Become a fantasy hockey legend

It’s that time of year again. Fall is upon us and the NHL hockey season starts in just over a week’s time. Hockey is great but playing fantasy hockey makes it all the more interesting. As luck would have it, the Manitoban is running a free fantasy hockey pool for the upcoming 2010-11 season.

For those unfamiliar with fantasy hockey, allow me to explain. In most leagues, there are between 12-16 different categories of players you can choose from. Participants choose one player from each group (forwards, defensemen, goalies and enforcers, to name a few) and track those players’ stats throughout the season. Goals, assists, wins, shutouts, and penalty minutes are just some of the categories used to determine total points.
Here are some key tips to finish at the top of your fantasy hockey pool.

It all starts in net

Goalies can make or break your fantasy point total, so it’s crucial that you have a good puck stopper between the pipes. While there are many excellent offensive players in the league, there are only 30 starting goalies. Of those, only a select few are pretty much guaranteed to rack up 40-plus wins per season.

Playoff calibre teams often have excellent goalies while teams that finish in the basement of the standings do not. Try to avoid picking goalies from those teams. Looking at last year’s standings, for example, Vancouver, Buffalo, New Jersey and Los Angeles each had goalies who picked up between 39-45 wins last season. If you can only pick one goalie, I would debate between Martin Brodeur (NJ), Roberto Luongo (VAN), Ryan Miller (BUF) or Jonathon Quick (LA). Jimmy Howard of Detroit is a nice backup pick as well. Chances are good that if you pick one these stars, they will most likely provide you with 40-plus wins and plenty of shutouts which will greatly increase your point total.

The best teams are balanced from top to bottom

Sure it would be nice to stack your fantasy team with Sidney Crosby (PIT), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Nicklas Backstrom (WAS) and Henrik Sedin (VAN) but the reality is that you may only get one, or at best two, of these superstars. So in order to be successful and pick up points, you must select quality players throughout your line-up.
Again, look at past statistics on sports websites and try to find patterns between a couple of years. Look at players that have done well in consecutive seasons and disregard those that have shown flashes of brilliance yet are inconsistent because unpredictable players will result in lower point totals.

Players to look for who aren’t regarded in the top five listed above include Joe Thornton (SJ), Jarome Iginla (CGY), Mike Richards (PHI), Patrick Kane (CHI) and Alexander Semin (WAS).

Defence Wins Championships

I know this a very clichéd thing to say but the truth is that selecting a good pair of defencemen will go a long way to improving your fantasy point total. The best defencemen are almost like forwards in that they accumulate large amounts of points while leading all skaters in ice time with close to 30 minutes per game.

Another tip is to look for the defensemen who lead their teams in assists because, for the most part, defensemen will get more assists then they will score goals. Finally, if you pick a defensemen and goalie from the same team and the defender plays well in his own zone, that will go a long way to helping your goalie gain wins and even shutouts.

Top point-producing defencemen include Mike Green (WAS), Dan Boyle (SJ), Drew Doughty (LA), Sergei Gonchar (OTT) and Chris Pronger (PHI). Any of the above defenders will average roughly 15 goals and 45 assists, which is almost like having an extra forward on your roster.
However, feel free to use your own knowledge and strategies to assemble your fantasy roster.
Remember that even though your team might look good on paper, things can change over the course of a season. Injuries and slow starts are part of the game and the season is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t be disappointed if your top players aren’t producing that quickly. Give them time, over a long season you should see results and hopefully you can win your fantasy hockey pool.

Register either online or drop off your entry in person for the Manitoban’s 2010-11 Fantasy Hockey Pool and enjoy the season.