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From the Pressbox: The Basics

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno is co-host of the RotoWire fantasy hockey podcast, The Great Ones. He has been an accredited member of the Toronto sports media for more than 20 years. Paul also helps with RW's DFS podcast and is a contributing writer for RW NFL, MLB and CFL content. Follow him on twitter: @statsman22.

This week we continue your fantasy pool preparations by looking at the hockey pool strategies that you need to know in order to dominate your pools.

Total Points Leagues

The premise is quite simple, in that your group of friends can set up a draft of players and simply track their scoring points as the regular season progresses. You will need to set up a mutually agreeable time to get together on a Draft day to carry out the set up of the pool. Drawing lots determines the draft order. In addition, teams should agree on the total number of rounds.

Typically, the basic scoring statistics (goals and assists) will be all that is required for the offensive players and goalies are not usually involved. Once the draft order is determined, the draft can proceed with the player drawing number 1 going first and continuing until the last player drafts, to complete round 1. Round 2 should proceed in reverse order from Round 1, such that the last team choosing from Round 1 will start Round 2.

Preparation for this type of Draft is essential for improving your chances for success.

Typically, these drafts don't not allow for player replacement, due to injury or suspension, so it is critical to consider the top scorers who are not injury prone in the early rounds of your draft. In these early rounds you should focus on the blue chip players who have regularly been among the top 50 scorers in the last few years. There does not appear a franchise-type player among this year's rookie class, so stick to the proven players for your first few picks.

Another consideration is to focus on those teams that are expected to do well and look at their top 6 forwards and top two or three scoring defenders. In terms of those defensemen, be careful not to choose them too early.

As long as the scoring statistics in your pool use only goals and assists, you should not lose sight of the leading scorers on some of the projected non-playoff teams. One more aspect that should be explored is the projected power play units of the various teams. This will enable you to find some other players that may not jump out at you.

As you find your way into the middle and later rounds you ought to shift your focus to the players who will play on the same lines as some of the top 20 stars in the game.

The time to take a chance, if you are inclined, is with your last pick or two. Here you want to bear in mind top rookie prospects who figure to get good playing time or veterans who are returning from what you might consider is an unusual poor past season.

You have to hope that injuries don't not wipe out your roster or else you may lose interest in this type of draft. Success in this format is equal parts of skill in drafting and good luck in picking players who stay healthy.

If you want to make this type of draft a bit more complex you reward defensemen two points for every goal and to remove some of the sting of losses due to injury you can add a number of drop/add dates where long term injured players can be replaced. This latter option will keep more participants interested in a season-long pool.

Pick Any 20 Players

This format is very good if your desire is to get a large group of people to participate. It is a great fundraiser in support of kids teams and for worthy causes. The premise here is very simple, in that the participants are asked to pick any 20 players that you expect will play in the upcoming season.

Typically, there will be a number of common players selected as it is expected that some of the perennial top scorers will be among the leaders year after year. The trick is to those players on the cusp of the top twenty who may be poised for a breakthrough.

To begin preparing for such a pool, the best starting point is to look at the past two or three final scoring leader lists and determine who are common on those lists. Next, eliminate any players, among the leaders, who may have retired over the past year. At this point, you will likely have a core of about 10 players who will be on most fellow draft lists. Now, you have to focus on the players that will make the difference.

You can begin the process of filling in the remaining spots, by looking at the points earned by the next tier of scorers from last season and pick out a few players who are likely to maintain or improve slightly on their previous totals. When considering these possibilities, look at those who may have moved to a new team or who are in the final year of a contract. They have something to prove in either case.

This should now put you at the 16 or 17 player mark. The final component is those few players who will either make you a winner, if they do well, or blow you out of contention if they flop.

What are some of the clues to help chose these difference makers?

Look for some of the players who may have missed a big chunk of last season, who had been among the top scorers in recent years. They may be due for a bounce-back type season. Another consideration is that group of players that is in their third or fourth year in the league and has shown some annual improvement. Finding one or two of these players will make a huge difference for you.

In this format you have to go down the list and find these players and you cannot be afraid to take a chance on a player who has not been a top 10 guy yet in his career. Just be careful not to take too many chances and miss out on several blue chip producers. That is a delicate balance and in a pool like this there is no room for error. Someone in a large group of entrants typical of this format will come close to picking the perfect mix.

Multiple Choice Drafts

Similar to the pick any 20 players, this is a good format when you want a large number of entrants and want to raise money or give out prizes. This pool format provides you with all the names and you are challenged to select the top point-getter in each grouping.

Typically, this format is set up to prompt the user to choose the player in each grouping who will emerge as the top point producer within that particular grouping. That exercise is to be repeated for at least 10 different groupings, each of which will contain at least four names.

