The air is getting cooler. The days are getting shorter. Retail stores are selling Halloween costumes and candy. NHL prospects have laced up their skates. All indications point toward the most wonderful time of the year: the 2015-16 NHL Fantasy draft season.

RotoWire hockey writers matched wits on Sept. 15 in what was for many their first mock draft of the season. Writers had access to RotoWire.com's NHL cheat sheets, custom rankings, and 2015-16 projections. Fantasy owners should find the results of this expert draft very useful in their own drafts this year by both validating their draft board and maybe more importantly, shedding new insights on players who could be overvalued, undervalued or overlooked by many Fantasy owners.

The scoring settings for the draft were purposefully selected to mimic the most prevalent "weighting" involved in scoring formats for most season-long NHL Fantasy leagues. Generally speaking, forwards (which includes centers) are valued for their goal-scoring ability and assists, as well as plus/minus, power-play goals/assists, and shorthanded goals. Defensemen are given extra points for scoring a goal or tallying an assist. Goalies are coveted for saves, wins, shutouts and a low GAA. As with most leagues, a marginal amount of points are given to penalty minutes. The results and analysis of the NHL expert writers draft are applicable and valuable for both head-to-head and Roto leagues. The Roto format was purposefully selected solely to track drafted players' success in individual scoring categories.

A total of 12 RotoWire writers participated in picking teams in the popular six-forward, four-defensemen, two-goalie starting lineup format with a bench six players deep. A cap of four goalies was imposed for the draft. Draft order was randomly generated one hour before the draft began. Here was the order and the list of contributors:

Chris Morgan, RotoWire.com NHL Columnist
Jason Chen, RotoWire.com NHL Columnist/Sabres Beat Writer
Evan Berofsky, RotoWire.com NHL Columnist
Dan Pennucci, RotoWire.com NHL Columnist
Dan Waldner, RotoWire.com NHL Columnist
Dustin Nelson, RotoWire.com Sharks/Stars Beat Writer
Neil Parker, RotoWire.com DFS Columnist
Keith Leonard, RotoWire.com Capitals Beat Writer
Noel Baldwin, RotoWire.com Coyotes/Blues Beat Writer
Eric Lewandowski, RotoWire.com Senators Beat Writer
Andrew Fiorentino, RotoWire.com NHL Managing Editor
George Kurtz, RotoWire.com Oilers/Islanders Beat Writer

The first six rounds are followed by a thorough three-part analysis structure that breaks down the draft choices and drafting trends. Each round contains an objective analysis of the selected players and trends, along with a notation on each round's surprising results and a "Lew's Clues Lesson." The surprising results highlight unexpected occurrences when placed up against conventional rankings, fixed mindsets or prevailing expectations as imposed by the media or general rankings. The "Lew's Clues Lesson" provides teachable takeaways from the round and this writer's drafting process as a whole. The lesson feature will provide you with strategies so that you can prepare, strategize and optimize picks in your Fantasy leagues.

Rounds 7-11 are followed by notable moves that should transfer over to your leagues. After round 11, the draft results are posted minus additional commentary.

Round 1

(1) Alex Ovechkin, RW, Capitals
(2) Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins
(3) Steven Stamkos, C, Lightning
(4) John Tavares, C, Islanders
(5) Tyler Seguin, C, Stars
(6) Jamie Benn, LW, Stars
(7) Phil Kessel, RW, Penguins
(8) Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins
(9) Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Blues
(10) Rick Nash, LW, Rangers
(11) Claude Giroux, C, Flyers
(12) Carey Price, G, Canadiens

First-round analysis: Picks were pretty straightforward in the first round with a few notable exceptions. Phil Kessel's stock has certainly risen since he was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh during the offseason. However, to pass over the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Erik Karlsson for a wild card like Kessel is the type of pick that could make or break a Fantasy owner's season. Rick Nash was the furthest deviation from most cheat sheets. However, Nash is a special teams superstar who can put up huge Fantasy numbers by scoring both power-play and shorthanded goals. Nash has posted 21 "shorties" in his career. Every pick carries a similar marker; a player who has had All-Star season(s) and is capable of having another one.

Surprising results: Only one goalie was selected in the first round. In fact, Carey Price nearly missed the first round completely despite being a consensus No. 1 ranked Fantasy goalie after winning 44 games last season. Not a single defenseman was selected in the first round despite the rare scoring ability a player like Erik Karlsson provides from that position.

