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The Forechecker's Fantasy Hockey System

NHL training camps open later this month, so naturally the hockey poolies are starting to come out again, scooping up fantasy hockey guides at the bookstores and snooping their way around the internet to get the latest information on player transactions, depth charts, and projections for the upcoming NHL season. Last year I had the honor of participating in James Mirtle's Bloggers Invitational, and did quite well in the regular season before pulling up lame in the playoffs. I'm bound and determined to finish the deal this season, and along the way I thought I'd share some of the tools and techniques that have helped me over the years. The nice thing about these methods is that they apply to pretty much any fantasy sport, as they've served me successfully over the course of 15+ seasons of fantasy football as well.

The basic concept that I utilize is to have the most effective draft possible; we all know that Draft Day is by far the biggest single event of a fantasy hockey season, because even if you're able to make savvy trades and waiver pickups later on, the bulk of your fate is tied to the players you start the season with. After all, you can't swing that killer trade if you don't have something decent to offer.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll dig into each of these topics further, but to give you a taste, here are the fundamentals behind the Forechecker's Fantasy Hockey System:

1) Don't Pretend You Have a Crystal Ball: the goal here isn't to prove your genius by picking the next Brad Boyes-style breakout season. Chances are, you'll end up with just another Jussi Jokinen instead, and be left waiting for that guy to prove himself worthy of your backing the next season as well. There are some areas in which you'll want to tweak a cheat sheet to reflect your own projections, but the most common mistake fantasy owners tend to make is overdoing it.

2) Understand Your Fantasy League: It doesn't matter how the big magazines rank the Top 50 players; instead, make sure your draft rankings reflect your league's specific scoring system.

3) Know Your Opponents: Is your league made up of locals who are familiar with the hometown team and division rivals, but maybe not so savvy about teams from the other conference? This could help indicate prior to the draft which players are likely to be overlooked.

4) Run the Numbers: It's not just important to know how players rank, you also need to know where the major dropoffs occur. There might be 5-10 stellar offensive forwards, for example, and then you'll have a substantial gap down to a group of 20-30 guys who are all pretty similar. Knowing where those transitions occur can direct your choice in a particular round to the position where you can make the greatest impact.

5) Have Fun: The late rounds are where there's less and less deviation between players, so that's your chance to take a flyer on your favorite mucker who you think might prosper in new surroundings, or that young, inconsistent phenom who you think is ready for NHL stardom. By choosing these guys in the late rounds, if you get burned the damage is minimal.

6) Youth Will Not Be Served: Rookies, for the most part, aren't ready to produce over the course of an 82-game regular season. Don't depend on them for steady production.

Again, I'll dig into each of these topics in more detail over the coming weeks. Until then, keep working on that oh-so-creative team name that'll keep your opponents chuckling all season long.