Which Leaf Should You Draft in Fantasy Hockey

With a week until the season starts (hockey is back!) it’s probably around the time some of you start doing your fantasy drafts. You’re probably scrambling in preparation over who to pick and I don’t blame you, it’s a tough world out there.

The first thing you have to do is some research and we’re actually here to help you with that. First off, you can buy The Daily Faceoff Draft Guide here or my own projections here and that should go a long way in helping you with your picks on draft day. Both are incredible resources and you’d be foolish not to buy them in my expert opinion.

Now that we’ve got the shameless self-promo out of the way, we can go to the next step: which Leafs should you draft?

Don’t look at me like that, I know your motives. Let’s be real here, if you’re reading this you’re probably a Leafs fan and if you’re a Leafs fan you probably want a Leafs player on your fantasy team. That’s just how this works, everyone is a huge homer and wants to cheer for their favourite players on their fantasy squad. I get it. I respect it. 

So I’m here to help you out. Earlier this month I went through all the guides and told you how many points each player would get and while that’s all well and good, what do numbers really mean in fantasy anyways? This is a much tougher question than “how many points will he get” because now that he’s on your team there’s many more factors to consider than just stats.

I’m here for you to do just that. I’ll be ranking the best Leafs available to draft based on a few criteria that I decided upon myself. I know some of you expect numbers and analysis from me, and while that won’t be absent, this list will mostly be based on pure Gutalytics.

Here is the criteria I’ve decided:

What should I expect? Obviously, we have to have some reasonable expectations on the player otherwise we’ll just be heartbroken at the end of the year when our favourite Leaf didn’t carry our fantasy team to a championship. Expectations are key.

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: This doesn’t matter too much on the surface, but I want to be prepared for whatever stat categories the commissioner will throw at me, these fantasy leagues are getting very creative lately.

Where is he usually drafted? This is so important because, of course, you’re going to reach on the guy from the Leafs, every Leafs fan is guilty of it, but you have to know when to reach and perhaps, more importantly, is it worth it? 

Is he good? This is self-explanatory, but I’m going to explain it anyways: drafting bad players is not a smart managerial decision and you should not do that.

Is he trustworthy? This is perhaps the most important criteria as it determines how much you hate someone on your fantasy team. The best example I can think of is Eric Decker in fantasy football last year for me. I don’t know how he did it, but he pretty much got 10 points for me every week. Not much more, not much less. I knew I could start Eric Decker and he would just do his damn job exactly as I expected. He was so trustworthy. Another example that comes to mind is this year when I drafted Golden Tate, who I thought would be the sequel to Eric Decker, but boy was I wrong. Golden Tate is not trustworthy. I know this is hockey and not football, but the same rules apply, you want someone that will perform as you expect and not someone who’s a jerk that only scores on your bench.

So that’s how I’ve decided this, here are the rankings.

The Best Leafs To Draft For 2016-17

1. Morgan Rielly, D

What should I expect? Last year Morgan Rielly set a career high in points with 36 and this season should be even better because he’ll be passing the puck to players that can actually maybe score. 

40-50 points, lots of shots, lots of powerplay points, and a decent amount of blocks too if your league is into that sort of thing

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Cause of Autocorrected Mishaps Per Year: Spell your last name like I’d expect you to, Morgan.

Where is he usually drafted? He’s taken in 60 percent of leagues around pick 157, which means he’s probably getting overlooked in favour of other d-men. That’s a good sign if you want him and the biggest reason he’s at the top here.

Is he good? Yes, he is good, and he’ll be even better this season. He’s ready to have a big breakout year offensively.

Is he trustworthy? Have you seen Morgan Rielly’s smile? That ‘aw, shucks!’ western Canada boy demeanour? That’s a trustworthy smile that says he’ll have your daughter home by 10PM sharp. That smile also says that he’ll man the top powerplay and have chances every night to score. Because of both those things, it’s reasonable to suspect that Morgan Rielly is pretty trustworthy. 