Lew's Clues Lesson: Build your team around a star forward who has produced significant goals and assists over multiple seasons in the NHL, despite the extra point categories awarded to defensemen and goalies.

Round 2

(13) Ryan Johansen, C, Blue Jackets
(14) Erik Karlsson, D, Senators
(15) Tyler Johnson, C, Lightning
(16) Joe Pavelski, C, Sharks
(17) Henrik Lundqvist, G, Rangers
(18) Dustin Byfuglien*, D, Jets
(19) Jakub Voracek, RW, Flyers
(20) Corey Perry, RW, Ducks
(21) Pekka Rinne, G, Predators
(22) Tuukka Rask, G, Bruins
(23) Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks
(24) Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks

Second-round analysis: The experts continued to build and stack their rosters with veteran goal scorers. Notice the years of service tallied in the second round. Pavelski, Karlsson, and Getzlaf have an enormous amount of successful seasons notched on their skates. A rock-solid resume is valued highly over rookie sensationalism; Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are nowhere to be found here. A goalie run was ignited late in the second round that burns strong throughout Round 3. Owners took notice when Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask came off the board one after the other at picks 22 and 23.

*Dustin Byfuglien is often taken in the early rounds of Fantasy drafts for a somewhat controversial inflated value. Byfuglien is labeled as a defenseman by most Fantasy hockey software engines. However, Winnipeg will often play Byfuglien as a forward, particularly when the Jets are in search of additional offense. It's expected that Byfuglien will play primarily on defense this season, so be sure to value him appropriately.

Surprising results: Only two defensemen were selected in the second round. It's a bit surprising, given that defensemen who put up points are often viewed as the difference between winning and losing in many league formats. Also worth noting is that Patrick Kane fell all the way to the 24th overall pick. While Kane continues to be plagued by off-ice legal trouble, it's still shocking to see Chicago's star winger fall so far in this league, where there are six cozy bench slots to hold him until the smoke clears. Owners clearly valued safety and stability with their early picks.

Lew's Clues Lesson: The second round is still chock full of seasoned players who have firmly established themselves as "must picks" in the mindsets of writers who follow and participate in Fantasy hockey leagues year after year. You don't want to review your roster after the draft ends and be disappointed with your forward ranks. However, be diligent and track the rumblings and picks that signal when a goalie surge is about to begin. Consider starting the tsunami yourself by selecting a premier goaltender who gets a ton of starts and wins before any other owner. Then, you can direct your attention back to your forwards while the rest of the Fantasy owners scrap and battle for remaining premier goaltenders.

Round 3

(25) Braden Holtby, G, Capitals
(26) P.K. Subban, D, Canadiens
(27) Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Penguins
(28) Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals
(29) Jonathan Quick, G, Kings
(30) Devan Dubnyk, G, Wild
(31) Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Blues
(32) Ben Bishop, G, Lightning
(33) Nikita Kucherov, RW, Lightning
(34) Semyon Varlamov, G, Avalanche
(35) Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Blue Jackets
(36) Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Flames

Third-round analysis: After most experts had acquired two forwards, it was evident that the two goalie picks toward the end of the second round generated a scramble for remaining franchise goalies. Those who selected goalies chose to target netminders on teams without a history of rotations in goal. Holtby, Fleury, Quick, Bishop, Bobrovsky, and Varlamov all represented ideal selections as players with little competition behind them on the depth chart.

Surprising results: Only three of the 12 picks in the third round were forwards. In addition, a pithy amount of four defensemen have been selected in the first three rounds. And this in a league where four of 10 starting skating slots! It's too early in the draft for these results to be truly surprising, but it's a notable development nonetheless.

Lew's Clues Lesson: Try to dictate and be in control of the path of the draft in the third round. The first two rounds are not the time to be careless. Owners are strongly married to their draft boards in the first two rounds. However, it is the third round where owners start to track trends and shift changes. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, Braden Holtby. Dismiss the myth that the owner selecting first in the draft has the market cornered for this tactic. You don't have to have be early in the rotation to implement and command this strategy. However, it doesn't hurt to be "on the turn," selecting two players close together for maximum impact. I find it especially effective when you are within three picks on the back end. Don't wait too late in the draft to take charge of the drafting trends and grab your highest-ranked players in each category. When the talent pool gets diluted, you won't make much of a splash.

