With the NHL Entry Draft just a week away, thoughts of everyone around the League have turned toward the future, with a keen and watchful eye on a bunch of 18-year-olds who represent the next generation of the NHL. Scouts, experts and bloggers (not that the latter two are mutually exclusive, of course) are running mock drafts. General managers are locked away in war rooms. Fans eagerly await meeting their next big star. Yes, everyone’s gone Draft crazy.
At Japers' Rink, we're in the draftin' spirit as well...sorta. While others are spending plenty of time pumping you full of info on what could be, we thought we'd turn that keen and watchful eye inward for a moment and look at what is. And so, ladies and gentlemen, we’re very proud to present the Inaugural Japers’ Rink Caps Fantasy Draft!
(...hey, it's late June and this is content.)
The Object of the Game
To re-draft the current stable of Capitals into four separate teams, all with the purpose of answering the unanswerable: in a head-to-head tournament, who wins?
The draft order was randomly assigned using a slightly more state-of-the-art version of the highly technical ping pong system, with the order reversing at the end of each round (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1, etc). The resulting draft order was as follows:
Each team had to consist of six forwards, four defensemen and one goalie, and no trades of picks or players were allowed. Eligible players included any currently under contract, prospects who don’t yet need to be signed, and RFAs. UFAs who definitely won’t be back (Corvo, Walker) were not eligible, but those who might conceivably be (Morrisonn, Belanger, etc.) were. [Note: the draft was completed before news of Morrison and Theodore was released, thereby still making them eligible.]
With the draft complete and the rosters set, each GM will present his/her team, the thought process behind the draft, and a case for why their team should win - all with the assumption that the tournament begins tomorrow and everyone's healthy and ready to go. No lingering playoff maladies here, folks.
A look at your four teams, after the jump:
DMG, General Manager
Michael Nylander - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Keith Aucoin - Alexandre Giroux
Dmitri Orlov - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Shaone Morrisonn
To start out, I'm planning on line combinations of Nylander-Backstrom-Johansson and Chimera-Aucoin-Giroux. I wanted to keep Giroux and Aucoin together and get them out there against as much AHL/marginal NHL quality players as possible, and I think Chimera's a good addition to that line because his speed and tenacity will put some pressure on my opponents defenses and give Giroux and Aucoin time and space to operate. I'm also comfortable with Backstrom centering Nylander and Johansson. Obviously neither of those guys are elite scorers, but I think they can effective in this tournament in secondary roles, especially if they're playing with one of the NHL's best pivots.
On defense I'm putting Carlson with Orlov and Schultz with Morrisonn. The biggest concern was who to put with the inexperienced Orlov, and since I think Carlson's my most well-rounded defenseman, I thought he'd be a good bet. I was somewhat tempted to stick Schultz with Orlov since he's such a solid positional player who prioritizes avoiding mistakes, but ultimately I was worried his relative lack of foot speed and agility would prove problematic if he also had to cover for rookie mistakes.
How the Draft Went:
I'm somewhat torn on my draft results. On the one hand I picked up Backstrom, I have three legitimate NHL defensemen, and I have an overall solid forward group (if Giroux, Aucoin, and Nylander can produce in the AHL, I figure they can produce in this tournament). The only thing I'm not thrilled about is Holtby, but there wasn't a ton I could do about that given where I was picking. Plus, though he's never guys like Ovechkin or Green, Holtby did post a .917 save percentage and 2.32 GAA in Hershey this year, so it's not like he can't stop the puck.
Why I'll Win:
I have six forwards who can produce given the quality of competition in this tournament - Backstrom will be simply dominant and provide good first line production, and I'm not too worried Giroux and Aucoin can't replicate their success against my opposition, given the plethora of AHL caliber - or lower - defensemen...which leads me to my last point, the quality of my defense. No other team sports three legitimate top-six NHL defensemen, and the quality of the last guy on my defensive depth chart is higher than at least two of the other teams. I won't like - I'm not loving the idea of Holtby going up against Ovechkin, Semin, and Green - but I do think my defense has sufficient quality to generally keep the shots reasonable.
Pepper, General Manager
Alex Ovechkin - Mathieu Perreault - Andrew Gordon
Brooks Laich - Steven Pinizzotto - Matt Bradley
Tom Poti - Patrick Wey
Patrick McNeill - Sean Collins
How the Draft Went:
Like J.P., having the second pick prevented my team from having any consecutive selections out of our snake draft. But I felt like we got the jump on Team Langway a few times, like Brian Burke and Bryan Murray at the draft tables, in snagging Mathieu Perreault and Matt Bradley just before Langway picks. Things changed a bit in the later rounds, where J.P. got the jump on me in selecting Tyler Sloan and Kyle Wilson.
Alex Ovechkin was an obvious second selection. After that, Becca's goalie pick compelled me to draft Jose Theodore, who I thought was the safest second goalie pick, Caps' playoff record be damned. (We also conducted this draft before Neuvy's second Calder Cup victory.) Knowing that our team needed more veteran leadership with the lower ranks being filled with Bears and prospects who may not yet have played pro, I chose Brooksy to anchor line two, and Tom Poti to lead the defense. Then recognizing the need to nab a playmaking center, I took who I thought has the best natural ability and upside at the position in Matthieu Perreault. Andrew Gordon, with his crash-the-net style and boundless energy, rounds out line one and fills a Mike Knuble-type role. The defense is green (and not Green) but Collins has NHL experience and Patrick McNeill was a horse for Hershey in the later playoff rounds, and scored two goals in the Calder Cup clincher.
