A thought that occurred to me while we finished up our Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide, which hits newsstands in the next few weeks: we've entered a golden age of fantasy hockey. Traditional, pen-and-paper office pools still exist, but we also have massive online league engines and keeper formats that let us track salaries and trade draft picks. The latest revolution, daily fantasy sports, has players changing their lineups seven times a week based on matchups. We've never had so many options.
All the different modes of play complicate roster decisions and led to many questions submitted from readers over the past several weeks. They were supposed to run in the magazine, but our 2015-16 Pool Guide is so packed with content that there wasn't room. I'll answer them online instead. Here goes…
PRESTON CARL (@tubbyflop): Where would you pick Connor McDavid? There are 16 guys, and it’s a keeper league.
In a keeper league, you’re drafting for McDavid’s ceiling, which I believe is the 100-point, generational talent range. He’s a viable top-10 pick already. For non-keeper leaguers out there, the key is to forecast McDavid’s rookie total and not draft him before any guy who is a lock for that same total. If we forecast McDavid for, say, 70 points, you take Tyler Seguin before McDavid every time, but you roll the dice on McDavid over a Jiri Hudler type, who isn’t a lock to duplicate last year.
FORDY (@MrFordy5): Frederik Andersen or John Gibson? I already made my decision and traded Gibson for a first-round pick. What do you think?
Good trade. The Ducks have to roll with Andersen for now after he helped them get within a game of the Stanley Cup final, even if he was inconsistent along the way. Gibson is the better keeper league bet, but you got a first-round pick for him anyway, so you’re golden.
OLSONIC (@BruinsScience): After a great rookie season, where do you see Johnny Gaudreau’s ceiling as a left winger?
A short-term regression or plateau for ‘Johnny Hockey’ wouldn’t surprise me, as teams will game-plan to stop his shiftiness more next season. But if we’re talkin’ ceiling, it’s nice and high. He’s a special offensive talent with an even better player, Sean Monahan, centering him. Gaudreau should flirt with point-per-game production throughout his prime.
BENJAMIN BROWN (@benners19): Should I look at moving Evgeni Malkin in my keeper pool? Poor playoffs and really cooled off at the end of the year.
I love this question. I would explore trading ‘Geno,’ as his injuries have become a yearly headache and his brand name should command a nice return. Make sure you do get that nice return, though. Even a hobbled Malkin produces like a fantasy first-rounder. Demand the moon for him. Also complicating things is the fact he could wind up centering Phil Kessel, whom plenty of experts perceive to be a better fit with Malkin than with Sidney Crosby. It's a double-edged sword, though. Malkin could reach elite fantasy production again with Kessel by his side, but that very thought also makes for a nice advertising pitch in a Malkin trade, doesn't it? Maybe you can get even more for him. Either way, it's worth waiting to learn where Kessel will start the year before you make any 'Geno' decision.
JEREMY (@Pyner18): Who should I keep: Ryan Strome, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, Victor Hedman, Dougie Hamilton.
The list answers your question. Think about how close those four blueliners are in value. Aside from Erik Karlsson, an elite fantasy D-man might score five or 10 points more than the 20th-best producer. The gap is too negligible. That’s why I prefer to keep high-ceiling forwards. Ryan Strome and the Islanders are just getting started. Keep him. If I had to take a D-man, I like Hedman's fantasy ceiling best of that group.
ADAM WISHNOWSKI (@adamwish14): Better keeper to own, Claude Giroux or Patrick Kane?
It’s no contest in real life, as Patty Kane is a three-time Cup champ. But this is fantasy hockey, and Giroux leads all NHLers in points over the past five seasons. Kane ranks 13th and has sustained regular season-ending injuries that cost plenty of fantasy teams championships two straight seasons. He played his last game of the fantasy year March 19 and Feb. 24 in 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively. Go with Giroux.
GRAHAM BRUCE (@gbrew4): Of this year’s draft class, who will provide the best overall value when including G, A, PPP, Shots and Hits? #likeLandeskog
Watch out for Pavel Zacha. He’s not in the same league as McDavid or Jack Eichel as an all-around prospect, but Zacha has great fantasy potential because he possesses a deadly shot and he loves to throw his weight around. He should rack up goals, shots and hits when he reaches the NHL, which could be this year, as the Devils' depth chart looks awfully thin.
E-CLARK (@Electrifying–MC): How do you value Tyler Johnson after his playoff run?
Johnson’s post-season play was magical before a broken wrist slowed him in the final. The best indication of his value for next season, however, is his regular season, which was also outstanding but not quite as off-the-charts good. He’s established a 70-point floor going forward, and it’s hard to imagine Tampa coach Jon Cooper breaking up the ‘Triplet Line’ of Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin