With the 2015-16 NHL Season approaching quickly, Fantasy Hockey is getting under way. If you haven’t played and you have a little extra time on your hands, I encourage you to give fantasy hockey a chance. I’m here to answer any questions you have regarding commissioning your own league, drafting your team, adjusting your lineup, making trades, following your waiver wire and etc. Whether you play for money or you’re just playing for bragging rights with your friends, fantasy hockey is another way to enjoy the sport and educate yourself on players around the league. So I’ll share with you a few tips and strategies that have helped me stay competitive in head to head and rotisserie league formats.
Know Your League Rules!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a draft and watch people pick the goal scorers one after another. Goals are only one category (sometimes out of 20 or more) and while it’s fun to lead the league in goals scored, unfortunately it doesn’t count any more than leading it in face-offs won or hits etc. For instance, if your league has categories like Face-offs or PIM’s, that makes Sean Monahan or Steve Downie just as important as Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin.
Put some time into learning your league’s categories and you may be surprised on draft day when everyone is picking goals scorers and set up men while you sneakily end up with last year’s top players in multiple categories. If you put in a bit of research on players who excel in each category you’ll see your draft plan begin to come together.
But don’t forget that players can be good in multiple categories as well. For instance, if your league has categories like Goals, Assists, powerplay goals and powerplay points, it would seem that a player like Joe Pavelski or Claude Giroux would benefit your club in more ways than one. Spend some time learning your league’s categories and scoring system and it will pay off on draft day.
Stack the Bench!
Through a grueling 82 game season, players get injured and go through ups and downs in production. Sometimes trades and suspensions come into play as well. It’s very important to educate yourself up and down the draft board. Your 12th round selection is just as important as your first round selection. The more time you put into researching sleepers, past stats and injury history, the better chance you’ll give yourself at a playoff spot and possibly a crown. Remember teams don’t have games every day, so when a star like Alex Ovechkin or Carey Price aren’t playing, you want your backups to keep your squad competitive over the season in Rotisserie Formats, and over the week in head-to-head formats.
Another thing to keep in mind when making your bench picks are to mix up players from different teams and stay away from that urge to stack your roster with your favorite team’s players. It’s a long season, teams go through scoring droughts, have long road trips and tough schedules so you want backup options open when these things happen. Also, if you draft the whole Caps team, when they have a night off, you’d be short on guys to fill in.
Pick Wings Early and Often!
I challenge you to go and look up all of the major stats categories for forwards in the NHL last season. More likely than not, Centers make up for around half the top 10 players in every one. Now if Jonathon Toews is there, I’m not saying pass him up, but keep in mind you can find centers later in the draft. What’s that old saying? ‘They’re a dime a dozen.’
Frontloading your draft with Wingers (especially left wingers), you give yourself an advantage when it comes to putting more skill up and down your roster. The centers available later in the draft may not be ‘as good’ as the top centers that fly off the board in the first few rounds but they aren’t that far off. More times than not, team owners who draft center-heavy with their first few picks, end up having stellar centers and sub-par wingers. They won’t match up well against your stellar Wingers and above average to great centers.
Spend an Early Draft Pick on a Top Goalie!
In almost all Fantasy Hockey League formats, goaltending makes up near half of the categories that your league chooses to compete in. This is why it’s so important to spend an early pick on a great one. If you stack your team with the best shooters, hitters and faceoff winners in the league but don’t have a good goalie (or two) you most likely won’t fair well over the course of the season. Goals against average, goals against, save %, Wins, Saves and shutouts are just a few of the categories that most leagues utilize in their fantasy formats. Don’t be the guy who loses out on a good goalie and end up losing or trading half of your stars away to get one when it’s too late.
In the next week, I’ll be putting together a list of my Draft Kit’s Top 50 and who I think the top 15 players at every position are. In the meantime if you have any questions please submit them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them quickly.
By Zach Hart