Keep top whatever lists on hand when your brain won't work. The Yahoo and ESPN lists have come a long way, but sometimes they overvalue guys and undervalue guys who were injured. That's why I'd have some sleepers in mind when I would go into a draft.
Here's the main things I look at:
Chris Nichols from Sportsnet.ca: This guy is the best I've found in my somewhat lengthy travels. He just seems to have a great grasp on things and also is great in that he does frequent Q+A sessions to help people decide between very similar players and such. He came out with some great lists:
His awesome top 100 list, with "filler" for those extra rounds and honorable mentions
His top goalies list
Sleepers and rebounders (note: this one is better to look at before drafts, as it's harder to scan when you have that clock bitching at you)
There's some pretty silly ranks here (if you draft Jose Theodore #7 you deserved to be laughed out of the building...maybe even neutered) but it's not all bad. Plus, it has projections, which can help you decide who to draft when.
- Know your categories
For instance, you might be in a league that counts PIM - which will give you the odd feeling of joy when a player takes a dumb penalty (see: Bertuzzi, Todd). In a PIM league, Daniel Carcillo can become a pivotal fantasy player. In a league without, he's probably worthless.
The same goes for faceoff wins. Guys to remember in that category are Rod The Camel/The Bod Brindamour, Chris Drury and wingers who tend to get FW (guys like Iginla and Zetterberg fit that bill).
Also, here's a HUGE factor: take a look at how many goalie categories there are.
One league I'm in has 5/15 categories covered by goaltending numbers. That's quite a lot, but you can also shoot to get dominate offensive categories and still win a lot.
But another league has 4 offensive categories and 4 goalie categories. This makes goaltending HUGE. On a normal team you'd have 2-3 goalies (maybe 4) and at least 10 skaters. That puts an almost outrageous emphasis on getting goalies, since there's only maybe 5-15 elite/very good goalies.
So, again, keep in mind those kind of numbers.
- For the love of God, check injury news before the draft
This is really important. The preseason can often bring season ending injuries and change the balance of power in the NHL. Keep your eyes on such news. There's nothing more awkward than getting the news that Marian Gaborik slipped on a noodle again when you made him your second round savior. Some guys who hurt, off the top of my head:
Sergei Zubov (unknown severity)
Sergei Gonchar (I wouldn't draft him - it could be bad)
Ryan Whitney (at least 2 months, from what I've read)
Justin Williams (might be season ending)
- Also, here's my BUYER BEWARE list:
If you draft him, you might be a gambling man. When he's healthy he's legitimately one of the most dangerous and most captivating players in the NHL. But his injury history is astonishing. At least Dominik Hasek waited til his 30's to have a macaroni groin.
Gaborik and Jovocop are two guys who had anamoly healthy seasons. Since Jovo seems to be going late in drafts, he might be worth the risk.
Sergei Gonchar and Zubov
Gonchar's injury is a scary mystery. Zubov is starting to fall apart.
Another Dallas Star who is absolutely injury prone.
Theoretically, he could be a BIG steal. Especially if he plays Anson Carter to the Sedin twins. But this guy is the Wile E. Coyote of the NHL.
The guy is fantastic to watch and has balls of steal, but you have to be cautious with a guy who suffered a broken neck. Just don't reach for him.
This guy is ridiculously talented, but he's as fragile as a pacifist in "The Big Lebowski." Might be worth a last round prayer.