Taylor Ezell Wins Fantasy Hockey World Championship
He doesn’t write as much content for RotoGrinders as he used to, but you may have recently read Taylor Ezell’s NHL DFS Guide for the NBA Obsessed, an article to help DFS players during the NBA All-Star Break.
Flash forward one week and the Nashville native and longtime RotoGrinders contributor is the new DraftKings Fantasy Hockey World Championship winner and is $100,000 richer as a result.
We took a few moments to talk with ezellmt about his huge win. Congrats Taylor!
RotoGrinders: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you grew up, went to school, what you did before DFS, married, kids, single, etc;
Taylor: I was born and raised in Nashville. I went to a local college (Lipscomb University) and graduated with a Masters in Accounting and then got my CPA license. I still work full-time as an IT Audit Manager at a local firm. My wife Kim and I have been married for almost six years and had our first child, Georgia, this past December. It’s been incredible being a parent, even if sleep is limited. When I’m not with my family or playing daily fantasy, I love being out on the golf course. My wife and I are members at a course locally, and we try to get out there whenever we can.
RotoGrinders: When did you get into DFS? What was your introduction to it?
Taylor: I can’t remember my exact introduction, but think it was around 2013. I joined RotoGrinders then as a resource because I was completely clueless and needed a place to start. I eventually started editing articles for RG, and then moved to writing content for a few sports several years later.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your DFS path. The struggles you’ve had… the successes.
Taylor: From 2013 to 2015, I was really just playing low stakes for fun. In 2015, everything took off. Out of the blue, I qualified for the MLB Live Final. I remember going into a movie with my family in pretty good shape, but with Noah Syndergaard pitching in the Sunday Night Baseball game. I didn’t want to check my phone during the movie, so I “had to use the restroom” a few hours in so I could check it. I eventually won the Q. The live final itself didn’t go as planned, but it was still a great experience. A few months later, I qualified for the College Football Live Final (RIP) with a single-bullet $33 entry. I was at my friend’s wedding sweating that one out. I qualified and managed to take down 2nd place for $150k. That four-month stretch in 2015 was definitely the turning point in DFS. I’ve also been to a live final for PGA at Pinehurst in 2017, so this was my 4th live final in all. There have been plenty of struggles too, but the successes have luckily outweighed them.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your daily life, the routines you take, the approaches you utilize in terms of DFS?
Taylor: I have a full-time job and family, so time for research is definitely limited. I try to be as efficient as possible. Each sport is different so I have a different system/process for each. The only main sport I don’t play is NBA because I can’t dedicate the time to it (and I’m just not that good at it). I use RotoGrinders’ tools and research and then I have some spreadsheets and things I do on my own. I try to not base my entire life and schedule around fantasy, although my wife might argue that I fail at that…
RotoGrinders: Do you look/listen to other’s advice? If so, what do you try to glean from it and whose names are at the top of your list.
Taylor: I like to do my own research first, then look at others’ advice as a double-check. Often times, I’ll have overlooked someone and will go back to see why everyone else likes them. It’s also helpful to see who the chalk will be to determine if it’s “good chalk” or “bad chalk”. For NHL, RG has some of the smartest people in the industry (Pepsi, Boggs, JayWilly, JMB, etc.)
RotoGrinders: What is your typical research process for a day of NHL? What resources do you utilize? If you make your own model, what factors do you weigh the most?
Taylor: I won’t go into too much detail on my process because I’ve got to keep an edge somewhere :). But I’ll generally start by looking at the salaries when they are released, often the day before the contest. I’ll scan through to see if anything stands out. When you play pretty much every day, you already have a good feel for where people should be priced, etc. I’ll look at Vegas lines to see who they like and don’t like, and also to determine where the chalk will be. I use a combination of the RG Lineups page, Dailyfaceoff.com, and Leftwinglock.com for verifying lines for all the teams. The RG Lineups page is great because it has the salaries listed, making it easy to identify value. For the most part, I’m a single entry player, so I don’t have to worry about creating a ton of lineups on a nightly basis. I just find a lineup (or occasionally two) I feel good about and lock it in.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your lineup and each lineup spot. What were your thought processes on utilizing the players that you did.
Taylor: I was fortunate to have three lineups, so I wanted to take a blended approach of having a few players (Kucherov, Callahan) in all three, while diversifying elsewhere, like at goalie. For this lineup, I was expecting the Panthers to be somewhat low-owned (maybe 10-12%). I was shocked to see them at 20-25% instead. They were in a good spot facing Pittsburgh on a back-to-back, but it still surprised me to see them that high. I was torn between Yandle and Ekblad for my Florida defenseman, and was fortunate to have chosen the right one. The Dadonov hat trick was obviously huge. I’ve already ordered a Dadonov jersey to commemorate the occasion. I paired the Panthers with Point/Kucherov/Callahan from the Lightning. Point and Kucherov have been on fire, and Callahan had gotten a bump to the first line with Stamkos for just $2900. I knew Callahan would also get power play time with Point on the second unit. The final skater was Brian Dumoulin. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but needed to punt a defenseman. He’s not super talented or offensively-gifted, but I knew he’d be playing in an uptempo game with lots of scoring. When he got an assist, I knew it was going to be a good night. Last, I went with Bobrovsky at goalie. Similar to the Panthers ownership, I couldn’t believe he was so highly owned (45%!). It came down to the wire, but he eventually got the win, which was a crucial three points that pushed me to the top.
RotoGrinders: You’re now a live final winner who is six figures richer. What was your immediate reaction? Any plans for an extravagant purchase? If no, what are your plans with the bankroll increase?
Taylor: It was pure shock. I had three teams in the event, and all of them were struggling throughout the night. Going into the third period for all the games, my teams were in 15th, 30th, and 32nd. Then in a few minutes, everything changed. It still doesn’t feel real. I’m a pretty rational person, so I won’t go too crazy with the money. I’ll end up with a splurge purchase of some kind, potentially a drone? I’ve always wanted one, but always felt silly dropping that kind of money on something I don’t need. We’ll probably take a trip somewhere too, likely where there is a great golf course. As for the bankroll, I probably won’t change a lot in how I play. I’m not going to go away from being more of a single-entry player because that’s what works for me.
RotoGrinders: You’ve been part of the RG team for quite some time in some capacity. Tell us about the impact RG has in your DFS life and routine.
Taylor: Honestly, I wouldn’t have been at this live final without RG. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The RG community has taught and given me so much, and it’s been a huge blessing to me as a person and a DFS player. Because I’ve been able to work for RG as well, I’ve gotten to be a part of the RG Slack Channel, which provides awesome insight into the smartest people in the fantasy realm. Cal and Cam have done such a great job creating the best daily fantasy content site in the industry (in my humble opinion). I can’t tell you how many texts, tweets, and messages I’ve gotten from the RG community congratulating me on the accomplishment. I feel truly blessed.
RotoGrinders: Any other comments/thoughts/questions you want to add.
Taylor: Shoutout to my wife Kim. Not only has she tolerated me spending way too much time on daily fantasy, she has encouraged me because she knows how much I enjoy it. She couldn’t come to the live final because of our two month-old, but FaceTiming her with the good news that I’d won was one of the most special moments in recent memory. I brought my dad on this trip, which was a blast. If I qualify for another live final in the future, he and my wife will have to fight it out for who gets to be my +1!