Fantasy hockey may not have the long history that its counterparts in football and baseball have, but one thing we know about NHL fans: they’re as passionate as any. That passion is skating over into fantasy hockey.
If you’re a fan of a team that has great success like the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, it’s pretty easy to enjoy hockey fandom. But if your team is in a rebuild, it might be hard as the losses far outnumber the wins. Fantasy hockey can stoke your competitive juices in a new and fun way.
Fandom takes a backseat to roster building and competition. It’s time to root for players on different teams — especially when they're on your fantasy team.
If you’ve never played fantasy hockey before, don’t worry. We’ve put together this quick-and-easy how-to guide to help ease you in. We've also included links to additional help articles throughout this story if you'd like to dive deeper on anything. See why this game within the larger game is so much fun for millions of avid hockey fans. And you might even get a title in the process.
What is fantasy hockey?
When it comes down to it, fantasy hockey is a collection of players assembled on a team, and their accumulated real-life stats get compiled to determine leaders throughout the season and ultimately a winner. If you earned the championship, then come the spoils of holding it over your friends whom you defeated. Maybe even take some sips from a championship cup.
You can be the fantasy GM, drafting players, making trades, picking up free agents. The players on your team accumulate statistics and those are put up against other teams in your league throughout the hockey season. As the season progresses the standings show how teams are faring against one another. Depending on your playoff format you could be playing head-to-head through designated weeks for playoffs. Or your compiled statistics could be ranked in individual categories like goals scored, and how you do in the different categories determines your overall ranking in your league.
Sounds pretty similar to the NHL, right?
There are many different ways to play fantasy hockey, and it’s easy to play using Yahoo’s default settings. But you can also customize the scoring settings to suit your league’s tastes, if you're the commissioner of your league. But the idea is the same: You as the fantasy manager must draft your team first and foremost. After that you manage the starting lineup and bench, moving players up, around and off your active roster based on injuries and performance.
Players can be picked up off the free-agent pool called the waiver wire — you’ll have to cut a player to fit in the pickup if your roster is full. There are also deadlines to remember when making lineup and roster changes as well as important dates to keep in mind throughout the season. Trades could come into play too, where you agree with leaguemates to swap players who suit your mutual needs for the rest of the season.
All this happens throughout the season as you operate as a fantasy GM. This regular dedication can mean starting the right player for a day or week (depending on your format) to accumulate numbers that propel you up the standings and in weekly competitions with leaguemates.
Don’t feel that this game is being played on a computer. Enjoy watching the actual NHL action and look at how the scoring translates to your team as you follow your team’s progress on your desktop or our very user-friendly Yahoo Fantasy app.
As you get more experience, you’ll see how players like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon help you across several categories, and thus are more valuable to your team. You might find that along with your favorite NHL team, you’ve acquired several favorite players from around the league.
Some leagues play for more than bragging rights. They could set a monetary reward for the champion or the top finishers in the league, staggered based on final placement. For private leagues, the commissioner works with the league members to determine what's at stake and how the end-of-season awards are distributed. Yahoo can even help with holding the funds and paying out the winners for private prize leagues. Some leagues even agree upon a punishment for the last-place team, and those can be as funny as they are creative. So don’t finish last!
What are the different scoring formats in fantasy hockey?
There are multiple formats that people can use to play fantasy hockey. You can try different ones to see what suits your league’s tastes, but the most popular formats to play are:
H2H Points: Play a different leaguemate every week, and the fantasy manager with the best weekly stats wins the matchup, just like in fantasy football. Scoring is as follows:
PP Points: 2
Blocked shots: 1
Goals against: -3
H2H Categories: Your team and that of your opponent compile stats in different categories. Whoever has the most points in specific categories "wins" that category — win the most categories, win the weekly matchup. The main scoring categories where your team can compile stats are: goals, assists, plus/minus, power-play points, hits and shots on goal. For the goaltenders the categories are: wins, shutouts, goals against average and save percentage.
You could also play in a Rotisserie, or Roto league. Your team also compiles stats in different categories, but instead of facing a different opponent every week, your stats are continuously ranked against those of the rest of the league. The higher you rank in each category, the higher your rank (and the higher your place in the standings) is.
Players on your fantasy team’s active roster put up stats in each of these categories, and your points are added up based on your scoring format.
Let’s say you’re playing in a head-to-head categories league. Starting on Monday, all the categories are zero until the games start. As they progress you’ll see how your team is doing vs. your opponent’s team, until all the statistics have been accumulated and you either won or lost that category by the end of the week. The fantasy manager winning more categories wins that week’s head-to-head matchup. Standings are kept for your league, and at the end of the season a designated number of teams make it to the playoffs. That’s when it becomes even more fun and intense.
If you play in a head-to-head points league, points are assigned to each statistic — i.e. goals are six points and wins are five points. The team in the matchup with the most points by the end of the week wins. Standings and playoffs are the same as in a category league.
Yahoo has default settings where the league size is 12 teams, yet you can increase or decrease the number based on how many people you want to play in your league. It’s ideal to have an even number of teams for H2H leagues, but there’s an option to play with an odd number (as long as you have five or more teams).
Try one format and see if there are any tweaks you’d like to make. Or change formats altogether. That’s what’s fun about fantasy hockey — there are different ways to play to suit what you enjoy the most.
How do you draft a fantasy hockey team?
When you were a child there was that excitement that built for your birthday. That same anticipation is there waiting for one of the greatest days of the year: fantasy draft day! That’s the day that all the people in your league convene to pick your respective rosters. If you’re lucky to be near one another, there are few things better than a live draft. If your league is scattered all over the country — in some cases the world — Yahoo Fantasy has you covered. You can draft online or even on your phone. For commissioners, we also have tips on getting your league ready to draft.
The Yahoo default positions for each team in a 12-team league are: two centers, two left wings, two right wings, four defensemen and two goalies. Each team has four bench spots, which are used to move players up and down from the active roster, based on however you want to deploy your team.
The most common way to select teams is through what’s called a snake draft. Don’t worry, no reptiles are used or harmed while all the fantasy managers are going around choosing their teams. In a 12-team league, after the order is determined, teams start drafting from No. 1 through 12, and then in the second round start at 12 and count backward toward No. 1 again. Then repeat the process until all the teams have been selected.
The default positions listed above go through 16 rounds, but that can be changed based on your league’s wishes.
If you’d like a little more challenging way to draft, your league can elect to try a Salary Cap Draft, where all the teams start with a predetermined budget, usually $200. Instead of going around and picking players, the managers in your league get to nominate players and assign them a salary as long as it’s within their remaining budget. While it would be impossible to roster McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same team in a snake draft format (both are the consensus top two players according to Yahoo Fantasy average draft position), in a salary cap draft teams can load up on stars and leave a few dollars for less-productive players at the end of their roster. It takes longer to draft this way, but there is more strategy in managing the budget to fill up a team.
When the draft is complete, the fun is just beginning. It’s time to ride the wave of emotions that your team gives you on a daily basis through the end of the season. Make trades, add players off waivers. Make some hard cuts. Above all talk some good-natured trash with your leaguemates. It’s all in the fun of playing fantasy hockey!