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#TIGPHFFantasy 2021-22: Trends in team-building

Which players were selected the most?

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

When the horn sounded, five dozen managers had submitted their teams before the deadline for the 2021-22 PHF fantasy hockey season, hosted by The Ice Garden. That puts us on par with the size of the league we had last year when the PHF (then the NWHL) hit the ice in Lake Placid.

Since our last time hosting a fantasy hockey league at The Ice Garden, we’ve learned a few valuable lessons that have been applied this year. We also were getting buckled up for the longest season of women’s fantasy hockey yet, which will hopefully add another level of enjoyment to what promises to be an exciting season of PHF hockey.

With around 60 teams confirmed (a few are pending roster corrections to be eligible) and the first weekend of the season behind us, we have some data to look at. Let’s dive right into some trends in team-building and figure out which players fans will be cheering extra loud for this season.

Most Popular Players

Fittingly enough, the most popular player on PHF fantasy rosters also happens to be the only PHF player we know of that created a roster of their own. Carly Jackson is on 28 teams, which is accounts for nearly half of the league. Jackson is also on her own team, which I feel compelled to disclose is called the Magic Mullets. The Beauts and about half of our fantasy hockey managers are ready to follow that mullet to glory.

The most popular skater is reigning MVP Mikyla Grant-Mentis, who is on 25 of the approved rosters. Grant-Mentis has already rewarded those who spent 105 TIG Bucks on her by picking up three assists in her first game of the season. MGM also registered 7 iSOG and went 9-8 on the faceoff dot to add even more value for her managers. If she ends up taking (and winning) draws this year, she should be a lock for one of the most productive fantasy skaters in the league — well, let’s be honest, that was already the case with her playing wing.

Rounding out our top-three is the most-drafted defender, Grant-Mentis’ teammate in Toronto, Saroya Tinker. Going off of what we saw at Yale and in Lake Placid, Tinker is brimming with potential and it looks like many managers saw her as a player they simply needed to have on their squad.

Next up are two more goalies, Abbie Ives (17) and Amanda Leveille (15). Leveille and Lovisa Selander were the most expensive goalies to have on your team but plenty of managers were willing to fork out the dough to have her between the pipes. Even more were banking on 90 TIG Bucks being a bargain to land the much-hyped Whale’s starting goaltender. Something that Ives and Leveille have in common is that they were expected to be workhorse starters entering the season, but we saw the Whale start Mariah Fujimagari in the second game of the first weekend’s series against the Riveters. That might be something to keep an eye on.

Betting on the vets

For whatever reason, it looks like most managers were more comfortable spending their TIG Bucks on established pros overs rookies. By far, the most popular first-year player was Kennedy Marchment, who landed on one-fifth of all created rosters — and Marchment has pro experience to her name.

The most popular true rookie drafted among managers was Buffalo’s Anjelica Diffendal, who landed on just over half a dozen teams. The Connecticut Whale’s Allie Munroe and the Abby Cook of the Boston Pride also landed on seven squads but they both join the PHF after playing professionally in Sweden. Maybe Diffendal will prove to be a steal at her draft cost of 70 TIG Bucks. We’ll soon find out.

Chances are, there will be at least a few rookies that managers will soon regret not taking in the draft. The good news there is that most of them are priced affordably and can be swapped into a manager’s team for a player of greater or equal value that may get off to a slow start.

Potential Sleepers

Here’s something I definitely didn’t expect — Lenka Čurmová was the most-drafted Riveter by managers, landing on 11 rosters. Even though she missed the opening weekend of the season with Olympic qualifiers, I think a bunch of our league’s managers may be onto something here. Čurmová could end up on the Riveters’ power play, which has been productive already. She also had 11 points in 23 games in her rookie season with the Beauts in 2019-20, so we know she can pick up points.

Boston Pride sophomore Taylor Wenczkowski also landed on more rosters than I was expecting — among Pride players, only Mallory Souliotis and Christina Putigna ended up on more fantasy rosters. She also has already scored a goal. So, what did so many of you know that I didn’t know? Come to think of it, betting on Boston’s depth forwards having productive years is a pretty safe bet. That’s why I think Katelynn Russ is another sleeper to keep an eye on for Boston.

Reflections

Without diving into it too much, it looks like people were hesitant to spend as much money on goalies as they did in our Lake Placid tournament. That may be because goalies were made less valuable after proving to be too valuable in my last few iterations of fantasy hockey. It may also be a result of the big price tag attached to goalies like Selander and Leveille. Then again, maybe folks were just ready to follow the mullet. I can’t blame them.

More players were drafted from the Toronto Six (146) than any other PHF roster. The team with the fewest players drafted was the Metropolitan Riveters (76), which was nearly half the total of Six players selected. So, what’s the deal here? Did I do a poor job in player valuation or are people more convinced they will get more bang for their buck out of Six players than Rivs players? I’m fascinated to get to the bottom of this one. We’ll see how I did with player valuation this time around as the season progresses.

As a final note: I expect I’ll be increasing the salary cap to ensure that more managers and fans get to pick more of their favorite players. The question is: how much should it increase by? Another 100 TIG Bucks? 200? Let me know what you think in the comments.

A massive thank you to everyone who made a team and especially to those who offered to add to our grand prize, which will go to the winner’s charity of choice. I hope you all had fun building your teams. Remember, your work isn’t done yet. You can make changes to your roster as the season progresses so keep a close eye on who’s hot and who’s not and what you can do to get the most out of your squad.