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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
by Murray Townsend

We’re going to assume you’re not the person who shows up on draft day with a copy of last year’s stats and wings it. The fact you’re reading this means you’re prepared to put out a little more effort.

You can use the list and player profiles we provide as a resource and you won’t go far wrong, but one thing about hard-core poolies is they want to know things others don’t. They want an edge.

That’s where we have to be careful not to outsmart ourselves. You make mistakes and hopefully you learn, but when we learn that logic and available information doesn’t necessarily equal reality, that’s where we get our real edge. These are some of the common mistakes we make – or have made in the past – and how to avoid them.

1. Don’t pick too many players from your favorite team. Otherwise, you’re picking with your heart, not your head. Of course, that’s the team you know best – which gives you some advantage – but it also means your hopes for that player can cause you to overestimate his potential. In any event, once you pick a player from any team, he automatically becomes a favorite.

2. Don’t rely on exhibition game stats. They mean nothing. Fourth liners play on the top line; players who will never play on the power play get sent out with the man advantage; third-string goalies are in net. Last year, for example, the top four pre-season goal-scorers were Jon Sim, Josef Vasicek, Brandon Bochenski and Dany Heatley. One out of four is not a good percentage. Moreover, Olli Jokinen, Jonathan Cheechoo and Vincent Lecavalier combined for zero goals in 13 games – probably averaging less than 10 minutes a game.

3. Don’t forget to keep a list handy of your injury sleepers. Otherwise, you’re going to miss them – or pick them too soon. Let’s use Patrik Elias as an example. He played just 38 games last season, but scored 45 points – that projects to almost 100 points. He would be high on your list this year, but you don’t want to waste an early pick on him if you know a lot of people in your pool are just going down the stats list. You have to figure out how late it’s safe to let him slide. If you play it right, you could get a couple good picks before snaring Elias just as your foes see him on their radar.

4. Don’t listen too closely to camp reports. “So and so looks great,” says the coach. When’s the last time you heard a coach say a guy was terrible? Teams have plans for players heading into camp and unless management is blown away, they don’t change much.

5. Don’t get too excited about older Europeans coming to the NHL for the first time. Sometimes it works (think Marek Zidlicky) and sometimes it doesn’t – Eero Somervuori got the better of us a few years ago. Nobody knows how quickly a skilled European will adapt to North America and the NHL, so don’t risk too much on them despite all the praise you might hear.

6. Forget about an unknown who looks as though he’s going to play on a line with a big scorer. Oh look, Bochenski has a great pre-season and is playing with Jason Spezza. Looks like a gold mine. It wasn’t. We all get caught in this trap and it’s hard to resist, but try to name the last no-name player who lasted on a line with a big-name player. And no, Lonny Bohonos doesn’t count.

7. Don’t play it safe with your late round picks. That’s the time to speculate because pools are often won with the unknown, not the known. You may know a guy who’s a reliable 30-point scorer, but then there’s this other guy who may get 10 points or might blossom into a 60-point man. If it’s late in the draft, take a chance on a breakout.

8. If you have to take a certain number of forwards, defensemen and a goalie, get your defensemen first. There’s only so many prime offensive defensemen. Moreover, figure out the worst possible goalie you could get stuck with. Say there are 10 people in your league and everybody has to take one goalie. The 10th goalie won’t be significantly different than the fifth, so wait until the end.

9. Shut up. It’s not your responsibility to help less prepared drafters at the table. You did the work, they get what they deserve.

10. The biggest mistake you can make at the draft table is letting others see this publication. Keep it to yourself and win.
 
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