Fantasy Hockey 101: A Guide to Terminology and Lineup Building

Hello! 

Before we begin the article, I just want to give a quick introduction to those that may not know me. I’m now flying under the moniker of Zawa, but the Bathrobe Discord will know me as John. For the past year or so, I have provided some DFS and gambling advice on a couple of the tertiary sports in the Discord chat. I am completely aware that the users of Robe’s chat are primarily there for basketball, baseball, football or a combination of the three, so I found a tiny niche where I could help some people dip their toes in the proverbial pools of hockey and golf. Carper and I went on a nice little heater over the summer (pun intended) where we hit two different Morikawa outright bets at the Workday Open and the PGA Championship and a Jon Rahm outright bet at the Memorial. I also took down a DraftKings tournament to cap off the season. But what made me even more happy and motivated to keep producing content was to see the screenshots of various golf winnings, including a $2k three-max takedown that used my information! Robe took notice of the quality of my content and offered me an official spot on the roto.life team, which I couldn’t have accepted faster. So now begins an exciting new opportunity, in which I am enthralled to see where it takes me.


Now to get started. Robe’s mentality for DFS is, has, and will always be the old adage of “teach a man to fish and he will eat forever.” He will never tell you who to play like some providers and “touts” – he will provide a stats-based analysis of where the strongest plays are on any given slate. Unfortunately, hockey and basketball are two different beasts. Hockey is, usually, more random in terms of production. However, there are a few interesting statistics we will take a look at later. The first type of terminology I will talk about is going to be just above a basic understanding of the game. This article, hopefully, can be a boon to all levels of familiarity of hockey. I will not explain to you that a goal is when the puck goes in the net and that an assist is one of two players that passed the goal scorer the puck. I will explain, though, some of the rudimentary parts to understand the game. Let’s start out with some basic terms, first.


Some Basic Terms:

Line– a group of three forwards that take the ice together (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th)

Pair – two defenseman that – you guessed it – take the ice together (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Penalty – same as a foul. When a player commits a no-no and has to go spend time in the penalty box to think about what he’s done

Minor – a penalty that requires a maximum of 2 minutes in the penalty box. If the other team scores during the penalty, it immediately ends.

Double MinorJared Fogle’s Weekend Plans when a player commits a bigger no-no. Requires a maximum of 4 minutes in the penalty box. If the other team scores during the first 2 minutes, the first minor is over.

Major – a penalty in which a player must serve 5 minutes in the penalty box that cannot end from an opposing score.

Game Misconduct – a player has done something so, so naughty that they cannot play anymore for the rest of the night

Power Play – the time on the ice in which a team has a man advantage during any type of penalty

Penalty Kill – the time on the ice when the team disadvantaged must kill the penalty

Power Play Unit – the group of players (typically 4 forwards and 1 defensiveman) that take the ice during the power play

Penalty Kill Unit – the group of players (typically 2 forwards and 2 defensivemen) that take the ice during the penalty kill


So for some of you, this is old hat. For others, this is new hat. And for me, I don’t wear hats. But this knowledge is important because in the sport of hockey, a team is generally much more likely to score on the power play than at even strength. Even if you are one of the worst teams on the power play, it is still advantageous to have that extra strength (just like my deodorant).

When you’re constructing your lineups, cash and GPP alike, it is vital that we target players that get heaps of power play time. Something that is less obvious to a lot of fans is that you should AVOID most players that play on the penalty kill. It’s something that, to me, should be more obvious. When you’re on the penalty kill, all you’re trying to do is kill time. Anytime you retrieve the puck in your defensive zone as a penalty killer, your main objective is just getting the puck out. Basically, you’re not looking to score. So why would we want to play a guy where a decent percentage of his ice-time is dedicated to NOT trying to score?

For instance, Jay Beagle and Carl Hagelin both averaged roughly 12-13 minutes of ice time per game. Over 3 minutes of that, per game, was dedicated to not scoring. Why would you want to put any money on either of those guys?

There are plenty of exceptions to this rule though. I am here to help you learn those – guys like Brad Marchand and Mika Zibanejad, truly elite scorers and two guys that averaged almost 4 minutes of power play time per game, also killed penalties for their team. Lots of penalties.

This rule also applies to defenseman to a certain degree – Shea Weber and Jonas Siegenthaler both killed around 3 minutes of penalties per game for their respective clubs, but Weber averaged around 2 minutes of power play time per game whilst Siegenthaler had none. Their prices will reflect this, obviously, but it is something to consider as you look through the slate for potential value.

So Rule 1: GET AS MUCH POWER PLAY TIME AS YOU CAN IN YOUR BUILD.

Our second focus of this article is going to be Even Strength Zone Starts. Zone starts are where you take a faceoff to begin your shift. Why would this be important? Well, what do you think would be easier: scoring from 20 feet out or 200 feet out? Simply put, you’re more likely to score a goal if you start the play as close as possible to the opposing net.