76% trustworthy, because he is a good and nice boy who will do good and nice things

2. William Nylander, C/RW

What should I expect? A very good player right off the bat. Nylander has done his time in Sweden and in the minors, but now he’s ready to show why he was a top ten pick. He’s oozing with talent and will be put in an immediate position to succeed and score lots of points. He played at a 50 point pace during his brief NHL stint last year. No reason not to expect the same in his first full year.

Probably 50 points and some solid periphery stats, should get a decent amount of powerplay time

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Amount of Yeezys Owned More Than Dom: It is true he has a lot and I continue to have zero. Maybe one day I’ll get a pair, but then Willie will probably already have like 10 by then which will still be more than me. I’m not sure how many Yeezy’s other NHLers own, but I imagine Willie is near the top. 

Where is he usually drafted? With the 164th pick generally and in just 38 percent of leagues. That means he should be available and very late in your draft too. A perfect target.

Is he good? He is as good as his hair is beautiful.

Is he trustworthy? He is still so young, and it’s hard to trust the young ones (as we’ll see later), they’re always up to something. But he also plays two positions which is a definite sign or trustworthiness as it means he’s a hard worker. He literally has two jobs. I have like 0.5 jobs and am extremely untrustworthy. Nylander, on the other hand, is very trustworthy. He has Yeezys after-all. People with Yeezys are trustworthy.

63% trustworthy, mostly because he has very nice hair

3. James van Riemsdyk, LW

What should I expect? James van Riemsdyk is kind of boring because he pretty much does exactly what you expect and that’s that. The end. He’ll be around 25-25 to 30-30 for goals and assists and he’ll get a lot of shots and he’ll get a lot of powerplay time and he’ll just be very solid. That’s not very exciting, but it is very reliable.

30-30-60, and he’ll do a lot of other great things besides points too

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Unsuccessful Scoring Attempts Taken Between His Own Legs/60: He does this very often. He is rarely successful. In fact, he has been successful maybe once if I recall correctly. It was phenomenal, but every subsequent attempt has made that memory fade.

Where is he usually drafted? Around pick 123 and 83 percent of leagues, which is a travesty considering how good and capable he is. Maybe people just don’t believe in the Leafs and they’ll actually be steals instead of reaches this year? JVR is a steal I think.

Is he good? Yes, he is very good. He may be the best offensive weapon on this team to start the season. I’m not sure it’ll be true by the end of it.

Is he trustworthy? Yes. So very trustworthy. Remember earlier when I mentioned how reliable, but unexciting JVR’s stats were? All that means is that he’s as trustworthy as they come. JVR feels exactly like the hockey version of 2015-16 Eric Decker. Not flashy, but he just does his job and gets his 30-30 stat-line and calls it a year. He is as dependable as they come, and trust me when I say this, points that come from someone this trustworthy just feel so much more rewarding because you know the points are just for you all the faith you have in his trustworthiness. Thank you, James, for your trustworthiness.

94% trustworthy, I would trust JVR with my life

4. Nazem Kadri, C

What should I expect? A bounce back campaign and a possible big breakout. Kadri was snakebitten last year and he’s ready to regress this season. He’s taking names and scoring goals this season, just watch. On the flipside, he wasn’t on either Leafs powerplay unit during Sunday’s pre-season tilt so that’s a little alarming…

More points than last year, so many shots, and powerplay points to be determined by how much time he gets there

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Penalties Drawn Via Blatant Dives According to Fans of Opposing Teams But Look Totally Legit To Anyone Located in the Greater Toronto Area: Kadri is exceptional at this, really one of the league’s best. 

Where is he usually drafted? Only in 24 percent of leagues and around pick 164. It’s like people think he’s going to keep shooting 6.5 percent forever. A potential steal if he regresses to the mean on scoring rate alone.

