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NHL DFS Guide for the NBA Obsessed

By Taylor Ezell (ezellmt), Last Updated 1 week ago

The NBA All-Star break is here. While the break is much needed for the players and generally enjoyed by the fans, it creates a void for NBA DFS players. Before you sink into a dark, dark place and begin your NBA withdrawal process, I recommend that you step into the light that is NHL DFS.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I know nothing about NHL, why would I want to give away my money?” Get rid of this thought because you’re about to learn some key pointers in your adjustment to the NHL game. Your itch to play something in DFS every night is slowly taking you over. Don’t ignore the itch, scratch it. The water is warm, come on in.

NHL Basics

TheTonyM has already written an excellent primer on the basics of NHL which you should definitely check out before diving into NHL DFS. I’ll try not to duplicate his content, but instead compare NHL to other sports that you might be more familiar with and expand upon a few NHL DFS concepts that newcomers might not be familiar with.

Goalie

Goalie is similar to a starting pitcher in baseball. Getting a win is very important to their fantasy output, so it is important to look at Vegas lines to determine who the favorites are.

In cash games, you’ll want to pay up for goalie, unless there is a cheap goalie who is heavily favored. In GPPs, you might need to take more chances and take a goalie that isn’t heavily favored or might be a slight underdog. Underdogs will generally face more shots, so if they can steal a win, they might have more upside than some of the heavy favorites. Make sure that your goalie is starting! This will normally be announced fairly early in the day, but make sure to double check before contests lock.

Skaters

I’m not going to go into the level of detail breaking down forwards and defensemen for this particular article, but the premise behind all skaters is the same.

Like any DFS sport, it’s about finding guys in favorable situations at reasonable prices. In baseball, if someone that normally bats 9th is batting 2nd in a game versus a weak pitcher, they obviously receive a sizable boost in potential production. In hockey, we look for skaters that will get lots of ice time on the first line of the even-strength and powerplay units. Often times a player will get bumped from the 3rd/4th line to the first line and will be playing with far more talented players than usual, which creates opportunities for production. Check out our daily lineups page to see who is playing on each line to find values. If you are looking at game logs on DK or FD to see how many minutes they have been playing, look for your forwards to log at least 15 minutes a game, preferably closer to 18-20. For defensemen, look for at least 20+ minutes, while 25+ is preferred. Ice time (especially in favorable situations) equals production.

Note: Blowouts aren’t really an issue in hockey like they are in NBA. Although some of the lower level lines might get an extra shift or two in blowouts, the top lines will still get ice time even when the game is out of hand.

FanDuel vs. DraftKings

Scoring

Most people will be playing on either FanDuel or DraftKings so we will focus on those two. The scoring for each have actually gotten much more similar through the year. In the past, there were about five main differences, but now there are just a few. FanDuel gives a 0.5 bonus for power play goals, while DraftKings does not. DraftKings, on the other hand, gives a 0.2 bonus for shootout goals and a 1.5 point bonus for hat tricks. None of these changes are significant enough to warrant a change in approach between the two sites. We are already going to be targeting players who receive significant power play time and are candidates for shootout attempts and hat tricks, so you can largely deploy the same strategies for both sites.

Roster Construction

Roster construction is nearly identical between the two sites as well. If you already play on both sites, then the difference will be familiar to you. DraftKings offers a “Utility” position for any skater (non-goalie) while FanDuel does not. They both allow two Centers, three Wings, two Defensemen, and a Goalie. There isn’t really a preferred position to use the Utility on, and it will primarily depend on the values available on a given slate.

To Stack or Not to Stack?

“Stacking” is commonly referred to in all DFS sports, but what does it mean in hockey? Technically, it can just mean to stack a certain team, but generally stacking refers to stacking a particular line (group of forwards or defensemen who play together at the same time). In the past, plus/minus factored in to scoring on FD, which increased the need to stack linemates on FanDuel, especially in GPPs. This is no longer factored into scoring, but you should still strongly consider it. Players on the same line will often assist each other’s goals, so a goal from a particular line could result in a flury of points for your roster.

Note: In hockey, there can be two assists on a goal, which is unlike any other sport. There are few better feelings in DFS than having a goal scored and assisted by two players and you own them all. It’s like having your QB throw an 80 yd TD to your receiver, except that another player someone gets in on the action too! In cash games, stacking is a riskier proposition because if the line that you stacked bombs, you’re likely done for the night. In cash games, it’s often better to try and mix and match players across different teams and lines to mitigate some of the risk.

Other Tidbits

1) In the same way that it’s not a good idea to roster hitters versus the starting pitcher that you are also playing, it’s not smart to play skaters that are facing your goalie. You are minimizing your upside from the start because if your skater has a good day, then your goalie likely did not, and vice versa.

