Year In Review: 18 Skaters

Mark Barbour (@18sktrs,

Nate asked everyone on the Apples & Ginos content team to write a Year In Review article. The goal is to find ways to improve and to share some lessons that can help readers win their own leagues. This is my contribution to the Year In Review series.

Overview Of My Leagues This Season

I didn’t participate in as many leagues as I would have liked this season. In prior years I participated in public cash leagues and was in the process of “scaling up” my activity in that space. That ended when the Government of Ontario regulated i-gaming in the province, effectively ending my ability to enter public cash leagues. I’ll spare you my rant on that topic.

So where did I play fantasy hockey this season? I played in two H2H points leagues: a keep 3 league organized by Nate here at Apples & Ginos, and a deep dynasty league organized by the guys over at Fantasy Hockey Life. I also participated in nine best ball drafts organized by Nate. I’ll discuss all of these leagues below.

Keep 3 H2H Points League

Result: 2nd Place

This was the first year of a league organized by Nate (it’s the “We Call Ourselves Experts” league that was occasionally mentioned on the podcast). It’s a 12-team H2H points league with some weight given to shots, hits, and blocks. I lost to Nate in the finals but it was a close match that could have gone either way.

I’ll start by critiquing my draft in this league. I picked from the 12/12 slot and this was my team at the end of draft day (the Team and Position data have changed for some of these players):

1Timo Meier (NJ – LW,RW)
2Brady Tkachuk (OTT – LW)
3Jack Hughes (NJ – C,LW)
4Zach Werenski (CBJ – D)
5Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG – LW,RW)
6Thomas Chabot (OTT – D)
7Nazem Kadri (CGY – C)
8Dylan Larkin (DET – C)
9Tyler Bertuzzi (BOS – LW,RW)
10Valeri Nichushkin (COL – LW,RW)
11Josh Morrissey (WPG – D)
12Rasmus Andersson (CGY – D)
13Ryan Pulock (NYI – D)
14Alexandar Georgiev (COL – G)
15Boone Jenner (CBJ – C)
16Andrew Mangiapane (CGY – LW,RW)
17Nino Niederreiter (WPG – LW)
18Jake Allen (MTL – G)

Given that this was the first year of a “Keep 3” league I wanted to get my top three picks right. Here’s the situation: I was confident that I would be able to select Brady Tkachuk with my second pick and Jack Hughes with my third pick, so those picks were settled heading into the draft. Hughes was a bit of reach at that spot based on his ADP going into the season but I wanted to get him on my team and I wasn’t confident he would still be available for my next pair of picks.

The tough decision heading into the draft was who I should select with my first pick: Timo Meier or David Pastrnak. I was reasonably confident that both skaters would be available when it was my turn to pick but this choice seemed like a coin flip to me. Here’s my thought process:

  • Timo Meier played on a bad team but had demonstrated that he could succeed in that environment.
  • It was unknown where Meier would be playing at the end of this season, and in all future seasons. Would a move to a new team help or hurt his value? He might not be “The Guy” on a new team but he also might get to play with better skaters.
  • David Pastrnak played on a team that was good in the past but would the Bruins be good again this season? How would Pastrnak perform if the skaters around him weren’t very good?
  • Would Pastrnak sign an extension with the Bruins? If so, how would he perform if the team started to decline?

I went back-and-forth on this decision and in the end I went with the skater who had already shown that he could succeed on a bad team. With the benefit of hindsight it is obvious that Pastrnak would have been the better choice for this season. It remains to be seen which skater will perform better in the future. I’m happy with my decision making process here even if it didn’t work out in the short-term. Who knows how things will look a few years from now.

OK, now to look at the rest of my draft. If you read my last article Thoughts On Drafting Defensemen you might remember that I like to fade defensemen. I didn’t really do that here as I drafted Zach Werenski in the fourth round. Ignoring the fact that I got almost no value out of Werenski due to his injury, taking a defenseman in the fourth round was simply too early based on my preferred drafting strategy. In later rounds I selected Thomas Chabot, Josh Morrissey, and Rasmus Andersson and I would have been happy heading into the season with them as my top defensemen. I intend to say more about my approach to drafting defensemen in a future article so I won’t go into more detail here. Suffice to say, I think I made a mistake here.

I’m pretty happy with the rest of my draft. I faded centers and managed to select quite a few skaters with multi-position eligibility. Some of my later picks were dropped as the season went on but that’s normal for the later rounds in a draft. I went with the Zero-G approach to drafting goalies (of course) and it worked out better than I could have reasonably expected. I don’t know why Alexandar Georgiev’s ADP was so low this season but I was happy to draft the starting goalie for the defending Stanley Cup champions in the fourteenth round of this draft. He finished with the third most fantasy points among all goalies in this format. I’ll note in passing that I dropped Georgiev in the finals in order to go with a literal Zero-G approach. I played with an empty net and it almost worked.

