Tips on how to pick your team for Sportsnet’s Fantasy Hockey Playoff Pool

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby. (Billy Hurst/AP)

The DobberHockey crew is proud to have provided Sportsnet readers with fantasy hockey tips all season long. With Sportsnet offering a FREE playoff hockey pool presented by Ram with $50,000 in cash prizes available, we figured we would offer up a strategy guide to help get a leg up on the competition. Follow along for some tips and tricks to build the best possible roster.

1. Sign up!
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2. Understanding the Rules
The best path to victory in any fantasy league is to first understand the rules, including roster makeup, scoring and any other minutiae you can take advantage of.

In this contest, you must pick six players (three forwards, two defencemen and one goalie) from each conference for 12 players total. Skaters score one fantasy point per goal or assist, while goalies get two fantasy points for each win, and one fantasy point per shutout. You must select one forward, one defenceman and one goalie to be your Ram Capable players and their points will be doubled.

Players are assigned a “salary” between 1-4 points. You have a total salary cap of 30 to fit your entire roster within, so you cannot merely load up on the best players.

You can build a new roster in advance of Round 2 and Round 3 of the playoffs so you don’t have to worry about how far your players might advance, but rather how many points they’ll get in the round you are selecting for. Alexander Radulov scored seven points in six Round 1 games last year, which would have made him an excellent pick in this contest even though his Canadiens were eliminated by the Rangers.

3. The Salary Cap
With 12 roster spots to fill and only 30 salary points available you have an average of 2.5 salary points to spend on each roster spot. Figuring out where to spend up and where to go cheap is a big part of the strategy in this contest.

A popular strategy will be a “stars and scrubs” approach where people pick high variance options costing only one salary point and then load up on known high salaried options. If taking this approach, it is worth noting that each of the highest-salary players (4 stars) are forwards except for goaltenders Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Pekka Rinne:

TEAM 4-STAR PLAYER
BOS Tuukka Rask
BOS Brad Marchand
NJD Taylor Hall
PHI Claude Giroux
PIT Sidney Crosby
PIT Phil Kessel
PIT Evgeni Malkin
TBL Nikita Kucherov
TBL Steven Stamkos
TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy
WSH Alex Ovechkin
ANA Ryan Getzlaf
COL Nathan MacKinnon
LAK Anze Kopitar
WPG Blake Wheeler
NSH Pekka Rinne

There isn’t much room to save money in goal, however. Every team’s starter is priced as at least three salary points.

Another option is to fill out your roster with mid-tier options much like the Vegas Golden Knights did en route to a Pacific Division championship. Ironically, the Golden Knights’ top line is also one of this competition’s most expensive, costing a total of nine salary points.

A good strategy would be to load up on one cheap line and hope it goes bananas for an entire round. Here is a breakdown of the salary cost of each team’s top line:

TEAM PLAYER 1 STAR POINTS PLAYER 2 STAR POINTS PLAYER 3 STAR POINTS TOTAL STAR POINTS
BOS Brad Marchand 4 Patrice Bergeron 3 David Pastrnak 3 10
TBL Nikita Kucherov 4 Steven Stamkos 4 JT Miller 2 10
ANA Ryan Getzlaf 4 Rickard Rakell 3 Corey Perry 2 9
COL Nathan MacKinnon 4 Mikko Rantanen 3 Gabriel Landeskog 2 9
VGK Jonathan Marchessault 3 William Karlsson 3 Reilly Smith 3 9
WPG Blake Wheeler 4 Mark Scheifele 3 Kyle Connor 2 9
NJD Taylor Hall 4 Nico Hischier 2 Kyle Palmieri 2 8
PHI Claude Giroux 4 Sean Couturier 3 Travis Konecny 1 8
WSH Alex Ovechkin 4 Nicklas Backstrom 3 Tom Wilson 1 8
LAK Anze Kopitar 4 Dustin Brown 2 Alex Iafalo 1 7
NSH Filip Forsberg 3 Viktor Arvidsson 2 Ryan Johansen 2 7
PIT Sidney Crosby 4 Jake Guentzel 2 Bryan Rust 1 7
MIN Eric Staal 3 Jason Zucker 2 Nino Niederreiter 1 6
CBJ Artemi Panarin 3 Cam Atkinson 2 Pierre-Luc Dubois 1 6
TOR Auston Matthews 3 William Nylander 2 Zach Hyman 1 6
SJS Joe Pavelski 2 Evander Kane 2 Melker Karlsson 1 5

It’s worth noting that very few of the cheapest lines above feature all three members on their team’s top power play unit so there may be diminishing returns from the third members of these lines. Examples of this are Melker Karlsson, Zach Hyman, Alex Iafallo and Travis Konecny, but if they were slam-dunk options they wouldn’t be cheap.

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4. General Population League Strategies
Since you will be competing against thousands of other participants in this contest there is a ton of merit in picking players who simply aren’t that popular. The goal is still to put together the roster that puts up the most points, but there’s nothing to gain if you and several thousand others all have Sidney Crosby. Every point he earns will simply keep you in lock step with the general population.

The only way to truly get ahead is to take players no one else has and hope they go off. If that happens you, and only you, reap the benefits.