2) Similar to NBA, look at who is playing on the second of a back-to-back (B2B). You shouldn’t always avoid players in the back end of a B2B, but you should consider it since they might have slightly more tired legs. This is especially true for road teams.

3) Target skaters against backup goalies in poor situations and target backup goalies in good ones. Huh? Yes, it’s confusing. Depending on the circumstances, backup goalies should be both targeted and targeted against. Vegas lines and the pricing of players involved will help you out in determining which side of the fence to be on.

4) Late scratches in hockey are extremely rare. Unlike the NBA where players are frequently given the night off, this almost never happens in the NHL. Goalies are the exception to the rest rule, but you’re already checking who the starting goalies are, remember? All that to say, you can essentially set your lineup and relax after the first games lock, even on a late-swap site like DraftKings.

5) Have fun with it! Don’t go crazy and throw a ton of money in NHL contests on the first night, but dip your toes in the water a little bit. As you get more comfortable, you can expand your $ in play.

Good luck and feel free to leave any questions or comments or reach out to me on Twitter.

About the Author

  • Taylor Ezell (ezellmt)

  • Taylor Ezell has been playing fantasy sports for over a decade and made the transition to daily fantasy near the end of 2013. Once an editor on RotoGrinders, Ezell has transitioned into a top DFS Grinder in the industry. He finished 3rd in the $250K NFL Thunderdome, was a 2015 DraftKings World Baseball Championship Finalist, and was the runner-up at the 2015 DraftKings $1M College Football Championship. Outside of fantasy sports, Taylor is an accountant (IT Auditor) living in Nashville. You can follow Taylor on Twitter @taylorezell

Comments

  • VRod305

    I’m relatively new to this “sport”. I’ve found two things: I want to stack and play cheap defensemen. Both have worked for me and I feel like it’s a lot easier to guess on a stack than to hit a bunch of different guys. I also found that if you hit cheap defensemen (although what is happening tonight can happen and you get 42 points from 2 guys and nothing from everyone else), you can get the bigger totals. Just my take. I’m hoping to play more and get better.

  • ezellmt

    RG Contributor

    • 2015 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

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    @VRod305 said...

    I’m relatively new to this “sport”. I’ve found two things: I want to stack and play cheap defensemen. Both have worked for me and I feel like it’s a lot easier to guess on a stack than to hit a bunch of different guys. I also found that if you hit cheap defensemen (although what is happening tonight can happen and you get 42 points from 2 guys and nothing from everyone else), you can get the bigger totals. Just my take. I’m hoping to play more and get better.

    As with anything in DFS, this is slate dependent. For example, there might be a slate where an elite defenseman (e.g. Brent Burns) is priced as high or higher than the elite forwards. Burns could go off for mutiple points and 5+ shots on goal at a high ownership, meaning you’re in the hole if you don’t own him. Overall, I don’t mind the idea of punting D, especially if they get some power play exposure.

  • Ax88amp

    I think the biggest key is goalie selection. That can be absolutely critical and to me, while nothing is guaranteed in hockey, is one of the best consistent points generating options if you can pick the winning goalie and even better if they get the shut out. Nothing worse than choosing a goalie in a cash game that is typically very good but is going against the Capitals or Penguins. That goalie more often than not is in no-mans land.

  • tonytone1908

    It’s funny. Last year I went into the NBA break in a slump and after a week of NHL, mostly just playing turbos or late slates if they had my Blackhawks playing and would just stack them. They played well that week and I actually came back to NBA with a bit of a bankroll and a somewhat different perspective in lineup building that I think actually helped me in the 2nd half. Hockey is actually my favorite sport but everyone watches basketball so that’s what I’m stuck with most times. Building lineups seems like a crapshoot to me. I just read previews from a couple different sites and plug in the players that seem to be doing well. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve noticed you can ride guys on hot streaks a little longer most times and the most proficient hockey player is one on a hot streak. When a guy is on, he’s on, and it’s usually for at least a couple weeks until he settle back to normal.

    Anyways, hockey is lots of fun to watch and even more when you’re playing DFS. If your team is good just stack the guys you know have been good lately and if they suck then stack against them. They may suck but you could get rich off of knowing just how bad they truly are! I love the plus minus being gone, it was so hard to build a good lineup when you know a game is going to have 10 goals scored in it. Stack both teams and they just cross each other out every time they score. No worries about that now. Might enjoy a week away from basketball.

  • Seahawktom

    I’ve never been a hockey follower until I started playing NHL DFS a few months ago. Just wasn’t feeling it with NBA, and honestly I’ve found NHL DFS to be so much more satisfying and fun. It’s also made me a fan of the game.

    The great thing about hockey is that once your goalies are confirmed, you don’t have to sit around your phone or computer waiting to hear about GTDs for injured players before you make your final lineup calls. In the NBA DFS, on the other hand, practically the whole game seems to come down to finding and swapping in players with increased minutes due to last minute injury substitutions. No such shenanigans in the NHL. Ice time is pretty consistent night to night, and you tend to see less injury impact on games. Also, no “foul trouble” to ruin a night, and no “blowout risk” drastically affecting minutes.

