Improving your Fantasy Hockey League

Fantasy hockey season is not far away now and the anticipation is killing me. Like most hockey fans, I love participating in Fantasy Hockey leagues with both my local friends and strangers around the world. The fantasy leagues may puzzle most girlfriends and wives, but the majority of men are completely incapable of watching sports without being in a fantasy league. The trash talk, the bragging rights, and sometimes a nice cash prize are all part of what makes these leagues so fun to be in.

What I notice is that sometimes the leagues that people usually play in are just basic versions of the public leagues and while that is okay, because that is what most people are used to, I am here to give you some tips on a possible way to improve your private league. This works best when you can run the league with your local buddies, but you can set up private leagues with randoms, forum friends, and whoever else you can think of.

First thing to address is how you chose to play your fantasy league. There are many way to set up the league and this Yahoo! article does a good job explaining all of them. My favorite method of playing is Head-To-Head Standard league. I like this specific way is that it generates a lot of momentum swings during the week and can let teams swoop into the playoffs with big 10-0 category sweeps. This is possibly the best option for talking smack and staying interested in the league as your input is required on weekly basis. Midway through the season you find out what categories you struggle in and what categories you are good at, this also leaves options for teams to have “luck” weeks when a surprising hero comes through with a hat trick or a game misconduct during a late Sunday night game to swing the match up in your favor. Setting up a Whatsapp chat for the league and watch the smack talk go on each week.

Now that we have the style of the league down, we need to choose the scoring settings. This is where a lot of people use the generic categories that are somewhat unbalanced and in some cases do not offer the league to use the diverse universe of NHL players.

The categories that I would recommend are:

Goals – Goals are a main stay in every league and should be your first category.

Assists – The same applies to the assists category.

Plus/Minus – Plus/Minus is a category that has been taking a lot of heat lately, but in Fantasy circles it is a must have. This will add an extra debate to drafting players like Alex Ovechkin or Corey Perry. This is a minor caveat but it still can burn you if you do not pay attention to players performance in this category.

PIM – Penalty In Minutes is a category that is a must for your fantasy league. The league has players that cant help themselves and spend lots of minutes in the box. In fantasy, if you consider it a strategy game, you want to have these type of players considered as draftable. Steve Ott, David Backes, and Ryan Getzlafs. Does the player like Ryan O’Reilley get the same value as Gabriel Landeskog?

PPP – Power Play Points is a simple category because why not? You already get credit for a goal/assist, but now you get a bonus one for it being on the PP. Players like Alex Ovechkin offer a great value in this category.

GWG – Game Winning Category is an important stat. It is a weak breaker or a clincher. You really can get a game winning goal from any player, but the ones that who deliver the most clutch goals need to be rewarded. Obviously this stat favors guys who score the most goals, but guys like Anze Kopitar, Rick Nash, and Mike Cammalleri proved to be very resourceful in this category as all had less than 30 goals but had more than 8 game winning goals each.  Luck favors the bold and this category can swing with an empty net goal in the last seconds of any game, which makes both the hockey game and fantasy week super exciting.

SHP – Short Handed Points is another category, just like PPP, that only needs to reward the hard work that earned those players a point. This adds extra value to superstars that play on the Penalty Kill, like Max Pacioretty.

FOW – Faceoffs Won is a category that you do not see often and I really think this one is very important. The fact is that there is always more centers in the league than wingers, but there is not a lot of centers that are good in the faceoff circle. This adds a bit more value to those centers and give you additional something to think about when drafting players than simple goals and assists. Guys like Jonathon Toews and Patriece Bergeron become super valuable. There is also to think about players who can get Wing and Center positions in your league like Henrik Zetterberg, for extra faceoffs from the winger slot.

DEF – Defensive Points is a good category, just like the FOW, to add value to players that are usually ignored in the first few rounds. The fact is that not only can the defensemen add value to your goals, assists, PIMs categories, but now they can offer another valuable stat by which they can be measured. This really is a great way to add value to the middle tier of defensemen in the league as well as making defensemen like P.K. Subban worthy of first/second round pick?

Possible considerations: Shootout goals.

The goalie categories are usually very standard as they are very simple and very effective.

W – Wins, this one is simple and rewards you having 3 goalies or simply goalies on good teams.

SO – Shutouts is a category that simply rewards awesome goaltending and is on par with player GWG category.

GAA – Goals Against Average is a standard goalie stat.

SAV% – Saves Percentage is the golden statistic on measuring the goalie performance and can reward good goaltending on bad teams.

Possible considerations: Goalie Penalty Minutes.


The categories I do not like are the shot blocking and hits. Hits is a category that is not very accurate as somehow players tend to hit more on home ice than on away ice (home team bias) and sometimes you do not know what is considered a hit or not. The shot blocking category is a bit more of the same, as the home team gets more blocked shots.


The other rules that your league should consider, that some might not implement yet, are the minimum goalie starts. This is important to use to avoid hot goalie starts and then benching of the goalies next few games. It is also a great way to make sure players draft goalies and not get by on one really good goalie to carry the load. 4 or 3 required goalie starts per week  is a good way to make sure players are honest and place value on good goaltending.

Have only 2 injury reserve spots during the season and please make sure to have that as an option. Teams tend to place players on IR quickly these days to be able to saves CAP space to bring in players form the minors and fantasy leagues that do not have IR spots force fantasy owners into a really rough situation.

These are just some of the things I consider essential to having a highly competitive and fun league. Scoring categories should be used to increase the difficulty of drafting players, have diverse draft rosters, increase the excitement with each weeks match-up, and make watching the games on the edge of the seat fun.


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