With just over a
week before the first puck drops, we're entering prime time for fantasy hockey
drafts. If you're like me and play on
various sites, it's easy to forget the rules and nuances of each league. Blindly drafting without regard to the rules
can be fatal. Even if you're Biff
Tannen and you know exactly how many points each player will score next season,
it's no guarantee for fantasy victory if you don't fashion your draft strategy
to the league you're in. In this post,
I'll give you some tips and guidance on how to draft (and win) in a standard
CBS fantasy hockey league.
The first step for
any league is to study the point system so you know the relative value of each
position. CBS does a good job of
weighting the value of offense, defense, and goaltending, to ensure that each
position has somewhat equal weight.
Quick recap of points in key categories:
Offense: Goals = 3, Assists = 2
Defense: Goals = 5,
Assists = 3
Goalies: Win = 5,
Saves=.2 , GA=-1
So what does this
mean? First off, the tendency for the
inexperienced GM is to blow off drafting defensemen until the later rounds,
since the big names and leading scorers obviously come from the forwards. Huge mistake here. Because of the weighting of points, a 20 goal
scorer on offense will earn 60 points for his efforts, while a 20-goal
performance by a defenseman will net 100 points. Another critical factor to realize is the
relative gap between the elite players on defense versus on offense. When it comes to defensemen, there's a fairly
small number of predictable, elite performing players. After that group of 10 or so, it drops off
considerably to the point where it doesn't matter much who you pick. The story is different for forwards. (Aside from a few obvious exceptions like
Crosby and Stamkos), you won't see a huge point difference between the top 10
forwards and the next 20 or so on the list.
Bottom line here:
don't be shy about drafting one or two defensemen in the first 4 rounds, even
if it means enduring a laugh or two from your unschooled competition.
And what about the
other stats categories?
- Penalty Minutes - At .25 a
piece, it's worth considering, but not worth planning your draft around
it. There are few players in the
league that bring a steady diet of points and PIMs. Those that do should be bumped up your
list a few notches (Perry is the most notable); however, don't go crazy
- +/- - Perhaps the most
arbitrary stat in fantasy sports.
Don't waste your time trying to predict this one. Generally speaking, favor players on
good teams over those with poor goal ratios. Often times a decent +/- will line up
nicely with points, and when it doesn't, it's not worth worrying about.
- SHG/PPG - For as often as a
short handed goal is scored, pay no attention. Power Play time (and goals) on the other
hand are more predictable and should factor into your rankings. CBS offers a bonus point for each goal
on the power play, so give a slight boost to guys like Simmonds and Vrbata
that might otherwise not be worth a look.
CBS strikes a decent
balance when valuing goaltenders between wins, saves, and goals against. A player who sees a ton of shots (Varlamov,
Bernier) has an edge out of the gate over a guy who only has to wake up every
few minutes to turn aside a casual kick save (Rask). So don't completely shy away from a good
goalie on a poor defensive team.
Shutouts are hard to predict, but there are certain goalie who
historically will give you that added bonus on a regular basis (Rask,
Quick). The obvious category (and the
one that may be easiest to predict) is wins.
At 5 points a piece, this is where you'll want to weight a good bit of
your ranking for this league.
Bottom line: focus
on Wins and Saves.
Points Per Game Rule
One last point worth
noting in CBS scoring rules is how they award points. It's not the total points earned that matter
in a head-to-head matchup. It's fantasy
points per game played. While this won't affect most of your
decisions at draft time for forwards and defense, it's something to think about
for goaltenders. This makes a
split-crease situation somewhat more palatable. This makes the goalies in St. Louis or
Anaheim a prime target in CBS, whereas they may be overlooked in other
formats. It's still risky to go with a
part-time goalie in net, but in this format, you can pull it off.
