The new NHL season is only about a month and a half away, which means it's time for fans to start preparing for another exciting year of fantasy hockey.
Playing fantasy hockey is a great way to test your knowledge of the sport's players, learn about teams you don't often watch and enjoy friendly competition between friends and family. Just like fantasy football, it makes games not involving your favorite team a lot more fun to watch.
Let's take a look at some draft strategies, important information and rankings to help you dominate your fantasy hockey draft.
Assemble Your Team Based on the Type of Scoring the League Uses
There are three scoring systems used by websites that host fantasy hockey leagues. They are rotisserie, total points and head-to-head.
Rotisserie scoring is sometimes difficult to understand, so here's Yahoo! Sports' explanation:
If your league uses rotisserie scoring, you are literally playing against everyone in your league at the same time. This is different than head-to-head scoring. (Where you have a single opponent each week and keep standings based on wins and losses against your different weekly opponents.)
With rotisserie scoring, fantasy teams are ranked from first to last in each of several statistical categories.
Each fantasy team receives points in each category based on how they rank in the league.
Each team's category points are totaled to determine their overall rotisserie score.
If you're league uses rotisserie or head-to-head, it's important to build a well-rounded team because the owner who wins the most categories will enjoy the most success.
In a total points league, it's OK to stack your team at one position if the opportunity presents itself. For example, if you draft Patrick Kane at right wing with your first round pick, and the best player available when it's your turn to pick in Round 2 is another right winger such as Corey Perry, don't be afraid to take him.
It's also important to look at your league's scoring system to determine which round a goaltender should be drafted in. If the system favors the top goaltenders, take one of these players in the first few rounds. There are only about five elite fantasy goalies, so don't wait too long to draft one or you will miss out.
Draft Players Who Perform Consistently and Rarely Get Injured
Draft players who can be relied on to consistently produce each night. This is especially important in head-to-head leagues when a star player going through a slump can make it difficult to win a particular week's matchup.
Making a list of the players that are durable and rarely miss games is also a good draft preparation exercise to do. Star players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Gaborik are capable of being fantasy all-stars, but recent injury issues make them risky picks.
Take the Best Available Player?
This is a common strategy in all types of fantasy sports. Sometimes a star player is available who doesn't address a need on your team, but he's too talented to pass on.
If you're playing in a total points league, don't be afraid to take the best player available, even if you already have a few guys at that position. Avoid drafting for a need in the top five-to-seven rounds and take the best players available instead.
Having a lot of good players at one position isn't a bad situation to be in because it gives you the depth needed to make big trades with other owners.
Over the last four years, 31 centers have ranked in the top 15 in scoring, more than any other position. If a top-tier center is still on the board in the middle-to-late rounds, take him, regardless of how many good centers are already on your roster.
Don't Be Afraid to Draft a Rookie/Top Prospect Before the Later Rounds
Drafting rookies is a risky process because it's tough to determine which players will get enough ice time to be productive.
With that said, there are many rookies each year likely to receive second or third line minutes and/or play alongside talented players who will create scoring chances for them.
For example, there's a good chance that No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Drouin makes the Tampa Bay Lightning roster this season. If he does, the ideal spot for him would be at left wing on Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis' line. Playing alongside two elite scorers would make Drouin one of the most valuable rookies in the league from a fantasy perspective.
If you play in a keeper league, stockpiling rookies in the later rounds is a good way to build future depth and put less pressure on yourself in future drafts.
Nicholas Goss' 2013-14 Rookie Rankings:
- Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Ryan Strome, C, New York Islanders
- Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
- Tyler Toffoli, C, Los Angeles Kings
- Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Dallas Stars
- Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets
- Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers
- Seth Jones, D, Nashville Predators
- Nick Bjugstad, C, Florida Panthers
- Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks
Rank Every Position So You're Ready for Draft Day
Preparation is everything when it comes to fantasy sports. One of the worst things you can do is not make a list or ranking of the best players available at each position.
Having a list ready helps people adjust on the fly and not spend too much time making each pick. Most leagues only allow a minute-and-a-half of time to make each selection during the draft. Make a list and have a plan before the draft starts.
Here are some places to visit for quality fantasy rankings:
- Yahoo! Sports
- Bleacher Report
Don't Favor Players on Your Hometown Team
Drafting too many players from your favorite/hometown team is usually a bad idea. Take the player who will help your fantasy the most, not the fan favorite you enjoy watching each night.
For example, Bruins supporters will want to draft Patrice Bergeron to their fantasy team because he's a fan favorite in Boston, but if a better offensive player such as Eric Staal is one of the centers available, the Hurricanes captain is the better choice.
Put your team loyalty to the side at draft time to make objective selections that will result in the best possible fantasy team.
Don't Draft Enforcers
Enforcers are only going to make a strong impact on your team in categories such as hits and PIMs. They won't help you in the more important categories such as goals and assists. Of the 15 players who tallied more than 80 PIM last season, only two of them reached the 20-point mark and one player scored 10 or more goals.
Enforcers also hurt people who play in leagues that use time on ice as a scoring category. Not many enforcers play an average of 15 minutes or more per game.
Three players who rack up a good amount of PIM, hits and will also tally 50-plus points are Milan Lucic (LW, Bruins), Wayne Simmonds (RW, Flyers) and Evander Kane (LW, Jets).
Favor Players on the Highest-Scoring Teams
The following teams ranked in the top five of goals scored last year. Each one has a roster full of talented forwards and defensemen capable of providing plenty of scoring production for your fantasy team. These clubs also play an up-tempo, offensive-minded style of hockey that favors highly skilled players.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Montreal Canadiens
- Washington Capitals
Nicholas Goss' Top 5 by Position Rankings
|Rank||Center||Left Wing||Right Wing||Defensemen||Goalie|
|1||Sidney Crosby||Taylor Hall||Alexander Ovechkin||Erik Karlsson||Henrik Lundqvist|
|2||Steven Stamkos||James Neal||Patrick Kane||Kris Letang||Tuukka Rask|
|3||Evgeni Malkin||Daniel Sedin||Claude Giroux||P.K. Subban||Pekka Rinne|
|4||Jonathan Toews||Rick Nash||Phil Kessel||Ryan Suter||Sergei Bobrovsky|
|5||Eric Staal||Alexander Semin||Corey Perry||Keith Yandle||Jonathan Quick|
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. All salary information via CapGeek.