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Neutral Zone Wrap: Basic Strategy Tidbits

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When heís not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evanís work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).


Thursday would have been the first night of the NHL season. But, alas, a third lockout in 18 years has suspended hockey indefinitely. So now everyone is wondering when, if at all, the 2012-13 will begin. While talks between the league and the NHLPA have continued, the conservative projections say we'll be without the game for at least a few months. Nice. If the NHL season were to resume in January, then would the majority of the fans really be happy? Or will many be turned off by another work stoppage?

While the obvious answers would lead us to believe backlash is inevitable, a significant portion of hockey supporters will stay loyal. And we're not simply talking about on-ice activity, gate revenues, or merchandise sales; the largest NHL-related component that will remain consistent is the fantasy game. Poolies don't care about the past. Heck, as long as there is a current product to draft, analyze, and complain about, then we're good.

So if the season were to kick off tomorrow, then you need not worry. We're here to help. And what better place to begin than the fantasy draft and related preparation. The following material will be obvious to the seasoned competitor but should serve as a helpful primer for the average greenhorn. Hold all questions until the end.

To all the newbies, congratulations on making the leap from viewer to owner. You'll have lots of fun with fantasy but don't expect it to be easy, at least right away. To reap the rewards, you will have to put in the effort. But it doesn't end with the draft. You could pick a really nice squad but there's a whole season through which to navigate. Anyone who thinks their team is immune to injuries or slumps are either way too confident or not familiar with the basic concepts of reality. So much more is required to excel in this game, although all the hard work in the world does not guarantee success.

Let's backtrack to the draft and how to prepare. Assuming your league is starting fresh and runs the rotisserie way (and extra crispy), take a look at the number of teams, the point categories, and position allocation. From these, you should be able to formulate a strategy and player ranking system. Listening to others may be helpful, but you could be receiving conflicting information. Take the reports and data from established experts and then make your own decisions. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.

As the draft progresses, you may have to adapt your plan. Others may take whomever you had in mind with the previous picks, which is why you should have backups in place. And maybe there will be a point where a bunch of goalies get selected in a row. Try not to follow this trend unless you truly believe the drop off in netminders is large enough to justify the selection. But consider that by giving in to this pressure, you may be missing out on better talent at other positions.

An auction league involves a maximum amount of money to spend on a set number of players. That usually means you'll have $230 to spend on 20 individuals, but those details may vary. Due to the dollar constraints, it could be a better option to forego an expensive player for two or three cheaper options. For example, there may be a star that would fetch as much as $60-$70 at auction. Even if said skater could potentially net you 90 points and pick up other helpful numbers, you'd be better off letting him go to fill more vacancies. Doesn't it sound better to take three 60-70 point guys for $20 apiece than one 90-pointer at $60?

If you're involved in a keeper format, then you must deem who is worthy to stay and who can be tossed back into the pile. Assuming you have a maximum number to protect, then you might not be able to retain all your superstars. You may make your decisions purely on fantasy production, but there's something that can be said for synergy. Some players just click with others, so keeping a tandem or two won't hurt.

With that said, don't load up on too many players from the same NHL club. Diversify your portfolio to maximize fantasy return and avoid those pesky group slumps. And finally, this may sound stupid but you have to stay hydrated. If your body lacks liquids, then your mind will inevitably start to wander. There are so many things to focus on during a draft, so why deprive yourself of something essential? (Waiting on that energy drink endorsement...)

Now that you've perused these tips and soaked in the knowledge, you stand ready to tackle the realm of fantasy hockey. Go out there and make us proud.

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As long as no big league hockey exists on this continent, we still promise to provide fantasy insight for those NHLers skating in Europe (and also in lower divisions across North America). After all, how they perform across the pond will influence their status on the regular rosters. And like always, we won't be giving injury reports or news updates nor will we be covering the exploits of superstars unless explicitly relevant. Now back to your regularly unscheduled KHL broadcast...

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he's not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble. If you have anything to say about Evan's work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).