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Fantasy Hockey 101: Ten Basic Strategy Tips

Brady Trettenero

Fantasy hockey writer for RotoWire, writing NHL player notes and covering the Vancouver Canucks beat. BCIT Broadcast Journalism graduate.

Here are 10 basic strategy tips on the way to becoming an elite-level fantasy hockey player:

1. Do your research

This shouldnít come as much of a surprise, but preparing for a fantasy hockey season goes a long way in determining the success you will have. Research projections and determine which players you can steal in drafts and which ones might be overvalued. Put some time into understanding your fantasy hockey league and the format it uses. Look at the rankings on the web site your league uses and see which players hold what value. Make a list of the players you want to draft and add them to your watch list. The more you are prepared, the easier it is to draft the ideal team.

2. Participate in mock drafts

Thereís no better way to get ready for the fantasy hockey season then by participating in actual mock drafts. This gives you an idea of where players are being selected in drafts and which guys will fly under the radar. Mock drafts help you become an expert at strategy and picking players for your roster. You get an understanding of how other people make their choices and can pick up on trends if you participate in enough of them. Doing research is critical, but if you really want to take that next step, mock drafts are simply the closest youíll get to the real deal.

3. Draft with a purpose

Have a set plan of the players you want to select before entering a fantasy hockey draft. Know the positions you need to fill and which scoring categories are required. Donít enter a fantasy hockey draft with the idea of just selecting the best players you can think of. Build a well-rounded roster that is strong in each position and fulfills the statistical categories needed. Keep tabs on which people are selecting which players and use that to your advantage. Know who you want going in so you can make the best selections when itís your turn.

4. Understand the importance of goaltending

Goaltending is usually a very significant position in any fantasy hockey league. Wins and sometimes save percentage often hold great value in fantasy, so be sure to select an elite starting goaltender who plays often and delivers quality stats. Ensuring youíre stable at the goaltending position is critical when it comes to succeeding in fantasy hockey. You donít want to be the person constantly dropping and adding goaltenders trying to find something that sticks. If you have someone you can insert into the lineup every night who's reliable, that consistent point production goes a long way.

5. Beware of injuries

Hockey is a dangerous sport and players are constantly getting injured. When selecting a player in the draft, take a look at how many games theyíve missed over the past few seasons and determine whether they're injury prone. Stay on top of injuries on your roster and make the necessary changes when needed. If you see a league member has an injured player on their roster that may be close to returning, tempt them with a trade offer that works in your favor. There are certain players that are known for being injured on a regular basis, so get an idea of who those guys are before participating in fantasy hockey.

6. Sleepers are crucial

Everyone knows the big guns. Whatís going to set you apart from fellow fantasy goers are the late-round gems you draft who end up paying major dividends. Take the time to research some unknown players who could surprise everybody during the season. Some of the top scorers at the end of the year are sometimes players nobody had on their radar entering the season. Take a gamble with some under-the-radar players later on and it might just win you your fantasy league.

7. Throw away your bias

Every hockey fan has a favorite team, but itís important to leave that bias at the door when heading into fantasy hockey. This is about selecting the best possible squad that will help you beat out all the competition. Donít prioritize selecting your favorite player over another player who you know will get you more points. If you know someone in your league has a bias towards a certain team, use that to your advantage. If theyíve selected certain players in the past, keep that in mind and get the best value for the players you want. Drafting disliked players who perform well is a necessary evil that can pay off big time.

8. Monitor your bench

Keeping an eye on who is playing and who isnít on a nightly basis is crucial. You want to ice the best potential lineup every night of NHL action. Take a long look at your roster and analyze the matchups to determine which players you should be inserting as starters versus those that should take a seat on the virtual bench. Consider categories and positions to ensure you can collect the maximum amount of points that night.

9. Get involved

If you truly want to be successful in fantasy hockey, youíll have to monitor the league often. Pay close attention to the waiver-wire activity, particularly the players that are getting dropped. Seek out trade options and take advantage of fellow league members in desperate situations. Check out which of your players are performing well and which arenít and make decisions accordingly. If you stay on top of things, you wonít miss an opportunity to claim a player that could significantly bolster your roster.

10. Remember its fantasy hockey

There always seems to be confusion between the actual sport of hockey and the game of fantasy hockey, but certain players are way more valuable to their actual NHL team than they ever will be to fantasy goers (defensive contributions from players are generally less conducive to fantasy value than offensive happenings). Donít get caught up in hearing about how good someone has been for their actual team before you know exactly why that's the case. They may be doing good things for their team, but would they be a valuable addition to your fantasy team? Fantasy hockey is about statistics, so understand the difference between a real-life player and a fantasy player.