Beginners Guide to NHL DFS

Beginners Guide to NHL DFS

The NHL season is on the horizon and with that comes numerous players new to DFS, as well as those who are looking for something to do before the NBA starts back up. This article will help guide you through the basics of NHL DFS and the key points you need to know in order to grow your bankroll.

How to Play

Just like in other DFS sports, the way you beat your opponent is to accumulate the most points from your lineup. For most sites you will draft six forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie. Stat categories that contribute to your points total may include goals, assists, shots on goal, power play points, shorthanded points, penalty minutes, blocked shots, saves from your goalie, and a goalie win. But before you begin creating that winning lineup, the first thing that you will want to do is to locate the scoring system your site uses for the NHL. Different sites, such as Fanduel and Draftkings, have different scoring systems that may place more importance on one stat category than another.  A goal on site A may be worth twice as much as an assist, but only 1.5x as much on site B. Even the +/- rating of a player (their team’s goal differential while they are on the ice) may be factored into scoring, though a lot of sites are doing away with this stat in DFS.  



What to Research

Vegas Lines: Vegas has way more money at stake each night than you ever will.  So you can rest assured they have done every bit of research possible to come up with the most accurate scenario of each game.  Looking at which team will be favored as well as the over/under for each game is crucial.  You will be wanting to use the money line to figure out which goalie you are wanting to target that night for the win, and the over/under to help you determine which teams you want to target for your skaters.

Starting Goalies: The NHL is rapidly changing in the goalie position.  It used to be that a team had one starting goalie that would go for 79 games of the 82 game season.  These heavy working goalies are a thing of the past as teams are throwing out a two goalie committee throughout the season. They still have their primary starter, but instead of playing in 79 games, he will likely see action in only 60.  This makes it extremely important to look up the starting goalies that day.  Most teams say who they will have starting in net a couple hours before the game starts, but there are the occasional unknown starters that remain that way 30 minutes until puck drop. If you want to be successful in NHL DFS, you have to make sure your goalie is starting.

Lineups: Looking at the lineups of teams each night in hockey is just like waiting for the lineups to come out in MLB.  For the most part the lineups will look the same, give or take a player, but you never know when that top guy is taking the night off, or is playing with line mates he is not familiar with.  Not only do you want to be looking for the starting lineups and where each player is, you will also want to take note of who is playing on the power play units for each team.  It is there where you can find some big value players.

Special Teams: The power play in DFS is heavily weighted in scoring systems.  On most sites, not only do you get the usual points for a goal or an assist, but you also get bonus points for it coming on the power play.  I have always found it strange that you get more points for a scoring a goal when the opposing team has fewer men on the ice, making it much easier to score, but use this knowledge to your advantage. Targeting value players that play on a team’s top power play unit is a great way to get some points into your lineup while saving some salary.  It is also important to be checking the overall team power play percentage (PP%) and penalty kill percentage (PK%). If you notice that the number one PP% team is going against the worst ranked PK% team, you will want to take a serious look at the power play unit. If there is a value guy on that team’s top PP unit, you can pretty much say you have found your value forward for that night.


Goalies

The goalie position in your lineup is equivalent to the pitcher in your MLB lineup and is by far the most interesting.  Goalies accumulate positive stats by making saves, posting a shutout, or by earning a win. But just like a pitcher and an earned run, a goal against will cost you negative points. 

After you realize who the starting goalies are for your contest, hop on over to see who Vegas has as favorites to win.  Goalie wins are huge points for your lineup, and the possibility of positing a shutout almost doubles your point total.  Currently, on Fanduel’s new NHL scoring system, a goalie who made 25 saves and posted a shutout win would earn 40 points! That’s just three points less than a forward who has a four-point game with two goals, two assists, and two shots.  Don’t be afraid to pay up for goalie in cash games at all.

However, picking the goalie with the largest possibility of getting a win isn’t always the net minder you want to target.  Two years ago during the 14-15 season, the Buffalo Sabres were posting historically bad offensive numbers.  They were the worst team in the NHL in quite some time and opposing goalies were almost a lock for a win.  The issue with placing them in your lineup was that Buffalo would only get 14 shots in the entire game, so if the goalie let in a single goal, their night (and your night) was ruined.  Picking a goalie that would probably also get the win and let in two goals on 32 shots was a way more profitable choice. My favorite goalie to pick night in and night out is the top tier goalie that you can almost assure will get a win, and face the most amount of shots.


Skaters

I advise you to select your goalie before you pick any skaters as it is the most important position in your lineup.  Once that is set, you have to decide where you want to pay up for players.  By now, you should have already checked the Vegas lines and starting lineups for the slate. You will primarily be focusing on teams that are playing in games with a high O/U and players that will see the most opportunity for scoring.  Comparable to the NBA, you will want to focus the guys that will be on the ice.  The longer they sit on the bench, the more that impacts your score.  Not all lines on a team see the same amount of minutes. Top line defensemen will typically see the most minutes of anyone in the game, followed by the top line forwards.  The players on the fourth forward line tend to see the fewest amount of minutes, and also have the fewest opportunities to score.  The fourth line for most NHL teams is the bruiser line.  They like to go out there and hit guys hard into the boards, or defend and hold the score the way it is.  Having a forward in your lineup that plays on the fourth line is a poor choice, unless you know he will get into a fight that night and record you a nice amount of penalty minutes (I strongly discourage this lineup building strategy).

For the most part you will be able to put in around two superstars into your lineup each night depending on how many value plays you were able to find.  Try to start off putting those value guys you found into your lineup before you place your superstars.  This will allow you to see how much money you have left to spend, and also reduces the risk of picking a cheap priced player because he’s cheap.  Patrick Kane, Alexander Ovechkin, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, they all have nights where they accrue zero goals and assists.  While they will put up shots on net, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will score.  I have found it far better to have two superstars and four great value finds in my lineup rather than four superstars and two throwaway minimum priced guys.  And that is because of what I stated above; the top guys can throw up a goose egg on the score sheet, just like Mike Trout can go 0-5.  In the NBA you know your superstars are going to go off every single night for an absurd amount of points, but the case is not the same in the NHL.


Summary

  • Target goalies first and don’t be afraid to pay up for them in cash. They are the pitchers of your NHL team.
  • Check the Vegas lines, they have millions upon millions of dollars at stake each night and have done more research than any one person could.
  • Target skaters in games with a high O/U and make sure to find as many guys as you can on the top line and the power play.
  • Look at starting lineups for guys that may have moved up in their role. A regular third line guy playing on top the line because of an injury can equal a nice value play.
  • If your guy is on the bench, he’s not getting you any points.

Best of luck in this upcoming NHL season!


About the Author:

Jonathan Scharf
Twitter: @sabrescup17

Jonathan has always loved finding those interesting sports stats and sharing them with those around him. When he came across DFS back in 2010 he was instantly hooked realizing his vast sports stat knowledge could pay off. After playing a variety of DFS sports, the NHL is where he found his greatest success.  Jonathan focuses most of his time as a cash game player, but does enjoy the occasional GPP.

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