Unless this is the first fantasy hockey article you’ve ever read, you've probably heard the refrain: "make sure you know your scoring settings inside out!" But merely knowing the settings is only a portion of the puzzle. It's one thing to realize that your league scores six points for a goal and only three for an assist, but how does that affect your draft? How do we value players in categories leagues versus points leagues? These are the questions that we need to get the answers to in order to crush our drafts (and our competition). Let's dig in:
Categories versus Points
The most common delineation between your leagues is categories versus points. Regardless of whether your league is a rotisserie-style league or the more common head-to-head format, it aligns with one of these two scoring methods. Categories pit managers against one another in an attempt outscore the other(s) in each individual category, while points assigns a certain number of points to each statistic (i.e. six points for a goal and three points for an assist as mentioned above) and managers simply attempt to score the most points. Both formats have distinct strategic elements to them, which can be boiled down to two major points: weighting for points leagues, and scarcity for categories leagues.
Points weighting is exactly what it sounds like: how many points do you get for each statistic? By definition each different points system emphasizes certain statistics and de-emphasizes others. My preferred way to quickly analyze which statistics are heavily emphasized in a given setup is to compare them to the points weight for goals as a baseline. Assists are typically about 2/3 of the weight of a goal (if a goal is three points, an assist would be two). Any more weight than this emphasizes assists and makes players who get lots of assists more valuable, while any less weight than this de-emphasizes assists and those types of players. For almost all other statistics, anything more than 1/10 of the weight of a goal I would consider to be an emphasis, and anything less would be a de-emphasizing of that statistic. This goes for plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal, hits, blocks, and PIM as the most commonly used statistics.
You can use this basic comparison as a rough idea, but to take things to the next level you can find someone's projections that you trust and input your league’s points weight to get player ranks. I mentioned several sources for projections in my “How to Make Sense of Player Projections” article a week ago, so you can start there. Once you’ve input your league’s points weighting into the projection sheet, you should be able to sort by total number of fantasy points and generate your rankings that way. If you’ve got projections you can trust, this is a terrific way to gain an edge on your competition because you can identify players who project to score very highly but are far down in your league’s ADP or ranks list.
If you’re in a categories league, it can be easy to take a simplistic approach and think you should weigh each category exactly the same. After all, you get one win per category, right? Unfortunately this approach fails to recognize that some statistics are easier to acquire than others. For instance, hits are plentiful throughout the season on the waiver wire, but it’s much harder to find a top-end goal scorer mid-season. For that reason, you’ll want to prioritize goal scorers above hitters (and value those who do both even more).
It’s also key to think about how many categories your league has related to point scoring and how many it has related to peripherals. If your league’s skater categories are goals, assists, points, power-play points, game winning goals, and hits, you should quite obviously focus on players who score goals and points far more than you should focus on players who hit a lot since five of the categories are related to scoring while only one is based on a peripheral category. If this same league added shots on goal, blocks, and PIMs, that would obviously swing the balance much further towards players who fill those categories.
Category leagues without many peripheral categories like blocks and PIMs devalue depth defencemen who may only have meaningful contributions in those categories. Category leagues with lots of point scoring related categories and not many peripheral categories should push you towards prioritizing those top end defencemen scorers since there is a big drop-off from the elite point scorers at the position. Since most NHL teams only run one defenceman on each power play unit, there are roughly 32 top power play defencemen in the league and even less that are consistent point producers. In a categories league with a heavy point production emphasis you may want to consider a strategy focused on getting three or four of those PP1 defencemen to avoid the drop-off later on in your draft.
Lastly, you should consider how your categories affect your strategy at the goalie position. First off, check your league’s ratio of skater categories to goalie categories. A league with nine skater categories and only three goalie categories will obviously value goalies far differently than a league in which there are just five skater categories and four goalie categories. You’ll also want to think about whether your league’s categories are rate-based (GAA, SV%) or volume-based (W, SV, SHO); if you have a lot of volume-based categories you may be able to focus on obtaining goaltenders who may not play well but play a lot of games, while if you have more rate-based categories you’ll need to find goalies that are actually playing well.
Nate Groot Nibbelink is the creator of Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and the originator of the #ZeroG draft strategy. You can find him pontificating about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server or on Twitter @applesginos.
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