That’s enough about the draft. Now, I’ll discuss one other important decision I made in this league: I didn’t “load up” at the trade deadline. The other contending teams were quicker to make some moves and I wasn’t thrilled by the remaining trade options. This is a keeper league so the truly elite players weren’t available in a trade and I didn’t want to give away premium trade assets for skaters who I didn’t view as guaranteed difference makers. So I made no trades and instead focused on grabbing some “streaming” options before the start of the playoffs. For example, I added J.T. Compher weeks before the playoffs started so that I could take advantage of Colorado’s playoff schedule.

Could I have done something differently here? I probably should have tried to make a trade sooner, focusing on acquiring one or two top-end skaters with a good playoff schedule. If I had to pay a premium to be the first to act on the best trade targets, so be it. Given that I was slow to act in this case I don’t regret my decision to stay out of the trade market. I resisted the urge to “do something” and my team should be stronger next season because of it.

Deep Dynasty H2H Points League

Result: 1st Place

This was the second year of a deep dynasty league organized by Jesse and Victor over at Fantasy Hockey Life. It’s an 18-team league and each team has 29 “Pro” players and 20 “Minors” players. You can’t really stream players out of free agency in this league as there’s not much available plus there’s a limit on games played. It’s important to note that this league has some unusual scoring settings. Stats such as on-ice fenwick, takeaways/giveaways, and time-on-ice (among other oddities) are included in the points system.

I’ve had some success in this league. Last year was the inaugural season and I went undefeated from wire-to-wire, winning the championship. I won the championship again this season but lost two match-ups along the way. My cumulative record after two seasons (including playoffs) is 36-2.

I have some thoughts on how to win in this type of league and perhaps I’ll share them in a separate article. For the purposes of this article I’ll examine one critical decision I made this season.

Notwithstanding my nearly perfect record in this league I had some concerns heading into the playoffs. Other contending teams were making moves to improve and my IR was overflowing (there are only 5 IR spots in this league and I had 7 injured players at the time of the trade deadline). While my team had demonstrated that it could win while shorthanded it had also revealed that it was not invincible. I decided that I couldn’t risk holding any player who wasn’t really contributing to my team. The culprits on my roster were Evan Bouchard and Rasmus Sandin.

One key to success in this particular league is having defensemen who score points (fading defensemen is simply not an option here). Bouchard and Sandin were a big part of my team’s future in this regard. The problem was they weren’t doing very much at the time of this league’s trade deadline. I made the tough decision to trade these defensemen (along with Nick Perbix) to get immediate help. Joining my team were Vince Dunn and Devon Toews.

I mentioned that this league has unusual scoring settings and it’s important to keep that in mind when evaluating this trade. Dunn and Toews finished the year with the 13th and 14th most fantasy points among defensemen, and Toews had a nice playoff schedule which added to his value this year. I wanted immediate help and I got it. Both defensemen delivered for me in the playoffs.

Nevertheless it was tough to watch what happened at the actual NHL trade deadline. Bouchard has played at over a point-per-game pace since that time, exactly what I had hoped for when I drafted him with my first pick in the initial minors draft. I’ll add that I’m an Oilers fan so trading away those “Bouch Bombs” is a little more painful for me.

Would I make this trade again? Yes. I had to make a decision with the information that was available to me at the time, and that did not include information about what would happen at the NHL trade deadline. The defensemen I added to my team helped propel me to another championship and I expect them to keep doing that for years to come (Dunn is only 26 while Toews is a little older at 29). Will they finish 13th and 14th in league scoring again next season? I wouldn’t bet on it, but they should still be valuable contributors on my team’s otherwise deep d-core.

I think my trade partner got the best player in this deal – Evan Bouchard. I’m fine with that. As a matter of fact I think it’s a good thing. I’ve made a couple of deals with this same trade partner and I want that relationship to continue in the future (for example I acquired Zach Hyman in the pre-season and that worked out pretty well). If I outright “win” every trade then it’s less likely that I’ll be able to make more deals with this trade partner in the future. I put this deal in the “win-win” category even though I would love to still have Bouchard on my team.

Best Ball Leagues

If you’re not familiar with best ball it’s a format where you fill your roster before the season starts and then you live or die with it for the full season. No further action is required. Your highest scoring players are automatically selected for each scoring period and their points count toward your place in the standings.

I entered nine of the best ball leagues organized by Nate. The scoring settings for these leagues were the same as the Keep 3 H2H Points League I mentioned above.

Right at the outset I’ll say that a benefit to participating in these drafts was that they provided reliable ADP data. I used that data when preparing for the so-called “experts” league and I think it was helpful.

I won’t discuss all nine best ball drafts here. Instead, I’ll focus on the two most interesting ones.

A&G Best Ball #1

Result: 2nd Place

I didn’t have much experience with best ball leagues prior to participating in these drafts. In the first draft I simply took my projections and did what “felt right”.