If you’re debating on a set of players, elite or not, this is a good way to break the tie. You’re going to want to pay up in some spots so you’re going to have to dip down in the bargain bin. I’d much rather have a cheap player that starts his shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive zone.

Rule 2 (or more like a consideration): ANALYZE EV STRENGTH ZONE STARTS!

Back in the day, a good hockey player was a good ol’ Ontario boy that played physically and was 6’3’’. We (as in the hockey world) are learning that this is no longer the case. No, a good hockey player can still be a Canadian. That will never change. But the game revolves around maintaining possession and positioning. A good player 20+ years ago was someone that could throw bone-jarring hits and block a plethora of shots with his body. These two attributes, however, are just responses to a failure of maintaining possession and positioning. Now, a player’s possession metrics are analyzed through a few different statistics: Corsi, Fenwick, and PDO.

Corsi – Total shots (on goal + misses + blocked)
Fenwick – Corsi minus blocked shots
PDO – on ice Shooting % + on ice Save %

Corsi is a statistic used to determine possession in a hockey game. There’s Corsi For and Corsi Against to determine if you’re doing the possessing or if you’re getting possessed (spooky).

Fenwick exists so we can add shot quality into the mix a bit. If you are getting your shot blocked, you’re likely taking a low quality shot. So Fenwick, imo, is a bit more important.

PDO is going to determine how lucky or unlucky you have been. Most forwards average around 10% shooting (i.e. 10 goals on 100 shots) and goalies generally save 90% of shots, for a total of 100%. Essentially, the lower your PDO, the unluckier you’ve been and vice versa. So if a player has a PDO of 120% over a certain period of games, you can assume they will see some regression.

These three statistics can help you figure out where goals are likely headed, which teams maintain possession, and which teams and players will regress to the mean for better or worse.


Building Cash Lineups

Succeeding in NHL cash games comes down to one simple phrase: “diversify your bonds”. Can you stack a forward and a defenseman on the same power play? Sure. It isn’t necessary, though. You’re aiming to get as many top line, top power play players as possible. Guys like Ovechkin and McDavid are always going to be super expensive, so you’re going to have to balance that out when you play them. You get a bonus for 5+ shots on goal, so volume shooters should get some priority in your lineups. Their prices will be higher because of it, though, so it is not always a necessity.

Another bonus (for defenseman mostly): players get points for blocked shots! So when picking cash game defensemen, you should look for some with shot blocking upside. This will give you a decent floor for scoring DK points. A majority of blocked shots in a hockey game, if not all, will come from defenseman killing penalties. A lot of these guys will come at cheap, near-the-basement prices making it easier to fit the high-priced guys into your lineups.

Goalies are very random when it comes to playing DFS hockey. In cash games, though, you’re looking for the win. So pick the team’s goalie that you think has the best shot at winning.

Building GPP Lineups

Cash and GPP lineup construction could not be further apart strategy wise. If diversity is the main goal of cash games, then heavy stacking is  the game plan for GPPs. Your lineups for tournaments should feature AT LEAST one main stack of 3-4 players. Most of my gpp lineups take the route of two stacks: either two 3 player stacks or one 3-4 player stack and one 2 player (mini) stack. The goal (hehe) of these stacks is correlation. A stack should be a group of players that make sense together. If you choose the 1st line left winger, the 2nd line right winger, and the 3rd line center, then you strongly lack correlation. The most ideal stack you can get is one that has even strength AND power play correlation. For example, the most common 1st line for the Boston Bruins is Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. These three are also the most common 1st Power Play Unit for the Bruins as well. So they’re getting the most even strength minutes AND most power play minutes. Together.

You can also add or substitute a defenseman into a stack to make it power play correlated. For example, a team that loved to blend their even strength lines into their power play units was the Arizona Coyotes. Essentially, their top unit would be two forwards from their 1st line, a forward from their 2nd line, a forward from their 3rd line, and their best defenseman. So the way to get the best correlation would be to snag the two 1st line forwards and the defenseman – It’s a way to get different in your GPP lineups that could make all the difference. 

As far as goalies go, it is always best to AVOID the chalk. Hockey game totals are always 4.5 or 5.5 goals. It is not reliable like basketball – where the range is from sub-200 to 250+ points in a game. Ceiling goalie games are going to come from getting the 40+ save bonus and not just getting the win, so you will have to take a gamble on some guys to hit big. It is not detrimental to a lineup cashing if they allow 3 or 4 goals, as long as they are seeing more rubber than a, well nevermind.


That’s going to finish this article! If you have any questions about playing DFS hockey, feel free to shoot me a follow and tweet @ZawaDFS or a message in Bathrobe’s Discord.