On Sept. 18, the ESPN NHL team held its fantasy draft.
Below are the results of the draft, along with team-by-team analysis from our fantasy hockey experts, Sean Allen and Victoria Matiash. The breakdown should give you a good idea of where certain players start to go off the board, as well as how we constructed our lineups.
The league follows standard scoring -- except we don't use PIM as a category -- and is 10-team head-to-head each category in format. Keep that in mind as you review the picks.
The participants include: our fantasy gurus Sean and Victoria; senior NHL writer Greg Wyshynski; national NHL writer Emily Kaplan; NHL prospect and draft writer Chris Peters; NHL editors Tim Kavanagh, Ben Arledge and Chris Sprow; ESPN Stats & Info hockey research producer Vince Masi; ESPN The Magazine NHL researcher/reporter Sach Chandan.
Let's start with Emily, the winner of the No. 1 pick.
You'll be hard-pressed to draft a team you're not happy with when you land the first overall pick, and sure enough, Emily managed to put together a team that should compete. You have to wait a long time after selecting McDavid in a snake draft, but the depth of the first couple of rounds takes away some of the pain. Landing Kane and Burns at the two-three turn packages an elite trio on which Emily can depend. And Kopitar in the fifth round is highway robbery.
I love the strategy of stacking some power plays without reaching for them. Emily has Kane, Toews and Schmaltz for the Hawks, Kopitar and Brown for the Kings, Rakell and Montour for the Ducks, and Dumba, Granlund and Suter for the Wild. If you believe in a player, it stands to reason you believe in the guys he shares the ice with. In net, waiting on a second goaltender and ending up with Lundqvist is OK, but I would have liked to have seen a third goaltender taken with some upside. -- Allen
Securing Bobrovsky as an elite fantasy netminder in his third go-around, Sach then had the luxury of picking Tarasenko 39th overall. Impressive grab at that stage. But beyond Bob, Chandan's netminding syndicate sports concern. One of Elliott or Markstrom had better work out, in case the Maple Leafs win every game 6-5 this season, inflating Andersen's goals-against average. Beyond Letang, the defensive force underwhelms with Ellis, Ristolainen, Faulk and Spurgeon. There's not a single top power-play performer within that group if Rasmus Dahlin and Dougie Hamilton take over in Buffalo and Carolina, respectively. But the late-ish Pettersson snag could work our beautifully, as the 19-year-old projects to serve as the Canucks' second-line center. -- Matiash
With Taylor Hall and Patrick Kane still available -- especially Kane -- selecting Forsberg 18th overall strikes as a curious move. High ceiling aside, the 24-year-old Predators center hasn't really wowed in fantasy circles yet. Targeting an elite defenseman in the third-round, in company with some other managers, Sprow did well to secure Hedman as a standout top-three, blue-line asset. I'm all over grabbing Svechnikov at 78th overall, too. The early Calder candidate could score 30 goals on Sebastien Aho's wing. Looking past this manager's particular partiality for Detroit players in the draft's latter half (Chris responded to this by saying those grabs were "purely for entertainment purposes devoid of any strategy"), Klefbom sparkles as the Oilers' top offensive-defenseman. As his No. 2 netminder, Price could be in for a rough year, through little fault of his own. The Canadiens are not a good hockey team. There will be a lot of pressure there with a Flyers' part-timer (Neuvirth) as option No. 3. -- Matiash
In stride with my own drafting rhythm of waiting until the fourth round to snag a top netminder, Wyshynski did well to nail down Murray. After a tumultuous 2017-18, Pittsburgh's No. 1 is due for a smoother ride this season. It was a particularly solid get after acquiring Benn and Eichel. My own 15th-round plans dissolved with Skinner's removal from the board, although perhaps Greg got some help. The former Hurricanes winger should score 35 goals as a member of Eichel's top-line entourage. Ekman-Larsson, boasting potential for a 50-point campaign with an ever-improving Arizona squad, was a straight-up gift at 124th overall. Wysh probably could've waited on Saad after last year's dreary 35-point campaign. No real standouts in closing rounds outside of Patrick, who could blossom further as the Flyers' second-line center. -- Matiash
