7 tips to win your standard NHL fantasy hockey playoff pool

Andy McNamara & Nick Alberga get you ready for the qualifying round of the new-look NHL playoffs with their predictions, picks and plays on the Fantasy Forecheck powered by the Ram 1500 Sport!

Just a hunch, but something tells me this revamped 24-team playoff format is going to be a lot of fun. As puck drop nears, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of playoff pool you’re going to run.

First and foremost, make sure you sign-up for the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool: Playoffs Edition here for your chance at driving away with a 2020 Ram 4×4 Crew Cab truck. In addition to that phenomenal grand prize, $50,000 in cash prizes are also up for grabs!

Now, why would you miss out on that? If you’re looking for something more traditional, I got you covered below as well:

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

The Rundown

Most standard pools employ the same type of general principals — accumulate the most total points to win. From a categorical point of view, there’s no need to overthink things — I usually go with goals, assists, points, OT winners, goalie wins and shutouts. Depending on how complex you want to get with your scoring system, you can choose to attach different weight values to each statistic. For example, I’ve seen pools where goals have been worth as much as three points. Increasing shutout value is quite common as well. Do what you please.

Ditto for roster limit and layout — you can be as straightforward or creative as you’d like. In the crease, selecting a team of goaltenders as opposed to individually might make most sense in the long run. The position is as volatile as ever and with the NHL incorporating back-to-backs into the schedule, we could conceivably see teams use both their goalies.

When it comes to picking players, box selection and conventional drafting — linear or snake — are the two most common methods. A Box Pool is pretty self-explanatory — you’ll be instructed to pick one player per box, which each feature players of similar caliber.

Looking to determine an order for your conventional draft? Simple: draw numbers from a hat. Heck, you can even do a mini draft lottery — hopefully a Placeholder Friend isn’t awarded the first overall pick.

Anyways, in order to be successful, you’ll need a defined draft strategy:

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1. Know the Rules

You’ll laugh at this, but I can’t count how many times I’ve been part of playoff pools where someone bombed a draft because they didn’t fully comprehend the rules. Don’t be that person. Make sure you have a firm grasp of what’s going on.

2. Make Your Predictions

Don’t enter a roster selection process without first filling out a playoff bracket. Determining what you foresee happening will give you a clearer picture of which players you’d like to target in your draft. In a perfect world, it would be nice to own players from all four of your projected Conference finalists. Because of the newly implemented reseeding rules, it will be harder to accomplish that ideology this time around.

3. Do Your Homework

Even if you’re casually taking part in a pool just for fun, a quick glance at projected line combinations and roster news can really help you out in the long run. Believe it or not, a lot has changed in the NHL world since the pause on Mar. 12 and I’m not even alluding to the pandemic. Stud names like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jake Guentzel and Steven Stamkos, among others, are healed from previous ailments and are expected to be good to go for the restart. Ironically, most teams are extremely healthy right now, something we’re not really accustomed to seeing heading into the post-season.

Another benefit of being prepared is that you’ll have a decent idea of some potential sleepers and bargain buys to have on your radar. It goes without saying, but finding depth and balance is vital for playoff pool success.

4. No Loyalty

Play with your head, not your heart. At the end of the day, only one team will win the Stanley Cup. Be smart with your picks. No, I wouldn’t recommend selecting Zach Hyman ahead of Sidney Crosby. Don’t be afraid to hop on a bandwagon either, no one will tell on you.

5. Spread the Wealth

When constructing your roster, flexibility is the name of the game. You have to be able to adapt and modify your game plan on the fly. Yes, you want to do your best to attain players from teams you consider to be contenders, just remember that your competitors will be trying to do the same thing.

Within reason, team stacking is a solid strategy as long as you don’t get carried away with it. There’s absolutely no need to own fourth liners who play sparingly just because they’re on your Stanley Cup favourite. Instead, look to occupy that spot with someone who’ll actually put up some numbers for you, even if it’s just for a round or two.

Of course, there are flaws when it comes to the all-in approach. Your predictions could stink, and you’d be toast if that happened. Poolies are still trying to get over last spring when Tampa’s first round exit effectively ended the championship aspirations of many, including yours truly, before they even started. If there’s one thing we learned last year from all the upsets, it’s that there’s no such thing as a lock anymore. Expect the unexpected.

6. Take Some Chances

Following up on the previous thought, Sportsnet’s billing of these upcoming playoffs as ‘unpredictable’ is pretty spot on if you ask me. No one has a clue what’s going to happen and that’s what makes this fun. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and take some players from underdog teams. Minnesota’s Kevin Fiala, Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat and Arizona’s Phil Kessel come to mind right away. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

7. Identify Sleepers

Along those lines, it’s always important to be ahead of the curve — pinpoint some potential sleeper picks ahead of your draft. Personally, I love the money motivation narrative. How often do we see a player in a contract year go absolutely berserk in the playoffs? Bryan Bickell, Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly, to name a few. For what it’s worth, Nashville’s Mikael Granlund, Toronto’s Tyson Barrie and Calgary’s T.J. Brodie are firmly on my contract year sleeper radar.

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