Sportsnet has kindly provided data on the consensus picks of others that you can use as a road map to building your roster. Here are the most owned players in the contest pool so far. Check the site for updates between now and Wednesday evening:

Team Player % Owned
WPG Connor Hellebuyck 51.1
TOR Frederik Andersen 28.9
PIT Matt Murray 26.6
NSH Pekka Rinne 26.4
NSH PK Subban 22.2
WPG Dustin Byfuglien 19.5
BOS Charlie McAvoy 16.8
WPG Patrik Laine 16.3
PIT Kris Letang 15.6
TOR Auston Matthews 15.2
VGK Marc-Andre Fleury 14.1
TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy 13.9
NSH Roman Josi 13
NSH Viktor Arvidsson 12.9
BOS Tuukka Rask 12.3
WSH Braden Holtby 10.9
PIT Sidney Crosby 10.7
LAK Drew Doughty 10.5
TOR Jake Gardiner 10
WPG Mark Scheifele 9.5
TBL Victor Hedman 8.2
BOS Patrice Bergeron 7.8
NSH Filip Forsberg 7.8
TOR Morgan Rielly 6.6
VGK William Karlsson 6.4
TBL Nikita Kucherov 6.3
PIT Justin Schultz 6.3
NSH Ryan Ellis 5.8
SJS Brent Burns 5.7
PIT Evgeni Malkin 5.5
NJD Will Butcher 5.4
WPG Blake Wheeler 5.2
WPG Tyler Myers 5

We aren’t suggesting that you can’t win picking from the list above, but the odds of differentiating yourself from the competition go way up if you can avoid doing so.

For instance, many remember the amazing first round that Charlie McAvoy had for the Bruins last spring. If you couple that with his player salary of just one star, he hits top-10 ownership in this year’s contest. You’d do well to remember that McAvoy’s playoff boom came with Torey Krug injured and an opportunity available to skate on Boston’s top power play unit. This year, Krug is healthy and coming off a season in which he nearly scored 60 points. You have to spend up to get Krug (three salary points) but in doing so you get the lesser-owned player with the better odds of putting up points.

Here are the ownership percentage levels for each team’s top line:

TEAM PLAYER 1 OWNERSHIP % PLAYER 2 OWNERSHIP % PLAYER 3 OWNERSHIP % TOTAL OWNERSHP %
NSH Filip Forsberg 7.8 Viktor Arvidsson 12.9 Ryan Johansen 2.8 23.5
WPG Blake Wheeler 5.2 Mark Scheifele 9.5 Kyle Connor 4.8 19.5
TOR Auston Matthews 15.2 William Nylander 3.2 Zach Hyman 0 18.4
PIT Sidney Crosby 10.7 Jake Guentzel 2.8 Bryan Rust 0 13.5
BOS Brad Marchand 3.7 Patrice Bergeron 7.8 David Pastrnak 1.9 13.4
TBL Nikita Kucherov 6.3 Steven Stamkos 0.6 JT Miller 0.7 7.6
VGK Jonathan Marchessault 1 William Karlsson 6.4 Reilly Smith 0 7.4
WSH Alex Ovechkin 2.3 Nicklas Backstrom 2.3 Tom Wilson 0 4.6
SJS Joe Pavelski 1.9 Evander Kane 2.2 Melker Karlsson 0 4.1
LAK Anze Kopitar 1.7 Dustin Brown 1.2 Alex Iafalo 0 2.9
ANA Ryan Getzlaf 1.2 Rickard Rakell 0.6 Corey Perry 1 2.8
COL Nathan MacKinnon 2.6 Mikko Rantanen 0 Gabriel Landeskog 0 2.6
PHI Claude Giroux 2.3 Sean Couturier 0 Travis Konecny 0 2.3
NJD Taylor Hall 2.1 Nico Hischier 0 Kyle Palmieri 0 2.1
CBJ Artemi Panarin 1 Cam Atkinson 0.6 Pierre-Luc Dubois 0 1.6
MIN Eric Staal 0 Jason Zucker 0 Nino Niederreiter 0 0

You get the sense that people are really into the Jets, and for good reason, but that popularity makes them a team to avoid when stacked up against underappreciated options in the player pool. It certainly seems that the top lines in San Jose, Columbus and Minnesota are in the Goldilocks zone of being inexpensive to roster and scarcely owned. The reward of owning one (or all) of these players should they go off is greater than you could find rostering players on more popular teams.

5. Picking Your Ram Capable Players
There’s no real secret to this. Since your Ram Capable Players are worth double points, you want the best player at each position to be worth double. This is dictated by simple math. If my worst forward scores four points in Round 1, and my best forward scores eight points, I’ll get 20 total fantasy points by having my best player worth double, and only 16 total fantasy points by having my worst player worth double. Ultimately, there’s no telling ahead of time who that best player will be, so you just have to bank on past production and reputation.

There is enormous potential to lap the field by having a player no one else owns as your Ram Capable Player and to have him lead Round 1 in scoring, but don’t overthink this. You can get exceptional unowned players. Take the best player at each position on your roster and bank on him to go off for double points.

If, for instance, you felt compelled to take Sidney Crosby despite his high ownership it would likely be because you expect him to lead Round 1 in scoring. In that case, you darn well better make sure he’s also worth double points to you.

For more help with your fantasy hockey playoffs pick up the DobberHockey Interactive Playoff Draft List!

Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of DobberHockey.com, you can follow him on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

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