Hockey is back, baby! NHL is easily one of the most exciting leagues out there, and hockey contests on Fanteam are as good as it gets when it comes to daily fantasy sports! The greatest thing about assembling a hockey team is the vast number of choices. The three positions are very different from each other, and the scoring system is flat out more exciting than anything the other sports provide. Through the following few pages, I’ll share some basic concepts, tips, and theories that might help you to succeed in Fanteam’s NHL contests. Let’s jump right in!
Your goalie is your QB
Goalies in fantasy NHL are the equivalent of QB’s in NFL, or starting pitchers in baseball. They are the backbone of your team, and most importantly, this is the position that has a decent floor when it comes to points collected for your team. Similarly to MLB pitchers, your goalie might have an off day once in a while, but more times than not points gained from this position will be consistent and plenty.
When it comes to choosing your goalie in NHL, it is all about the matchup. As you get three points per win – as blatant as this may sound – you should always aim to draft a goalie whom you expect to end up on a winning team! Sportsbooks are pretty good at predicting probabilities, so it is never a bad idea to stick to a goalie whose team is favored to win the game.
If you don’t want to invest big in this position, another good plan is to draft a goalie on a weaker team who has a high save percentage against a team that puts up a lot of shots. Even if he gives up a few goals, you will receive 0.2 points per save. A goalie on a decent night can easily net you 30+ saves, and those 0.2 points are piling up quickly!
If you want a netminder with a good floor, you can always pick one from a game that has a low expected goal total. If your goalie’s team is favored in a matchup with 5 – 5.5 expected goals, he will mostly perform well!
Keep things simple
When starting out, it is good to stick to the basics. Find a couple of teams you favor to win their daily matchups and assemble your team from their players. I prefer sticking to three team pools on smaller slates while using a maximum of four team’s players in contests with more games.
NHL teams usually have four lines of forwards and three defensive pairings. If you are starting out, it is best to stick with the top two offensive lines as they are guaranteed to have the most time on ice which equals more scoring opportunities. There are multiple sites where you can find line combinations. Daily Faceoff might be the one that presents info in the most easily digestible format. I also like Leftwinglock, (as their data is updated every day after the morning skates), but you will need to register there to access the lineup pages. If you can afford top lines from teams you favor, don’t overthink it! I’d never draft a fourth-line forward in a contest and would only draft a third-line player to differentiate. Volume is critical when it comes to forwards, even when you don’t get plus points for shots on goal anymore (make sure to study the updated 2019/2020 hockey scoring system!). More opportunities equal more goals, so you’ll want high volume shooters, who spend a lot of time on ice. Think Ovechkin & Co.!
As for your defenders, they get 0.50 points per block, but they don’t get points subtracted per goal conceded (your goalies do!), so once again, you are aiming to draft players who are expected to face lot of shots and have a high TOI (time on ice).
Stacking in daily fantasy sports is essential, and you have several great options in hockey. On Fanteam, you will need to draft four forwards and three defenders and you can use a maximum of three players from a team. The basic concept I’d follow is drafting two pairs of forwards who skate on the same line. This way, you will preserve a lot of correlation, as players on the same line benefit from points after assists and goals shared between them. Top-line centers and wings have the highest synergy among them, so ideally you will want to draft two top-line centers and a strong wing from each of these lines. Alternatively, if your budget won’t allow four top-line players, you could settle with a top line and a second line pair. By only using two forwards from each team we are also spreading the risk nicely. Remember, most NHL players have sub-10% shooting percentages! Your offense may have a high ceiling, but it certainly has zero floor.
Stacking a full line
Alternatively to stacking pairs, you can buy a full top line of a team and then add a fourth forward from another team as a one-off. This way, your three-player stack will benefit from all the assists and goals shared between them, and you can get creative with your lone one-off. I’d aim to buy a decent top line of forwards paired with a cheaper one-off. The one-off complementing your trio of players should be a cheaper forward who skates on a line with one or two stars. This way, you could benefit from the production of some fantastic players with a few assists (or even a goal) without paying top dollar.
Defense wins games
When it comes to defenders, you should always draft a defensive pair and a third player that has some correlation with either your goalie or your forwards. Drafting a second defensive pair and the best defender of the first pair is a great option and one you can mostly fit into your budget, even if you did spend most of your budget on your goalie and forwards. Always check the time on ice for defenders, as you’ll want to give your players the best shot to rack up some blocks! Defenders are the hockey equivalent of tight ends. Blocks are tough to predict and blocking numbers can be very inconsistent, so if you need to save some money, this is the position I’d use lower-priced players in.
Stick to the power play units
About 1 out of 5 goals are scored on the power play, and even the worst teams convert 15%+ of their power play chances. Players skating on the two power play units also get extra time on ice and the best chances to score against their short-handed opponent. It doesn’t matter which stacking option you choose; I’d stick to players that are skating on one of the power play units, especially when it comes to defensemen.
Do your research & don’t chase miracles
As I wrote before, it is crucial to be up to date on the lineups. It is also essential to hear from injuries in time. An injured player means that someone that is priced lower could skate on a higher line seeing more time on ice. Twitter is your best resource when it comes to injury updates, this list contains all the beat writers who are traveling with the teams. By following them, you get the most credible information as fast as possible. Besides the injuries, it is vital to know the schedule of the teams! You can check the schedule for the whole NHL season here. If possible, stick to drafting players who aren’t in lousy scheduling spots (for example playing their 4th game in 6 days). Tired legs never perform too well!
Chasing a shutout or a short-handed goal may sound appealing, but these things rarely happen. You should be happy if you draft players who end up getting you those extra points, but never expect, much less aim for these! Only about 3% of the goals are scored short-handed and most goalies will have maximum one shutout through the whole season. You will need to stick to an effective process that you can replicate each and every day of the season!
If you have any comments or questions regarding this post, or anything when it comes to NHL fantasy, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@wiseguychrome)!