Hockey season has been underway for a week now, and while it may not be as popular as other sports when it comes to fantasy, there is definitely some money to be made with daily fantasy hockey. Before you dive in, there are a few differences in how FanDuel and DraftKings run their NHL events, and it’s important to understand what you want to go for before diving in.
I first got into daily fantasy when DraftKings hit their advertising really hard in the summer, and promoted the PGA Millionaire event for the PGA Championship in August. I was entering a world I didn’t know much about at the time, and needless to say, my profit from that event was $0.
I tried my hand at NASCAR, and had the same result. It wasn’t until football season hit that I started really making any money, but of course that was because I knew how to play fantasy football.
The only other fantasy I have ever really played with my friends is hockey. It started a few years ago with playoff fantasy hockey, and the last couple of years we’ve done full seasons. After using my fantasy football knowledge and learning the in’s and out’s of daily fantasy, I thought I’d try some daily hockey and see how it went.
I’ve quickly found out that the two sites are vastly different when it comes to hockey, and to make a choice, you need to determine what your strengths will be when you pick lineups and what you typically consider “successful” for a player.
Here is a table of scoring for each site:
|Shot on Goal (SOG)||0.4||0.5|
|Short-Handed Point Bonus (G/A)||–||1|
|Hat Trick Bonus||–||1.5|
|Power Play Points||0.5||–|
So those are the basic scores for NHL. You will notice how different they are for the skaters, but goalies are the same.
Goalies will always be your most expensive purchase, but a good goalie can get double digit points if they get a shutout. It’s best to pick your goalie first by looking at the match-up, the over/under, and the line. It’s also a risk/reward system to pick a really good goalie against a really high scoring team. A team may win 5-1 and the goalie will stand on his head to block 30 of 31 shots. But instead of ending up with 11 points (6 from saves, 3 from win, +2 from shutout), you end up with 8 (6 from saves, 3 from win, -1 from goal).
I’ve also dropped a few points in two circumstances from the same goalie. Pekka Rinne is always a good choice as Nashville will usually play a lower scoring game and Rinne is one of the best in the business. The Predators are 3-0 to start off, with Rinne in net for all three games. While he does have one shutout, the first two games saw shutouts disappear in the last two minutes each time. The Predators get a comfortable lead, then Rinne lets on slip by because it doesn’t really matter when it comes to whether Nashville will win or lose.
I’m not saying goalies give up on playing hard, but you have to think their mentality changes with a comfortable lead. That just goes to say that there are many different circumstances to think about with your goalie.
Now that you see the different types scores for each site, it’s time to talk about the strategy to use for each site. Scorers are going to do well everywhere. If your players are scoring goals, you can’t ask for much more. But in a game like hockey, chances are you aren’t going to pick all the goal scorers in a night. That’s when you have to look at the ways players are getting points outside of putting the puck in the net.
On DraftKings, you want to pick players who are actively shooting the puck because of the slight uptick in points for a SOG. Look at how much players take shots on goal, even if they aren’t necessarily the best at getting it past the goalie. 6 shots on goal is enough to equal one goal. It’s going to take 7.5 shots (so 8) to equal one goal on FanDuel. People who are greedy and take more shots (but shots that at least get to the goalie) are good picks on DraftKings.
When it comes to FanDuel, while you do get just slightly less for a SOG, you want to pick players who are going to be on the ice when goals are scored. The +/- differential could provide crucial points for your fantasy team, even if that player doesn’t perform that well individually. Picking players on a high scoring line is a good strategy on FanDuel because of the +/- and assists you may can get.
You also have to think of the value a goal or assist may have when it comes to the +/-. When a player scores, they are going to get the 3 points for a goal or 2 points for an assist, but they are also usually going to get +1 (if it’s not on the power play). If you have a player that scored a goal from another player on your team who had an assist, that’s actually going to get you +2 points, so instead of 5 = 3 + 2, you’re going to get 7 = 3(+1) + 2(+1). This shows why it’s more important to pick from good lines rather than strictly focus on high shooting individual skaters.
Here are two examples from Tuesday October 13 on the two different systems benefitting more than the other:
FanDuel’s +/- system:
Max Pacioretty had two goals in Montreal’s 3-2 win over Pittsburgh.
On FanDuel, he had 9.1 points = 1 even strength goal (3), 1 power play goal (3.5), 4 SOG (1.6), and was +1 (1)
On DraftKings, he had 8 points = 2 goals (6), 4 SOG (2)
DraftKing’s SOG/BS system:
Tyler Seguin had one assist in Dallas’ 4-2 win over Edmonton.
On FanDuel, he had 7 points = 1 assist (2), 10 SOG (4), +1 (1)
On DraftKings, he had 7.5 points = 1 assist (2), 10 SOG (5), 1 BS (0.5)
Where +/- is also really important is in your budget picks. Like all daily fantasy games, you’re going to have to settle for a cheap player or two so that you can afford your aces that cost too much. If a player is inexpensive because he’s not the best goalscorer, on FanDuel you can do some research on his line and how his +/- typically goes when he’s on the ice. Also research the lines the player will be playing against most likely and see if he could sneak a point or two strictly from being in the right place at the right time.
The big thing when it comes to defenders is blocked shots. If you have a defender and a goalie from the same team – on DraftKings you actually want the defender to get the block because he gets 0.5 compared to 0.2 from a save. On FanDuel, you want the goalie to get it because they don’t count blocked shots.
Another important thing to look at is penalty minutes. Any minor penalty is going to be half a point for a player. While defenders aren’t necessarily the only place you’ll get penalty minutes, 14 of the top 25 players in number of minor penalties were defenders. You don’t want to play anyone just because they could get penalty minutes, but it does add a little bit extra to your total score if a player gets too rowdy and breaks the rules.
Neither site offers points for hits, so that’s not a stat to worry about.
When it comes to defenders, if you are on DraftKings, you want shot blockers. If you are on FanDuel, you need to focus on either offensive defensemen or top line defenders who could have a good +/-.
It’s important to note that with FanDuel, you have to pick two of every position (except goalie).
2 C, 2 RW, 2 LW, 2 D, 1 G
On DraftKings, you don’t have to specify left and right wingers, and you only have to choose 3 of them. The other slot is a flex spot for any skater.
2 C, 3 W, 2 D, 1 Flex, 1G
The strategy with both should still be to pick your goalie first, and fill out your lineup from there. However, since defenders are generally much cheaper than forwards, you can get a third one of those on DraftKings that you can’t get on FanDuel.
So there you have it. Some strategy into playing daily fantasy NHL on DraftKings and FanDuel. Both sites have their perks, but I do like the +/- system for FanDuel providing more of a perk for picking powerful lines. I’ve done well twice on FanDuel strictly from picking Detroit’s top line of Larkin, Zetterberg, and Abdelkader. It shows the power of stacking on FanDuel, whereas picking that line has hurt me on DraftKings because of the lack of bonuses for having them together. It also just depends on how they play too.
It’s all still a gamble no matter how you look at it. But if you’re really into daily fantasy sports, I recommend trying NHL once or twice.