Meet the Owners Profile: Yetis

Meet Allan and Colin.

Franchise Name: Northeast Yetis

Status: Original Owners

Owners/GM: Allan Schmitt and Brayden Stevenson are co-owners; Colin Mills is GM

Ages: Allan is 22; Colin is 30

Occupations: Farmer; N/A

Current Towns: Carrot River, Sask.; St. Catharines, Ont.

Hometowns: Carrot River, Sask.; Fonthill, Ont.

Favourite NHL Teams: Winnipeg Jets; Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs

Favourite NHL Players Past: Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Martin Brodeur; Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Darcy Tucker, Gary Roberts

Favourite NHL Players Present: Mark Scheifele, Connor McDavid, Kyle Connor, Sidney Crosby; Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Patrick Kane

Bio: Allan currently grain farms with his dad and has a small cattle operation. He likes all sports and the outdoors.

Colin was a little late to hockey (as a Canadian) after an accident on the ice as a three-year-old put him off of the activity. His dad had to bribe him with quitting smoking before he tried lacing up the skates again at age seven. His dad never ended up quitting, but his bribe had worked and Colin fell in love with the game.

At 18, when deciding what school and career path to follow, Colin chose to pursue a career in hockey because he knew it was something that would never feel like work. Colin studied Kinesiology and Sport Management at Western University and interned with the London Knights and Siskinds Sports Management during that time. After graduating, Colin continued on this path doing data entry for the NHL and contributing for The Hockey Writers before securing a position on the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour for its inaugural two seasons. On Hometown Hockey, Colin had the privilege to live his hockey dream with countless unforgettable experiences, especially as the everyday handler for current and past NHL stars. Colin’s last position in hockey was on the analytics team for the London Knights, working closely with Jake Goldberg — now of the Arizona Coyotes.

A perspective change at age 27 led to a new path for Colin, but the obsession with hockey hasn’t subsided. The UFHL presents a unique opportunity to continue to feed his hockey brain while also the potential to cash in big on all of this accrued hockey knowledge. Colin is thrilled to be involved with this exciting platform and humbled to be entrusted as the General Manager of the Northeast Yetis!

QUESTION: The Yetis are the envy of the UFHL as the one and only owner of Connor McDavid on the UFF Sports platform. He comes with a $12.5M cap hit in a salary-cap league that mirrors the NHL, but The Athletic just named that one of the NHL’s 10 best contracts. The question is, what is McDavid worth to the Yetis? Have you put a value on him in the form of a pricetag? They say everyone has a price — and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, was traded (err, sold) — so is McDavid potentially available or is he going to be a Yeti for life? Safe to assume you are getting offers or inquiries? Are you listening or is McDavid untouchable?

ANSWER: We are always trying to improve our team (generic robot answer). It would be foolish of me to not listen to offers on McDavid, especially in a league where real cash is available to be acquired for my owners. I’ve had some very lucrative offers presented, but nothing that has really come close to the value the Yetis place on McDavid — not only in our pursuit of a championship next year, but also on the future platform with the unveiling of the Legends League. Nothing is impossible, but barring an astronomical offer (in perspective to assets that exist today, something like Nathan MacKinnon++), it’s very likely that Connor will retire a Yeti.

QUESTION: McDavid’s cap hit is the league’s biggest and the salary cap in general is the biggest challenge for GMs in both the NHL and the UFHL. Can you talk about building around McDavid as a big ticket and the importance of surrounding him with affordable talent, while staying in win-now mode as long as the league’s best player is on your roster? This is right up your alley Colin, coming from a background in Sport Management, so maybe it’s not as difficult or daunting for you as it might seem to others? How are you handling that balancing act?

ANSWER: One of the reasons I wanted to get involved in the hockey industry was my interest in the salary cap and determining the monetary value of a player. I can’t really say we’ve surrounded him with affordable talent after acquiring Panarin, but that move was too tempting to pass on. Internal dialogue with ownership has limited me from moving other players to mitigate these cap issues, but I believe it’s also forced me to deal with the cap situation I’ve put us in and therefore made me a better GM. We know that over the long run this might be unsustainable, but as long as we don’t have any anchor contracts, we are confident that players will be able to be moved when the time comes.

