How To Play NHL Daily Fantasy - DFS Hockey 101

How To Play NHL Daily Fantasy - DFS Hockey 101

This article is part of our DFS Hockey 101 series.

Hockey is among the most popular Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) offerings at leading DFS sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo. In DFS contests, you build a lineup from the players in a single night's slate of games while staying below the allotted salary cap. Playing NHL DFS can help supplement your enjoyment of a particular night's hockey games, and the stakes range from bragging rights in free contests to five or six-figure payouts in big tournaments. Below, you'll find a comprehensive explanation of DFS basics, as well as common contest types and strategies.

Have a season-long draft coming up? Check out RotoWire's Fantasy Hockey Rankings.

Choosing a DFS Contest

DFS contests come in both multi-game and single-game formats. Multi-game DFS contests cover all, or a subset of, the games on a given night, while single-game contests have you construct a lineup of players from one specific game. Most contests allow multiple entries from a single DFS player, up to a certain limit, but some contests are specifically set up to allow one entry per participant.

Additionally, DFS contests can be broken down into two formats: Grand Prize Pools (GPPs) and Cash Games. GPPs have top-heavy payout structures and can have massive prizes for the winners. These contests require a high-risk, high-reward lineup building approach to land you among the paid places. In a GPP, the closer you are to first place, the bigger your payout will be. 

Cash Games, on the other hand, pay out the same prize to all winners. You can face off head-to-head against a single opponent or participate in a larger Cash Game contest. Double Ups pay out double your entry fee to a little less than half of the entrants, while 50/50s pay out a bit less than double your entry fee to the top 50 percent of finishers. While GPPs are about maximizing your lineup's ceiling, Cash Games are all about securing a high floor to finish anywhere within the payout range.

Constructing a DFS Lineup

Lineup building basics are the same across all DFS sites, but the specifics of the roster and salary cap structure will differ between providers. The basic premise revolves around constructing a roster while adhering to a salary cap based on player salaries pre-populated by the DFS site. 

Multi-game contests require you to fill certain position quotas while using players from at least three different teams, while single-game contests treat all players as flex plays with no positional limits, though they still require you to select at least one player from both teams.

In addition to varying positional requirements, different DFS sites will also have different scoring rules, assigning different weights to categories such as goals or saves. Make sure to understand the scoring rules before submitting your DFS lineup to help maximize your lineup's value.

Common DFS Strategies

Now that we know what a DFS lineup is, let's cover how to build a winning lineup. Finding DFS success is also about getting the best bang for the buck, and there are a few reliable ways to do so.

Be Aware of Injuries: With real-time injury status updates and player notes detailing those injuries, DFS sites do a good job of notifying you when a player is injured. While keeping injured players out of your lineup is obvious, some of the best value plays are found among players who take on an increased role due to a teammate's injury, such as moving up to the top line or No. 1 power-play unit. Keep in mind that some DFS contests will lock your lineup when the first game begins while others will let you rotate out players until the start time of each respective players' game. These settings are important to know if you're considering using a player whose availability or usage has a cloud of uncertainty hanging over it due to injury.

See What Vegas Says: Being aware of the general sentiment coming into a game is key to building your lineup. Tracking both the moneylines and over/unders can help you pinpoint top matchups. For instance, you can expect a lot more offensive chances in a game with an over/under of 7.5 goals than one that's set at 5.0 goals. Additionally, a team with -200 moneyline odds is a clear favorite, while one with +200 odds is a substantial underdog, so players from the former are more likely to find success than those from the latter.

In addition to helping guide your own lineup decisions, Vegas odds can shine a light on what other contest participants are thinking. If a slate has only one heavy favorite or expected high-scoring game, most lineups will likely be built around players from those situations, which is valuable information to infer if you're looking to differentiate your lineup in a GPP contest. What percentage of lineups a player is in won't be revealed until that player's game starts, so you will need to do some sleuthing and educated guessing if you want to approximate that information.

Check Who's In the Crease: Another key piece of information to track is which goalie will start. Probable and confirmed goalie starters are both indicated on DFS platforms, so make sure to double check this info when submitting your lineup. You obviously don't want to start a goalie who's riding the pine, but opposing goalie usage can also greatly impact a skater's outlook; for instance, the Predators present a much less daunting matchup with backup Kevin Lankinen in net than they do when workhorse starter Juuse Saros guards the crease.

DraftKings NHL DFS Specifics

On DraftKings, NHL multi-game contest lineups consist of two centers (C), three wings (W), two defensemen (D), one goalie (G) and one utility (UTIL), which can be a center, wing or defenseman. You will have a $50,000 salary cap to fill those nine spots. DraftKings scoring awards points for goals (8.5), assists (5), shots (1.5), blocked shots (1.3), shorthanded points (2), shootout goals (1.5), hat tricks (3), totaling five-plus shots (3), three-plus blocks (3), three-plus points (3), goalie wins (6), saves (0.7), goals against (-3.5), goalie shutouts (4), goalie overtime losses (2) and 35-plus saves (3).

Use RotoWire's DraftKings NHL DFS Lineup Optimizer to help build a winning lineup.

FanDuel NHL DFS Specifics

On FanDuel, NHL multi-game contest lineups consist of two centers (C), two wings (W), two defensemen (D), one goalie (G) and two utilities (UTIL), which can be a center, wing or defenseman. You will have a $55,000 salary cap to fill those nine spots. FanDuel scoring awards points for goals (12), assists (8), shots (1.6), blocked shots (1.6), shorthanded points (2), power-play points (0.5), goalie wins (12), saves (0.8), goals against (-4) and goalie shutouts (8). 

Note the far smaller list of scoring categories on FanDuel compared to DraftKings, which is accounted for in RotoWire's FanDuel NHL DFS Lineup Optimizer.

Yahoo NHL DFS Specifics

On Yahoo, NHL multi-game contest lineups consist of two centers (C), three wings (W), two defensemen (D) and two goalies (G). You will have a $200 salary cap to fill those nine spots. Yahoo scoring awards points for goals (6), assists (4), shots (0.9), blocked shots (1), power-play points (2), plus-minus rating (+/- 2), goalie wins (5), saves (0.6), goals against (-3) and goalie shutouts (5). 

RotoWire's Yahoo NHL DFS Lineup Optimizer takes into consideration the two-goalie, no-utility lineup requirements on Yahoo, as well as the consideration of plus-minus rating in Yahoo's scoring settings.

Play Responsibly

With big money on the line every night of the NHL regular season and playoffs, it's easy to get carried away playing DFS. For some expert players, DFS is their main source of income, so while luck certainly plays a part in building a winning lineup, skill plays an even more substantial role. Make sure to know your limits and understand that there are no guaranteed returns on money you put into DFS. There's no shame in sticking with small-money or even free contests if you find that you can't quite hang with the sharks on the biggest stage.

Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit

Take a look at RotoWire's fantasy hockey offerings to prepare for your drafts, and feel free to keep using RotoWire's numerous DFS and season-long fantasy tools to your advantage throughout the season. In the NHL Draft Kit alone, you will find resources including cheat sheets, various custom rankings and auction values, top 200 prospects, draft software, projections, news, advice and draft strategy, up-to-date depth charts and power-play depth charts, the ask-an-expert section, NHL injury reports, stats, and expected starting goalies.

For NHL betting content, including 2022-23 Stanley Cup odds, check out RotoWire's sports betting hub, where you'll find NHL futures odds, NHL player futures, game picks, team and player props, and more betting tools.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Sasha Yodashkin plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: Youngsash, DraftKings: Yashdogg,Yahoo: Sasha, Fanball: Yashdogg.
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Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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