To win your pool, your draft strategy should be as dynamic as the pool formats they follow.

The Consigliere – Executive Director of Hockey Analytics Sept 27, 2016

What strategy should you employ … Pick the best players? Focus on Forwards? Go with underdogs? As we begin to select our Fantasy teams, your draft strategy should be as dynamic as the pool formats they follow. Here is what you should do…

Another season, another set of draft options. What strategy should you employ when drafting your team …

  • Pick the best players?
  • Focus on Forwards?
  • Go with underdogs/darkhorses?

As we begin to select our Fantasy teams, your draft strategy should be as dynamic as the pool formats they follow. In this Feature article, The Consigliere goes over the most effective strategies to win your pool in a variety of the most popular formats. Here is what you should do.

**In all cases we will assume:
  • League - 10 GMs
  • Team - 6 Forwards/3 Defencemen/ 1 Goalie per team, unless otherwise indicated

1. You’re in a Draft Only pool (points/wins only)

These pools are the simplest to conduct. Pick your team and wait till May to see the results. They are typically designed for the Casual fan who wants to be involved in Fantasy Hockey, but doesn’t want to spend countless hours working on their team.

The key to winning a pool like this is conservatism. This is all about risk management and value for money (or in poolie terms, “Points per Draft Order Value”). And, all the Fantasy Magazines/Websites focus on Points or Wins, so you’ll have the most easily attributable information available.

What you have to avoid is all the ‘noise’ you hear in sports news about a player’s value. A lot of articles on other publications/websites will focus too much on a player’s popularity, real value to a real team and a lot of erroneous data.

Hockey-Stock.com is the only place where you can go for the things that really matter… a player’s pool value!

As mentioned, a player’s popularity will drive the amount of info you hear in the media. Don’t get distracted. Of the pools that I have won, it has rarely been about my top 3 picks; but where a Poolie wins their draft, is in rounds 4-10, where the differences can be substantial.

Sure, back in the Lemieux/Gretzky days (or even earlier), the top 5 guys had an enormous gap between the rest. So unless you got one of these picks, your chances will likely diminish considerably. But nowadays, the gap is considerably less. (Please see our Convergence-Divergence graph below)

Since 1997, we see that only the Art Ross winner (and sometimes #2) outproduce their peers by >10%. In 1990-91, it was the top 3, and in 1980-81, the top 4. We call this phenomenon the Divergence Effect, resulting from a lower scoring league.

Translation for your pool = your margin for error is much smaller nowadays, which means your chances of winning after not getting the top 3 picks is greater.

Strategy: Since you want to reduce your risk, you need to pick player (in order of importance):

A) Consistent scoring – at least 3 years of proven results.

B) Consistent Games Played – no more than 5 missed Games Played average over last 3 years.

C) Consistent Linemates – similarly with proven results.

D) First Line player – try to get guys with the greatest ice time per team (even strength and PP).

>> You can get all these and other details at hockey-stock.com
2. You’re in a Draft + Trades + Farm Team pool

Here there is a little more room for error as you have some backups in case a guy gets injured or is in a big slump. This is also your chance to be a little more risky for potential upside. That being said you can still only have 10 players per team and thus still need to keep your conservatism high, but less than format #1.

Strategy: There needs to be blend of consistency and some darkhorses in your draft. Consider the following:

A) Focus on Forwards – true a good D is hard to come by, and the top 3 usually lead the pack. But after that, they are so closely grouped that their absolute point difference is going to be less than forwards. Similar story for Goalies. By my count there are 27 goalies who should get 25W or more. That’s 2.7 goalies per team. Again the top 3 are valuable, but after that, no big deal. Darkhorse forwards have much more upside potential… so bet on them.

B) Have Subs – you need at least 1 sub per position. Injuries will destroy your team, so have reasonable backups per position.

C) Avoid rookies – In all sports, rookies come with great expectations, but they have such unknown pro sports history that the odds are that they will be a bust. Instead pick a decent sophomore.

D) Don’t stack your team with a certain position hoping for a trade – (i.e. some guys try to pick the top 5 goalies expecting someone will pay up for their goalie gap.) Too risky a strategy as you have to weigh how you’re team will look if you end up with the team you drafted.

3. You’re in a +/- pool (or other stats)

The +/- pool is my favourite. It judges a manager’s ability to pick top point getters, but also adds that team element into one stat.

As we described in Format #1, popular players go early. And the magazines can only publish points rankings, which can be very misleading in a pool format like this.

Thus, what is an effective strategy here, where there is much greater risk of bad picks in round 5-10?

Strategy: Team, Team, Team

A) Stick with winning teams! Even lower skilled players in deep teams outperform higher skilled ones on bad teams. Why? Because as mentioned, popular players go early and might have similar production to mid-range players on good teams. In 2011-12, could you even fathom that Ray Whitney could get a greater value total than John Tavares? PHO was ranked 11, and NYI was ranked 27. In a +/- pool, a bad team kills you. I’d go with a second line guy on a stacked team over a top guy in a losing squad for sure.

