It's time to talk keepers.
Now past the halfway point of September, fantasy hockey drafts will be ramping up with less than one month to go until the puck is dropped on the 2021-22 NHL season.
Keeper league rules
One of the most common formats in fantasy hockey is keeper leagues. For those who are unaware of the rules, here's what you need to know:
Keeper leagues are a type of fantasy league that allows you to keep players from year to year.
The number of players you're allowed to keep is typically decided by your commissioner or league.
Keeper leagues differ from dynasty leagues as you're only keeping some players, not the entire team.
Most keeper leagues allow managers to trade draft picks, which adds another layer of strategy.
Some keeper leagues enforce draft pick penalties that correspond with the round you selected a player.
Others have no draft pick penalty, which allows a manager to keep a player without having to sacrifice a draft pick.
Some keeper leagues limit the number of years you can keep a player on your team.
Players kept by managers are removed from the draft pool.
That pretty much sums up the rules of a keeper league, now let's dive into some strategy.
Keeper league strategies
As mentioned above, there is an added element of strategy in keeper leagues that differentiates it from other formats.
From trading picks to deciding who to keep, there are a number of decisions managers in keeper leagues must think about that those who play in other leagues don't have to make. Here are some important tips that'll help make you a better keeper league player.
Think about the future, but not too much
Unlike redraft, fantasy managers are forced to think about the future in keeper leagues. It's important not to think too far ahead and treat a keeper league like a dynasty league, however, as most of the players on your roster one year won't be there the following season. In a keeper league, fantasy managers should be focused on the current year and the following one. This will allow you to try to put the best team together this season while also being mindful of your draft pick situation the following season.
All or nothing
The goal in a keeper league is to win a championship. Nobody plays fantasy sports to finish in fourth or fifth place, which means you should be striving to either win your keeper league this season or the following one. The best way to do this is to be very strategic with your draft picks.
In a season where it seems like you have a legitimate chance at capturing a title, don't be afraid to part with draft picks in order to put yourself in a place to win. Do what needs to be done to win a trophy. In any fantasy league, the odds are stacked against you, so why not try to win when the opportunity presents itself?
It's also important to be self aware in a keeper league, and this works both ways. Yes, you should go for it when a window presents itself, but you also have to realize when your chances of capturing a title look bleak. If there are a few absolute powerhouses running roughshod over the rest of your fantasy league, try to deal some of your better players to these managers in an attempt to improve your draft capital as much as possible. The more draft picks you have in the early rounds of your fantasy draft, the more you improve your chances of drafting impact players that can help you win a championship the following season.
If your league allows a smaller number of keepers (three or less), don't think twice about dealing someone who you may be planning on keeping for the following season if you get an offer that completely blows you away. Your No. 1 goal should be to have as many early selections for the next year, and if that means parting with a potential keeper, then so be it.
Know your league mates' rosters
As mentioned above in the rules section, keeper leagues have a maximum number of players each team is allowed to keep and bring into the following season.
Hypothetically speaking, let's say you're in a fantasy hockey league that allows three keepers per team. At the end of the season, you sit down with your pencil and notepad and crunch numbers to determine who your three keepers are. The next thing you should do is the exact same thing for the other managers in your league. This will allow you to see who will be exposed to the draft, but it'll also create a potential opportunity for you to make a trade.
Because each team can only keep three players, there may be some managers in your league who are absolutely loaded with quality talent, but they won't be able to keep all of it. If you see a team that won't be able to protect a player who presents an upgrade over the players you have on your roster, try to make a trade for that player. The manager will likely accept an offer for much lower than what the player is worth as it beats the alternative of receiving nothing in return for a player they'll have to expose to the draft. Don't ever overpay in a situation like this, as you're the one who holds all the leverage.
Here's a more practical example:
Team A Keepers:
Team B can only keep three of those five players, meaning two will be exposed to your league's draft. Any two of those players would be better keepers than Chychrun or Wheeler for Team A, which presents an opportunity for Team A to improve its keeper situation by trading with Team B after the season and before your league's draft.
Be mindful of draft positioning and keepers
In some keeper leagues, managers must sacrifice a corresponding draft pick in order to keep a player. For example, if you drafted Kyle Connor in the fifth round of your draft, you may need to have a fifth-round pick at the end of the year in order to keep him depending on your rules. This means that when you're making trades, try your best to hold onto your fifth to ensure you can keep Connor for next year.
Some leagues require managers to part with a pick one round ahead of where the player was selected. So in the case of Connor, you'd need to have your fourth-round pick handy at the end of the season to keep him.
This league style also invites more strategy as in addition to skill, managers must think about draft pick compensation when deciding who to keep. This makes the later rounds of keeper leagues vital, as they present a massive opportunity to hit a home run and keep a player for much less than what they're actually worth. A good example of this from last year is Adam Fox. Fox held an ADP of 118.3 in Yahoo Fantasy drafts, making him a 12th round pick in 10-team leagues. Now owning an ADP of 25.5, fantasy managers who selected Fox in Round 12 in keeper leagues have a great value on their hands.
Top 100 Fantasy Hockey Keeper Rankings
These rankings are for those who play in keeper leagues that track the following categories:
Goals, assists, plus-minus, power-play points, shots on goal, faceoff wins, hits, blocks, wins, goals against, goals-against average, saves, shutouts.
Leagues that track stats such as hits and blocks are commonly dubbed "banger leagues" as they recognize and reward the high-impact components of hockey. I highly suggest people use these settings as it helps create more fantasy-relevant players and encourages more strategy.
Below are my top-100 fantasy hockey rankings for this format.
C Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
C/LW Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
C Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
LW Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
C Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
RW Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
RW David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
RW Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
LW Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
RW Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
LW Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
LW Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
LW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
D Adam Fox, New York Rangers
C Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
RW Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
G Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche
C Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
C Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
C/RW Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
LW/RW Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
C Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
G Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights
LW/RW Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
D Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
C/LW Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
LW/RW Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
C Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
RW Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
LW/RW Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
LW Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights
D Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
C Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
C Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
LW Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
C Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
LW/RW Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
D Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
G Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders
C/RW Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils
G Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
C John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
LW Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
C/RW Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
LW/RW Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets
C/LW J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
D Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights
D Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
LW/RW Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
C Vincent Trochek, Florida Panthers
G Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild
D Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
D Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers
C Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
D Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens
LW/RW Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
D Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
C Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues
G Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
D Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
C/LW Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers
C/LW Roope Hintz, Dallas Stars
C Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
D Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
LW/RW David Perron, St. Louis Blues
D Devon Toews, Colorado Avalanche
LW/RW William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
C/RW Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
C/RW Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames
G Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
D Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets
RW Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
D MacKenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers
C Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
D Alec Martinez, Vegas Golden Knights
C Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks
C/RW Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
C/RW Ryan Strome, New York Rangers
G Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
C Mat Barzal, New York Islanders
LW Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars
C William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
D Justin Faulk, St. Louis Blues
G Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
C/RW Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers
LW Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins
G Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes
C Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
LW/RW Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers
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