The cap constraints have initiated deals to bring in players that will contribute far above their cap hit — namely guys like Nic Roy, Drake Batherson, Max Comtois and Bryan Rust. Our defense is young but talented, and as a group will be earning less than McDavid alone. I would also argue our goaltending has the best bang for buck in the league, so it’s just about adjusting to your best players.

QUESTION: Any bets on which McDavid-led franchise will win a Cup first — the Edmonton Oilers with the Stanley Cup in the NHL or the Northeast Yetis with the Klein Cup in the UFHL? Or the Founders’ Trophy as regular-season champions, for that matter, since the regular season is harder to win in the fantasy world. Any thoughts on which franchise is better positioned for success on paper — the Oilers or the Yetis? Feel free to compare and contrast a little.

ANSWER: Obviously I am tremendously biased, but I easily see the Yetis winning the Founders’ Trophy before the Oilers win the Stanley Cup. For us to have a shot at the Klein Cup, we will need McDavid to lead the Oilers deep into the playoffs, so that is never an easy thing to predict. Simply put, fantasy hockey is a much different animal than the real thing and obviously our roster construction reflects that. I don’t mean this as an insult to the Oilers or their future, but I don’t believe they have the depth, goaltending or defensive-minded players/system to succeed in the playoffs as they are currently built.

With the UFHL as a very new entity, I also believe there is less parity and competition that we will face in the next couple of years compared to the Oilers. It’s not that they don’t have a good team, it’s just that there are better teams they have to go through to win the prize — namely, the Avalanche. This will only be compounded by the fact that the Yetis will have an entire season to accumulate points and separate from the pack, whereas anything can happen in a real life seven-game series. One thing we have in common is that if McDavid gets hurt, we are both kind of screwed.

QUESTION: Colin’s first trade as GM was to land Artemi Panarin as a running mate for McDavid — Panarin is to McDavid in the UFHL what Leon Draisaitl is to McDavid in the NHL. Talk about pulling off that blockbuster for your first act of business, which saw the Yetis part with Adam Fox, Ilya Samsonov and their first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2020 Entry Auction? The Yetis also got Tomas Nosek as part of that trade while dumping Brendan Smith’s contract in the process. Panarin is another big ticket — with the NHL’s second-highest cap hit at $11.64M — but also another Hart Trophy candidate in his prime. Again, the balancing act to afford both McDavid and Panarin must keep you up at night? At more than $24M combined, they account for 30 per cent of your total cap in the present as just two of 23 players on the Yetis’ active roster. That is alarming, but NBA teams win like that all the time and perhaps fantasy hockey franchises can too? Is this an NBA model that the Yetis are utilizing? Are you preparing for (or bracing for) other cap casualties in order to keep McDavid and Panarin in the fold long term or are you anticipating (and banking on) a rise in the NHL ceiling after COVID to alleviate that financial stress?

ANSWER: Don’t forget to add Marner to the list. Together, they are our $35-million-dollar men. As mentioned, I put myself in this situation and I embrace the challenge of putting together a competitive roster around them. At the end of the day, it forces me to be better at my job. Would I like more cap flexibility? Who wouldn’t? But luckily none of the complications of real life exist in fantasy hockey trades like they do in the NHL — marketing potential, relationships, uprooting families, etc. That’s why we are taking the approach that any future cap problems are exactly that — future problems. There will be some moves we have to make, but we are confident we won’t have to sacrifice much (if any) value in making those deals. While they might hurt us in the immediate future, they will likely contribute to our future success.

I would be remised if I didn’t acknowledge my ownership group in the ability to acquire a guy like Panarin. I walked into a team with some great young assets and a huge amount of cap space to be able to pull off a deal like that. They showed great confidence in me by allowing me to part with some legitimate young talent and trust me to navigate the cap implications. We see the Rangers as a tremendous young and upcoming team — even more now with the addition of first overall pick Alexis Lafrieniere — and are extremely excited to have their main weapon on offense. The Yetis are all-in the next few seasons!