B) Pick guys on a consistently good team with consistent linemates. Lower your expectation of good players playing for new teams. Again team dynamics matter to a player’s confidence and comfort. Anyone who’s played hockey before can tell you that team/line chemistry is big.

In the past, I would always overachieve in my pools by picking a guy like the late Pavol Demitra. A consistent points getter (ie got PP time with Pierre Turgeon/Al MacInnis) through playing on a consistent STL team and racking up the +/- totals. I would somehow always get him in Round 5 or 6, and he’d often do better than Round 4 picks and sometimes even Round 3 picks.

Translation = In today’s draft I would consider the following (Sub-60 pts) examples of overlooked players to be steals in later rounds:

  • Chris Kunitz (F-PIT)
  • Patrice Bergeron (F-BOS)
  • Matt Niskanen (D-WAS)
  • Milan Lucic (F-BOS)
  • TJ Oshie (F-STL)
  • David Backes (F-STL)
  • Jaden Schwartz (F-STL)
  • Brad Marchand (F-BOS)
  • Marian Hossa (F-CHI)
  • Logan Couture (F-SJS)
  • Brent Seabrook (D-CHI)
  • Reilly Smith (F-BOS)
  • Alex Pietrangelo (D-STL)
  • Hampus Lindholm (D-ANA)

… & stay tuned throughout the season for more updates to this list through future articles and our Analyst Opinions page.

4. You’re in a Keeper Pool

This format is newer in format and keeps you locked in for multiple years. They are really interesting because you have to consider both the current and future output production of a player. That being said, just like Format #1, you have to be concerned about not over paying for popular players versus one who produce.

Pavel Datsyuk is a great example. His PPG is flat to declining …

Source: http://www.hockey-stock.com/player/keystats/176/Pavel%20Datsyuk

… but his GP per season is tanking and likely to get worse.

Source: http://www.hockey-stock.com/player/projection/176/Pavel%20Datsyuk

Everyone will no doubt be bailing on Datsyuk. He‘ll likely go later than his true value, and if he can stay healthy, can be a great later round pick. But he may only have a 1-2 year Pool Worthy shelf life. Depending on how your Keeper Pool is set up, you can draft him later for current production, but then drop him in 2 years.

Strategy: Consistency & Experience should dominate your picks

A) You’ve heard me say it a lot but a mid-level consistent point getter will allow you to win in the long run (i.e. Kessel/Getzlaf/Ovechkin). Guys who do really well, and then drop off will cause you fits (i.e. Thornton/Malkin/Sedins).

B) I would stay away from Rookies and Sophomores. Again, rookies may have shot the lights out in junior and have trouble adjusting to the bigs. 2nd year players may have had a fluky 1st season and will undoubtedly be over priced by all your peers. The consideration set should be a 3rd year player to a 10th year player. Of course there are always exceptions (i.e. Crosby/Ovechkin/Mackinnon in their 1-2 years & Thornton/Jagr in their 12 plus years), but a 10th year player has tons of history, and if he’s in good condition should have another 3-4 years to go before a certain decline starts

C) Lastly, I would try to avoid players who are very physical. Their tough play might give them great value on this ice, but in a Keeper pool it will affect their longevity. Ovechkin has surprised me here with his solid 9 years of output, but pit him up with GP versus Crosby, and I would think Sidney will have 3-4 years more effectiveness regarding GP (of course not counting his concussion risk).

5. You’re in Multiple pools

As much as we all love the thrill of drafting & managing a team, many of us can’t resist the temptation of joining more than 1 pool a season.

Upside: we have more chances to win.

Downside: most people don’t have a multi-pool strategy.

Just like investing in stocks, you need to pick your teams with a total winning strategy. For example, I’d rather win 1 pool and finish last in all the others, than come 3rd in all my pools.

Strategy: Figure out a total pool strategy before drafting your 1st pool. There are many different strategies out there, so go with different ones for different pools

A) In one pool, you decide that you are going to pick the best forward per round and leave your Defencemen and Goalie picks till rounds 7-10.

B) In another pool, you decide on loading up on the best D and G and pick your Forwards till round 5-10.

C) In another pool, you may decide to pick players from only good teams.

D) Adapt: In all cases, you should have a list of 3-5 strategies and adapt on the fly. I’ve had many situations where it started looking like others are employing my strategy (i.e. picking Defencemen/Goalies early), and then I had to scramble to find another strategy.

E) Exceptions: of course with any situation there are exceptions. If you are doing Option C, but then there are great players available for round 7 or later, then it’s okay to bend your strategy a little. But it is advisable to stick as close to 1 strategy per pool. You’ll likely do more than 1 pool in the coming years, so evaluating a single strategy will allow you to figure out how to tailor your picks and have consistently winning formulas.

In this article, we certainly have not covered all the Fantasy Hockey formats; but mainly some of the most popular ones. In future articles, we will try to cover strategies for these other formats. A good intro discussion on formats can be seen here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy_hockey

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The Consigliere Predicts: N/A
The Consigliere Would Draft: N/A

5 Year Historical Top 10 Trends:

Source:Hockey-Stock.com - Research Dept

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