3 Steps to Setting a Daily Fantasy Hockey Lineup

If you’re new to daily fantasy hockey, setting a lineup can be a daunting task. However, to give yourself a fair chance of a return on investment, all you need to do is apply a few simple tactics. The research can be time consuming, but usually pays off at the end of the night. Let’s get started.

Step #1: Extrapolate potential offense

If you’re not familiar with NHL talent, you can rely on statistics to show you the way. Look for teams that give up a lot of goals and exploit them by starting one of their opponent’s lines/defensive units (step 2) that scores a lot of goals. You, however, must be careful not to rely on too small of a sample size as an indication of a poor defense or formidable offense. If a team has played under 10 games, it may be a fluke they’ve allowed 4 goals a game. Perhaps they’ve recently made a goaltender switch or have gotten an injured star back from injury. You can also utilize the previous season’s statistics. However, you must again be careful and be sure there were no major changes to the team’s roster during the off season. Also, look at the recent game log. Contradictory to what I said above, hockey is a streaky sport. If a team has scored 20 goals in 4 games, odds favor them continuing to play well. I’m not trying to confuse you, but encouraging you to look at a match up from all angles. You can also look at the Las Vegas lines to see which teams are heavily favored in games with a 5.5 over/under. The standard over under is 5, so 5.5 means the public is expecting more scoring than usual. Any team favored by more than -150 in these games (or at all really) is expected to score 3-4 goals. I recommend first analyzing the statistics, picking 2 or more teams you think will have a good offensive night and then confirm your suspicions are legitimate by looking at the game line. Relying merely on the game lines can be disastrous. Remember, odds makers set the line at the point they calculate will draw the same amount of money on each side. They are experts at predicting bettors behavior, not game outcomes. So, now that you’ve decided which teams will score sufficiently, it’s time to decide which specific players to roster.

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Step #2: Identify offensive lines, defensive units, and power play units

Each team rosters 18 offensive players, generally 12 forwards and 6 defenseman. Forwards play in groups of 3 for about a minute before substituting for the next group of 3 or ‘line’ (hockey is that exhausting). Defenseman play in groups of 2, but it’s not both of them substituting out as often as it is 3 forwards. Defenseman skate a lot less than forwards and, thus, can often stay in the game for longer periods of time. The point being: it’s difficult to predict what fellow players a defenseman will share ice time with throughout the game. Each team also has 2 power play units used to increase the chances of scoring when they have a man advantage. Look to add an entire line, perhaps along with a defenseman or goalie (more below), from a team you think will score goals plentifully. When considering an offensive line, check if they all play together on a power play unit as well. Check if they all receive ample time on ice (TOI). A player on a 3rd or 4th line may get a significant amount less TOI than his line mates. It may seem counter intuitive adding 3 or 4 players from the same team, but one goal scored with 3 or 4 of your players on the ice will bombard your opponent. For example, if you have 4 players on the ice and one of them scores assisted by another (or even 2), you will have already compiled enough offensive points to win many head to head games, depending on the scoring system. If the other team scores with your players on the ice, this tactic (commonly called stacking) can also lose you points quickly, but that’s the risk we take when setting a favorable lineup. Of course, having a team’s first line with a defenseman that plays with the three on the first power play unit is ideal, but budget doesn’t always allow this. Don’t be afraid to start a teams second or third line in a favorable match up. Especially if the line sticks together on the second power play unit. All in all, choosing offensive players based on match up, as opposed to talent level is the philosophy The opposite being true with goaltenders.

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Step #3: Choose elite goaltenders

It’s always a good strategy to start the most talented goaltenders on talented teams when setting your lineup. They’re often the most expensive options, but for good reason. A goaltender plays the entire game (ideally) and has a chance to score at any point. In the majority of scoring systems a dominate goal tending performance will usually produce more points than a dominate offensive performance and it’s much easier to predict which high priced goaltender will allow few goals in a win than it is to predict which high priced forward will score 2 or 3 points. So, look for the most expensive options, very importantly making sure they are confirmed to play in the game. On countless occasions I’ve seen elite goaltenders with the night off in rosters. If you’re unsure which goaltender to roster, look at their career stats in comparison to their opponents. Look at their recent games. Much like step 1 above, look at their opponents offensive ability and the line on the game in Las Vegas. Occasionally, a goalie is historically great, but has faltered in recent games. This will drive his price down. If there’s not another elite talent playing, start the struggling star. Odds are he will rebound soon.

More information is always a good thing – I find this true in life and in the fantasy hockey realm. Be sure to gain as much information as possible when doing your research. Has Chicago recently lost a player to injury? Does Buffalo play significantly better at home? Does Philadelphia perform well on no rest? When its time to enter your lineup, be conservative. Only risk 1% of your bankroll on each game, and only 25% on any lineup. If you have $500, entering 25 $5 head to head games is advisable. On a bad night, you won’t lose much and on a good night you will see a very high return on investment.

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by Nicholas Polino