Why I'll Win:
In a word, Ovechkin. (Good lord, let it not be another tournament loss for the guy in calendar year 2010.)
Ok, in many words. We've got a balanced top line of speed, skill, and gritty net presence, and a crash-and-bang second line of good skaters to consistently work the corners and wear down the opposition. And the best two left wings in the tourney.
Team Johansson will be too busy passing the puck amongst themselves on the top line, and no other team has a legit playmaker at first line center.
Defense-wise, Team Tinner has as much NHL experience as the other squads, and Poti and Collins can effectively kill penalties better than any other squad save Team Johansson's. To round out the D corps, if Patrick Wey is good enough for Team USA, he's good enough for me.
Theodore has something to prove and he'll rise to the occasion while the other young 'tenders cave under such enormous pressure as this tournament surely will create.
If we don't win, at least our opponents will be thoroughly battered and bruised.
JP, General Manager
Tomas Fleischmann - Eric Belanger - Eric Fehr
Stefan Della Rovere - Kyle Wilson - Quintin Laing
Mike Green - Milan Jurcina
John Erskine - Tyler Sloan
I've kept the "F Street" wingers together flanking Belanger, and have a smart, gritty second line with an agitator who will keep opponents' heads on a swivel. My D-pairings each feature a good balance of skating ability and size, not to mention Green's elite offensive skills, which are unparalleled in the organization (and League, for that matter).
How the Draft Went:
With the third pick, I got the third-best player on the team, but felt that I was somewhat reactive rather than proactive the rest of the way. Becca took a goalie, so I couldn't risk passing on one and getting the worst goalie of the four, so I took Neuvy (who I think is the best of the group anyway). I was scrambling a bit for forwards after that, but ended up with a strong squad.
Why I'll Win:
Experience and balance. I've got two 20-goal scorers, and everyone on the team with the exception of Delly had at least two NHL points this season. My blueliners were all NHLers from opening night to the final buzzer sounded in April (while other teams have guys who couldn't even break Hershey's lineup) and bring a good balance of skating ability and size, and I've got the best goalie in the organization (who is currently hot, mind you). Any worries about Fleischmann not producing are mitigated by the fact that he's facing some pretty soft defenses. I've got this one locked up.
Becca, General Manager
Alexander Semin - Brendan Morrison - Mike Knuble
Boyd Gordon - David Steckel - Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner - Josh Godfrey
Zach Miskovic - Joe Finley
Morrison and Knuble have played together a lot in their careers and have some nice chemistry - but neither one is particularly flashy (well...most of the time). Enter Alexander Semin, probably one of the best pure goal-scorers in the League. He'd be able to create plays without battling for the puck with his linemates, and Knuble would have plenty of rebounds and just-wide shots to clean up around the net. And on my second line I've basically got a revised version of the Bradley-Steckel-Gordon line that's worked so well in the past, with a younger version of Matt Bradley in Jay Beagle.
I'll be looking for Alzner and Godfrey to recapture their Summit Series magic from 2007, while Miskovic and Finley should provide enough scrappy energy and size to be a decent second pair. And of course Varlamov’s no slouch in net.
How the Draft Went:
It definitely started out better than it ended. I took what I thought was the best player left after Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green were gone when I picked Semin fourth, so my offense was locked up. And knowing my team would be facing that kind of offensive firepower I made sure to lock down my goaltending and my stud defenseman right away, too. I got some of the forwards I wanted that I thought would fit well together, too…but then things went off the tracks a bit when my only defenseman was Alzner and the others were quickly snapped up. The result: a very young defensive corps mined from the depths of the organization.
Why I'll Win:
The idea of watching Semin skate around Mike Green, narrowly skirt a John Carlson check attempt or pick off a failed Poti-clear is kind of intriguing. With Mike Knuble patrolling the net, pouncing on rebounds from Semin’s blistering shot or corralling the ones that went just wide, the first line's good to go. And once they're done making their opponents run around until they’re dizzy, we bring in the ultimate checking line – great on faceoffs, great along the boards, and what they lack in offensive skill they more than make up for in heart and work ethic. As an added bonus, Knuble and Semin are free to take ill-advised penalties at the worst possible times, secure in the knowledge that the penalty killers I’ve assembled (including Knuble and Semin themselves) will bail them out more often than not.
Now I know what you’re all thinking – that blueline is troubling. Sure, my defense is still going through puberty and has a grand total of 51 NHL games under their collective belts (all of which can be attributed to one player). But what you might call young and inexperienced, I call fresh and energetic. And there’s something to be said for trial by fire. There’s no better way to earn your stripes than to take on someone like Ovechkin one-on-one. Besides, if (when?) he manages to beats them, Varlamov’s got their back.
And hey, if all else fails Finley can just throw some sort of farming equipment at the opponent and be done with it. That’s legal, right?
Oddly enough, calls to George McPhee requesting that this tournament actually be played were not returned - so, dear readers, we are
forced delighted to leave the results in your oh-so-capable hands. Examine each case, peruse the rosters, and decide which team will have their names engraved on the Japers' Rink Cup!