Online Sports Gaming: Fantasy Hockey Tips

Playing to win in your NHL hockey pool gets easier once you know these tips. Specific advice for forwards, defensemen and goalies.

Whether for fun or money, getting involved in a fantasy hockey league is more fun when you're playing to win. Here are some tips that are sure to help your team rise to the top.

Forwards

1) If they aren't on the power-play, they shouldn't be on your team. Unless your league has more than a dozen teams (and most don't), you should be able to stock your team only with players who see the ice during man advantages. It's simple: if your guy doesn't play on the power play, he's not in the top half of offensive threats on his own team, and therefore, the entire NHL. So why should he be on yours?

2) If your league values short-handed goals as a separate category, put a premium on stars that score them. Shorties are very rare events, and it's tough to win the league if you get nothing out of a category. Worse yet, only superstars can be expected to regularly produce shorthanded goals.

3) In general, avoid a very high or very low assist-to-goal ratio. Great passers suffer in comparison to goal scorers, since scoring a goal tends to rack up points in several categories at once. Also, a very high goal to assist ratio generally means the player isn't all that good offensively, but simply got lucky. No long-term notable career has followed a very high goal to assist ratio.

4) Beware youth. Teenagers rarely have NHL impact, and rookies don't usually step right into prime power-play roles. However, in many leagues, team owners will try to feed their ego and predict the future. If you draft young players, be ready to suffer growing pains.

Defensemen

1) The same power-play rule applies to an even greater degree. Since defensemen have longer shifts than forwards, few see significant power-play time. Getting a single point-per-game defensemen will allow you to load up the rest of your roster with solid plus/minus performers (assuming that you reward plus-minus).



2) Offensive specialists might be of limited use in the real world, but in fantasy leagues, they are better than well-rounded players. You can also try to be more adventurous in late defensemen selections, since the drop from a poor producer is less than at forward.

Goalies

1) Drafting a goalie is the toughest decision you'll make. You won't own as many of them as you do skaters, so the impact of every decision here is huge. Don't assume that you can get a superstar and be done with the category. Your back-up is just as important, if not more.

2) Young goalies aren't predictable, but teams are. Franchises that play good defense do that no matter who is between the pipes. Check the overall team goals against averages from past years when you make your selection. Usually, the great young goalie is from the great old team.

3) Goalies that face a ton of shots per game are goalies that you don't want, even if they are pitching shutouts. No matter how good they look, fatigue, injury and inevitable bad numbers that come from backstopping a bad defensive team will overwhelm them. Unless the great goalie is traded, you are better off with an unspectacular goalie from a good defensive team.

4) Consider drafting a goalie that doesn't play with your last selection. The last thing you want is to suffer with the night-in, night-out numbers from a busy goalie on a loose team. Assuming you use goals against average and save percentages as statistics, a back-up who never plays will be much more valuable than the frequent starter.

Overall

1) The biggest single key to winning, either in real or fantasy leagues, is staying healthy. (Why? Because the replacement players are unlikely to help as much.) You need to know the injury histories of your players and predict the future possibility of injury. So when you have a choice of physical versus finesse, take finesse. Power forwards may be fun to watch, but they also don't generally have long careers.

2) Don't overemphasize playoff performance. Playoff hockey is too small of a sample size to draw written-in-stone conclusions. In general, the best predictor for this year's regular season performance is last year's regular season performance.

3) Shots on goal are a very good, and usually hidden, indicator of hidden offensive ability. A player who gets a lot is getting open for his teammates and getting a shot on goal in traffic. A low shooting percentage for a young player isn't a great cause for alarm; they usually get better at hitting the corners with experience. If the shooting percentage for a veteran drops, that's a sign of decay. Shots are also a great hidden indicator of who plays on the power-play now, and potentially, later.

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