Playoff hockey is less than a week away, which means it's time to start looking ahead and making plans to win your playoff pool.
Unless your pool has quirky rules or is of unusual size, there is no need to try and re-invent the wheel when developing a drafting strategy -- just try to pick players from the four teams you think will reach the Conference Finals; that will give them enough games to make a significant statistical contribution.
While this year's playoff race seems a little more open than in previous years, there will naturally be a tendency for players from top teams like Washington, Chicago and last year's finalists, Detroit and Pittsburgh, to get snapped up quickly.
That means finding value in the next tier of teams after committing to a couple of favourites. Perhaps a team like the Canucks, Devils or the perrenially underachieving Sharks can provide better value once the players from elite teams have been selected.
When it comes to picking players, there are a few simple guidelines.
First off, be aware of injuries. Teams are notorious for being vague or even downright dishonest regarding injuries at this point in the season, but you may want to avoid, or at least decrease the value of, guys who are already going into the postseason with injuries.
Right now, the list of injured players that might be considered playoff pool worthy includes Marc Savard, Tim Connolly, Jochen Hecht, Brian Campbell, Peter Mueller, Patric Hornqvist, Filip Kuba, Jeff Carter, Chris Kunitz, Christian Ehrhoff and Brendan Morrison.
The cardinal rule: Don't pick players that face each other in the first round. There's no point in limiting your potential number of games played right out of the gate.
Don't ignore the 6, 7, 8 seeds. Generally, it's better to get the first or second scoring option on a lower seed, particularly one with a decent shot at an upset, than to start reaching for third-liners on a top-seeded team. For example, in last year's playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks pulled off an upset and Ryan Getzlaf scored 18 points (fifth in the entire playoffs) in just two rounds.
Don't be afraid to double-up on line combinations, so that you can score multiple points on single goals. If you like Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg, perhaps you can snag linemate Valtteri Filppula a few rounds later to maximize the impact on Detroit's goals.
Also, don't be afraid to make a sleeper pick late in the draft. It's hard to predict from where the next Max Talbot or Ruslan Fedotenko will emerge, but I'll take a shot with some deep sleeper picks on each team's list. If you happen to hit a home run with your last pick, it could provide a real boost.
Given these basic plans, the following team lists will provide information to help organize your drafting priorities. Each player listed has their points per game listed and that's a general value to start with.
Then, look at what the player has done since the beginning of January, basically the second half of the season (under the '2010' heading). If the point totals are higher, maybe it's a young player who is just starting to peak, or a veteran whose playing situation changed due to trade. In either case, it's usually preferable to get a player who is more productive now, as opposed to one that fattened up his scoring totals in October and November.
For the full stats breakdown, click here.