As a follow up to my previous article on CBS Fantasy Hockey Draft Strategy, I wanted to come back with a breakdown of how you should approach drafting in a standard head-to-head Yahoo league. Many of the principals are the same as CBS (and any league for that matter), so if you missed it, check it out here:
For now, I'll focus on the specific things you need to know for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues in order to draft a winning team.
The first thing to note about the standard Yahoo settings is that they choose to break down forwards by specific position (C, LW, RW), as opposed to grouping wingers, or all forwards together. This has a huge impact on your strategy. In most other formats, I tend to focus on goaltending and defense out of the gate; however, in this league, Left Wingers are at a premium. The talent at this position drops off drastically after a small handful of elite options. According to Yahoo's rankings and position classifications, the top 10 options are all worthy of very early draft consideration. After that, you're left with Alex Burrows, Patrick Elias, and Dustin Penner as your starting LW. And you need to field two players at that position. Contrast that with the RW position. Post top 10, you still have strong options: Kessel, Hossa, Horton, Eriksson. It's even more dramatic when you look at Center. Sure, it's great to have a Crosby, Stamkos or Malkin leading your charge, but will you really be suffering to settle for the likes of: Zetterberg, Getzlaf, Carter, Mike Richards or Kopitar. You can go 20 deep and still have outstanding choices like Stastny or Brad Richards.
So, while I still strongly recommend pouncing on a goalie and perhaps a top 5 defenseman early, you should make it a point to pick a left winger by round 3. After your first LW is taken, unless you're willing to stack the position at the expense of other positions, you can wait on your second LW until late in the draft. The options you'll get in round 6 aren't much better than what you'll find in round 12.
It only applies to a handful of players, but it's worth noting that several players each season get the special designation of applying to more than one position. These guys carry extra value on your roster, since you can use them where needed. The ones most worth noting: Dany Heatley (LW/RW), Rick Nash (LW/RW), and Patrick Marleau (LW/C). Heatley is the most valuable, as he could easily qualify as your top LW or top RW. Drafting Heatley gives you an edge in terms of flexibility later in the draft, and throughout your season.
Yahoo has a unique option that lets you carry one player on the IR that won't count against your other roster spots. Take advantage of this throughout the season, and even during the draft. I recommend drafting a player you know will start the season injured (Markov, Burrows). At the start of the season, you can put him into the IR spot and you'll have a free pick to backfill it. Always look to pick up hurt stars and keep the spot filled.
As opposed to CBS, which awards fantasy points based on stats, the standard head-to-head Yahoo leagues are scored on an old-school rotisserie fashion. (Note: this is one major reason I no longer play on Yahoo.) This setup affects your strategy in several major ways.
1. Pay attention to all categories.
In a points based system, +/- can largely be ignored. In a Yahoo league, having the best +/- is just as important as goals. This makes no logical sense, but that's the way it is, so plan your draft accordingly. If a guy is notoriously bad in +/- or refuses to take a penalty to save his life, downgrade that player.
2. Goons are welcome.
Because penalty minutes are valued equal to goals, why not draft a goon to round out your wingers? One player could single-handedly win that category for you, so even if Zenon Konopka only nets you 2 goals again next season, his 15 Pims a week may be worth it.
3. Bring on the backup goalies.
Total goals allowed and saves matter not here. It's all about the averages (GAA / save %). What that means is that a workhorse like Vokoun who may lead the league in saves won't necessarily be as valuable as a guy who plays every other game and puts up a low GAA in the process. So don't necessarily shy away from backups or goalies in a split-crease scenario. You have to meet a minimum games played each week, so the best strategy here it to grab a top-notch, # 1 goalie early in the draft, then wait it out for your 2nd goalie. There will be plenty of solid backups out there into the 10th round and beyond. Guys like Gustavson and Giguere become viable, as they'll both see a game a week and should register decent numbers behind that Toronto defense. In a points-based league, these two would go undrafted. This approach may hold you back in wins and shutouts, but you'll benefit in the other categories.
4. Sadly, Defense is irrelevant
It breaks my heart to say this, but in this format, you can and should treat defense as an afterthought. If you can grab one of the top 5 defensemen early, go for it, because the talent level drops off significantly after that. Mike Green will score like a forward and so he is worthy of early selection. However, since defense and offense are grouped together in Yahoo leagues for scoring, they have relatively little value. Best plan is to grab 1 elite defenseman if you can early, get your second D around round 8-10, then fill up your other starting spots before rounding out this position.
Draft Room Rules
Unlike CBS, Yahoo leaves you the keys and lets you drive your car how you please. There is no restriction on the number of players you can draft at any position. If you want to fill your bench with 4 goalies, you're free to do so. I only point this out, as it's a dramatic difference from the approach in CBS. Here, you're free to take the best player available at all times.
Finally, take a close look at those Yahoo player rankings and play off of them accordingly. The average GM will tend to follow Yahoo's picks rather blindly. Be informed and watch for these situations.
Here are some undervalued players that you can wait on and grab as a steal later than you would in other draft rooms:
Goalies: Anti Niemi, Marty Turco
Defense: Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Lubomir Visnovsky
Centers: Anze Kopitar, Jordan Staal
Left Wing: Dany Heatley, Wojtek Wolski, James Neal
Right Wing: Alexander Semin, Marian Hossa
Here are some names that will fly off the board before their time, based on Yahoo overrating them:
Goalies: Craig Anderson
Defense: Andrei Markov (hurt), Niklas Kronwall (hurt), Sheldon Souray
Centers: Jonathan Toews, Tomas Plekanec
Left Wing: Alex Burrows (hurt), Patrik Elias
Right Wing: Daniel Alfredsson, Nikolai Zherdev