Understanding the Point Systems & Strategies in NHL Fantasy Leagues

Posted on September 6, 2023 by Dan Kent
Hockey Stats

Fantasy hockey is an exciting way for fans to engage with the sport and showcase their managerial skills. As the new season approaches, it's crucial to understand the point systems used in many NHL fantasy leagues and how they compare to other formats. In this article, we will explore the different point systems and delve into the popularity of NHL fantasy leagues.

Understanding point systems in NHL fantasy leagues

The point system in fantasy hockey determines how players earn points based on their performance in real NHL games. These points contribute to the overall score of a fantasy team, and the team with the highest score at the end of the season wins.

Many people play fantasy hockey for real money, with the highest point totals near the end of the year being paid out. However, it is also possible to enjoy fantasy hockey absolutely free.

Standard scoring categories

In most fantasy hockey leagues, the scoring categories are divided into two main sections: offensive and goaltending. Offense is measured by the usual stats: goals, assists, plus/minus, man advantages, penalties, and shots. However, goalie statistics are typically divided into four main categories: wins, shutouts, save percentage, and goals against average.

League formats and draft types

Before delving into the point systems, it's essential to understand the different league formats and draft types commonly used in NHL fantasy leagues. The most popular league formats include rotisserie, head-to-head, and points leagues.

In a rotisserie league, teams are ranked first to last in each statistical category, and points are awarded accordingly. The team with the most points at the end of the NHL season emerges as the league champion. Head-to-head leagues allow teams to compete against each other on a week-to-week basis, with wins and losses tallied to determine playoff participants and the eventual league champion. Conversely, point leagues allocate fantasy points based on player performance in various statistical categories, with the team accumulating the most points emerging as the winner.

As for draft types, standard drafts, snake drafts, and auction drafts are the most commonly utilized. In a standard draft, teams select players in a predetermined order throughout the entire draft. Snake drafts involve teams selecting players in a serpentine order, with the draft order reversing in subsequent rounds. In an auction draft, team owners bid on players using a predetermined budget, allowing for more flexibility and strategic decision-making.

Strategies for success in NHL fantasy leagues

Now that we know the point systems and league formats let's explore strategies to help you succeed in your NHL fantasy league.

Balanced attack strategy

One popular strategy is the balanced attack approach. This strategy involves drafting elite players from each position and assessing the team's needs after the first few rounds. Once the initial core is established, managers can focus on filling the roster with players who excel in specific statistical categories.

All offense strategy

Another strategy that some fantasy managers employ is the all-offense approach. This strategy entails prioritizing forwards in the draft's early rounds and building a team focused on scoring and offensive production. Defensemen, goaltenders, and specific positional needs are addressed in later rounds.

Between the pipes strategy

For those who recognize the importance of goaltending, the between-the-pipes strategy is a viable option. In this approach, managers prioritize drafting top goaltenders in the first few rounds to solidify the goaltending categories. The rest of the team, including forwards and defensemen, is drafted in subsequent rounds.

Position scarcity strategy

The position scarcity strategy involves selecting players from positions with a limited pool of elite players. Managers can gain an advantage by prioritizing positions with fewer top-tier players by filling the weaker positions early in the draft. For example, drafting a defenseman ahead of a higher-ranked center can be strategic if the defenseman's position lacks depth.

Best available strategy

The best available strategy is a flexible and opportunistic approach. Regardless of positional needs, managers select the best available player on the draft board. This strategy allows for potential trade options after the draft, as managers can leverage the value of their drafted players to strengthen areas of weakness in their team.

Popularity of NHL fantasy leagues

NHL fantasy leagues have gained immense popularity over the years, providing fans a unique way to engage with the sport and compete against friends and fellow fans. Online platforms and dedicated fantasy hockey websites like FanDuel offer a user-friendly interface, allowing fans to create and manage their fantasy teams easily. The thrill of managing a team and the excitement of tracking player performances have attracted a significant following.