Round 4

(37) Henrik Zetterberg, C, Red Wings
(38) Brent Burns, D, Sharks
(39) Tyson Barrie, D, Avalanche
(40) Jaroslav Halak, G, Islanders
(41) Shea Weber, D, Predators
(42) Max Pacioretty, LW, Canadiens
(43) Zach Parise, LW, Wild
(44) Anze Kopitar, C, Kings
(45) Nathan MacKinnon, C, Avalanche
(46) Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Avalanche
(47) Corey Crawford, G, Blackhawks
(48) Logan Couture, C, Sharks

Fourth-round analysis: Attention has shifted back to skaters and away from goalies, with the exception of those who hadn't drafted a goalie yet or were eager to have two No. 1 netminders on their starting roster. Goalie picks were not a reach by any means in round four with names like Halak and Crawford still up for grabs. Brent Burns is not a household name (yet) but here is a pick that demonstrates research and hockey intelligence. Burns had a respectable but not jaw-dropping 17 goals last year, but that output from the defenseman spot -- along with 43 assists -- is supremely valuable this late in a draft.

Surprising results: There were superstar-level players who have produced over multiple seasons who were still available this late in a 12-team league. Look at Zach Parise being available for the 43rd overall pick in the draft. The man had 33 goals and 29 assists last season. Parise wasn't stolen or overlooked by the writers; the NHL talent pool is ridiculously deep, especially when juxtaposed against other professional sports. Simply awesome.

Lew's Clues Lesson: Do your homework. Don't be intimidated to go against the grain. Consider a player's full skill set instead of putting all your pucks in one net. Goals are merely one facet of a truly difference-making player on your roster.

Round 5

(49) Mark Stone, RW, Senators
(50) Connor McDavid, C, Oilers
(51) Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks
(52) Mark Giordano, D, Flames
(53) Daniel Sedin, LW, Canucks
(54) T.J. Oshie, RW, Capitals
(55) Taylor Hall, LW, Oilers
(56) Henrik Sedin, C, Canucks
(57) Victor Hedman, D, Lightning
(58) Ryan Miller, G, Canucks
(59) Andrew Ladd, LW, Jets
(60) Jiri Hudler, RW, Flames

Fifth-round analysis: This is first truly mixed bag of draft picks. The fifth round saw a multitude of positions and calculated Fantasy risks being taken by RotoWire's NHL writers. Connor McDavid is the first rookie selected and riding alongside of him are veterans and other ascendant young players. Nothing insane or unfounded, but if you compare the rankings to these draft spots, it's clear that each expert is creating an identity for their Fantasy team that involves varying levels of risk to obtain the players that serve as the key grinders on their Fantasy team.

Surprising results: Expect the unexpected when you observe an expert's approach to a draft. The "go big or go home" ideology is represented in every single writer's pick to a certain in this particular round. Mark Giordano and T.J. Oshie were selected before the likes of more household names like Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Sharp. Not boring at all.

Lew's Clues Lesson: The fifth round is when you need to begin to vividly separate your team from the generic pack with bold selections that scream, "No guts, No glory!" Patience is the key as well. Don't come out of the gate selecting the likes of Victor Hedman and Jiri Hudler when you can grab them in the fifth round or even later in most leagues. Don't share or entrust your buddy with your dark horse selections either. He will be sure to snipe you; not because he likes your picks, but simply because he can.

Round 6

(61) Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey
(62) Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo
(63) Roman Josi, D, Nashville
(64) Roberto Luongo, G, Florida
(65) Matt Duchene, C, Colorado
(66) Frederik Andersen, G, Anaheim
(67) Duncan Keith, D, Chicago
(68) Jason Spezza, C, Dallas
(69) Filip Forsberg, C, Nashville
(70) John Carlson, D, Washington
(71) Patrick Sharp, LW, Dallas
(72) Nick Foligno, LW, Columbus

Sixth-round analysis:Filip Forsberg and John Carlson were selected after having breakout seasons last year. That said, there is still a heavy emphasis on veterans who consistently put up numbers year after year. Jason Spezza is 32 years old, but is still thriving in Dallas after racking up 62 points last year. This round also reinforced the courage of seasoned Fantasy hockey players to be patient as well as reaching deep beyond the general rankings and projections, which are often based primarily on last year's performances for the most part.

Surprising results: Filip Forsberg was stolen at pick No. 69. The All-Star center potted 26 goals and 37 assists as a rookie last season. How did he slip through 68 picks and into the hands of one very happy Fantasy expert?

