DFS Hockey: Stats and Strategies

Last week in this column I gave readers a couple simple cheats to help the beginner DFS hockey players. I recommended that beginners click on the FPPG (Fantasy Points Per Game) tab to highlight high FPPG players with low salaries to identify bargains and hot players. Well, it’s only been a week, but that tip is no longer useful and can actually do you a disservice if it isn’t used properly. Now, if you see a high FPPG with a low salary it is not because they are a good player at a bargain price, it is because they have such a small sample size that their FPPG averages are artificially high, but they play so little that their salaries remain low.

You can still use this research method to compare players with similar salaries to their performance, but you aren’t going to find bargain basement values any more. The bright side is that we now have enough of a sample size to begin to rely on the statistics that we are seeing. We are starting to see trends like playing time, line combinations, which lines are working and which lines aren’t, which teams are playing well and which ones are struggling. We can also see the players that teams plan to use regularly on the power play or penalty kill units, which is the next strategic research method I want to get into today: Trends and Statistics.

Last week I commented about some of the mistakes that beginning DFS players make when building their lineup, and I gave some tips on how to do this better. This week I will discuss some stats to use when making lineup decisions to separate yourself from the pack and help you be more successful, in both tournament and 50/50 formats.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to look at team depth charts and choose players that play on the top two lines, because they receive the most shifts and ice time, plus they’re normally the best players. While this is important, you should pay attention to TOI (time on ice). This can help you identify which players are getting additional ice time on specialty units like the power play and penalty kill, or the third line players that have enough ice time on a nightly basis to be viable options.

Once you have identified the players with the ice time to be viable, a good way to separate your roster from other competitors is to target players on the specialty units, power play and penalty kill. You get bonuses for goals and assists on the penalty kill, so it’s noteworthy if a player is on that unit, but more importantly you want players that skate on the power play. It not only gives you additional ice time, but to win you’ll need goals and assists. These power play minutes are minutes at an advantage. You will also find some bargain players who may skate on the third line or have less ice time than others, but get the advantage of playing a man up, compensating for reduced ice time. A player’s salary will reflect a lack of ice time, and this provides an opportunity for value if they play on the power play.

When it comes to the penalty kill, you can find some under-appreciated value for defensemen. They will block shots and do score goals and get assists from time to time, earning a bonus in the FantasyDraft scoring format.

We will get into more complex research methods and strategies to building your lineup in future columns, but for this week lets look at some basic stats to use to identify the best matchups that you can then use to identify the best players any given night.

Stats and Trends:

Goals For (GF/G) and Goals Against (GA/G)

This is common sense right? Which teams are scoring the most goals and (more importantly), which teams are allowing the most goals, is probably useful information. ‘Goals For’ is less telling, because it is better to choose based on the player rather than the team when it comes to targeting goals and assists, but it doesn’t hurt to know which teams score more than others in general. It should be further down your priority list when making a decision, but it isn’t to be completely ignored.

‘Goals Against’ is the best way to target value, because it identifies the best matchups for stars as well as cheaper, less productive players. It also helps you identify not only the weaker goalies, but also the weaker defensive units, which is important. You don’t want to face Carey Price right now, but goals against will tell you whether or not you can feast on his backup or if the Candiens as a whole are a defensive unit to avoid all together, like the Seattle Seahawks’ defense circa 2014.

Shots For (SF/G) and Shots Against (SA/G)

You get a point for every shot a player takes and every one a goalie saves, so looking at which teams shoot the most/least is a good way to identify under-appreciated players. You win tournaments by picking the high-goal scorers and the best goalies, but in head-to-head and 50/50 formats you can’t afford to take zeroes from players. Shots on goal for offensive players and saves for goalies keep you competitive on those nights when your players don’t put up a ton of goals or your Team G doesn’t do as well in goals against. The “shots against” stat also helps identify which teams are weaker defensively. A goalie has nothing to do with how many shots a defense allows, only how many shots end up in the net, so “shots against” identifies bad defensive units, making those good games to target players in.

Power Play Opportunities (PPO) and Power Play Goals Against (PPGA)

These stat categories are a little more nuanced and are a place to look for hidden value where you can find an edge. You shouldn’t ignore Ryan Getzlaf because the Anaheim Ducks have the fewest power play opportunities in the NHL, but it may make Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler less appealing or Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno more appealing, because the Blue Jackets have the most power play opportunities. PPGA and Penalties are stats that can help to identify which offensive players are more likely to be put in man advantage situations and are more likely to score and get assists on any given night as well. In DFS football we often look past stats like overall team defense and focus more on fantasy points allowed to an individual position. These stats get inside the numbers a little more and can give you an edge.

These stats help to give you an overall sense of a matchup and of which players will be put in the best position to succeed. It doesn’t guarantee goals or assists, but the better the situation for a player, the more likely they are to succeed. Your goal should be to identify the best players at the optimal prices who are in the best position to succeed each night. If you do that, your players will perform more often and more consistently over a full hockey season, which is the way you have DFS success.

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell has been playing Fantasy sports for over twenty years. He contributed to RotoWire.com in their early days before contributing as a writer and doing Fantasy sports Podcasts for Seamheads.com. Three seasons ago he brought his writing and his Fantasy sports Podcast to RotoExperts.com and the Fantasy Sports Television network and this past season he wrote a weekly Fantasy sports column for BaseballAmerica.com. He also writes about Minor League prospects for RotoExperts. Chris has no more access to the site than the typical user. Follow him at Twitter @CJMiitch73.

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