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Fantasy keeper mock draft for 2016-17

Young forwards, up-and-coming goalies prioritized in long-term league

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

The phrase "finders keepers, losers weepers" certainly applies to long-term fantasy hockey leagues.

Fantasy keeper leagues offer experienced owners the chance to predict future production beyond the current season. Every draft pick and transaction has the potential for long-term reward, but roster missteps along the way allow your competitors reap the benefits for years to come.

DRAFT GUIDES: STANDARD | HITS | POINTS-ONLY | AUCTION

NHL.com conducted a 12-team fantasy keeper-league mock draft with standard categories (goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal for skaters; wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goalies). Rules were outlined to the participants before the draft: they are allowed to keep up to five players for the next three seasons (no more than one goalie). Every pick has keeper potential, with the five retained players counting as future draft picks in the rounds they were originally drafted.

There are a wide variety of keeper-league formats, but certain players went much higher or lower in this draft and could see similar placement in other long-term leagues. Here is a roundup at each of the five positions with reaction to players who were prioritized or overlooked in this keeper mock draft.

CENTER

Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) should be the No. 1 overall pick in any keeper format, so I took him as such with the first pick. Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals), who's going in the 20s in standard mock drafts, was regarded as a top-15 asset because of the potential to play even more often alongside Alex Ovechkin in the years to come. Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) went among the top 20 overall, and who could blame the user who reached for him; Eichel has so much forward talent around him at even strength and on the power play. Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), fresh off a dazzling performance for Team North America in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, went much higher than in standard leagues; he offers added roster flexibility in Yahoo (C/RW eligible).

Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) went among the top 50 and fellow rookie Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes) was prioritized early in the 13th round. I reached for sleeper candidate Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers), who's had a strong preseason with his new team and is also dual-eligible. Philadelphia Flyers top forward prospect Travis Konecny even made a late-round appearance. 

On the flip side, Claude Giroux (Flyers), Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Jason Spezza (Dallas Stars), Ryan Johansen (Nashville Predators), Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal Canadiens) and Sam Reinhart (Sabres) were available much later than they should be. In a keeper format like this, you must balance youth and experience, because, as much as you are planning for future years, you're also trying to win your league this season. Plus, you can only keep five players for future seasons in this format, so you need proven players for the short term. The centers who slipped drastically, maybe with the exception of Thornton, can help your immediate championship quest, as well as in the three seasons to follow. But even Thornton, who had 82 points in 82 games last season and just helped Team Canada win a World Cup title, should continue producing points at a high level this season. Center is the deepest fantasy position, so save at least one center and/or bench spot knowing players of this caliber may be available later than expected. 

LEFT WING

After Jamie Benn (Stars) went second overall behind McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) was the next left wing off the board. Gaudreau, 23, finished tied for sixth in scoring in his second NHL season, so the sky is the limit. The user felt Gaudreau has greater keeper-league worth than Alex Ovechkin, a risky assessment but a move that could pay off in future years. Max Domi, poised to continue his upward climb after a strong rookie season for the improved Coyotes, was taken as the No. 7 LW.

Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues), C/LW eligible in Yahoo, was drafted 91st -- much higher than his Yahoo average draft position (167.9). Boone Jenner (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Teuvo Teravainen (Carolina Hurricanes) are other young LWs yet to reach their respective ceilings who are worth targeting once the top 100 players are off the board. It's worth noting that Jenner warrants even earlier consideration in a keeper league that counts hits instead of PIMs. Nikolaj Ehlers, who could play top-line minutes with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler for the Winnipeg Jets, went among the top 140 -- continuing the trend of dual-eligible players being highly sought-after.

Because of the run on young LWs in middle rounds, viable point producer Mike Hoffman (Ottawa Senators) and injury bounce-back candidates James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs) and Jaden Schwartz (Blues; out four weeks with elbow injury) plummeted in this mock draft. Each is an optimal bench player if available late.

RIGHT WING

Because Vladimir Tarasenko is younger than Patrick Kane and a more proven goal-scorer, the user with the fourth pick opted for Tarasenko. But that's what makes the keeper concept so intriguing. Things change from season to season, so it would hardly be shocking if Tarasenko surpassed Kane in fantasy value in two or three seasons.

