You've seen a thread somewhere on your favorite messageboard. "Mock Draft Signup!". Odds are good you've seen several of these threads by now. Some promise seven rounds, others three, others just the first thirty. But it doesn't matter. You're hungry to take the ropes of a team at the (fictional) draft table. But before you go and book your social calender solid with twenty mocks, here are some tips- good for both participants and commissioners alike.
1. You Can Count on Me
There's nothing more frustrating than being the lone dedicated participant in any kind of Internet-coordinated activity. So before you jump right in, take a look around. I'm lucky; there are a group of regulars who get together every year on the board I frequent, and we all know we're pretty reliable. Some are even moderators. But you might not have that luxury. Take a look around- are there many participants with a post count under 10? That's probably not a good thing.
2. The Departed
You may have run into this if your board features one, maybe two, major mock drafts. There are still five or six teams left, but your first... and second, and third, and fourth choices are gone. Here's my super-secret backup plan: pick the team with the worst possible prospect pool. Tampa Bay is my favorite in this situation. Since the Lightning really could use anything in the pipeline, you're free to draft whatever you like. I tend to get my place in the annual big mock I referenced earlier with my favorite team, and then find a second draft in which I play the part of the TBL. In the first draft, I stick pretty close to addressing my team's needs. In the second, I get to let loose and take all those risky players- Angelo Esposito, Luca Cunti, Mark Katic in '07, for example.
3. The Hi-Lo Country
Let's get one thing straight: if you have no patience, and just want to pick your guy, stay as far away from mock drafts in which trades are allowed. You aren't going to be happy. Deals take time, a team may go right to the end of their time on the clock to do one. This also goes back to pedigree- if all you're seeing draft discussion is "can we trade?" or "all draft picks available", you're probably in a bad place. If you've already opted in and a resolution on allowing trades has passed, recommend a cap on the number of moves.
Is the draft commish proposing a 24-hour time limit for picks? Do the math to see if that's reasonable. If it's just one round, that's not bad- at worst, your draft will take a month to complete, and you'll be done by the first round of the playoffs if you started now. But it's pretty easy to see that a 24-hour limit is NOT going to work for a full seven round affair. If, at worst case- and you should always be thinking worst case- everyone takes the full time they're on the clock, you'll be done your draft in... seven months. That's the start of training camp for next season. Commishes, do this: take the planned start date of your draft, take the number of hours between then and the real draft, and divide by the number of picks. So, if you plan to start next Saturday, that's 115 days, or 2760 hours. And 2760 divided by 210, as we all know, is 13.1428571. So twelve hour picks assure you will be finished before June 24th. That extra hour per pick will give your active members time to choose a consensus pick, or just specify the pick as skipped altogether. Whatever rule you've gone with.
5. The Grifters
Speaking of which, how will your mock draft decide what to do with those picks that expire without anyone being chosen? There are three. major schools of thought on how to approach off-the-clock choices. First, there's the consensus method: a number of members, perhaps three, must all agree on one guy. This is usually pretty quick, but I have seen it drag out while a third or even second nomination for a pick is waited on. You then run the risk of 30 hours going by without their being any pick- 24 hours on the clock, plus six waiting for other participants to help make a consensus choice. The second option is simpler: the highest-ranked available player, as specified by CSB, is automatically chosen. No major drawbacks with that method. And thirdly, you can simply skip the pick and have the GM make it when they return. I personally don't like this. If the GM never comes back, you're left with weird gaps in the draft order, and players fall unrealistically. Since I'm a stickler for realism, though, and not everyone is, go with what you feel is best.
6. I Call First
Just a minor thing: draft order. Ideally, you'd start your mock after the playoffs and go with the real order. Likely not going to happen, since the playoffs could easily finish June 4th, leaving 20 days to make 210 picks- a time on the clock of 2.2 hours. That's just a little brisk. Instead, a lot of drafts will begin at the end of the regular season- a month from now- or even this week. In the case of the latter, draft order is usually decided by using today's standings. Philadelphia receives first overall, etc. The draft order could end up wildly different, however. But that's not really a concern if you're just looking for a quick and dirty method.
Okay, so you've chosen a team, and decided- or helped decide- the rules governing your mock draft. And you've set the order. And now picks are being made. How can you quickly avoid a snag? PM the guys in front of you. It's good practice to suggest EVERYONE do this. The GM that is picking first overall will ask the GM second overall his choice just in case he's not around. And the GM in second will give the GM in third a list of two players. Etc. etc. etc. Do this once each round, AND give your picks to the draft commish, and the odds of a holdup ever happening are ridiculously small.
... News. You're on the clock. But your guy is gone. Maybe you're considering trading down, since your league allows it. Before you do, consider this: asset management is as important as good scouting at the draft table. Don't believe me? Look at the Colorado Avalanche. In 2005, through trading players and other picks, the Avs ended up with FOUR selections in the second round. Ryan Stoa, Paul Stastny, Tom Fritsche and Chris Durand were selected with those draft picks. Not bad for a team facing a dismal future thanks to an empty cupboard on the farm. We know what Stastny's become. Stoa and Fritsche are honing their games- shutdown forward and playmaking specialist, respectively- and Durand... well, Durand is busting. But three for four is still excellent. In a supposedly weak draft, one can guarantee that a team will attempt a similar proliferation of picks. If you have chosen one of the three teams in this year's draft that holds three first round draft choices- a first in NHL history- spread them around. Three first rounders could get you a guy in the top ten (Gagner?) a guy at 15 (Esposito?) and someone in the bottom 20 (Cunti?). OR, it could get you a top-five pick (Cherepanov) and you keep your bottom 20 pick. Or you keep your two top fifteen picks and you trade your later first for second rounders. I was in this exact situation in my mock, playing the GM of Edmonton, which has procured Anaheim and NYI's first rounders as well as their own. What did I do? Both. I both moved up... and down:
Los Angeles gets: 27th overall.
Edmonton gets: 53rd and 56th overall.
Edmonton gets: 3rd overall.
Columbus gets: 11th and 16th overall.
Now, neither were clear rip-offs. I maybe got two lower second rounders than I would have gotten from someone else, but with trades fast and furious in my mock, I had to either move or be left without a partner at the dance. In the second deal, Columbus could have maybe got two higher picks, but he has the first rounders where you want them in a wildcard draft: just outside the top ten and just outside the top fifteen. Any fallers will be available. Both were smart transactions that fit the needs of the teams that made them.
Just to continue the above point- since it was getting a little big. Who did I roll the dice on? Well, the second round is just underway, so my second round selections have yet to come up. But at 3rd overall, I took one Alexei Cherepanov. He thanked me by breaking Pavel Bure's record for goals by a rookie in the Russian league. A future possible replacement for Ryan Smyth on the left side, I look forward to what 'Cherry' and Ales Hemsky can do in the future.
10. After Hours
So what do you do in the time between picks? Get to know each other. That's what mock drafts are for- making friends. Don't get too stressed out. Don't get too nutty (note to self). Have fun. And remember, there's no such thing as a bad draft- just bad scouting.
And as a side note, the first person who makes a post in the Prospects forum correctly answering just what the names of each section have in common wins a prize. The Dobber Hockey crew are not eligible (sorry boss).