after his rookie season.  Nowadays, I've been roped into too many leagues, so if Logan Couture helps me in one league, he's hurting me in a few others.  It kinda comes out in the wash.  What I do notice myself doing is rooting for guys who put up great fantasy numbers rather than for what they do on the ice.  Not good, I think I need to watch more hockey to counteract that.

C&B:  Who do you have as the first Oiler taken in non-keeper drafts?

Meyer:  It really depends on the set-up of the league but in our SuperStats projected stat file we projected Ales Hemsky to top all the Oilers in points with 64 points in 72 games but ranked Taylor Hall as the best Oiler.  His upside and goal scoring ability put him ahead of Hemsky and his injury risk.

C&B:  If Ales Hemsky is healthy, he is as good as __________ as a forward option.

Meyer:  If you look at the numbers for Hemsky and Mike Ribeiro from the last three seasons (prorated to 82 games), you have a pretty good comp:

Ribeiro: 21+51=72, minus-5, 42 PIMs, 25 PPP and 171 shots
Hemsky: 26+50=76, plus-6, 34 PIMs, 28 PPP and 199 shots

C&B:  Do you factor in the likelihood of a trade when making your projections?  The Oilers elephant in the room is Hemsky's contract status and most of us think he'll be moving on at some point this season.

Meyer:  Definitely.  Although most of the time it’s pretty tough to see a trade coming ahead of time.  We took a look at whether trades (at the deadline) helped or hurt a player’s value and found that 62% of the time it helped.  In Hemsky’s case, I think that’s even more true.  If he ended up on a team with some stud linemates he could do some serious damage, especially in leagues that value assists as much as goals.  Of course, he’ll need to stay healthy for that to happen… which isn’t very likely.

C&B:  Once Devan Dubnyk wrestles the starting job away from Nikolai Khabibulin, he's going to face a ton of rubber, and unlike Khabibulin, he can stop a few.  In a saves league, is Dubnyk worth a look in the late rounds when goalie scavenging begins?

Meyer:  I’m not a big fan of Dubnyk.  He had three pretty ordinary AHL seasons and then an awful rookie NHL year before a pretty decent season last year.  In a league that only counts shots he might be a more attractive option but I’m not convinced he’ll start over 50 games.  If you’re desperate, give him a go but I’d recommend you look elsewhere for your tender needs.

On the other hand, Cam likes Dubnyk to breakout this year (with 23-27 wins).  He thinks the fact that he's played on awful teams his entire pro career makes him very underrated and he likes any goalie that is a #2 behind Khabibulin.

C&B:  Give me your biggest sleeper pick in the Northwest Division.

Meyer:  I’ll give you three… one for shallow leagues, one for medium leagues and one for deep leagues.

Shallow: Paul Stastny.  He went from 79 points to just 57 last year.  He’ll be closer to 79 than 57 this year.

Medium: Cam Barker.  I’m probably being blinded by that 40 point / 68 game season he had a few years ago but it does show that he has (had?) some offensive skills.  He might have some problems with his defense but he’s #2 on the PP depth chart (as far as I can tell) so maybe he can remind us why the Hawks picked him 3rd overall.

Deep: Mark Mancari.  He’s a long shot to even make the team (Canucks). Mancari has some gawdy AHL numbers lately (138 points in last 130 games) so I’m cautiously optimistic he finds himself on a scoring line while Mason Raymond is out.  His skating and defensive abilities are the concerns but there is some potential here.

C&B:  What about the most overrated player in the West?

Meyer:  Miikka Kiprusoff.  He’ll get the wins (that’s all that matters in a lot of fantasy leagues) but his averages have been brutal lately. He’s only had one good year in his last five, he’ll turn 35 this season and Calgary’s defense should be weaker without Robin Regehr around.

C&B:  In your typical 12-team, 18 roster-spot league, how many Oilers will be drafted?

Meyer:  You’re making me do some Math.  I’m thinking Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Devan Dubnyk, Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and Cam Barker would be drafted.  Linus Omark, Shawn Horcoff and Tom Gilbert are close.

C&B:  One thing I've noticed lately is a number of salary capped bid or auction pools, i.e. each owner starts with $64 rather than $64 million.  Are these types of pools and leagues becoming more popular?

Meyer:  We’ve been getting more questions on the site about these types of leagues… particularly ones that use the player’s actual NHL salary.  I’m guessing it’s because of the success of sites like CapGeek and how easy it is to access salary info.  It definitely adds a layer of realism to how you manage your fantasy roster.  We included NHL Salary and Cap Hit in our SuperStats file for the first time this year to help fantasy GMs in these pools out.

C&B:  The key to auction drafts is obviously value, but the key to regular drafts is finding value as well.  What is the key to finding value in different positions?

Meyer:  I think it’s about understanding the depth at each position.  Obviously this will change from league to league but one easy thing to do is to take a moment to think before your draft.  Project how many players at each position will get taken and then analyze the strength of the players that will still be available.  This will give you an idea about what the replacement value is for that particular position.

C&B:  Is there a difference in how you approach drafting goalies vs. defensemen vs. forwards?

Meyer:  Again, it really depends on your league’s settings.  In one particular league, I make it a priority to get a goalie in the first four rounds.  In another, I’m the last guy picking goalies.  In general I try to target wingers first, get one quality goalie and one quality defensemen.  Finding quality centermen and blueliners to fill out the rest of your roster shouldn’t be too difficult due to positional depth.

One other note... I’ve been noticing quite a few leagues with 3-4 utility spots where any player can be rostered there.  These utility spots really reduce the value on d-men since the spots will almost always be filled with forwards.

C&B:  What is one bit of advice that you can give our readers that they can lean on in each round of their draft?

Meyer: I think the biggest mistake many fantasy owners make is not having a plan.  Taking 30 minutes to think about your categories, positions, etc and how they could impact what it takes to win your pool.  You still need to be flexible on draft day and might need to scrap your plan entirely but at least it gives you a starting point.

Also, I’d recommend playing it safe with your high picks, finding under-valued players in the middle rounds and taking risks in the late rounds.

Finally, I'd recommend getting as informed as possible.  Get yourself a guide, read some websites, and most importantly, watch as much hockey as possible (that's the fun part).

Thanks for the chat Derek.  Good luck to the Oilers this season!

Follow Jay on Twitter @TheScouts