Written by Kris Knesis, GM Helsinki Lynx
Remember the last time the IceHL had a 20-team league? Yeah, me neither. I wasn't around yet. Fortunately, stuff like that has been preserved online. Also, it's August, so I have a lot of free time and I miss hockey.
It was October 3, 2010 when the IceHL's first-ever 20-team draft took place.
"Sid or Ovi?," pondered Jon Wold, the newly appointed GM of California Wave. "What about this Ryan Miller guy? Wonder if he's any good this year."
Ovi went first overall that year. Also, I made up Jon's internal debate there, but who's to say it wasn't exactly like that?
Many things have changed since the 2010-11 season — most of all, the look of the top 20 fantasy players in the league. I took a long, hard look at the guys selected in the first round of that season's draft. How many of them are first-round material in 2016?
It's a bit hard to tell, considering the first round isn't even expected to take place in any other form than that of Keepers. So I guess the question really is, how many of these guys are Keeper-worthy — the magic number being three — and how many of them, if any, would be kept/protected if the magic number were one? Thought I'd share my take. Off we go.
1. Alex Ovechkin
Current teams: St. Louis Archers & Alaska Huskies
Still worthy of a top selection and definitely the first round. Coming off his 17th Maurice 'Rocket' Richard trophy (that number may be exaggerated), he has remained excellent and will continue to be just that for seasons to come. Would I take Ovi number one? Probably not. But you would, wouldn't you?
2. Sidney Crosby
Current teams: Baltimore Blue Crabs & Winnipeg Winterhawks
Fresh off his second Stanley Cup victory, Sid the Kid is still number one in many books and would have a good chance of being drafter first if he were in the draft pool, a list his name will probably never again appear on within the IceHL.
3. Nicklas Backstrom
Current teams: Boston Colonials & Kansas City Smoke
Ovechkin's sidekick had a lot more value in 2010 than he does now, but he is still a protected player and as long as he keeps playing next to Ovi, he will continue to be at least second round material.
4. Steven Stamkos
Current teams: Washington Sentinels & California Wave
Stamkos is a scary guy, whether he's on the ice scaring the goalies or off the ice because of an injury or a contract situation scaring fans and fantasy owners. Still a first round talent but falling out of the top 10, I think.
5. Evgeni Malkin
Current teams: Boston Colonials & Edmonton Kodiaks
What a year 2010 was. Two Caps and two Pens in the top five. At times, Malkin has looked more dominant than his captain Sidney Crosby and that makes Geno still a guy to hold onto. So what if he's not even the top center on his team?
6. Ryan Miller (you read that right)
Current teams: none
Teams that want him? None. I mean, at this point, GMs are going to be very careful to draft a guy like Miller and that's not as much a slight on him, as the team he plays for. With 20 teams again, goalies are gaining more value. But even so, Miller's fantasy value is in the bottom third of the league goalies.
7. Drew Doughty
Current teams: New York Guardians & Fargo Frost
Coming off a Norris Trophy winning season, Doughty finds himself pretty high on everybody's lists. Not often considered a fantasy threat, Doughty has been kept by the teams of both leagues this year and will look to repeat last season's success.
8. Henrik Sedin
Current teams: none (not protected by Milwaukee Lagers & Houston Hellcats);
Rights: Geneva Mountaineers
9. Daniel Sedin
Current teams: none (not protected by Boston Colonials & Alaska Huskies)
Rights: Osaka Samurai
I'm just lumping these guys together, heck, everybody else has been doing it since 1999. Fair or not, the twins were taken one after the other in the NHL and same here in the 2010 IceHL draft. Clearly, their best days are behind them, however the magic they make on ice together is still a treat to watch. I don't know for sure, but I don't think they've ever played on the same team in the IceHL. Obviously, they have to be drafted one after another and barring pick trades, only Minnesota Mammoths, Florida Flamingos, Salt Lake City Scorpions or Moscow Cosmonauts are in position to do that. Make it happen, IceHL.
