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Fantasy Hockey 101: Draft Strategy

Brady Trettenero

Fantasy hockey writer for RotoWire, writing NHL player notes and covering the Vancouver Canucks beat. BCIT Broadcast Journalism graduate.

The amount of success you have in a hockey pool often depends on how well you perform in the fantasy draft. It's important to have a solid strategy in place before making your selections.

Know the Format

Itís crucial to understand how your league is set up before considering which players you want to select for your roster. Youíll want to find out how many people are participating, which positions you need to select, and what categories are being used. Once you determine the amount of forwards, defensemen and goaltenders you need and which statistics are counted, itís much easier to prioritize draft selections. Youíll also want to get an understanding of the scoring format of your league. Three of the most common scoring formats are Rotisserie, Head-to-Head and Points-Based. Rotisserie is a format where teams are ranked from first to last in each statistical category, while in Head-to-Head the winner is determined by which team accumulates the most fantasy points in a series of rounds versus another opponent. In a points-based league, point values are assigned to each statistical category and the team with the most overall points wins.

Know the League Members

If youíre playing fantasy hockey, chances are youíre playing it with people who you know in real life. Utilizing what you know about the people in your league can go a long way towards being successful in a fantasy draft. If the fellow members of the league have a bias towards a certain team or are known to select certain players every year, keep that in mind when considering selections. If they donít follow hockey very closely or just joined for fun, use that to your advantage. If you really want a certain player who isnít well known and hasnít been talked about, there's no sense in wasting an early-round pick on him when chances are heíll still be available later on. Keep an eye on the selections people are making and adjust your strategy as the draft goes on. If someone has loaded up on a certain position, theyíll need to fill the other positions later on in the draft. Keeping track of who everyone has selected can help you get the best value for the players you want on your roster.

Positional Considerations

Before making any draft picks, you need to understand the importance of player positions. It might seem logical to enter a fantasy hockey draft and select the best hockey players you can think of. The problem with that, however, is each fantasy league typically has specific requirements regarding player positions. Fans are usually tasked with selecting a certain amount of forwards, defensemen and goaltenders, with most leagues getting specific with centers, right wingers and left wingers. Offensive categories for forwards and defensemen are typically set at the same value, but youíll want to keep an eye out for goaltenders. In leagues where goalies have great value, youíll want to prioritize selecting an elite netminder to backstop your club. If you decide to go after all the top forwards and put off the goalie position, you could be stuck with a mediocre netminder and talented forwards on your bench every night. You also need to keep in mind the value of an elite offensive defenseman. There are many forwards who will put up 50-60 points each season, but there will only be a handful of blueliners that do so. You need to fill every position, so take time to find a balance and make sure you arenít going too heavy on one position.

Category Considerations

There are many categories in fantasy hockey, so itís vital to know which ones exist in your league before making any selections. Some of the most common categories include goals, assists and penalty minutes, in addition to wins and save percentage for goaltenders. Knowing how much value is placed on each category is crucial for making draft picks. If the league awards the most points for a goal, youíll obviously want to focus your attention on NHL goal-scorers. This could mean avoiding a big-name point producer and instead selecting a guy who just knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. There are plenty of specific categories, including power-play goals, plus-minus, hits and blocked shots, among others, so take time to visit the stat page and determine which specialty players could end up playing a big role in your success. In a Rotisserie style head-to-head league, each category will only count as one point, so thereís no reason to load up on goal-scorers, for example, when assists, PIM, hits etc. all count the same. In this instance, itís important to find a balance and try to select well-rounded players who can contribute in all categories. Looking at the categories before beginning a fantasy draft is a great recipe for crafting a well-balanced team.

Draft Rankings

Depending on the platform used for your fantasy hockey league, players will already be pre-ranked in a list so that league members can readily make selections. Looking at how players are ranked before drafting is a crucial and vital step to success. If a player you wish to select is significantly undervalued, it wouldnít be smart to select him right away, as he likely isnít on most peopleís radars. Conversely, if a player is overrated in the rankings, you might want to re-think if itís really worth rushing to draft him. Make a list of players you want to select before entering the fantasy draft and determine where they rank on the site you are using. Knowing where they land on the rankings can help you get the best value for a player. Itís also important to add players to your watch list and order your preferred selections accordingly. In the event you have to leave the fantasy draft or you miss a turn, the site will automatically draft the top ranked player on your list. This is a safe precaution to exhibit to prevent auto-drafting players you donít wish to have on your roster. If you become an expert on how players are ranked on the web site you use, you can get the best value for your selections and ensure you donít end up with someone you donít wish to have.