DFS Hockey 101: How to Play on FanDuel
DFS Hockey 101: How to Play on FanDuel

This article is part of our DFS Hockey 101 series.

Welcome to the 2019-20 RotoWire guide to daily fantasy hockey on FanDuel. For those looking to take your first shots at DFS NHL, this article will dive into some basics of the game, tournament selection suggestions and roster construction strategies.

FanDuel Basics

In the regular formatted games at FanDuel, each roster contains nine players at or under a salary cap of $55,000, with roster spots consisting of two centers, four wingers, two defensemen and one goalie. A caveat that must be followed at FanDuel is that no more than four players from a single team may be selected. Player salaries range from roughly $9,000 down to $3,000 for skaters, whereas goalies range from around $9,500 to $7,000.

Players can score fantasy points (FP) as follows:

Skaters (Centers/Wingers/Defensemen) Goalies
Goal = 12 pts Win = 12 pts
Assist = 8 pts Shutout = 8 pts
Shot on Goal = 1.6 pts Saves = 0.8 pts
Blocked Shot = 1.6 pts Goal Allowed = -4 pts
Short Handed Goal/Assist = 2 pts  
Power Play Goal/Assist = 0.5 pts *No points are awarded in Shootouts

Top skaters will earn about 19 FP per game, while top goalies earn slightly more, about 22 per game. As in all fantasy sports, the nightly range of scoring can vary greatly, but it can be even more drastic in hockey. For example, a basketball player who averages 40 FP per game is pretty much a lock to score at least half that unless they get hurt, but there is such a large range of outcomes for hockey players that even the best can put up next to zero on any given night.

For example, Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov was the top scoring skater in the league last year with an average of 18.72 FP per game; however, he had 21 games of fewer than 9.40, meaning he scored less than half his average in more than 25 percent of his games. The point I am trying to make here is that scoring in daily fantasy hockey is fickle and can be frustrating at times when paying up for expensive players who do not rack up the stats you expected on a given night.

Tournament Selection Suggestions

FanDuel offers a wide range of guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournaments each day, with entries ranging from a few pennies to hundreds of dollars. The basic tournament types at the smaller buy-ins are multiple entry large fields, highlighted by the daily Goal ($25), Crossbar ($7) and Slapshot ($3 or $4). While these tournaments offer large prize pools and pay out to the top 20 percent, they all will include many entries (500 to 3000) to maneuver through to hit the big paydays. Playing in these tournaments daily will require a larger bankroll in order to survive downswings.

One of the lesser-known options is Leagues, which are non-guaranteed tournaments that will cancel if they do not fill before lock. I enjoy Leagues at the $2 and $5 levels, with 100 entries paying out the top 12 finishers. Leagues do not offer the monster paydays the GPPs do, but you also only have to beat 88 other entries. Additionally, there is a cap of three entries per account, so there are fewer "shot-in-the-dark" lineups that are sometimes required to win one of the massive tournaments. These are great bankroll-building options because the top-end payouts are still 25x the buy-in, and the minimum payouts are 3x when most GPPs pay 2x or less to the lowest-scoring winners. If these seem more in your wheelhouse, I would suggest entering them early, even the night before, because they need to fill in order to run and other players are more willing to join if they see it's close to doing so. Even though the payout zone is shallower than in GPPs (12 percent vs. 20 percent), there is less bankroll swing in leagues.

There are also multiplier tournaments, most notably Double Ups and 50/50s. These quite simply pay half (or near half) of the field with twice (or near twice) their entry fee. All you are required to do is finish in the payout zone and you receive the same payout as the entry that finishes in first place. FanDuel usually offers Triple Ups and Quintuple Ups as well; these obviously have the least bankroll swing, but also the smallest upside, but the grind-it-out nature suits a lot of players.

Roster Construction Strategies

Because of the scoring system, goals and assists are overwhelmingly the most important things to target when selecting your players. Even when choosing a cheaper defenseman, you should be targeting players on good teams with a chance at getting an inexpensive assist. A goal is worth 7.5 shots or blocks and an assist is worth 5.0; this inequity is not quite as pronounced on DraftKings where the ratio is six-to-one for a goal and four-to-one for an assist. 

When you are playing in a GPP or a 100-entry league, stacking an even strength line on the same team is usually a requirement for a winning lineup. You could mix and match parts from nine different teams, but the odds of hitting on all nine players is remote; the better bet is to try to find the forward line that scores multiple goals and, in turn, increases the chances at multiple assists. You are not required to stack lines like this, but it is something I would suggest to newer players until you get more comfortable in mixing up your strategy. Since you have two centers and four wingers, you can actually stack two different lines, if you wish. Another strategy is two-man stacks, where you can stack a center/winger from one team, a center/winger from a different team and then a pair of wingers from a third team.

With the three-man stack strategy, you have one more roster spot that can be from that same team before you reach the four-player maximum, with typical options including a defenseman or goalie. Many people default to the defenseman, but using the goalie can be a strong option because they will be in line for the win if your skater line does well. Additionally, stacking in cash games, like double ups, doesn't require such a highly correlated score, which makes stacking less of a priority.

Another strategy is to stack power play line mates together, even if they do not all play together on even strength. Even though players do not receive that many power play opportunities per game, the level of production per minute explodes with the extra man. Going back to Kucherov, he scored nearly 2.5 more points per minute on the power play than he did at even strength:

 

Min/Gm

FP/Gm

FP/Min

Even Strength

15.0

11.7

0.8

Power Play

3.7

7.0

1.9

These numbers are not to be expected levels for all players, but it should make it clear that power play time is extremely important for every player you choose in your lineup, and finding those cheap players who are getting unexpected time with the man advantage can mean money in your pocket. If you are considering a player that is more than $4,000. they should be on one of the two power play units, and if they are more than $5,500 I would tend to knock them down a peg if they are not on the top power play.

One of the biggest mistakes newer players make regarding goalies is the overvaluation of a projected win. Calgary had the second-best record in the NHL last year, winning 50 of their 82 games, which is certainly very good from a team perspective, but it also means their goalie failed to record the win bonus nearly 40 percent of the time. When you are working on your rankings for the day, focus on saves and goals allowed; sometimes bad teams allow more shots, and talented goalies on those teams can provide huge save totals. Looking at the six highest-scoring goalies when only factoring in saves and goals allowed, you'll see that three had win percentages under 50 percentL

Player

FP (SV-GA Only)

Win Percentage

Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

14.26

.736

Ben Bishop (DAL)

14.24

.614

Robin Lehner (NYI)

13.75

.581

Jack Campbell (LAK)

13.69

.400

Anton Khudobin (DAL)

13.41

.421

Darcy Kuemper (ARI)

13.40

.491

I am not advocating taking the worst goalie each day, just do it judiciously because there is good value to be had in some of the cheaper options. This is also not a cherry-picked stat; moving down the list, the 10th, 13th, 15th, 18th, and 19th-highest SV-GA Goalies also won fewer than half their starts.

As always, use RotoWire.com to gather as much information as you can until lineup lock because many teams shift their lines up game to game, and updates are not reported until midday or even minutes before the puck drops.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Russ Prentice plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: sportfreak1996, DraftKings: sportfreak1996.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russ Prentice
Fantasy baseball, football, basketball, golf and hockey fanatic for 25 years. Awarded Hockey Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2018. Has played high-stakes games at NFBC/NFFC over 12 years, highlighted by a runner up finish in the 2012 NFFC Primetime event, multiple NFBC Main Event league championships, and a Top 10 finish in the NFBC RotoWire Online Championship. DFS player since 2013, focusing on NFL and NHL.
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