With the daily fantasy sports industry growing at a rapid pace the less popular sports will begin to see an uptick in popularity on the DFS sites. Hockey may very well be the next sport to gain traction in the DFS world. It’s still seen a niche sport with a small following of players but I see that changing so I’d like to give you some tip/tricks that I’ve used to be a successful hockey daily fantasy player.
As with all DFS sports you have your cash games (Head to heads, 50/50s, double ups) and your GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pools – the big tournaments). This tutorial will be geared towards helping with cash games.
Pick Your Goaltender
Almost all NHL DFS’ers will tell you to start between the pipes and I agree; especially on sites where goalies getting a win is important (like FanDuel). You don’t need to get cute here. Checking the Las Vegas betting lines is a great place to start. Jot down the heavy favorites of the night as a starting point. From there you can see which goalies are playing well of late, which teams are winning, and save percentages. You will normally be paying up for your goalie but that is ok. This is the most consistent scoring position on your team – you do not want to whiff. Lastly, make sure before your contests start that your goalie is starting! Typically most teams have a cemented starter but they do get days off and you don’t want to get caught starting a goalie that isn’t playing. There are quite a few web sites out there that have this information (dailyfaceoff for example).
If you’d like to save some cap room, you can look for a team that is starting a backup against a poor team or take a risk on a starting goalie who you know will face a lot of shots and rack up save points. But again, be careful doing this in cash games – more often than not you want to get the WIN and those bonus points.
Building Your Roster
I will start with this – do not roster players that will be playing against your goalie. Just don’t do it. Do you start batters facing your starting pitcher in MLB (you better not)? It’s shooting yourself in the foot. If you find yourself being forced to do this you’re better off just passing on the nights action. Target good Corsi teams (and players) facing poor corsi teams. The more shots your players get, the more chances they will have to score.
Don’t spend a lot of time trying to pick which defensemen is going to have a break out game – you’ll pass out from exhaustion. Sure, there are the very few studs who put up decent points, but they will cost you. Unless it’s a super small slate, try to save some money on the blue line. Look for guys who play on their teams top power play unit (PP). They will often have a higher upside of producing shots, goals, and assists due to being on the ice when their team has a higher % chance of scoring than normal. Also, use those Vegas lines again. You’re better off taking defensemen from teams that should perform well that night (especially if the site you play on uses +/- as a stat). There are never absolutes, but when you can this is the place to save some money when building a roster.
And here we are again, referencing those Vegas lines. I hope you have taken note that Vegas is a nice (and free) place to pick up quick info. Target teams that you suspect will score more than three goals. Most over/unders (o/u) in the NHL are set at 5 or 5.5 so you won’t be able to differentiate much like you can in the NFL. However, using team totals and money-lines you can get a good picture of who Vegas thinks is going to have a good night. Once you have these teams written down you can begin to target their first and second lines.
Most NHL teams have four lines but their top two play a majority of the time. The top power play units also typically consist of players from the teams top scoring lines. You want these guys. They are on the ice more which gives them more opportunities for shots/goals/assists. If you can avoid playing guys from teams 3rd and 4th lines you should do so most nights.
Also, once the season gets rolling you can find players who are just simply on a roll and who become playable in any match up. Even the bad teams score goals and their top scorers will typically still be cheap (ex. Ryan O’Reilly). Don’t be afraid to use these players even if they don’t exactly coincide with a great match up or vegas odds. They can be great salary relief.
Sometimes you’ll need to find some cheap players so you can fit in your studs (like Crosby, Ovechkin, Seguin, etc.). The best place to find value is to look at teams game day lines and find out if teams moved anybody up who typically does not play on the first or second line. They will have a cheaper salary because most DFS sites don’t change NHL salaries daily. If you can scoop a 3rd line winger who got bumped to the first line for a game you will have extra money to pay up somewhere else on your roster.
Ex. Early in the 2015 season players like Dylan Larkin, Artemi Panarin, and Colton Parayko.
Above All Else – Pick Your Matchups
Unlike most DFS sports, hockey is quite hard to use projections for on a day to day basis. There are countless articles and papers out there proving how impossible it is to predict goal scoring, no matter what stats you use. Because of this, I find it most important to pick the right match ups. Pick players who are facing bad goaltending, poor defense, and overall poor teams. I can’t tell you how many times last year I played/stacked players facing the Buffalo Sabers. You can’t predict who exactly will score but you can have success picking which teams will score. From there you can do your best to fit some of their best players on your team.