Then 2nd thing to
consider for any league is the number of players per position, and how the
league breaks down offense. The standard
CBS rules call for:
- 2 goalies
- 4 defense
- 6 forwards
- 4 bench spots
One of the nuances
with the CBS draft rules merits serious consideration. While you can mix and match centers and
wingers once the season begins, CBS
limits you to selecting just 3 total centers at draft time. I don't understand why they do it, but if you
don't play to this rule, you could seriously hurt yourself late in the
draft. First off, high-scoring fantasy
centers are abundant. It's tempting to
jump all over guys like Stamkos, Malkin, and Giroux in the early rounds, but
step back and look further down the list.
Guys like Duchene, Couture, and Pavelski will be around much later in
the draft, and is that really so bad? If
you spend 3 early picks on centers, you'll be regretting it in round 14 when
you see that Drouin and Carter are still available, but CBS won't let you pick
them. Budget your center selection for
value and save one of the 3 for the final couple of rounds. Give yourself room to cash in on a sleeper.
Note: Perhaps the most frustrating part about
this rule is that it's different in the mock drafts. In a mock draft, CBS will let you pick up to
6 centers. I had to learn this the hard
way two years back in my Premium League when I went to take Anze Kopitar in
round 9, only to have the unfriendly red text tell me somebody else would be
benefiting from his production. Consider
Also note, some CBS
leagues draw distinction between left wing and right wing (as opposed to
grouping them all together). If this is
the case, you must mock draft this way to learn a thing or two. You'll quickly find the talent pool drops off
considerably by position in these drafts.
Centers are a dime a dozen, relatively speaking here, and shouldn't be
drafted until round 5 or later.
In a 12 team league
starting 2 goalies, it's critical to get at least one elite player at this
position. Having two is even
better. If you don't pick a goalie in
either round 1 or 2, you may lose interest quickly, because you'll be losing on
a regular basis. There's only so much
talent to go around, and you'll only find a handful of useful options on the
waiver wire over the course of the year.
Contrast that with the forward position.
You're guaranteed to always have a serviceable forward available
throughout the season when the need arises, purely based on quantity.
Note: The 3 player
limit also applies to goalies during the draft, so if you're the type that
likes to stash 2 backups on your bench, you'll have to wait until after the
draft to add #4. The approach here
should be different than for centers, however.
There are only 25 or so goalies worth drafting, and you need a good
player in your 3rd slot, so do not wait past round 11 or 12 to grab your
CBS grants you 4
bench spots, one for each position.
Again, once the draft is done, you can fill those 4 spots with any mix
of position. At draft time, you'll
obviously want to place 1 center and 1 goalie in there. Beyond that, feel free to grab 2 defense, 2
wingers or 1 of each. You'll probably
end up dropping one of those within a few weeks anyway (possibly for 4th center
or goalie), so don't sweat it much.
The third major
factor to consider is the default player rankings in CBS. Each site features their own set of player
rankings, and it's worth studying them in order to guess the tendencies of your
opposition. Most GMs will tend to lean
on the default rankings, particularly late in the draft. With this in mind, you can learn a lot by
searching for both underrated and overrated players in their listings.
If you run through a
mock draft or two, and look through the rankings, you should find some players
significantly undervalued in their rankings.
While you may have ranked these players quite high on your list, they may
just go a few rounds later than you would have picked them. Take advantage of this information and spend
that early pick on a another position and get the value in the next round. This is a risky strategy, but if you're in it
to win, you've got to take some chances to cash in big. Here are some players that I find to be
noticeably undervalued by CBS's rankings:
Goalies: Quick, Gibson, Kuemper
NOTE: if you're in a
more serious league with established managers, take this advice with a grain of
salt. If you know what you're doing,
you'll have done your own homework and have your own custom draft list.
On the opposite end,
it's worth looking for players that CBS has rated artificially high against
your personal draft list. In this case,
you have a decision to make. If you want
the player badly enough, know that you'll have to grab him earlier than you
would like. A better bet may be to
resign yourself to finding value someplace else. Here are a handful of players that probably
won't make it on to my squad, as somebody is bound to grab them way too early
for my liking: