Here I am going to get into some of the finer points of NHL DFS beyond the basic lineup construction strategy I covered in part one. Please keep in mind that the intention here is to get a new player going playing NHL DFS without getting too far into the weeds. I’m simply focusing on how to fundamentally make rosters that are constructed to win to help a new player quickly have fun playing NHL DFS.
Power Play Units
In the NHL, when there are certain penalties, a power-play ensues. This is where one team gets to skate with five skaters while the other has four for generally two minutes. Clearly, due to the five-on-four advantage, it is a lot easier to score goals than it is at even strength five-on-five.
Teams have two power-play units, PP1 and PP2. These are the two groups of five skaters that will skate together during power-play time. These are generally going to be some of the best offensive players on their teams, and players that skate on the power-play are, for the most part, more valuable since they will get prime opportunities to score.
It is an alternative option to three-man power-play stack rather than stacking a full-strength even line. You might have a first-line where two of the skaters are on PP1, and one is not on either PP unit. Say that third skater is a generally weak offensive player, not to mention not getting power-play time. You might then opt to leave them out of your stack and include a player from the second or third line on that team that is on the first power-play and has more offensive prowess.
A great example lies below. Auston Matthews is now skating with William Nylander and Michael Bunting. Bunting is not a star player and skates on PP2, while Matthews and Nylander skate on PP1. Mitchell Marner is a much better offensive player than Bunting and skates on line two but skates on PP1. Marner has traditionally played alongside Matthews on the Toronto top line before a line shuffling to move Bunting to line one. This is a situation where you might benefit from leaving Bunting off and opting for a PP1 stack though one skater skates on a different even-strength line.
Not only can a three-man power-play stack sometimes be equally or more viable depending on the situation, but in many cases, it will give you the opportunity to make a more unique roster, particularly on small slates where it is important to differentiate yourself from the field.
The ideal thing is when you find fully correlated power-play lines that are also on the same even-strength line. Then you know you are getting all that you possibly can out of that combination of three skaters since they will always be on the ice together, including during the best opportunities for scoring.
Another place where power-play units come into play involves defensemen. In a perfect world, you would stack a fully correlated PP1 or PP2 line with a defenseman who is on the same power-play line. It is a good idea to keep this in mind when selecting which defenseman from a team to correlate with your forward stack.
An important thing to understand when selecting a defenseman to correlate with your stack is how defensive pairing rotations work. You might think that the first defensive pairing would always skate with the first line, the second pairing with the second line, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t work that way entirely.
It really depends on the particular team and how they function exactly how defensive pairings will group with forward lines. Still, there are going to be times where different defensive pairings are skating with various forward lines. A first defensive pairing may be more likely to skate with a first line more often, but it isn’t exclusive. It is worth considering, but not an end all be all.
The most important thing is trying to correlate, as a rule of thumb, defensemen that skate on the same power play line as the forwards in your line stack. This is more predictable and is a correlation you can count on assuming the power play line runs as projected.
How To Value Defensemen
In a perfect world, we would only roster defensemen who skate on power-play units, take a lot of shots, and frequently score and assist on goals. Unfortunately, these are the most expensive defenseman available, and we can’t always fit them while affording to play good forward lines.
The pricing tends to be tighter on DraftKings, making it more difficult to fit two forward lines that have a good chance of being top scorers on slates. In addition, DraftKings has a 3+ block bonus which makes it easier for cheap defensemen who are unlikely to score goals to reach value since they are often still likely to block a fair number of shots. The combination of these factors makes it more viable to roster cheap defensemen on DraftKings. They are less likely to kill your lineups completely even if they don’t score, and if they do have an outlier game in which they get one or more goals/assists, they can be the keys to winning large-field tournaments.
On FanDuel, the pricing is a lot softer, and it is easier to get to two viable forward lines while still playing decent to elite defensemen. There is no 3+ block bonus there either, meaning that you really do have to prioritize scoring all the more. It is less advisable to play defensemen on FanDuel who are unlikely to have much involvement in their team’s scoring.
There is a lot more to NHL DFS, and there are various alternative constructions and other advanced factors to take into account. Still, if you simply stack two correlated forward lines and correlate one defenseman and a goalie, you are well on your way to winning at NHL DFS. It is a good idea to start there and build on the finer points as you go.