The NHL is the toughest sport to handicap in daily fantasy given the randomness of offensive production. A player might go five straight games without scoring, then go off for five points in his next two games. There’s just no way to know where the fantasy points will come from on a given night – but when it comes to cash-game play, you can still anchor your lineup with players who are sure to provide the floor you need to compete.
Daily fantasy scoring favors goal hawks. With 12 points awarded for a goal compared to just eight for an assist, you’re looking for players who have a nose for the net. This doesn’t mean that assist-heavy forwards are worthless – in fact, you’ll want to have at least one of those kind of players in your lineup every night. But dependable goal scorers will provide the most value to your cash-game team, so be sure to have at least one elite goal guy in your roster.
The league’s best goal-scoring forwards are often the ones who register the most shots on goal – and this makes them even more valuable in daily fantasy. Games offer 1.6 points per shot on goal, meaning a guy who takes five shots in a given night will add eight points to your tally. That’s a significant carrot, and should be considered as soon as you start building your lineup. Anchor your cash-game entry with a player who takes plenty of shots on net.
Non-scoring stats are the name of the game here, since you can’t rely on goals and assists from any but a handful of the top blue-liners – and these guys will force you to pay through the nose. You have an easy decision when these players are active; San Jose’s Brent Burns, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman are must-adds to your cash-game lineups, with Burns capable of producing like an elite forward.
The rest of the time, you should look for defensemen who are capable of doing a little bit of everything – but above all, you should target guys who block shots. At 1.6 points per block, a brave blue-liner can rack up the points simply by getting in the way of the puck. Combining shot-blocking skill with exposure to his team’s power play will give you the kind of high-floor defensive option that should give you a great production base for your cash-game play.
This might be the most important position in daily fantasy, and should be treated as such. Fortunately, it’s also the most predictable, at least from a wins standpoint; the best goaltenders, or those with the best defenses ahead of them, have the best chances of earning big fantasy points. So while it might seem like I’m oversimplifying things, the truth is that your goaltender search should begin and end with the guy who has the best shot at walking away with the W.
A riskier proposition, but one that could prove more fruitful, is to opt for a goaltender who is set to face a lot of shots. At 0.8 points per shot, a netminder who is in line to get peppered with pucks has an opportunity to be a daily fantasy asset even if he doesn’t earn the victory. This can backfire if the goalie has an off-night – that -4 for a goal against is a major deterrent – but on a slate where the rest of the goaltending options are iffy, you could do worse than leaning toward the busiest ‘tender.