Introduction & What Current NHL Projections Say About Positional Drafting on Underdog Fantasy
First, a few housekeeping items:
What is this? Primary Points is a Fantasy Hockey Newsletter, written and published by Matt Moody, @FakeMoods on Xwitter and moods in the DraftKings and Underdog Fantasy streets.
When? Whenever I have something to say. Once a week? A few times a month? Maybe I’ll want to write about two DFS slates in a week that were particularly tilting. I’m not sure. But if you subscribe, you won’t miss it.
Why? I think it’s a good thing to do. I spend an awful lot of time on Discord, the Morning Skate Podcast platform in particular, musing about any number of items to do with Fantasy Hockey and the various avenues within. It’s about time somebody package those up, put a nice bow on them, and deliver them to people who might be interested and not plugged in to just one of the several Discords they are in.
Why not? Maybe nobody cares enough to subscribe. But reputation aside, that’s a risk I’m willing to take, because I am gonna have these thoughts anyway. If you need a sales pitch to convince you, however, I will just list some cool stuff I’ve done in the space, as maybe you’ve stumbled upon this from somewhere other than the Morning Skate Podcast Discord (linked again because, if it isn’t clear, that’s the place to be if this Newsletter is for you) or you’re just not that familiar with me:
I got my start in DFS in 2014 and was immediately hooked. I started writing stuff on XNSports about NHL DFS, and pretty quickly gained traction over at FantasyInsiders (RIP). Just another branch off that ole David Kitchen tree. That got me through college without ever attending a frat/sorority party. True story. I tried to go once a month or two in to my Freshman year and didn’t get in, never tried again.
Around the start of the 16-17 NHL season, DJ and I realized that our favorite hockey podcast, the only one catering to DFS/nightly slates of action, was going away for good. We launched the Morning Skate Podcast to replace that, since we were talking about nearly every slate anyway on hours-long phone calls. I’m still not sure we have much competition in the space, which I’ll take as a compliment rather than a troubling sign for the NHL DFS industry. We’ve covered Tues/Thurs NHL slates, and a handful of major weekday slates along the way, ever since.
Like anyone who does this shit for long enough, I have all sorts of great hits and successes that cover up a lot of losing in between. The run I am most proud of, however, was maxing out qualifier spots in the 40-person NHL DFS Live Final on DraftKings in Oct-Dec 2021, even taking down a marquee NHL contest in that stretch too. A great two-month stretch that I will probably be chasing for a lifetime.
Once there, I took my three entries down to the wire at the contest and ultimately finished third (I would include my pic with the bronze trophy I got and still have, but DK never sent me the photos they took. Or posted it online, or anywhere. Sad!) on a particularly brutal empty net situation and losing an extra $50k on the ensuing overtime. Probably the weirdest feeling of my life, because absolutely no one will feel bad for you leaving Nashville with $50k more than you entered the city with, but a painful sweat nonetheless as I know we only get so many opportunities to cash in.
I am currently ranked #22 on the RotoGrinders NHL rankings, which seems a bit high without much success last year, but I know the gambit there and what is actually being measured. However, I still like the RG page because it attempts to quantify the “best wins” on a player’s ledger, and allows some degree of transparency.
Anything else? Yes, a few things before we get to today’s topic:
Listen to the Morning Skate Podcast on your favorite pod platform of choice (Spotify linked).
DJ Mitchell and I will be hosting our weekly Best Puck Classic discussion and live draft on Tuesday (the first day this is available) at 9PM. Tune in every week if the season-long or best ball NHL game is of interest to you on DJ’s YouTube Channel live at 9PM EST each Tuesday through the start of the NHL season, or on the pod feed by the following morning.
Finding a name for something like this is easily the most frustrating part of the process. Please reach out if you’re aware of a newsletter covering hockey (or something similar, a podcast/blog/etc) named “Primary Points” as I would love to avoid revisiting a modern Morning Skate Podcast situation.
