Fantasy Hockey Tips
Sitting atop the standings by season’s end usually takes a little bit of luck. Avoiding injuries, and predicting who will have a career year can literally make or break your chances. Stick to our plan, and you’ll guarantee yourself a finish at or near the top. By following some simple principles, you can ensure you’re in the money. Let’s start with 7 simple rules to beat your friends and show up your coworkers. These 7 tricks will mean the difference between being the laughing stock of your office and the subject of ridicule, or the person collecting some crisp bills and bragging rights.
1. Avoid The Injury Prone
Scorers like Marian Gaborik, Martin Havlat, and Daniel Briere can dazzle with their dangles and light the lamp with ease, but will they be there when you need them? Unless you’re picking them up late—and I mean late—in your draft , stay away. A hockey pool is a lot like playing poker, it can be an odds game, and there is no need to take unnecessary risks unless you have to. Would you rather take a guaranteed 80 points, or a 50% chance at 85? There's no need to risk it. The draft just began, how bad could you be?
2. Pick Younger PlayersEver wonder why your team packed it in for the second half, or got off to a slow start? Check the NHL scoring leaders after the first few weeks in years past and you’re bound to have seen a Brendan Shanahan or Mark Recchi off to a fast start, only to be caught and surpassed. Injuries and natural player development mean that younger players will get their chance the crack the line up, be inserted on the power play or a scoring line as the season goes on. Hockey is no different from business. When you’re young you are undervalued and need an opportunity. When you’re older, your reputation gets you places and can overrepresent your talents. Players in their third or fourth year are best poised for a breakout (and to be undervalued on draft day). Don’t overpay for veterans. Instead, steal the youth and reap the rewards.
3. Avoid Rookies
Yes, I know I just said to pick young players, but you have to make sure they have a job! Your astute picks in the top few rounds could be completely undone by selecting a rookie who is sent to junior after a handful of games. Ask anyone who picked Cody Hodgson or Kyle Turris recently. Do not buy the hype. At best, they will likely get you 40-50 points. Take someone with a year or two under their belt. The late rounds of a draft are every bit as important as the higher rounds. If you're in a 'keeper' league, where you'll have them for a few years, go right ahead. But if it's a one season winner take all - don't bother.
4. Save Goalies to the endMost pools are saturated with goalies. If your pool has fewer than 20 teams, don’t worry about nabbing a starting goaltender until you see only a handful of good ones left. Sure, it looks great to have a Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo or Ryan Miller on your team, but often, a stellar goalie who plays 60 games will only get a few more wins than a top goaltender who plays 65-70 games. There are 20 solid starting goaltenders in the NHL, at least. Do not waste a top draft pick on one of twenty. Grab someone more sought after like a quality winger or defenceman.
5. Don’t Be a Homer The temptation is always there. Pick someone on your favourite team, pick your favourite player, etc. One sure fire way to sink your fantasy hockey chances is to load up on one team because they are your sentimental favourites. Don’t believe me? Check out the last place teams from last year. Are they stacked with Oilers or Maple Leafs? Your home team’s third line grinder is not a diamond in the rough. He’s a third line grinder who plays 12 minutes a night. Pick someone with potential on another team that plays 18 minutes a night and sees some powerplay duty.
6. Prepare Your ListPractice makes perfect — and so does preparation. Rank your players by position and follow along so you know who is available. Skipping over someone who has slipped forfeits the advantage you could have had. If you do your homework, you’ll always find someone you want that everyone else has overlooked.
7. Plan for Position If your draft combines all positions at once, pay attention to what your needs are and who is getting picked up. If all the defencemen are being taken in a flurry, you better get in there if you don’t have any yet. Alternatively, there is usually a horde of quality centermen available, so take your time picking up wingers and other sought after positions first. It’s all about supply and demand. Many years, there are very few quality left wingers, making average left wingers incredibly more valuable than a center of similar skill level.
This will ensure you can ice the best team possible, and have the most attractive assets for trading as the season wears on. Drafting youth also ensures you have tradable assets for down the road.
Follow these seven simple rules, and you will succeed on draft day and dominate your pool.
Bonus Tip - Draft Skill, not StatsWhile we’re on the topic of being a homer, don’t be duped by someone who plays with talented line mates. Ask anyone who drafted Jonathan Cheechoo. Assess who the most talented player on that line is, and pick them first. Your skilled guy will score no matter where he is, so long as he is healthy, but if your guy gets bumped from his plum spot on the top line, his setup man gets injured, or he gets traded, he may find himself in a prolonged scoring drought. Mitigate your risk on draft day and don’t leave your player’s value up to the health of his line mates. Draft skill, not stats.