QUESTION: Offence isn’t going to be an issue for the Yetis — not with Mitch Marner, Brock Boeser and Anthony Mantha also among your forwards. The Yetis are stacked up front, recently acquiring Drake Batherson and Max Comtois as well. The goaltending is still in great shape too, with Joonas Korpisalo and Mackenzie Blackwood on the active roster, plus Lukas Dostal and Justus Annunen on the protected list as top prospects and potential future starters. Does that mean defence is the Yetis’ weakness as of today, with Zach Werenski as the only big name on the back end? Neal Pionk has established himself in Winnipeg and there are a few promising prospects who are presumed NHL-ready in Ian Mitchell, Conor Timmins and Mikey Anderson. Add in Ryan Lindgren, Andrew Peeke and Jakub Zboril and maybe there isn’t a cause for concern on the Yetis’ blue line? How do you see that defence group taking shape and what are your expectations for them? Is your next move a forward-for-defence swap to shore up that perceived weakness or do you feel the UFHL’s scoring system favours forwards as the Yetis’ strength?

ANSWER: If you had to choose a weakness, our defense is an easy place to look, but it is not as weak as it might be perceived on paper. Again, thanks to ownership, I was able to target young players like Timmins, Mitchell and Anderson in the Already Drafted Auction to shore up this position and help mitigate some of the loss felt by Fox in the Panarin trade. Once these young guys get some more games under their belt, I think people will come to appreciate their value and we have high hopes for their futures in both the NHL and UFHL. That being said, it’s definitely an area we have been and continually will be looking to improve but, like the NHL, it’s a position that is much easier filled through the draft than via trade.

We also have four very young and talented netminders in our ranks, and only one can be a contributor in the UFHL on any given night, so we look to that as an area of strength to deal from once guys like Annunen and Dostal break into the league, which might allow us to leave our offense intact.

Also, as you mentioned, the scoring system is one where the difference in a guy like Timmins or Mitchell might be comparatively small to a more established top-four defenseman at a much higher cap hit. All in all, we are happy to start the season with our current group and see how it plays out.

QUESTION: How are you enjoying the UFHL in general? This league is billed as the “most realistic fantasy experience” and UFF Sports’ motto is “you own the game” — do you feel like a real owner/GM? Colin proposed some intriguing changes at the recent Owners Meetings with mixed results as the UFHL adopted its own version of free agency and implemented the NHL’s buyout rules but voted down retaining salary in trades and maintained the status quo for allowing cash considerations as a balancer or sweetener in trades. The UFHL also adopted Colin’s proposal for the 2021 Entry Auction, allowing franchises to select their desired prospects after bidding on the draft spots rather than simply bidding on the prospects by following the NHL selection order again. You must be happy with those changes for the most part and looking forward to the first full season of UFHL gameplay (knock on wood)? Are you also ready to dive into the crypto world in the year to come — or do you plan on leaving that side of the platform and the financial aspects to Allan, keeping your focus on hockey and the Founders Trophy/Klein Cup?

ANSWER: Being a part of the UFHL has been a great experience. It’s been an honour to be involved at such an early point in its evolution and I am humbled to have helped shape its growth. I have never been involved in a salary-cap league, and definitely not one with rosters of this size. I am just happy to have found a community of people that nerd out on the sport as much as I do, and to have an avenue to potentially benefit from all of the energy I’ve put into studying the sport over the last two decades.

While I am a little surprised and disappointed in the salary retention vote, it’s definitely one I will still be a proponent of because of all of the reasons it makes sense in the NHL. I believe over time owners will change their opinion as well. But overall, I cannot wait for the season to begin and I’m extremely optimistic about the future of this league and the Yetis’ chances at a championship.

I’m still very new to the world of crypto, but it’s one that is of great curiosity to me. Right now I’m solely focused on the hockey ops side, but with my brother as an affiliated scout I will continue to investigate the crypto world as he does. As a GM, the more information, the better.

