Raymond Ang/the Gauntlet

Hey nerds! Fantasy hockey is a serious game

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There is a simple point that is often overlooked by fantasy hockey degenerates and those who know and understand it are the ones who usually end up winning money, prestige and chicks (the third option does not happen very often).

The reality is that the fantasy market place is a virtual petri dish of inequality. Anyone can draft Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, but the late round picks are always where the smart general manager makes his or her hay.

The key to winning, in other words, is simple economics: never overpay and always capitalize on what the market place undervalues.

If you are a standard pool junkie, your draft likely resembles the drafts of hundreds of other pools in Canada and the United States.

The order is determined, the first guy or gal steps up to the mic/computer/beer glass and makes a quick, calculated choice between Ovechkin or Crosby.

The second person takes the first person's leftovers. Somewhere thereafter, in an indeterminate order, the names Brodeur, Luongo, Lecavalier, Iginla and Malkin are scratched off the board.

With all the well known commodities out of stock, many fantasy hockey degenerates begin to do one of two things: draft their favorite players for sentimental value or nab highly-touted rookies or players with names they recognize. Both are equally stupid paths to pursue and strategies you should avoid.

The key to success is to not only choose the best fantasy player you can with each successive draft pick, but to recognize what a player's value is to your team and to the market. For instance, in most drafts, Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos will be highly valued.

Everyone wants to look like a genius for snagging a rookie gem, but taking him too high will make you look like Britney Spears at the MTV music awards a few years back-- stupid and unfit for responsibility. Stamkos is a second-line centre on a questionable team. This equates to diminished ice time, shoddy linemates and a poor plus/minus rating.

Nonetheless, there will be general managers out there that will take him when there are still 75 point players on the board-- a point total that Stamkos will probably not even get a sniff at this season. This is a classic example of overvaluing a player.

Other notable players include Miikka Kiprusoff, Chris Osgood, Chris Drury, Niklas Backstrom and Daymond Langkow. These players are still fantasy relevant, but it is important to understand that there are other, better options to consider before taking any of them.

Conversely, there are always players that fall off the face of the fantasy planet for a plethora of reasons.

They might have had a bad year the year before because of injury, poor team performance or a volatile coach. Some of the reasons may be legitimate and you would be best served staying away from them, but there are always those players who should demand attention but do not get it.

This year there are numerous examples: Markus Naslund, Maxim Afinogenov, Patrick Marleau, Thomas Vanek, Jonathan Toews and Ilya Bryzgalov are the most noteworthy. All of these player are coming off sub-par or injury riddled years or, in the case of Toews and Bryzgalov, are not thought of as front-line fantasy producers.

These players have the potential to produce, and produce big, but they will slip in many drafts. Take them in the appropriate spots-- Toews in the fourth or fifth round, Naslund in the eighth or ninth-- and laugh all the way to the bank.

The best way to win a pool is the draft-- as opposed to adding and dropping flash-in-the-pan players-- so logically it follows that drafting well will give you the best opportunity to claim victory. Never take an over-hyped player as more often than not you will pay more than he is worth.

Draft wisely and six months down the road, you will have a squad that will be contending for glory and money. Draft stupidly and you'll end up like a Vancouver Canucks fan: an even bigger loser than you were at the start of the season.