Fantasy hockey enhances the fan experience and fosters a sense of community among participants. Leagues can be formed among friends, coworkers, or strangers who share a passion for the sport. The competitive nature of fantasy leagues adds a layer of excitement to the NHL season, as fans root for their drafted players and closely follow their performances.

Comparing NHL fantasy leagues with other fantasy sports

Fantasy football may be the most popular sport globally, but NHL fantasy leagues are not far behind. The commitment and time required to maintain a team in fantasy hockey are similar to that of fantasy basketball, making it an engaging and immersive experience for participants.

Fantasy hockey odds: A game changer

FanDuel fantasy hockey odds, one of the largest fantasy sports companies in the United States, presents sports betting lines in the "American odds" format. This format assigns "minus" odds for favourites and "plus" odds for underdogs, adding an extra layer of strategy to the game. Daily fantasy hockey aims to field a competitive team while spending as little as possible on player salaries (set according to each player's projected performance).

Why fantasy hockey is growing among women

The demographics of fantasy hockey have shifted in recent years, with more women joining leagues. In 2021, an estimated 30% of fantasy hockey participants were female. The game allows female hockey fans to immerse themselves in the sport they love fully. Women also cite the community aspect as a major draw, enjoying the camaraderie and trash talk that come with facing off against friends. 

The rise in female hockey players at youth and college levels has translated to more women following the NHL closely. Fantasy hockey gives female fans an outlet to showcase their knowledge. Women have also praised the game as an even playing field, where skill trumps physical abilities.

Using analytics sites to gain an edge

It pays to explore advanced analytics sites to gain a competitive edge in fantasy hockey. Resources like Evolving-Hockey, Hockey-Reference, and NaturalStatTrick provide data like expected goals, shot quality metrics, and matchup statistics. Analyzing these next-level stats can reveal insights about players that basic numbers like goals and assists don't show. For example, you can identify players taking more high-danger shots or facing weaker defensive matchups. 

Keeping up with line combination and powerplay unit changes is also key. One tweak could vault a previously overlooked player into fantasy relevance. In a game of margins, digging into analytics is advantageous in player evaluation.

The future of fantasy hockey

Fantasy hockey has come a long way from the pen-and-paper days, with new technologies enhancing the experience. Platforms like FanDuel continue to innovate, offering daily and single-game contests to complement season-long leagues. There is room for growth in terms of virtual reality and augmented reality integration. 

Player tracking and wearable tech will unlock new data to aid fantasy analysis. Live in-game fantasy contests during NHL broadcasts could be the next frontier. No matter the changes, the core appeal of fantasy hockey will remain - the thrill of watching your players rack up points night after night.

Getting started in NHL fantasy hockey

If you're new to fantasy hockey, don't let the stats and scoring settings intimidate you. The basics are straightforward - draft a roster of NHL players and earn points based on their real-life performance. Focus on understanding your league's scoring system first. Most leagues award points for goals, assists, powerplay points, shots on goal, and goalie categories like wins and save percentage. 

Positions like center, left-wing, right-wing, defensemen, and goalies must be filled. 

Study up on player rankings, average draft positions, and positional scarcity. Load up on centers and defensemen early, as they are the shallowest positions. Don't pick goalies too soon. Leave yourself flexibility for the late rounds when mining for sleeper picks. Participate in mock drafts to get a feel for the strategy before your draft. 

Fantasy hockey success requires attentiveness - set your lineups daily, maximize games played, and work the waiver wire. But above all, have fun!


In conclusion, NHL fantasy leagues offer hockey fans an immersive and engaging experience. Understanding the point systems and employing effective strategies can greatly enhance your chances of success. Whether you prefer a balanced attack, all offense, between the pipes, position scarcity, or the best available strategy, the key is to stay informed and adapt to the dynamic nature of fantasy hockey. So, gather your friends, draft your teams, and may the best fantasy manager win.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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