Brandon Saad (Blue Jackets), eligible at each wing in Yahoo, went in the 70s, an appropriate range given his upside and lack of a 60-point season on his resume. Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets), the second pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, went 14th among RW-eligible players (ADP: 26th RW), which could make him a major steal. A few rounds later, Anthony Duclair (Coyotes; ADP: 171.6) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Oilers; 180.6) went off the board outside the top 100 but well before their standard-league territory. Young RWs who rounded out the draft were David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) and Joonas Donskoi (Sharks). They should play top-six minutes for their respective teams this season and could get even more power-play time in the years to come.

There were not many RWs falling far below their ADP, but two that stuck out were Corey Perry (Ducks; ADP: 18.9), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers; ADP: 45.9), two of the best category coverage assets in the game. Perry, 31, and Simmonds, 28, are worth keeping beyond this season and have the potential to finish among the top 15 overall every year. Fantasy owners tend to flock towards younger players in keeper drafts, but don't let a proven commodity like Perry or Simmonds slip this far.

Video: Pete Jensen previews the top fantasy hockey picks

DEFENSEMAN

Puck-moving defensemen have become essential to driving possession and scoring, making the position all the more important in a fantasy keeper draft. Fantasy owners in this mock draft did not hesitate to invest in blossoming young 'D'. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is 25 and already covers five of the six standard categories, as well as hits. As the Coyotes improve, Ekman-Larsson's plus-minus could stabilize, making him the complete package and worth this late second-round pick in a 12-team keeper league. Shayne Gostisbehere's ceiling is through the roof in a keeper league after his exceptional rookie season, so he went off the board much earlier (26th) than his ADP (52.9). Other well-known defensemen who went much higher than their standard-league ADPs include Justin Faulk (Hurricanes; 28th), Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers; 67th) and Rasmus Ristolainen (Sabres; 78th).

After one user reached for Hampus Lindholm (Ducks), a strong possession player who has excelled on the power play, with the 52nd pick, it got everyone thinking outside the box. One user selected Ivan Provorov, a highly touted Flyers defense prospect competing for a roster spot, with the 76th pick. Another took a late-round flier on Zach Werenski in the hope the prospect can earn power-play time if he cracks the Blue Jackets lineup.

Rounding out the list of young defensemen who are expected to play big minutes and see first-unit power-play time in the short and long term are Seth Jones (Blue Jackets), Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs) and Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes). Fantasy owners even took fliers on Oilers defensemen Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson, hoping exposure to McDavid can pay off by association in the years to come. Most other defensemen went in their usual range, but two of the elite, Brent Burns (Sharks) and Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), became bargains. If you can get Burns (14th) in the second round and/or Letang in the fifth (49th) of any format, these are prime opportunities to capitalize on your opponents' oversight.

GOALIE

Up-and-coming goalies John Gibson (Ducks) and/or Jake Allen (Blues) can join the top five fantasy realm as early as this season and are worth reaching for in a keeper format. This draft was interesting in that Gibson was taken high (19th overall, fourth goalie), but Allen was available in the fourth round (48th overall, 11th goalie) for me to take as my first goalie. In this case, with each carrying similar upside, it is better to have your keeper goalie count as a fourth round-pick each year than a second. This is something to keep in mind depending on your league's specific format and keeper restrictions.

As for other keeper-league goalie commodities, Matt Murray was brilliant enough in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to go in the third round of a keeper draft, even though he'll miss 3-6 weeks because of a broken hand. Murray could ultimately be worth such a high pick, but when you have Connor Hellebuyck (Jets; 167th), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Lightning; 168th) and James Reimer (Panthers; 184th) available outside the top 150 with a chance to challenge for their respective No. 1 goalie jobs in the near future, it's clear where the true value lies. Joonas Korpisalo (Blue Jackets), undrafted in this mock, is another depth goalie with long-term upside.

Most experienced goalies went in their appropriate spots, but maybe the biggest surprise of this draft was seeing Cam Talbot go 93rd overall (17th among goalies). No standard-league fantasy owner would take such a gamble on Talbot, but this keeper-league user is banking on McDavid and an improved defense leading the Oilers to great heights in the coming years. Again, this stunning draft pick could end up being viewed completely differently two or three years from now.

Video: Fantasy hockey analysis with Pete Jensen

KEEPER MOCK DRAFT RESULTS:

NOTE: This was a 12-team mock draft with standard categories and 16 players per team. At the end of the 2016-17 season, each team can retain a maximum of five players (one goalie).

