Every year when the NHL regular season begins, so do countless fantasy leagues and hockey pools. For those who’ve already gotten roped into one, or for those looking to add more time wasting activities to their lives, the following is a guide to help survive the early stages of your own league. From the draft on, keep these tips in mind and you’ll at least avoid placing dead last at the end of your season. Try to keep yourself ahead of at least one person at all times and your own failures won’t look so bad.
Tip 1: Drafting early is easy
You see, for the most part, a monkey could draft the first 10-20 players in a fantasy hockey league. Go read any number of preseason player rankings and you’ll find all the exact same players ranked in nearly the exact same order. In fact, I dare you to try and find a hockey pool draft guide that doesn’t have Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ranked as the top three players to pick up. Unless you have some devious scheme up your sleeve, you’d be best to just choose the obvious picks early on and leave your fancy insider knowledge to the later rounds.
Tip 2: Goalies are important
It may be tempting to choose all star forwards in the first rounds of a draft but remember this: there are dozens upon dozens of good, point-producing forwards in the league but there are really only a small handful of good goalies. Also remember that a number one goaltending position is typically the hardest job to land in the NHL, so a goalie guaranteed to start more than 40 games in a season is a rare commodity indeed. If you wait until the later rounds to draft goaltenders, then you run the risk of being stuck with a roster of benchwarmers who spend the season praying the No. 1 guy gets taken off, so they can actually see some ice time.
Tip 3: Forget about your favorite players
Really, what are the odds that you are going to draft all the players you want? There’s a good chance that a handful of your favorite players are everyone else’s favorite players as well, so just be happy having one or two of your childhood idols on your make believe hockey squad. Speaking of childhood idols, if you insist on drafting certain players based on how sweet they were in 1992, try to wait until the final rounds to draft Mike Modano.
Tip 4: Patience is a much-needed virtue
You can count on the fact that over the span of a season your players will have both slumps and injuries. Try to remember that old saying about sprints and marathons. Even some of the best goal scorers in the NHL can go weeks without compiling many points at all. Hockey can be a streaky business so if you run out of all the patience you’re ever going to have for a player, at least try and hold out for some good numbers so you can get good trade value from your asset. It’s a marathon people!
Tip 5: Focus on drafting well late
If your team succeeds it’s not because you have a couple all-star players, it’s because you have a well rounded roster. I’ve mentioned before that it’s easy to draft early — again, the monkey — but here it pays off to know the ins and outs of all the mediocre players, the ones that are good but not great. There aren’t enough superstars to spread around so eventually you’ll have to fill out your team with some of the lesser known names. If you can steal an up-and-coming young star or a potential break out rookie in the later rounds you’re laughing. More often than not, the hockey pool teams that do really well are made of many good players rather than two or three excellent ones.