Hockey DFS 101
With the NBA All-Star break here, there’s many who are looking over to the NHL to satisfy their DFS fix for the weekend and rightfully so. Hockey is a fun fantasy sport and while for some it might seem intimidating because of the way line changes work and not knowing the players, you’ll find that you can quickly pick it up if you spend a little time digging in.
The intent of this article is to help those who are new to NHL DFS either playing mostly NBA or NFL or maybe even MLB only and are looking to get in some DFS prior to the baseball season. I often say that NHL DFS is a cross between NFL and MLB with a little NBA mixed in. I’ll go into those comparisons later, but first let’s do a quick overview on the scoring for NHL DFS.
Looking at FanDuel and DraftKings scoring specifically you might look and immediately be confused. FanDuel has the higher points per statistic with Goals being worth 12 points (not including the SOG points). Where as DraftKings rewards only 3 points for a goal. The only difference here is that FanDuel took everything and multiplied it by 4 a while back.
The key differences in scoring between the sites are as follows
- FanDuel awards 1.6 points per shot on goal and 12 points per goal. DraftKings rewards 0.5 points for a SOG and 3 points for a goal. The difference here is that to equal 1 goal on DK you need 6 shots. On FanDuel to equal one goal someone needs 7.5 shots to match a goal. So someone who compiles a ton of shots on goal might appear to be more of a DK play, but I’ll explain below why that shouldn’t be the leading factor in picking someone.
- Blocked shots have the same ratio differences between the site. 1.6 on FD, and 0.5 on DK.
- Goalies get points for assists (kinda stupid IMO) on DK. They don’t get anything on FD.
- DK awards a 1.5 bonus for a Hat Trick
- DK awards a 2 point bonus for the skater who scores the game winning goal in a shootout (This is the dumbest thing ever IMO)
- On DK a short handed goal or assist bonus is worth 1 extra point, FanDuel gives 2 points for the same bonus. FanDuel also awards a bonus for Power Play goals.
Phew, okay, now that the scoring differences are out of the way, lets focus really on how I approach an NHL slate.
Goals Are Everything
You cannot win in NHL DFS without getting goals and assists in your lineup. Unlike baseball where you can have a dominant pitcher carry you, the chances of having a goalie give you a dominant night to carry a lineup without goals is almost impossible. Frequently you will see lineups placing in tournaments and even WINNING tournaments with a goalie who gave up 4+ goals. For this reason alone, I will like to take chances with my goalies and focus more on guys I think will win rather than post a 1 goal allowed performance. We need guys who are going to score and the source for that comes down to the teams lineups.
Find players skating on the top two lines, as they’ll see the most ice time because they’re (obviously) the best players on the team. Add in skaters who see Power Play Unit 1 ice time and you have the guys with the best chances in most cases.
Sneaky Tip: The home team always gets the final line change decision on face-offs and thus can dictate matchups easier. For this reason alone I often use a teams top line when they are at home more in a spot where I think they will look to get a matchup against a weaker opponents worse line and I’ll use second lines on the road because their top line often is going up against the other teams best defenseman. Each coach is different on this, but it’s a tie-breaker type situation that you can use when deciding on teams lines to stack.
Correlate with Combinations
This is where the NFL similarity comes into play. In the NFL, you’ll often stack your QB with one or two pass catchers, and maybe even a RB to be a little different.
In hockey, we want to stack our forwards and linemates together. Because most NHL official stat keepers are generous and give out assists like candy, we want to capitalize on that by getting 3 guys who are going to be on the ice together and can combine for a Goal-Assist-Assist trifecta. The easiest way to do this is simply take Center-Wing-Wing from a team and move on. I strongly encourage you to start your lineups with Center and Wing and then add in the thid winger or a defenseman from the same team if the lineup salary construction dictates such.
Contrarian way of stacking is to mix lines with two centers from the same team where you expect a high scoring affair.
Stack For Upside
This is where the MLB similarity comes into play. Many understand the concept of a stack in baseball where you are picking 3+ players from a team in hopes that the team is scoring a ton and you are usually picking on the opponents pitching staff.
For NHL, the stack concept is basically the same but it’s taking a Combo and extending it to 4 players from that team.
