Neil Parker, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contests have a number of distinctive features that separate them from the pack and will keep you on your toes throughout the coming NHL season. Come into the season ready to take advantage of knowing the ins and outs with these tips and tricks for putting your lineups together.
The goalie position has the widest range of outcomes in daily fantasy, as no skater has the same high-ceiling, low-floor potential. Goaltender performance is critical, as nothing will sink your chances faster than a rough game in net. Yahoo places even more emphases on the position than most other sites because two are required in each lineup — something that can be a challenge on nights when there are only a few teams in action. Pinching pennies can pay off in spots, but spending up for reliable options in favorable matchups will set the table for consistent daily success.
Saves Can Save a Loss
With a five-point bonus for both a win and a shutout, ignoring starting goalies for projected favorites is ill-advised. There will be a handful of teams that will consistently struggle to generate scoring chances and score goals, so consistently lining up goalies against them is a recipe for long-term success. Of course, it can be difficult to build a competitive collection of skaters with two high-priced netminders. As a result, turning to a second goaltender who projects to face a lot of rubber can still provide a high point total. After all, a loss doesn’t deduct points.
Yahoo awards or deducts two fantasy points for each tick of plus-minus. This places additional emphasis on even-strength play while also potentially propping up the value of players on winning teams. It’s important to consider Vegas odds and be aware that players on losing teams will often carry more risk.
Shooting and Blocking
Every shot on goal is worth 0.9 points, and those can add up; chasing high-volume shooters as well as matchups against teams that allow a lot of shots can be a strong strategy. Meanwhile, blocked shots are worth a point of their own, giving extra value to blueliners who don’t score much. Those can combine to give sneaky high-floor value to blueliners like Jeff Petry and Michael Matheson.
Target Third Wheels
Yahoo’s player salaries make it important to roster at least a couple low-priced skaters who allow you to afford strong goaltenders and reliable scorers. One means of offsetting the hefty salaries of star players is to stack them with their cheapest linemate. Slotting in just the cheap winger is also an option. Potential examples include Micheal Ferland, Ryan Strome and Zach Hyman. This approach is especially effective when the cheaper forward is also on the same power-play unit as his higher-priced peers.
Offensive Defensemen in Sheltered Roles
Head coaches will often protect their younger defensemen and tilt their shifts to begin primarily in the opponent’s zone. Obviously, players who begin their shifts in the offensive zone are in a favorable position, and when they’re getting power-play minutes too, that’s a huge boost. Blueliners like Thomas Chabot, Brady Skjei and Charlie McAvoy should see plenty of offensive-zone starts to begin the season.
A recent trend in the NHL has seen lower-line players slotting into power-play roles. Last year, Sam Gagner and Mark Letestu both had double-digit point totals with the man advantage despite typically playing depth roles at even strength. Derek Ryan is a potential candidate for a similar situation to begin this season, but you can expect a number of lower-line players to earn and lose their power-play gigs throughout the season; it’ll pay off to monitor those changes.
Over the course of an 82-game season, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby are going to score a lot. However, in daily contests, their prices mean they need to deliver multi-point showings just to meet value most nights. Even the best scorers in the league don’t hit the scoresheet every game, so finding soft matchups is critical for maximizing your lineup’s upside.
Road Trips and Back-to-Back Games
Teams in the middle of long road trips and/or playing for the second consecutive day often present ripe matchups. The NHL schedule isn’t as condensed as it was last year, but there will still be a number of favorable schedule spots for home teams throughout the year. Teams that have to travel for the second leg of a back-to-back can present particularly strong matchups for their opponents.
Target Poor Penalty Kills
A full 21 percent of goals scored in the NHL in 2016-17 came with the man advantage, and that number has been even higher in the past. Last year, Dallas owned a target-worthy 73.9 penalty-kill percentage while allowing 9.7 goals per 60 minutes shorthanded. It will take a couple weeks to identify which teams are likely to struggle down a man, but monitoring special-teams statistics is critical to capitalizing in daily fantasy. Keep in mind that Yahoo awards 2.0 fantasy points per power-play point.
Pick on Weak Goaltending
Simply put, there aren’t enough quality goaltenders in the league for each team to have a strong No. 1. However, that doesn’t mean that every backup presents a target-worthy matchup, either. Injuries will strike throughout the season to further exacerbate the goaltending problems of particular teams, and clubs like Canucks and Avalanche project to have problems in the blue paint right off the bat.