1. Connor McDavid (EDM - C)
2. Jamie Benn (DAL - LW)
3. Sidney Crosby (PIT - C)
4. Vladimir Tarasenko (STL - RW)
5. Patrick Kane (CHI - RW)
6. Johnny Gaudreau (CGY - LW)
7. Erik Karlsson (OTT - D)
8. Alex Ovechkin (WSH - LW)
9. Steven Stamkos (TBL - C)
10. John Tavares (NYI - C)
11. Joe Pavelski (SJS - C/RW)
12. Braden Holtby (WSH - G)
13. Tyler Seguin (DAL - C)
14. Brent Burns (SJS - D)
15. Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH - C)
16. Jack Eichel (BUF - C)
17. Ben Bishop (TBL - G)
18. Carey Price (MTL - G)
19. John Gibson (ANA - G)
20. Jonathan Quick (LAK - G)
21. P.K. Subban (NSH - D)
22. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR - G)
23. Cory Schneider (NJD - G)
24. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI - D)
25. Nathan MacKinnon (COL - C/RW)
26. Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI - D)
27. Patrice Bergeron (BOS - C)
28. Justin Faulk (CAR - D)
29. Artemi Panarin (CHI - LW)
30. Nikita Kucherov (TBL - RW)
31. Matt Murray (PIT - G)
32. Claude Giroux (PHI - C)
33. Corey Perry (ANA - RW)
34. Evgeni Malkin (PIT - C)
35. Martin Jones (SJS - G)
36. Blake Wheeler (WPG - RW)
37. Anze Kopitar (LAK - C)
38. Logan Couture (SJS - C)
39. Dustin Byfuglien (WPG - D)
40. Corey Crawford (CHI - G)
41. Nicklas Backstrom (WSH - C)
42. Auston Matthews (TOR - C)
43. Filip Forsberg (NSH - LW)
44. Phil Kessel (PIT - RW)
45. Roman Josi (NSH - D)
46. James Neal (NSH - RW)
47. Taylor Hall (NJD - LW)
48. Jake Allen (STL - G)
49. Kris Letang (PIT - D)
50. Aleksander Barkov (FLA - C)
51. Pekka Rinne (NSH - G)
52. Hampus Lindholm (ANA - D)
53. Drew Doughty (LAK - D)
54. Max Domi (ARI - LW)
55. Sean Monahan (CGY - C)
56. Wayne Simmonds (PHI - RW)
57. Max Pacioretty (MTL - LW)
58. John Klingberg (DAL - D)
59. John Carlson (WSH - D)
60. Matt Duchene (COL - C)
61. Shea Weber (MTL - D)
62. Brad Marchand (BOS - LW)
63. Zach Parise (MIN - LW)
64. Duncan Keith (CHI - D)
65. Roberto Luongo (FLA - G)
66. Victor Hedman (TBL - D)
67. Aaron Ekblad (FLA - D)
68. Jonathan Toews (CHI - C)
69. Tuukka Rask (BOS - G)
70. Gabriel Landeskog (COL - LW)
71. Keith Yandle (FLA - D)
72. Mark Scheifele (WPG - C)
73. Brandon Saad (CBJ - LW/RW)
74. Brian Elliott (CGY - G)
75. Daniel Sedin (VAN - LW)
76. Ivan Provorov (PHI - D)
77. Mark Giordano (CGY - D)
78. Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF - D)
79. Tyler Toffoli (LAK - C/RW)
80. Alexander Steen (STL - LW)
81. Devan Dubnyk (MIN - G)
82. Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA - LW)
83. Torey Krug (BOS - D)
84. Brayden Schenn (PHI - C/LW)
85. Joe Thornton (SJS - C)
86. Andrew Ladd (NYI - LW)
87. Patrick Sharp (DAL - LW/RW)
88. Ryan O'Reilly (BUF - C/LW)
89. Tyson Barrie (COL - D)
90. Patrik Laine (WPG - RW)
91. Robby Fabbri (STL - C/LW)
92. Dylan Larkin (DET - C/RW)
93. Cam Talbot (EDM - G)
94. Jordan Eberle (EDM - RW)
95. Kyle Okposo (BUF - RW)
96. Milan Lucic (EDM - LW)
97. Petr Mrazek (DET - G)
98. Ryan Johansen (NSH - C)
99. Kevin Shattenkirk (STL - D)