Here’s the team I drafted (picking from the 3/12 slot):

1Nathan MacKinnonCCOL
2Timo MeierRWSJS
3Evander KaneLWEDM
4William NylanderRWTOR
5Nikolaj EhlersLWWPG
6Alex PietrangeloDVGK
7Dylan LarkinCDET
8Valeri NichushkinRWCOL
9Jonathan MarchessaultLWVGK
10Jack CampbellGEDM
11Sergei BobrovskyGFLA
12Matt MurrayGTOR
13Josh MorrisseyDWPG
14Noah HanifinDCGY
15Boone JennerCCBJ
16Mackenzie BlackwoodGNJD
17Gustav ForslingDFLA
18Phillip DanaultCLAK
19Ilya MikheyevRWVAN
20Hampus LindholmDBOS
21Artturi LehkonenLWCOL
22Jared McCannCSEA
23Brady SkjeiDCAR
24Matt RoyDLAK

Here are a few comments on my approach to this draft:

  • I emphasized wingers early in the draft. I took Nathan MacKinnon with my first pick because I think you simply have to take the best player available early in the first round but after that I grabbed some top wingers. This is generally how I like to build a team. Unfortunately some of these wingers missed big chunks of time during the season.
  • I faded defensemen. I didn’t select my 2nd defenseman (Josh Morrissey) until the 13th round of the draft. Despite the D-Fade, all of my defensemen finished within the top 45 for scoring among defensemen in this format. The defensemen were a strength for this team.
  • I also faded goalies, then grabbed some guys who played on teams that I believed would be good. None of these goalie picks worked out especially well.
  • More generally, the end of this draft is were I made up ground on the competition. Picks 17-24 returned incredible value for me (notwithstanding the injury to Ilya Mikheyev). The takeaway here: use good skater projections when drafting your team as that should help you navigate the late rounds, and don’t waste your late picks on “lottery tickets”. It might seem like those late picks don’t really matter when you reach the end of the draft but they can provide a big boost even if they aren’t superstars. They’re your streamers for the season so select the best streamers available instead of tossing away picks on a “maybe …” or “what if …”.

After entering three of these best ball drafts I really wanted to know how to optimize the best ball format. So I spent a bunch of time figuring out how to win best ball leagues and even made a dedicated model that could recommend skaters for me. I shared all this new-found wisdom in my very first article here at Apples & Ginos: Drafting Strategies For Best Ball Fantasy Hockey. So how did the theory match up against reality?

A&G Best Ball #4

Result: 1st Place

In the fourth best ball draft I tried to pick an optimized team using my fancy new model and I didn’t worry about whether I had selected the same players in previous drafts (in some of the drafts I intentionally avoided picking certain players if I already had them on other teams). The result was a 1st place finish which is gratifying.

Here’s the team I drafted (picking from the 8/12 slot):

1Mikko RantanenRWCOL
2Brady TkachukLWOTT
3Evander KaneLWEDM
4William NylanderRWTOR
5Thomas ChabotDOTT
6Darnell NurseDEDM
7Nazem KadriCCGY
8Roope HintzCDAL
9Dylan LarkinCDET
10Jordan BinningtonGSTL
11Josh MorrisseyDWPG
12Alex TuchRWBUF
13Noah HanifinDCGY
14Philipp GrubauerGSEA
15Gustav ForslingDFLA
16Rickard RakellLWPIT
17Mathew DumbaDMIN
18Artturi LehkonenLWCOL
19Blake ColemanRWCGY
20Adam HenriqueCANA
21Stuart SkinnerGEDM
22Brady SkjeiDCAR
23Jesse PuljujarviRWEDM
24Charlie LindgrenGWSH

Here are a few comments on my approach to this draft:

  • I started the draft by targeting wingers. This is my comfort zone.
  • I didn’t fade defensemen quite so hard in this draft, but I still didn’t pick my third defenseman until the eleventh round (there’s Josh Morrissey again). The D-Fade is not exactly comfortable but I think it can work and I do it whenever I can.
  • The landscape had shifted a little by the time of this fourth best ball draft and there weren’t going to be as many bargain skaters available at the very end of the draft. The solution? Drop the goalie picks down there! Stuart Skinner finished with the ninth most points among goalies in this format. Charlie Lindgren wasn’t the worst goalie drafted, finishing with the 46th most points.

The Other A&G Best Ball Leagues

It would be disingenuous of me to not mention the results in some of the other best ball leagues – they weren’t all 1st and 2nd place finishes. In fact, the only 1st place finish was the one I mentioned above. There was another 2nd place finish mixed in there, and three 4th place finishes (just missing out on the cash prizes). Are there some takeaways here? I’ll mention one: intentionally avoiding the best players because you’ve already got them on another roster is probably not a winning strategy. There was one benefit in this case though: it produced better ADP data. Why’s that? Well, if I always select the same player in the fourth or fifth round I’ll never find out if that same player could potentially be available in the sixth or seventh round.

I’ll stop there. If you’re interested in best ball leagues I encourage you to read the article linked above. I still stand by it.

The End Of The Article

That’s all for now. I hope you found something here that will help you win your own leagues next year. In the meantime enjoy your fantasy hockey off-season.


Mark (18 Skaters)

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