NHL Fantasy: Draft strategies and tips

Preseason games are just getting underway, and with that so are NHL fantasy drafts. The fantasy hockey draft is the biggest chance for managers to make sure they are contending to win. It is where the whole team gets built, and it is the one time when star players can be selected for free without giving up any assets in return.

Preparing for a fantasy draft involves some research, but also, it is really important to have a strategy in mind. If you go into a draft by winging it, it is likely that some key opportunities to draft certain players will be missed. So, what are some tips on what your strategy should be?

Approaching goaltending

Getting the most skilled goalie is important. However, what is equally as important is how good the team is around the goalie. When drafting this position, you are investing the goalies stats like save % and shutouts, but you are also investing in the whole team’s skill and ability to win.

For example, many look at Connor Hellebuyck as one of the top three goaltenders in the league, however, last season he was not even close to one of the best goalies to own in fantasy, posting a 2.97 GAA and .910 SV%. Hellebuyck is very talented, however, due to the team around him, he shouldn’t be the main priority to draft as a goalie, at least not the first option.

Goalies like Tristan Jarry, Jeremy Swayman, and Darcy Kuemper all ranked higher than him. Not because they are better goalies, but because the team around them performed better. Leaning towards good goalies on great teams is a great way to get a very valuable pick for goaltending. Make sure to draft a goalie early though, as although the goalie drafted does not have to be the most elite out there, there is still a pretty slim selection before the draft leaves average goalies left.

Worth loading up on one team?

Should owners look to own both Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad? What about Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews? In short, it depends. Managers look to draft duos as they are able to capitalize on a goal by securing two points (a goal from one player and an assist from another). And in theory, it makes a lot of sense. Duos like the ones listed above are absolutely worth trying to get, especially because they would be on the same line.

However, it is important to keep in mind that drafting more than two players from the same team limits the flexibility that your roster has on certain days. Sundays are key days during close matchups, however, the more players you own on one team, the less flexibility you have to change your line up to substitute someone else in. The more duos you own, the more likely some days will be incredibly busy, where not all players will even fit into a starting lineup, while other days will have maybe one or two players playing max.

In general, I wouldn’t go against drafting a duo, but look to own one or two duos maximum.

Value in the later rounds

Identifying and capitalizing on sleepers is essential around this time of the draft. Whether it is drafting a young player who has the chance to break out, drafting a player who will take advantage of being on a talented line, drafting a player who will have an increased role, or drafting a player who might be coming back from an injury.

Capitalizing on sleepers is a key way to ensure that the team you have will consistently get you enough points throughout the year to compete for a championship. The big names are important, but once they are off the draft board, this is the opportunity for you to separate yourself from the pack.

Some sleepers that I would identify are Matt Boldy, Jakub Vrana, Dylan Cozens, Alex Tuch, and Andrew Mangiapane/Tyler Toffoli. All players listed are players who will probably be selected lower than they should be. Additionally, drafting sleepers provides owners with excellent trade value during the year, and it just might give a manager the ability to trade one of their sleepers for a more established star player in the league.

Contract year value

Lastly, time and time again, we see NHL players have a career year when they are up for a new contract. This is not a coincidence. No matter what some players might say, there is lots of motivation to play well in order to get a big raise. At the end of the day, players who are in their contract year bring big value to a fantasy team.

Look to draft a couple players who are in their contract years, They just might surprise the hockey world and become one of the steals of the year. Just like what Nazem Kadri did last year.

Every manager has their own strategy

At the end of the day, it is about identifying a strategy that will work for you and your needs. Listed above are tips which will benefit any fantasy manager, however, it is really personal preference when it comes to deciding which player you think will play better than the other. The main goal though is to finish the draft knowing that the preparation was worth it, and that there were no missed opportunities. Every year it feels like draft does not get easier, but hopefully these tips help set a foundation for entering your draft.

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