Every year around this time hockey fans all over the world gather to participate in a tradition almost as old as the game itself. The hockey pool. In the end someone is usually a few beans richer, but let's be honest the main reason anyone joins a pool is for bragging rights. We all want to believe we are the most knowledgeable hockey fan amongst our peers and friends.
That's why I'm here to pass along some tips and strategies I use every season heading into the most important pool I enter. The strategy I utilize is specific to a pool whereby the players are selected in a snake-draft format (poolie with the first pick in the pool that has ten poolies would select the number one player and their second round selection would the 20th player).
- Go out and purchase a quality forecaster hockey magazine. Ensure the information is updated with the lastest possible player movement captured. Nothing's worst in a hockey than not knowing where every eligible player is set to suit up for the upcoming season. IMPORTANT - trust your knowledge more than the magazine's. Don't buy into everything you read. Trust your instincts.
- At the back of the magazine pen the names of players you believe you will want to pick and project which round each player could be drafted or might they be a player who could go undrafted allowing you the freedom to select him in the final round. Ensure you write the equivalent amount of players as there will be rounds in the pool or more, but never less. Lastly DO NOT write down the names of any players you would select in the first round. There is no need to fill your list with no-brainer selections. It just boggles up your list.
- Scan the past season's NHL player points standings. Match the player and rank with the total amount of players that will be drafted in your pool. Example; If 150 players are going to be drafted, the 150th scorer in the NHL should be highlighted.
- After matching the scorers with the total amount of players that will be drafted. Segment the scoring standings in groups that match the total amount of poolies (10 poolies=groups of 10). These groupings will give you an easy to read rough breakdown of the point ranges that match which round your pool will be in. This is helpful as the draft gets deeper. For example when you are set to select in the sixth round you would be certain that you should still be able to select a player that achieved a set amount of points. This also allows you to quickly reference the list of players you penned in the magazine and decide whether or not it's the time to pick that player.
- Now that you have saved yourself the worry of scanning appropriate players to be selected and when. You can concentrate on the players that win you pools. The "Sleeper", The "Dark-Horse" and The "Situation" player. The last one I made up myself. This is that player who you believe moved into a very promising situation and should have a strong if not career season. Prime example of this was Mike Richards going from third line duties to playing the point on the PP. Obviously free agent signings and trades need to be studied. Again the great thing about having the scoring leaders highlighted and segmented is that you can spend more time at the draft table flipping through your magazine and reading up to see if any of the types of picks listed above jump out at you.
- Stay away from rookies for as long as possible and if at all possible do not select one. Players like Crosby and Ovechkin are rarities and exceptions. The jump to the NHL is too great and you can never be certain what situation that player will be thrown into in their first season. i.e. Joe Thornton selected first overall for a very bad Bruins team played only fourth line duties his entire rookie season.
- Try to select as many top 6 forwards as possible. Players that get any type of steady Power-Play time are a must. If you have a choice between a top six player on a low-end team verses a third line player on one of the elite teams, always select the top six on the bad team. Heck someone has to score on the bad teams. Also defensemen that play PP minutes should be thought of before selecting any third line players as well.
- Duos can have a huge impact on your results. Try to select as may linemates as possible, but be careful to not go overboard. Two is all you need, rarely is it a good idea to select an entire line. That is too many eggs in one basket. Also try and select as many centremen as possible. Naturally centremen are the highest scoring players as they have the puck the most. Many goals are scored right off a draw and you'll gain that assist.
- Find that one NHL team you think can produce goals via depth and try to pluck at least 3 players from that team's roster. This will greatly enhance your chances of big point nights when that team plays and will make jumps in your standings very noticeable.
- Lastly, bad teams generally have bad players. If at all possible try to refrain from picking too many players from bad teams. Bad teams suffer many lulls during the season and that affects your player's point total.
Hope this helps. Preparation is everything when entering hockey pools. If you get there preared with a plan, you can sit at the draft table and enjoy the events.