Stack with your goalie! Unlike with baseball, where the pitcher’s upside is limited to the innings he pitches, in hockey we know (or we hope) that the Goalie is going to stay in the whole game so long as he hasn’t completely been a disaster early on. So this means the biggest thing to target with a goalie is a WIN. And if you are stacking 3 skaters from a team then you have already hitched yourself to that team scoring goals (see above, we need goals to win no matter what). So if the team is scoring goals then lock in the heavy win bonus for the goalie and don’t stress too much that they’re going to give up goals. Every goalie gives up goals!
My favorite stacks are C-W-D-G, C-W-W-G or C-W-W/C-W-D
One offs – Value and Fades
Do not be afraid to fade players, lines and teams. Sidney Crosby is always a high priced player when he plays, he also often will go a game without a goal or assist, and even if he gets one, he really needs three to be a GPP winner at his price on a regular slate.
Vegas totals in hockey are mis-leading. As I write this, the Rangers and Islanders just finished a 3-0 game that had an insanely high 6.5 total. Don’t let Vegas mislead you into must plays. You can fade teams and when you do fade a line that appears to be chalk, don’t try to pick 1 guy from that line as a one off in your lineup. It’s a common mistake thinking you will get some “exposure” to a good line with a high priced guy on that line. If you are doing that, I find you are playing with fire.
Rather, look for your VALUE guys as one offs from teams that you might not wanna touch. Boston’s top line when healthy is one of the best in hockey (Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak). They’re also expensive and if they are chalky, I want to fade them by using someone from Boston’s 2nd line and not the 1st line. They’re cheaper and when they score it’s not also carrying chalk stacks with it. One of the craziest things in NHL DFS is when your guy scores a goal and you go from placing in a GPP to not placing anymore…. Why did that happen? You had the one guy by himself and everyone else had the full stack.
Find value plays on the top lines for guys who are going to get good ice time and might be listed as stack recommendations but you chose other spots. This is also a good spot to use the optimizer (will touch on that in a second)
Many have had success taking a stack+goalie, locking them in and seeing what the optimizer may spit out. Keep in mind that the Optimizer (or any Optimizer really) doesn’t factor in correlations as well. It might put two defenseman from the same team together (low upside) or it might put a skater versus your goalie in (don’t do that, one of the top ranked DFS players lost a ton of money thinking this was smart last year, we destroyed him in H2H and he thus pretty much quit all of DFS………)
How do you know who to play?
You read my write-ups at ScoutDFS.com
Contest selection is critical! I often just play a main lineup in Cash & Single Entry tournaments (or low entry/high $ contests) and then if I want second/third/fourth lineups I’ll throw them into multi entry tournaments only. Here is my main lineup from this past Monday which came in 2nd in the FanDuel $50 and $100 Single Entry tournaments.
The way I built this lineup was by taking my two favorite C&W Combinations.
- Connor McDavid & Patrick Maroon (Edmonton)
- Vincent Trocheck & Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)
This happens to be a spot where the Home top line and Away second line theory worked out…. In this case McDavid obviously ate up a ton of salary cap space so I had to get value in on my 3rd/4th wingers.
I locked in Antii Ranta on this slate, he was a cheap goalie facing a dead Blackhawks team at home. On a 3 game slate I didn’t mind going down to Raanta and it worked out perfectly. This same slate saw Auston Matthews and Willie Nylander for Toronto absolutely go off, but I was able to offset them with my stacks which made the 3rd/4th wingers critical.
Of the available choices, I wanted Arizona goal scorers because I was going Raanta and wanted that Goal+Win correlation. Clayton Keller has been rejuvenated after hitting the rookie wall and he had a good game at 4600, he was simply too cheap.
Same for Brendan Perlini who as I write this is having a 2 goal night. On Monday, he did nothing as you can see, but you can get by with 1 or 2 guys struggling in your lineup as long as the other combo’s are hitting.
Keith Yandle was on the top PP for the Panthers and had a great game and although Duncan Keith didn’t get his 1st goal of the year as I predicted, he was a RARE skater versus goalie play because he blocks a ton of shots and … well, he hadn’t scored all year so I was fine with it on a 3 game slate
Side Note — He finally got his 1st goal tonight, so I’ll take 100% credit for that :).
I wanted to show this lineup construction, because it’s my approach 80% of the time and over the long haul it works very well in cash and single entry contests. Two combo’s, pair goalie and defenseman where it fits and then plug in one offs.
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