We are less than a week away from the start of the NHL regular season, and it’s time for a quick DFS refresher for us puck movers and shakers. I usually don’t differentiate between Cash games or GPP formats, trying to field the most potent lineup I can. But, those are the two styles in DFS, and it’s good to understand both before I take your money on DraftKings.
Rule number one: Know the scoring for the site on which you play - Drafting shot blocking defensemen with good plus/minus numbers will do you no good if those stats are not being counted. Generally speaking though, the go-to stats for DFS Hockey are: goals, assists, power play points, blocked shots, shots, plus/minus, PIM’s (penalties in minutes), saves, wins, and shutouts. Be sure to check the rules regardless. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and money. And remember, hockey players aren’t like baseball players going through the mid-July slump. That is, don't write off a guy because he hasn’t scored a point in the last five games.
Cash Games - I always look for the goalie with the most favorable matchup, regardless of price, for those are points you’ll need to win money, unless you’re fielding the 1985 Oilers time machine forwards lines. Any team playing the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vancouver Canucks is a great place to start when hunting down your starting netminder this season. A big favorite and a lower over/under is also a good starting point, but go with your gut and do not be a homer. I love the Red Wings, but I’m not running Petr Mrazek out there each night.
GPP – Now for GPP, it’s good to walk while everyone else is running. The emphasis is still looking for a great matchup, but some good teams have great backups and these are the type of GPP deals you want to look for. For instance, using Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks is a good pick; chances are the Hawks are playing a lesser team, after giving starting goalie Corey Crawford the night off. Players like Jonathan Bernier (Florida), Al Montoya (Montreal), and Thomas Greiss (N.Y. Islanders) are all excellent GPP goalies to use, and this opens extra cash for our defense and forward selections.
Power play and top pair defensemen are always the targets for me. In GPP, I rode Noah Hanifin (Carolina Hurricanes) the entire last quarter of the 2015 season. He was a power play, top four defensive player, and with occasional power play points and a few shots on goal and blocked shots each game, Hanafin never ended up in the negative point column. By drafting a cheaper defensive player, I then used that extra money on my forwards, who will score more often, or even Brent Burns as a high-end D-Man option. Remember that high ceiling players are what you want to draft.
Look for defensemen who anchor their team's power play as these players are usually on their team's top defensive pair. It’s a mini-stack for me with both defensive players, but costs of said players may interfere with your goalie and forward selections. Draft at least one stud, and give him a partner on a less successful team, with good power play minutes. This is just one way to go when drafting defensemen.
For example, you can certainly draft Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, then go out and get two higher end forwards such as Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton and you have three top power play contributors. Add Tomas Hertl onto your team as a lower priced player and you have a One-Line Stack, and if the power play success the Sharks displayed last season continues into this year, the money will flow in.
I mentioned the one-line stack, but with forwards you can roll a two-line stack as well. I’ll stick with the Sharks as my example, so use the Sharks top line supported by the Flyers top line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds (that's an example of a two-line stack). Cost will be a contributing factor when drafting to this example, so just remember to try and get a few of these stud players from each line if using the two-line stack.
Drafting a one-line combo is easy. Last year, I used Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov every time they played, and the same with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Unless your goalie is a GPP dirt cheap backup, it’s impossible to get all the top players. You really don’t want all of them anyway, because everyone else is using them as well. In GPP formats, you want to have a few players under the radar that you researched and like their chances. In other words, go against the grain a bit when drafting teams for DFS.
Using one-line and two-line stacks is beneficial instead of piecing together seven forwards from different teams. Assists always follow goals, and using line-mates works. Ask anyone who is successful in DFS hockey events. I look forward to seeing you guys in the DraftKings Hockey room. Look for PolkaKing to be near the top each night.