Is he good? Yes, he is very good. I like him a lot. I drafted him myself. He has my seal of approval.

Is he trustworthy? On the surface, Nazem Kadri is extremely trustworthy. Small statured players usually are because they have to earn their dues in the league, and it seems Kadri is there. But the fact he wasn’t on the top two power play units in a single pre-season game leads me to believe Mike Babcock perhaps doesn’t think he’s so trustworthy. I don’t want to disagree with the league’s best coach, so I’ll defer here and say maybe he isn’t as trustworthy as I initially thought and bump him down 10 percent.

61% trustworthy, with room to go up to at least 77% trustworthiness depending on how the coach is feeling that day as Mike Babcock is 82% trustworthy and he makes the decisions around here

5. Auston Matthews, C

What should I expect? Greatness. Maybe not now. Maybe not right away. But soon. And it’ll be glorious. And perfect. And magical. Oh, wait, you mean this season? He should be pretty good at least. Expectations are always astronomical for first overall picks and they rarely live up to them. But Auston is special so I’m a bit torn here.

104 points, Calder, Rocket Richard, Art Ross, Hart, Ted Lindsay, Selke, Lady Byng, Conn Smythe, Norris, Vezina, 1st Team All Star, All Star MVP Winner, NHL Player Of The Month For October, November, December, January, February, March, EA Sports NHL18 Cover Vote, Hockey HOF Honours, #34 immediately retired by Leafs, Legend Row Statue, Public School named after him

Maybe like 50-60 points? Lots of shots and powerplay time too probably? That’s seems reasonable I think

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: NHL.com Headlines Using “Auston” in Place of “Awesome” Puns: Auston will be awesome and the headline writers will not be able to resist this easy opportunity. I predict at least six of these headlines this season, easily pacing the 870-way tie for second with 0 since no other Auston in the league spells their name so strangely.

Where is he usually drafted? He’s the most highly sought after Leaf skater at pick 122 and taken in 86 percent of leagues. That’s why he falls hard in these rankings as he’s an unknown commodity that is being drafted much higher than he probably should be. Yes, he’s the sexy Leaf pick, but there are other better players to grab in the same range.

Is he good? Yes, and he’s a Leaf. Doesn’t that just feel so great to say and think and feel deep inside your heart? Auston Matthews is a Leaf. Just keep repeating it to yourself over and over again, it feels so great.

Is he trustworthy? No, because he is a millennial and all millennials are untrustworthy.

32% trustworthy, maybe he’ll gain some trust when he isn’t off killing napkins and golf and manners and wine and just about everything that you thought was good back in your day frankly.

6. Mitch Marner, C

What should I expect? There are two ways this could go. He is either the next Patrick Kane or he plays only 10 minutes per night because he is untrustworthy. I don’t know where he’ll land, but I can’t think of anywhere reasonable in the middle.

30 or 70 points, I haven’t decided which one yet

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Zone Entries: The good news is that we actually got a guy tracking that this year! Just one guy. Don’t worry NHL, we really don’t need or want this kind of data, no sir.

Where is he usually drafted? He isn’t. Only 14 percent of leagues draft Mitch Marner and he doesn’t even have an ADP on Yahoo. That means that he’s a good choice for your potential last round pick. No risk, with a pretty good reward.

Is he good? Yes. He is better than your favourite team’s best prospect. All the best prospects in the NHL are on this team and Marner isn’t even the best one. He might not even be second. And he’s better than your favourite team;s prospect. Isn’t that great?

Is he trustworthy? We are about to find out. He’s another millennial so he gets a low score regardless, but he also likes to dipsy-doodle around defenders with reckless abandon. Sure, he’s exceptional at it, but maybe play some defense first, kiddo. That and the fact that it’s impossible to tell how much opportunity he gets for playing time. If it’s a lot, he is very trustworthy (for a youth) considering his likely draft status, if it’s none he will not even be remotely trustworthy yet.