Lew's Clues Lesson: Don't fall asleep on goaltenders. There are an unusually high number of teams that have two average-to-decent goalies on their roster. The pivotal sixth round begins to bring your team into focus. If you already took some bold moves in an earlier round, it's time to make secure investments with players of the ilk of Duncan Keith.

Round 7

(73) Pavel Datsyuk, C, Red Wings
(74) Blake Wheeler, RW, Jets
(75) David Backes, RW, Blues
(76) Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Coyotes
(77) Alex Pietrangelo, D, Blues
(78) Ondrej Palat, LW, Lightning
(79) Jake Allen, G, Blues
(80) Jordan Eberle, RW, Oilers
(81) Jaden Schwartz, LW, Blues
(82) Kyle Turris, C, Senators
(83) Wayne Simmonds, LW, Flyers
(84) Marian Hossa, RW, Blackhawks

Seventh-round notables: Four Blues were selected in this round alone. While David Backes is expected to take on a decreased role offensively as the Blues transition him off the top line, it wouldn't be a surprise if Jaden Schwartz ended up returning more value, despite going six picks after his teammate. Schwartz is likely to assume a spot on the top line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera this season in what could be one of the league's most potent trios.

Round 8

(85) Scott Hartnell, LW, Blue Jackets
(86) Steve Mason, G, Flyers
(87) Alexander Steen, LW, Blues
(88) Kris Letang, D, Penguins
(89) Kyle Okposo, RW, Islanders
(90) Antti Niemi, G, Sharks
(91) John Klingberg, D, Stars
(92) Drew Doughty, D, Kings
(93) Gustav Nyquist, RW, Red Wings
(94) Sean Monahan, C, Flames
(95) Mike Green, D, Capitals
(96) Chris Kreider, LW, Rangers

Eighth-round notables: Steve Mason was available here for a reason. Mason, while having shown flashes of brilliance, was injury-prone in 2014-15. If Mason can stay healthy this year, this could be a home-run pick. It's probably most advisable, though, to grab two true No. 1 goalies first, while stashing Mason on your bench. There are plenty of competent young forwards still available that were selected, with Kyle Okposo, Sean Monahan, and Gustav Nyquist all capable of raising their production going forward.

Round 9

(97) Ryan O, RW, Sabres
(98) Martin Jones, G, Sharks
(99) Sami Vatanen, D, Ducks
(100) Robin Lehner, G, Sabres
(101) Brian Elliott, G, Blues
(102) Keith Yandle, D, Rangers
(103) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Oilers
(104) Mark Streit, D, Flyers
(105) Craig Anderson, G, Senators
(106) Bobby Ryan, RW, Senators
(107) Brandon Saad, LW, Blue Jackets
(108) Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins

Ninth-round notables: Ryan O'Reilly available after 96 picks? Take him! O'Reilly has huge upside if Buffalo rights the ship this year. Robin Lehner would make for a high-value third goalie for the very same reason. Mark Streit, Bobby Ryan, Brandon Saad, and Patrice Bergeron are nice additions in the ninth round of a 12-team league.

Round 10

(109) Joe Thornton, C, Sharks
(110) Petr Mrazek, G, Red Wings
(111) Trevor Daley, D, Blackhawks
(112) Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Capitals
(113) Jonas Hiller, G, Flames
(114) Kari Lehtonen, G, Stars
(115) Evander Kane, LW, Sabres
(116) Chris Kunitz, LW, Penguins
(117) Aaron Ekblad, D, Panthers
(118) Justin Faulk, D, Hurricanes
(119) Ondrej Pavelec, G, Jets
(120) Derick Brassard, C, Rangers

Tenth-round notables There's not much to complain about if you can get Joe Thornton in the 10th round. Aaron Ekblad has huge upside, and Evander Kane could get hot if the team rebounds as strongly as Buffalo's waterfront. Defensive talent is remarkable deep this season for mid-range performers like Justin Faulk.

Round 11

(121) Eric Staal, C, Hurricanes
(122) Tyler Myers, D, Jets
(123) Tyler Toffoli, RW, Kings
(124) Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Panthers
(125) Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings
(126) Jason Pominville, RW, Wild
(127) Derek Stepan, C, Rangers
(128) David Krejci, C, Bruins
(129) Radim Vrbata, RW, Canucks
(130) Jeff Carter, RW, Kings
(131) Tomas Tatar, LW, Red Wings
(132) Bryan Little, C, Jets

Eleventh-round notables: Jeff Carter is a steal in the 11th round. Don't use a high draft slot on him, but patiently wait for the seasoned veteran to fall into your lap. Jonathan Huberdeau is also a high-value pick here having posted 54 points last year after many frustrated Fantasy owners were disappointed in 2013-14. Despite being only 22 years old, Huberdeau is a veteran at this point and has huge upside going for him. Tomas Tatar and Tyler Toffoli are excellent picks in the later rounds, as many Fantasy owners may not be privy to their budding careers.