    In my opinion, in terms of what DFS games are the most fun, it’s 1) MLB, 2) NHL, 3) NFL and then 4) NBA

  • Codith

    @Seahawkto said...

    I’ve never been a hockey follower until I started playing NHL DFS a few months ago. Just wasn’t feeling it with NBA, and honestly I’ve found NHL DFS to be so much more satisfying and fun. It’s also made me a fan of the game.

    The great thing about hockey is that once your goalies are confirmed, you don’t have to sit around your phone or computer waiting to hear about GTDs for injured players before you make your final lineup calls. In the NBA DFS, on the other hand, practically the whole game seems to come down to finding and swapping in players with increased minutes due to last minute injury substitutions. No such shenanigans in the NHL. Ice time is pretty consistent night to night, and you tend to see less injury impact on games. Also, no “foul trouble” to ruin a night, and no “blowout risk” drastically affecting minutes.

    In my opinion, in terms of what DFS games are the most fun, it’s 1) MLB, 2) NHL, 3) NFL and then 4) NBA

    Technically someone could run into foul trouble. Game misconducts happens just not usually to good players….still can pop up. Or a fight that gives them 5 minutes off + a 10 minute misconduct as well. Odds are you won’t run into that unless you a punting grinders or certain Dmen

  • Sinthetix

    The Avs have the 5th highest PIMS/G at 11.02. The Canes have the lowest at 6.26. I’m stacking 4 players from the Carolina PP in honour of a mercenary warrior who discovered the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of our world.

  • Kgdarealmvp

    Seriously, how about just taking a break from DFS?

  • ezellmt

    RG Contributor

    • 2015 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

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    • 2015 DraftKings FCFWC Finalist

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    @Kgdarealmvp said...

    Seriously, how about just taking a break from DFS?

    I think we all know this is an unacceptable answer, thus the need for this article… :)

  • steelcitydozer

    @Kgdarealmvp said...

    Seriously, how about just taking a break from DFS?

    And spend time with our families. Have you gone mad sir?

  • silentterror

    Thanks for the article, MR. ezellmt. I don’t watch Hockey nor Soccer, but I have been entering DFS games here and there since last year. I just look up stats and minutes played by players in Hockey and Soccer. I have the itch you speak of to play something DFS every night, especially these past days during the all star break. I bombed at golf, Hideki Matsuyama let me down big time. I entered a few hockey games, came close to finishing in the money, and just last night while I examined the winners lineups I finally realized my goalies never score any points, and then I realized my soccer goalies usually never score points, AND then I laughed so hard at my ignorance because it dawned on me that goal keepers are like pitchers and catchers: they don’t play every night! DOH! But I should have known this, for some reason without thinking; I felt the goalies rotated in every game. SO tonight I decided I would read up on how to actually play NHL DFS and right on rotogrinders start page is this article and you write about all the things I should have known before “ I gave away my money “ Now I will go read the other article by TheTonyM. Again, thank you, you renewed my confidence that I can get better and enjoy NHL DFS. Can’t wait for Daytona! Nascar baby!

  • ezellmt

    RG Contributor

    • 2015 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

      DraftKings FBWC Finalist
    • 2015 DraftKings FCFWC Finalist

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    @silentterror said...

    Thanks for the article, MR. ezellmt. I don’t watch Hockey nor Soccer, but I have been entering DFS games here and there since last year. I just look up stats and minutes played by players in Hockey and Soccer. I have the itch you speak of to play something DFS every night, especially these past days during the all star break. I bombed at golf, Hideki Matsuyama let me down big time. I entered a few hockey games, came close to finishing in the money, and just last night while I examined the winners lineups I finally realized my goalies never score any points, and then I realized my soccer goalies usually never score points, AND then I laughed so hard at my ignorance because it dawned on me that goal keepers are like pitchers and catchers: they don’t play every night! DOH! But I should have known this, for some reason without thinking; I felt the goalies rotated in every game. SO tonight I decided I would read up on how to actually play NHL DFS and right on rotogrinders start page is this article and you write about all the things I should have known before “ I gave away my money “ Now I will go read the other article by TheTonyM. Again, thank you, you renewed my confidence that I can get better and enjoy NHL DFS. Can’t wait for Daytona! Nascar baby!

    What you have done is a veteran move and one that many players fail to do. You went back and analyzed the lineups of winners and also did some reviewing on your own. Once you did that, you discovered a flaw in your approach. I have done this recently with golf and realized that I tended to over-target bombers even when the course doesn’t require it. I corrected it and had one of my best weeks this weekend. People often lose and just throw their hands in the air without trying to find the root cause. Congrats on the advanced level analysis and good look going forward!

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