100. Jakub Voracek (PHI- LW/RW)
101. Rick Nash (NYR - LW)
102. Seth Jones (CBJ - D)
103. Boone Jenner (CBJ - C/LW)
104. T.J. Oshie (WSH - RW)
105. Jake Muzzin (LAK - D)
106. Jaroslav Halak (NYI - G)
107. Frederik Andersen (TOR - G)
108. Dougie Hamilton (CGY - D)
109. Loui Eriksson (VAN - LW)
110. Mark Stone (OTT - RW)
111. Kyle Palmieri (NJD - RW)
112. Jaromir Jagr (FLA - RW)
113. Brent Seabrook (CHI - D)
114. Jonathan Drouin (TBL - LW)
115. Anthony Duclair (ARI - LW/RW)
116. Ryan Suter (MIN - D)
117. Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM - RW)
118. Sami Vatanen (ANA - D)
119. Alexander Radulov (MTL - RW)
120. Mika Zibanejad (NYR - C/RW)
121. Teuvo Teravainen (CAR - LW/RW)
122. Patric Hornqvist (PIT - RW)
123. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJS - D)
124. Dylan Strome (ARI - C)
125. TJ Brodie (CGY - D)
126. Morgan Rielly (TOR - D)
127. Olli Maatta (PIT - D)
128. Alex Pietrangelo (STL - D)
129. Alec Martinez (LAK - D)
130. Ryan McDonagh (NYR - D)
131. Bobby Ryan (OTT - RW)
132. Jakob Silfverberg (ANA - RW)
133. Matt Dumba (MIN - D)
134. Colton Parayko (STL - D)
135. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT - G)
136. Anton Stralman (TBL - D)
137. Michael Stone (ARI - D)
138. Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG - LW/RW)
139. Vincent Trocheck (FLA - C)
140. Ryan Getzlaf (ANA - C)
141. Evander Kane (BUF - LW)
142. Matt Niskanen (WSH - D)
143. Nick Leddy (NYI - D)
144. Jason Spezza (DAL - C)
145. Mike Hoffman (OTT - LW)
146. Adam Henrique (NJD - C)
147. Craig Anderson (OTT - G)
148. Eric Staal (MIN - C)
149. Michal Neuvirth (PHI - G)
150. Ryan Pulock (NYI - D)
151. Zach Werenski (CBJ - D)
152. Ryan Kesler (ANA - C)
153. Jeff Carter (LAK- C)
154. Cam Fowler (ANA - D)
155. Alex Galchenyuk (MTL - C)
156. Mike Green (DET - D)
157. Thomas Greiss (NYI - G)
158. Jussi Jokinen (FLA - LW)
159. Brendan Gallagher (MTL - RW)
160. James van Riemsdyk (TOR - LW)
161. Jeff Skinner (CAR - LW)
162. David Pastrnak (BOS - RW)
163. Noah Hanifin (CAR - D)
164. Mats Zuccarello (NYR - RW)
165. David Backes (BOS - RW)
166. David Krejci (BOS - C)
167. Connor Hellebuyck (WPG - G)
168. Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL - G)
169. Zdeno Chara (BOS - D)
170. Tyler Johnson (TBL - C)
171. Jaden Schwartz (STL - LW)
172. Troy Brouwer (CGY - RW)
173. Andrei Markov (MTL - D)
174. Robin Lehner (BUF - G)
175. Adam Larsson (EDM - D)
176. Justin Williams (WSH - RW)
177. Marian Hossa (CHI - RW)
178. Henrik Zetterberg (DET - C/LW)
179. Cam Atkinson (CBJ - RW)
180. Chris Kreider (NYR - LW)
181. Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ - G)
182. Semyon Varlamov (COL - G)
183. Dion Phaneuf (OTT - D)
184. James Reimer (FLA - G)
185. Antti Niemi (DAL - G)
186. Oscar Klefbom (EDM - D)
187. Sam Reinhart (BUF - C/RW)
188. Leon Draisaitl (EDM - C)
189. Travis Konecny (PHI - C)
190. Joonas Donskoi (SJS - RW)
191. Alex Goligoski (ARI - D)
192. Trevor Daley (PIT - D)

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