Round 12

(133) Thomas Vanek, LW, Wild
(134) Dougie Hamilton, D, Flames
(135) Torey Krug, D, Bruins
(136) Jacob Trouba, D, Jets
(137) Andrei Markov, D, Canadiens
(138) Brad Marchand, LW, Bruins
(139) Eddie Lack, G, Canucks
(140) Cam Talbot, G, Rangers
(141) Jonathan Bernier, G, Maple Leafs
(142) Jake Muzzin, D, Kings
(143) Marian Gaborik, RW, Kings
(144) Milan Lucic, LW, Kings

Round 13

(145) Jarome Iginla, RW, Avalanche
(146) Nick Bjugstad, C, Panthers
(147) James van Riemsdyk, LW, Maple Leafs
(148) John Gibson, G, Ducks
(149) Ryan Suter, D, Wild
(150) Johnny Boychuk, D, Islanders
(151) Ryan Strome, C, Islanders
(152) James Neal, LW, Predators
(153) T.J. Brodie, D, Flames
(154) Patrick Marleau, LW, Sharks
(155) Ryan McDonagh, D, Rangers
(156) Tomas Plekanec, C, Canadiens

Round 14

(157) Ryan Kesler, C, Ducks
(158) Mark Scheifele, C, Jets
(159) Andrew Hammond, G, Senators
(160) Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Stars
(161) Michael Hutchinson, G, Jets
(162) Patric Hornqvist, RW, Penguins
(163) Nick Leddy, D, Islanders
(164) Brandon Dubinsky, C, Blue Jackets
(165) Jeff Skinner, LW, Hurricanes
(166) Jack Johnson, D, Blue Jackets
(167) Mike Ribeiro, C, Stars
(168) Cam Fowler, D, Ducks

Round 15

(169) Dennis Wideman, D, Flames
(170) Mika Zibanejad, RW, Senators
(171) Craig Smith, RW, Predators
(172) Ryan Spooner, C, Bruins
(173) Ryan Callahan, RW, Lightning
(174) Alex Galchenyuk, LW, Canadiens
(175) Brendan Gallagher, RW, Canadiens
(176) Hampus Lindholm, D, Ducks
(177) Anders Lee, C, Islanders
(178) Valtteri Filppula, C, Lightning
(179) Kevin Hayes, RW, Rangers
(180) Erik Johnson, D, Avalanche

Round 16

(181) Brent Seabrook, D, Blackhawks
(182) Brayden Schenn, C, Flyers
(183) Paul Stastny, C, Blues
(184) Jonathan Drouin, LW, Lightning
(185) Alex Killorn, LW, Lightning
(186) Matt Niskanen, D, Capitals
(187) Jason Zucker, LW, Wild
(188) Anton Stralman, D, Lightning
(189) Cody Franson, D, Sabres
(190) Zdeno Chara, D, Bruins
(191) Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Ducks
(192) Scott Darling, G, Blackhawks

Round 17

(193) Dion Phaneuf, D, Maple Leafs
(194) Brock Nelson, C, Islanders
(195) Tyler Ennis, C, Sabres
(196) Nail Yakupov, RW, Oilers
(197) Mathieu Perreault, C, Jets
(198) Jimmy Howard, G, Red Wings
(199) David Savard, D, Blue Jackets
(200) Mikael Granlund, C, Wild
(201) Aleksander Barkov, C, Panthers
(202) Michael Del Zotto, D, Flyers
(203) Antoine Roussel, LW, Stars
(204) Alexander Edler, D, Canucks

Round 18

(205) Alex Goligoski, D, Stars
(206) Justin Schultz, D, Oilers
(207) Patrick Wiercioch, D, Senators
(208) Olli Maatta, D, Penguins
(209) Andrej Sekera, D, Oilers
(210) Marko Dano, C, Blackhawks
(211) Matt Dumba, D, Wild
(212) David Perron, LW, Penguins
(213) Danny DeKeyser, D, Red Wings
(214) Mike Smith, G, Coyotes
(215) Christian Ehrhoff, D, Kings
(216) Seth Jones, D, Predators