Mike's better half already broke the news, but we've got ourselves an official fake hockey team. James Mirtle set up a couple of fantasy hockey leagues for the SBN writers - one for the Eastern conference bloggers and on for the Western bloggers. I signed up for the 16-team Western head-to-head league, proudly choosing Mile High Uniprons as the team name.
I used to be really big into fantasy hockey (and I was pretty good at it), but I haven't really been in a serious fantasy league in over 10 years. Because of the layoff, I knew I would need to prepare hard. And I did, for the two minutes I had between realizing the draft was about to start and the time I had to make my first pick. Call me a diehard. Unless that's supposed to be two words; I'd hate for you to make a grammatical error when calling me names.
I really only had one rule going into the draft, and I believe that rule is obvious to everyone: no Red Wings. I thought about avoiding other NW clubs as well, but I did end up with a few division rivals. Beyond that, my basic focus was to focus on forwards, grab a couple of decent starting goalies and then grab a bunch of scrubs for defense. My brilliant idea was to just draft defensemen with lots of penalty minutes, figuring I could get a bunch late. As it turns out, there aren't all that many goons playing defense any more; you used to be able to take guys like Enrico Ciccone or Dave Manson to at least give you some cheap PiMs, but the only guy I could find like that now is Vancouver's Shane O'Brien. Since he's one of 27 defensemen the Canucks have, I decided to pass on him.
I grabbed Ilya Kovalchuk and Joe Thornton with my first two picks (since playoff stats don't count. *zing*). They happen to be two of my favorite non-Avs and I think both could have big years. Kovalchuk is in his contract year (and you can't rule out a trade to a better team somewhere along the line), while Thornton will be paired with that giant douchebag Dany Heatley (who Mirtle took immediately after I grabbed Thornton).
With a couple of solid forwards on the roster, in the 3rd round I turned my attention to the goalies. There were 3 notables available around at this point - Marty Turco, Christobal Huet and Ryan Miller. I decided against Turco because I feel he's fading a bit and I took Huet over Miller because I think the Blackhawks will win more than Buffalo. That was a tough call.
With a decent starter on board, I went back to forwards, grabbing Bobby Ryan from Anaheim and our capeless crusader, Paul Stastny (who was ranked rather low by yahoo). After that, I went for my second goalie, grabbing Nikolai Khabibulin from Edmonton. I think he (and his team) will have a big year. He and Huet may not be the best fantasy combo, but it's good enough for me. I continued to ignore my defense, instead going with old friend Ryan Smyth, the Bruin's Milan Lucic (I like his PiMs) and, in the 9th round, went with Matt Duchene. It's a homer pick, but I do believe Matt Duchene has the potential to have a big, big year. If not, the least of my worries will be this silly fantasy league.
Entering the 10th round, I was still without a defenseman, so I grabbed Johnny Hot Pocket. There wasn't really a ton of other exciting defensemen available at that point, and I figured I'd take another opportunity to suck up to beachie. From there, I just kind of bounced around. I focused mostly on finding some forwards with a lot of penalty minutes who can also score on occasion. I grabbed New Jersey's David Clarkson (17 goals, 164 penalty minutes), Cody McLeod and, of course, Ian Laperriere. I also took a flyer on Dustin Penner in the 16th round.
To round out the defense, I took Ed Jovanovski, Brent Burns, Derek Morris, Anton Babcock (who?) and, for kicks, Victor Hedman. Not a great crew, but there's some potential for some rebound years by Liles, Morris and Jovanovski to at least give me a crew that can tread water. I also took Tampa's Mike Smith, partly as insurance at goalie and mostly because I think he looks kind of like Andy Samberg.
So, the team was complete. Basically, I figure to do well in the scoring categories and penalty minutes with enough points from the goalies to keep me competitive. My defensive squad isn't going to contribute too much, but if there's anything the Avalanche proved last year it's that teams don't need any offense from their defensemen in order to...oh crap, this isn't going to end well at all...
Here are your 2009 Mile High Uniprons
1 (8) Ilya Kovalchuk
2 (25) Joe Thornton
3 (40) Cristobal Huet
4 (57) Bobby Ryan
5 (72) Paul Stastny
6 (89) Nikolai Khabibulin
7 (104) Ryan Smyth
8 (121) Milan Lucic
9 (136) Matt Duchene
10 (153) John-Michael Liles
11 (168) David Clarkson
12 (185) Ed Jovanovski
13 (200) Mike Smith
14 (217) Victor Hedman
15 (232) Brent Burns
16 (249) Dustin Penner
17 (264) Cody McLeod
18 (281) Ian Laperriere
19 (296) Anton Babchuk
20 (313) Derek Morris