This team has a classic team building approach with balance. After the first seven rounds, Vince came away with two goaltenders, three elite scorers and two top-end defensemen. I love the Crosby-Kuznetsov-Barkov combination. Couple that with the fact that Vince then came away with Jones and Byfuglien on the blue line and Vasilevskiy and Bishop in net, and you can't ask for a better start to a draft. The building stays strong from there, too. Simmonds comes at an appropriate discount in the 12th and could return value in spades. The same could be said for Duchene in the 20th. The Senators are going to be bad, but Duchene will still get his. -- Allen
Wheeler and Marchand aren't two picks that get you excited, but they are two picks that get the job done. Both are consistent, elite players with top-10 upside. Getting Gibson as the eighth goalie off the board is good drafting, but only having Grubauer and Kinkaid as possible G2s out of the draft leaves me wanting more. Tim is going to have to work the wire or trade to find some additional goaltending. I like the Nylander pick in the seventh round. That feels like it has enough contract-concern discount baked in to make it worthwhile. Karlsson and Werenski are good toppers for the defense, but it gets questionable from there with Butcher, Schultz, Orlov and Nurse to fill out the group. It could work out for Tim, and waiting on defense is what I did in this draft, too, but you need to have a strong stomach and willingness to continue working after the draft in order for this have success. -- Allen
A prospect guy at heart, Chris went with only skaters under the age of 25 for his team (sans the accidental autodraft of Bailey). Of course, with the talent of the NHL's youth, this didn't require him to reach at any point in the draft. He started with MacKinnon, Laine and Hellebuyck, which is an exceptional core. Where Peters didn't reach but will have some problems with this team is on defense. While there are a ton of great forwards under the age of 25, defensemen tend to come into their own a little later in their 20s. Gostisbehere wasn't necessarily a reach in the fourth round, but I don't like his value there. On the other hand, Chris handcuffed the pick with Provorov, so he should be OK. But the defense core as a whole is Gostisbehere, Provorov, Rielly, McAvoy, Dahlin, Trouba and Heiskanen. This should be the best group of defensemen you could possibly assemble in the 2020-21 season, but I'm not so sure about this year. -- Allen
In for a penny, in for a pound. I really like the strategy of parlaying your first-round pick. After taking Seguin eighth overall, Victoria made sure to snag Radulov and Klingberg in the fifth and sixth rounds to collect three-fifths of the Stars' power play. I'm not a fan of going this early on Quick -- I don't disagree with him being the next goaltender off the board at this point, I just don't like it in the fourth round. Goalies look like they got pushed up a little in this draft, but Quick's ADP is close to 50, and this pick was No. 33. -- Allen
The eighth-round Boeser selection caps off a run of seven quality picks before matters get more interesting. Drafting Perry within the top 100, Allen is clearly counting on a resurgence from the Ducks' winger following three years of decline. The Crawford pick in middle rounds surprises in that he's yet to practice with the rest of the Blackhawks. I'm uneasy about the goalie's enduring concussion-related concerns. Outside of plus/minus, the Weber-Petry one-two punch offers decent fantasy payout in the latter holding down Weber's spot on the top power play until the veteran's return from knee surgery. Neal serves as an impressive late-round pick as a potential Flames top-line winger alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. -- Matiash
The defensive quartet of Subban, Doughty, Shattenkirk and Keith could be this league's strongest, if the latter two enjoy bounce-back campaigns, as hoped. Panarin shines as an early fourth-round pick. Don't be surprised if Columbus' top winger nets 90 points this contract year. Snagged in Ben's 12th turn, Connor should pay out handsome dividends in his sophomore campaign, now a fixture on the Jets' top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. Calgary's Smith serves as reassuring insurance if injury befalls Fleury or Dubnyk. DeBrusk is a nice late-round grab, too. This fantasy team is boringly good. -- Matiash