Northeast Yetis Current Roster

Forwards

Artemi Panarin-Connor McDavid-Mitch Marner

Anthony Mantha-Nic Roy-Brock Boeser

Bryan Rust-David Kampf-Drake Batherson

Matt Calvert-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Jayce Hawryluk

Defenders

Zach Werenski-Neal Pionk

Ryan Lindgren-Conor Timmins

Mikey Anderson-Ian Mitchell

Goaltenders

Joonas Korpisalo (G)

Mackenzie Blackwood (G)

Extra Skaters: Carter Rowney (F), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D), Jakob Zboril (D)

Protected List:

1) Max Comtois (F)

2) Lucas Elvenes (F)

3) Philipp Kurashev (F)

4) Andrew Shaw (F, LTIR)

5) Michael Grabner (F) (waivers)

6) Andrew Peeke (D)

7) Deryk Engelland (D) (waivers)

8) Lukas Dostal (G)

9) Justus Annunen (G)

Affiliated Scout List:

1) Kevin Stenlund (F, Columbus Blue Jackets)

2) Danila Zhuravlyov (D, Colorado Avalanche)

3) Cam Morrison (F, Chicago Blackhawks)

4) Jean-Luc Foudy (F, Colorado Avalanche)

5) Alexander Nikishin (D, Carolina Hurricanes)

6) Antonio Stranges (F, Dallas Stars)

7) Connor McClennon (F, Philadelphia Flyers)

8) Ruben Rafkin (D, Undrafted – OHL Windsor)

9) Jacob Dion (D, Undrafted – QMJHL Drummondville)

10) Simon Knak (F, Undrafted – WHL Portland)

Fisher’s Thoughts

The more information, the better — sounding like a true analytics guru! Colin knows his numbers as well as he knows his hockey and the Yetis’ ownership can rest assured that their franchise is in good hands.

Colin has his work cut out for him stickhandling around the salary cap, but he is proving capable of finding those bargains to fill out the bottom half of the roster. The Yetis are top heavy, make no mistake, but that top half is sure to keep them in contention for the Founders’ Trophy.

For the record, Marner has the seventh-highest cap hit in the NHL at $10.89M, so the Yetis have three of the seven most expensive players in the UFHL — totalling over $35M and accounting for 43 per cent of the $81.5M ceiling. Colin has to hope the cap starts climbing again and doesn’t stay flat in the years to come — thus giving the Yetis more breathing room and wiggle room — but Colin is taking the right approach by living in the present and not rushing to solve future problems. He is staying calm, cool and collected, yet I could envision that “everything is fine” meme — you know the one with the flames surrounding the dog at the table? All kidding aside, everything is fine for the Yetis as of today.

Better than fine when you consider their place in the Power Rankings. If and when the UFHL produces Power Rankings prior to the upcoming season — perhaps around the roster deadline — the Yetis will be at or near the top. With a core of McDavid, Panarin, Marner, Boeser, Mantha and Werenski, how could they not be? Especially in a league that leans in favour of forwards for the scoring system. Power Rankings are always subjective and often contentious, so it might be a matter of polling the franchises to form a consensus of sorts — a consolidated version of the UFHL Power Rankings.

That would be a project for another day, but it would be interesting to see the results. Colin touched on the parity discrepancies between the NHL and the UFHL, but aside from a couple obvious lottery franchises, I’m quite impressed with the competitiveness on paper. I would be torn in trying to tackle those Power Rankings alone. The struggle would be real since the vast majority of franchises could be labelled playoff contenders as of today.

In saying that, the Yetis are looking like a playoff lock — even if McDavid were to get injured (knock on wood) — and could safely be slotted in the top 10 without any dispute. That is a credit to the moves that Colin has made to date and also the roster that he inherited thanks to Allan and Brayden’s drafting efforts. Colin will have his challenges going forward, but there is only one McDavid and he belongs to the Yetis for as long as they want, which puts Colin in an envious position — controlling the most coveted and valuable asset in the UFHL. There is always going to be pressure to perform when McDavid is on your roster, but Colin appears well on his way to making the most of his opportunity with the Yetis. And, yes, I would probably bet on the Yetis winning a championship before the Oilers based on their respective rosters in the present.

We are taking the approach that any future cap problems are exactly that — future problems.

— Colin M.