To give yourself the best chance to do well here, a little bit of homework is required.

First, look for recent records of each player, over the last three years (for example), and select the player who has the best average or upward trend in that group. It is equally important to look for those players who show downward trends over that same interval and try to eliminate them from consideration.

The set up of each grouping will bring together players who earned roughly the same points totals from a year earlier. If a player was on a high scoring team and has been moved to a more defensive-minded or less flashy team that may be a clue to avoid the player. Conversely, if a player moves into a more offensive setup, he may thrive and be more productive.

Defensemen are usually grouped separately and you may find a few easy wins here if you consider individual situations as well. For instance, as polls are being drawn up now, you want to also be aware of a defender who enjoyed a career best season and weigh the possibility of a repeat.

A different wrinkle with this format is the inclusion of goalies and tough guys.

Goalies are included here and usually earn points in one of three ways. They can be ranked in order of success by goals against average, wins or shutouts. The particular draft that you are in will specify what statistic is being tracked, when considering netminders. Be aware of the category when considering your options.

Tough guys may be measured in terms of their penalty minutes and their totals from prior years may provide useful clues. Their reputations may cloud your judgment, too.

In summary, eliminating players from consideration is as helpful as any other consideration to maximize your chances to succeed within this pool format.

Rotisserie (Keeper) Leagues

These are the most complex of the pool types listed here. They can also be the most fun because you can include trading options well as more regular opportunities to drop and add players.

They also include the tracking of more statistics than the basic ones used above. You can include plus/minus stats, game winning goals and special teams (power play and shorthanded) goals. Preparing for these drafts is a bit more complicated as a result.

A player's age becomes a larger consideration here. If you have a choice between a 38 year old, point per game player and a similar one who is 10 years younger, you should lean toward the younger player. This is important for the continuity of a quality roster because you can retain a fixed number (which would be specified at the beginning of the first year of your pool).

Keeper leagues usually require that you choose players at each position, so during the course of your draft you should be aware of the quality and depth at each position that is available when your turn comes up. Also, you should make the best choices in consideration of the specific statistics that are being measured.

Generally, more forwards are required to fill out your roster, followed by defensemen and usually only two or three goalies. In order to have a balanced roster at the end of draft day, you ought to pick more quality at the forward position early in your draft in the early rounds. In between, you should try to snag at least one top defender and blueliner to be your building blocks at those positions. As stated above, pay attention to what positions the other teams are selecting. You can be caught short if you wait too long while the quality of remaining options at the various positions diminishes, if for instance 6 or 7 goalies are picked early.

If you find that you are caught a bit short at one position, you are likely in a position of relative strength elsewhere. That may be advantageous to you on two fronts. If you are relatively strong at forward, there are more offensive statistics where your team may be relatively dominant. You can afford to let your goalkeeping stats slide if they are relatively unimportant to your pool. Otherwise, you may want to trade from your strengths top shore up any weaknesses elsewhere.

In preparing for the draft, a useful tactic may be to look at the composition of the team as required by your draft format and link it to the statistics from last season. For example, if there are 10 teams and each is required to have 2 goalies, 5 defensemen and 9 forwards you can rank you choices by considering the top 20 goalies (10x2), 50 defensemen (10x5) and 90 forwards (10x9).

Next, take a look at the players from the prior year's points rankings to get an idea for the names that you would expect among top forwards, blueliners and goalies. These guidelines could also help you to project your areas of strength and weakness as you enter a season, by tallying the number of player that you selected in the top half of last year's lists. For people who believe that recent past performance is indicative of possible future performance this is a very good way to go into a draft.

It is advisable to focus on the top clubs from last year that are expected to be there again this season and perhaps to not spend a lot of energy on the bottom end clubs. There will be more quality at the top than the bottom and you may reap the benefit of your opponents making that tactical error.

The most complex type of pool in that the poolies participate in an auction for the available talent and the highest bidder gains ownership of the player. In these pools, each team is given the same amount of fantasy dollars to spend in their efforts to build their own teams subject to filling out rosters of equal size and composition. That means budgeting for a fixed number of players at each position.

The teams then are competing to gain supremacy in their leagues by doing as well as possible in a wide range of statistics, which will include all scoring categories, including plus/minus and penalty minutes. So these pools may have measures for a number of categories in which all participants are ranked, with the top point-getter earning the 10 points (assuming there are 10 teams in the pool). The sum of these categories is then tallied and the team with the highest cumulative point total winning the pool.

Paul Bruno has been writing about the fantasy sports scene for several years and is an accredited member of the sports media in Toronto for over 20 years. You are invited to send your feedback and you can follow him on Twitter (statsman22).