10. Dany Heatley
It seems such a long time ago, as I'm writing this sentence, but that year Heatley was actually the 2nd best player on his Scorpions team, right after... Danny Briere. Good year for the Dans. Yeah, nothing much else to say here, moving on.
11. Alexander Semin
We expected so much of him, but in the end all we could do was watch him being murdered by Michel Therrien in Montreal. In 2010 though, he did okay, finishing second among forwards on a struggling Milwaukee Lagers team.
12. Zach Parise
Current teams: none (not protected by Minnesota Mammoths & Edmonton Kodiaks)
A young Devil drafted by Hellcats, seemed fitting in 2010. In 2016, Parise is still probably at least a top-100 player, but no longer a three-player-keeper-material. I think that has to do with his injury history as well as being on Minnesota Wild, the poster team for mediocrity.
13. Mike Green
Current teams: none (not protected by Milwaukee Lagers & Auckland Rockhoppers)
In the IceHL World he was a free agent for most of the season, always somewhere at the top of that FA list, but that's about it. He's likely to find home in a 20-team league, but possibly not via draft.
14. Pavel Datsyuk
This is going to be a really sad paragraph. Datsyuk won the IceHL West title with Scorpions last year and they probably wouldn't have kept him anyway, but what he brought to the ice was something special. Sorry for all the sad words. To lighten up the mood, let's all imagine Pavel in the ugly Coyotes jersey for a few secs.
15. Ilya Kovalchuk
In the 2010 IceHL Draft, Datsyuk went before Kovalchuk. In real life, Kovalchuk went to SKA St. Petersburg before Datsyuk. That's all I could come up with for this paragraph. Kovi sucks, I never liked him anyway.
16. Joe Thornton
Current teams: amazingly, none (not protected by Halifax Dragons & Salt Lake City Scorpions)
Rights: Helsinki Lynx (that's me)
What a year this bearded Scorpion-Dragon-Lynx had last season. I'm guessing not a top-45 guy in the league anymore (wait, what?), but if he can repeat once again, somebody's going to be pretty sorry for choosing Brad Marchand over Jumbo Joe.
17. Eric Staal
Current teams: none (not protected by Calgary Stallions)
Staal has declined very steadily and quickly too. He might be able to return to form this season with Bruce Boudreau coaching Eric in his new green sweater. Staal used to be a game changing juggernaut and can still be a valuable depth guy at least. Expect him to be off the boards by round 10. Or don't.
18. Roberto Luongo
Current teams: none (not protected by Hamilton Steelcats & Vancouver Lumberjacks)
Strombone enjoyed a Vezina consideration worthy season last year and his team, Florida Panthers, are on the rise. The problem with Luongo is his age and injuries and now he'll have to share the crease with James Reimer too. But just for the fun of it, whoever gets Thornton should also get Roberto. Old, awesome dudes.
19. Duncan Keith
Current teams: none (not protected by New York Guardians & Calgary Stallions)
Keith's fantasy value has never been as high as his on ice real life value, but he's coming off a strong season and after all the young hot quarterbacks are gone, you can expect Keith to be drafted by someone who's had him under the radar all along. And they'll come away with some nice points there.
20. Jeff Carter
Current teams: none (not protected by Florida Flamingos & Vancouver Lumberjacks)
Carter seems to be another one of those players who many think are past his prime but could actually start lighting it up. Especially if he keeps playing with Tyler Toffoli. The LA Kings are taking breaths, rather than steps at this stage, but they're not out of it yet.
So, four of the 20 guys are not even in the league anymore. Another two are not even likely to be picked. What about the others?
How many of 2010's top-20 players are now on a team? The number is six — all, but Ryan Miller, of the top seven from the 2010 IceHL Draft. Two more, the Sedin twins, lumped together once again, could be claimed by the Osaka Samurai and Geneva Mountaineers. And via the Compensation Draft, all the other ones could find homes before the 2016 IceHL Draft too — but that's a bit of a stretch.
And how many are top-20 worthy in 2016? I'll say five, which are also the first five guys taken in the 2010 IceHL draft. Sorry, Doughty.
What say you?