How To Play NHL DFS Tournaments: Part One

How To Play NHL DFS Tournaments- Part One

NHL DFS can seem daunting at first to a person who isn’t super into hockey. Yet, it is pretty rewarding once you get into it. It is an excellent vehicle to gain a greater appreciation for the sport. When I got into NHL DFS, I knew very little about the sport and barely knew who the players were. Yet, I was able to take my general understanding of DFS strategy from playing other sports and become profitable immediately. If you are already heavily into hockey, all the better.

One of the great things about hockey DFS; there is a straightforward and streamlined process to success that does not require a great deal of knowledge of the sport. Prize pools tend to be a little smaller, but there are also fewer entrants in the contests, giving you a greater chance of winning by default. You might enjoy NHL more than the NBA for those looking for a nightly DFS sweat throughout the winter months. It is actually way simpler and requires less juggling of late injury news and such to be effective. You might also enjoy playing both if you have the time and inclination.

This article is for beginners trying to understand the basics of NHL DFS. By grasping these concepts, you will be able to make lineups with tangible win equity in no time.

Line Stacking

Each team has four “lines” of three skaters that generally consistently skate together in shifts throughout the game in the NHL. These lines consist of three forwards, two being considered wingers and one center. The first line is generally considered the team’s overall best and is usually the most viable to stack for DFS. The second line is usually reasonably offensively capable and stackable as well. A team’s third line can at times be usable, particularly on smaller DFS slates with fewer options. Fourth lines generally do minimal scoring and are not worth playing in NHL DFS.

When picking players, you first need to identify which lines each player is projected to skate on for that night’s game. There are various resources online to find up-to-date projected lines. The primary manner of constructing DFS tournament rosters is to stack complete lines from teams. Those three skaters will skate together throughout the game in most instances.

This is important because most goals in the NHL are assisted by one or two players on the ice with the goal scorer. The most valuable way to accrue DFS points is through goals and assists, which are few and far between in the NHL since scoring is generally relatively low.

Stacking three players that skate on the same line takes much of the guesswork out of the equation. If any player on the line you stack scores a goal, one or more of their linemates will likely get an assist. This allows you to score many points at once any time there is a goal scored between them. It is similar to how stacking in MLB DFS works since the success of one player generally benefits the next.

When constructing a lineup, you will as a rule of thumb select two lines of three skaters that skate together from two teams and use that as the basis of your roster. This is similar to stacking two teams in MLB lineups, such as 5-3 stacking on DraftKings or 4-4 stacking on FanDuel.

Example of a 3-3 stack with two correlated lines in EDM1 and BOS2


In hockey, in addition to the four forward lines, teams generally use three pairs of defensemen who skate together in shifts. Defensemen are called that because one of their main tasks is to defend their team’s goal and stop the other team from scoring. However, some defensemen are very involved in the offense and often score goals and assist them. These are the more valuable defensemen to target for DFS and usually come with higher price tags. Most of these more offensively capable defensemen tend to skate with the first and second defensive pairs. They often skate on their team’s power-play lines as well (more on that later in part two).

In hockey DFS on DraftKings and FanDuel, you have to roster a total of eight skaters and a goalie. On both sites, you are required to roster two defensemen. The only difference in positional eligibility between sites is that FanDuel has two “utility” slots where you can play either centers, wingers, or defensemen. DraftKings has one. This plays no significant role in the strategy between the two sites.

Because forwards are generally more likely to score goals than defensemen, rarely would you play a defenseman in your utility position/s on either site. Not only this, but since you generally want to stack two complete forward lines, you wouldn’t be able to do this while filling up utility positions with a third defenseman.

So, the next aspect of making your roster after selecting two three-forward lines that skate together is to choose two defensemen. You can select uncorrelated defensemen with your forward stacks, or you can go with defensemen that are likely to skate with one or both of your lines. The benefit of correlating a defenseman with your forwards is that they will likely assist in their goals at times. That or score goals that are assisted by the forwards. A standard build on both sites is a 4-3 with the two correlated forward lines, one with a defenseman from the same team.

Taking it one step further by correlating a defenseman from EDM


The last piece in any roster is the goalie. Goalie scoring is tough to predict in the NHL. Goalies get points for saves, so there is a benefit to the goalie seeing a lot of shots on goal. Yet, the more shots on goal, the more likely they are to give up goals, for which they lose points. Goalies get a win bonus if their team wins the game, and they get a shutout bonus if they give up zero goals.

It is tough to win a large field tournament if your goalie does not get the win bonus. Therefore, you really want to target goalies that you think are going to win. If one of your line stacks goes off for a lot of goals, that team is likely to win. For that reason, one of the simplest and most effective ways to correlate your lineup and try to guarantee yourself the win is to play the goalie from one of your lines.

This is why it is prevalent to play a 4-3 stack with four skaters from one team, including a defenseman, three from another, a defenseman that is not correlated, and a goalie.

Adding a correlated goalie, Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins. The last spot would be filled in with a defenseman from another team.

You generally do not ever want to play skaters against your goalie unless you are playing on a small slate and need to find a very unique construction. It is unlikely that your skaters will do well if they aren’t scoring. Since your goalie loses points for goals against, you’d be cannibalizing yourself by rostering skaters against your goalie.

In part two, I will get into some of the finer points of essential NHL DFS tournament play. Stay tuned!

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I'm a DFS player (JackG1111), DFS content provider, and musician.

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