The NHL DFS market is less advanced than many of the other major sports, mainly due to hockey having a smaller fan base than sports like football and basketball. NHL daily fantasy contests tend to be smaller, and with less substantial prize pools they can be overlooked. The lack of attention given to NHL DFS contests by some powerful DFS players, advice websites, and the general public make them particularly exploitable. If you have limited knowledge of the sport, however, its important to use a few guiding principals as a start in your lineup building process in order to exploit the markets inefficiency on DraftKings and Fanduel
Below, we'll address these strategies and provide tangible examples of how this advice can work in practice.
How to Win NHL DFS Contests: Strategy, advice, tips for daily fantasy hockey tournaments
Even strength lines
In my opinion, the strongest NHL GPP lineups are built around stacking two even strength lines. This is a rule that I stick to in a vast majority of my lineups and the reason is simple: With a few exceptions, forwards (centers and wingers) that play on an even strength line together have by far the highest correlation in terms of fantasy points scored.
If youve played DFS before but are new to hockey, its not difficult to recognize that you should be implementing some form of stacking in order to pile up goals and assists. The question is therefore how you should stack. There are a few alternative approaches to stacking. Loading up on a power-play combination from different even strength lines is the most common. While this is a viable strategy that I have seen work and do personally implement occasionally on smaller slates, I believe it is a superior strategy to use two even strength lines if you do not have to give up optimality or an ownership advantage. I have seen even strength double-stacks take down tournaments with far more frequency than any other approach.
Power-play units, except on extremely rare occasions, do not share nearly as much ice time as even strength lines. Their propensity to see performance correlation if they do not share even strength lines is therefore much lower than even strength linemates, even though they may get more high-danger chances. On larger slates, there are too many even strength lines to play with for me to see value in a power-play stack. Sometimes all it takes to win a GPP is pairing the right two even strength lines.
While NHL GPPs are progressing, larger tournaments still carry plenty of unstacked or otherwise suboptimal lineups. Stack two even strength lines and see if they pop.
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Regardless of your stacking strategy, an easy way to improve your player selection process is to target players who shoot the puck. Not only is shooting one of the very few other ways outside of goals and assists to rack up some added fantasy points, it is also perhaps more importantly a strong indicator of future production. The math here is not complicated: Players who shoot will eventually score.
The best players shoot a lot and score a lot, but I like to look deeper for an edge. There are often players who rate highly in terms of shots on goal but may have recently been lacking in the scoring department (goals and assists) and are priced down as a result. Although there can be some statistical significance behind production like this (defensemen generally shoot at a lower percentage than forwards), it can also often be explained by variance that will eventually correct itself.
These situations provide an excellent opportunity to find value in NHL contests. If you want to take your shot-driven approach one step further, you can look at shot attempts, which will be slightly higher than shots on goal and indicate how many times a player has attempted to put a shot on goal. Leveraging the predictive power of a players shots on goal and shot attempts can place you a step ahead of your competition.
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Hockey is a high-volatility sport
Just because a Vegas line says something doesnt make it a fact. NHL games often do not go as planned, and more frequently they go far from it, which is important to remember when building lineups. The volatility of hockey makes leveraging ownership a crucial part of a strong GPP strategy.
When building your lineups, dont fixate on matchup, recent performance, or home versus away. These are all nice factors to consider, but they shouldnt be the guiding principles behind your player selection. Certain lines or players can get way too much attention from the field due to the appeal of their game situation (such as a good matchup at home) while other lines or players of similar caliber may get faded in a bad matchup on the road.
Because NHL results are so erratic from game-to-game, its not uncommon for a popular line to completely flop for practically nothing while an unpopular line goes berserk. This leaves an abundance of opportunities to take advantage of ownership inefficiencies. On larger slates, you can often find strong lines and players for very low ownership. These players can win you a GPP.
Aaron White graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Economics. He has played DFS professionally for several years and has won featured NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and golf GPPs on both FanDuel and DraftKings.