22% trustworthy, with a lot of room for improvement based on his usage

7. Frederik Andersen, G

What should I expect? Andersen is a goalie so whatever you expect to happen, just throw it out the window right now. He’s been slightly above average for his career, so maybe he’s that Or maybe he’s more. I can’t really tell you right now.

55-60 GP, 25-30 wins, and a constant weekly comparison to James Reimer’s save percentage no matter if it’s better or worse

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Goals Against Scored High Glove: He is a Leafs goalie and this will always be their weakness no matter who is in net.

Where is he usually drafted? Usually with pick 92 and has been taken in 81 percent of Yahoo drafts. That seems way too high for a) an unproven starting goalie on a b) not very good team.

Is he good? He is a goalie so my answer is all of yes, no, or maybe. I will let you know for sure in six-to-eight months.

Is he trustworthy? There are roughly four-to-seven trustworthy goalies in the league and Frederik Andersen is not one of them. Goalies are notoriously untrustworthy and having the one from your favourite team is a recipe for disaster. It will make you cry most nights.

11% trustworthy, which is not good, but average for non-top four-to-seven goalies actually

8. Jake Gardiner, D

What should I expect? Expect disappointment. That’s what drafting Jake Gardiner is like every season and I can’t imagine why 2016-17 would be any different.

30 points, all of them while he sits on your bench

Obscure Stat He’ll Dominate: Blatant Defensive Zone Giveaways To The Other Team’s Best Player While Up By A Single Goal That You Vividly Remember More Than Any Other Good Thing Jake Gardiner Did That Day: He is so good at this category that his name is six percent of it. Incredible.

Where is he usually drafted? Usually with pick 171 and in only 17 percent of drafts. Roughly 83 percent of leagues think Jake Gardiner is not good enough for the squad, meaning you might not have to reach to acquire him. That’s something to think about it and his only positive quality. However, there’s clearly something those 83 percent of Yahoo Fantasy Hockey Players know that you may not.

Is he good? Yes. But also no. Have you ever written something nice and thoughtful about Jake Gardiner? We here at The Leafs Nation have. It rarely goes well in the comments section afterwards, so after careful deliberation, the commenters must be correct. Jake Gardiner is actually not good.

Is he trustworthy? Absolutely not. Jake Gardiner is perhaps one of the least trustworthy fantasy defensemen of all time. Here’s why. Jake Gardiner will score zero fantasy points for you specifically and many when he’s on your bench or on the team you’re playing that week. It’s weird. It’s like he knows he’s in your starting line-up and is basically, “lol, nah, not today fam” and so you keep starting him because you know he’s ready to do something and he doesn’t, so finally it’s a Saturday night and you’ve had enough of Jake Gardiner so he’s riding pine for once, and there he goes with the best game of his life, a three-assist effort against the best goalie in the league. So now you’re thinking “okay, Gards is hot, let’s go!!!!!!” and you’re excited so you use more exclamation points than necessary when you text other league members and then Jake Gardiner goes on an 11-game pointless drought. Finally, you bench him again he goes off with a goal, an assist and seven shots on net and sixteen blocks somehow. So you give him one last chance. Three games. That’s it. And what does he do? Absolutely nothing. So you drop him. You have to. He’s done nothing but make you miserable. Who picks him up? The guy you’re playing this week. What does Jake Gardiner do? He gets five points over the next two games and you lose the week by the exact amount Jake Gardiner contributed. That’s what owning Jake Gardiner in fantasy hockey is like. Is that what you want your life to be like? I don’t.

4% trustworthy, a truly terrible score for a completely unreliable fantasy player

No other Leaf is worth drafting (note: Jake Gardiner is technically worth drafting because technically he gets enough points, I just would not recommend the suffering you’d endure). Hopefully, you find a way to get one of these guys to suit up for Team “Insert The Dumbest Hockey Pun Of All Time Here.” Good luck with your draft, I’m rooting for you.