Some dudes a couple months after our first MSP episode created a podcast called “The Morning Skate” and grew pretty quickly with licensing and all that. It’s a half-decent show, but is more about the lifestyle of hockey which is not my speed. Anyway, they then came after us when we tried hosting merch with a Buffalo-based apparel brand, at which point the brand balked and thus DJ was left shipping shirts out of his parents’ house.
For example, a cursory search of the phrase “Tilted Ice”, which I thought was good for the space we are in (5% winning, 20% preparation, 75% tilt), turned up that it is the name of an NYR blog. I’d love to avoid that.
Today’s Primary Point: Positional Drafting on Underdog Fantasy
We are in peak Underdog Fantasy draft season. We don’t even have NHL Preseason DFS to grind through, and I am 67 drafts in before NFL kicks off. We are well on our way to 150 drafts, and to unseating Mr. DJ Mitchell as the NHL GOAT.
One pretty glaring takeaway from my exposure set so far is that of my top twelve exposures, five are Ws, four are Gs, and three are Ds. There’s not a center to be found, all the way down to 19th on my personal exposures board (and that’s Zibanejad at 16%, if you were curious).
Anyone who has followed along knows I’m a rather strict proponent of the 3-7-3-3 build, with C-W-D-G ordered as such, so I have roughly the same number of total C/D/G in my portfolio. I may have mixed in a 2-8-3-3 somewhere or something, but that won’t unbalance my portfolio. The problem is, there are so many good Cs on the site that I simply refuse to overinvest in one that can burn me, when there are so many people still doing things that are either clearly suboptimal or that I believe to be suboptimal with their roster construction.
Now, anyone who has scanned the ADP ordering and found it strange that Adrian Kempe, coming off a smash season with 41 goals and nearly 700 fantasy points, goes 25+ picks after Jared McCann, coming off a smash season with 40 goals and 630 fantasy points, probably understands this positional dynamic. Ws of a similar caliber inherently hold more value than Cs, because there are more Cs and fewer C spots to fill on a weekly basis with a 1-2-1-1-FLEX scoring roster.
I got an assist from Jay Moser and the Puckluck.com rankings and projections (use code MSP when you sign up for 10% off!) in trying to put a quantitative view onto something that I feel qualitatively has to be true.
When Drafters launches their Best Puck NHL contest, I will probably circle back with more projection-focused talk (as important as regular season advancement is for Underdog, those projections are way more relevant in a non-playoff-week format where the prize money isn’t paid out in what is effectively a two-week sprint) at a later point.
What I want to use them for now, however, is to simply visualize what a “replacement level” player looks like in current Underdog draft lobbies. Meaning, if you wanted to take a player in the last round of your draft, what can you reasonably expect to get at each position in terms of Underdog Fantasy Points Per Game?
I have to make assumptions on how many players get drafted at each position, then. I am assuming about 42 Cs (half 3C, half 4C in a 12-team league), 80 Ws (a shade under 7W per team), and 36 Ds (3 per team) go for this exercise. I have placed a large vertical line indicating this “end of draft” position, and the large dashed line is the line of best fit through all these players at the position, or a rough estimate of how many points you can expect from the Xth best player at that position.
Starting on defense, one quick note I had was that there actually doesn’t seem to be a ton of drop-off in the range after the end of the draft, whereas I’ve been drafting as if there’s a reasonable cliff (see: Justin Faulk exposure). That’s probably right, but it’s super uncomfortable to click some of these non-premier floor guys who don’t have paths to major PP1 production, so I try to wrap up defense by the Chychrun/Dobson range personally. Alas, this doesn’t really change much for me other than maybe investing in a few post-ADP guys who don’t get drafted much, as the data shows they aren’t all that different from the near-100% drafted players currently.
D is clearly less important when you go back to the original image, with all three positions stacked side-by-side, as D is clearly inferior in terms of raw output per game. You’re just not all that likely to have to worry about a D filling your flex most weeks, so there’s not really an undercurrent in the space of overdrafting D like there is to overdraft the C position.
Hello, our four early friends at the top (along with Tage!). They largely factor out of this discussion, since you should take the top four if you can, with potentially Tkachuk/Pasta earning consideration over MacKinnon in my personal opinion (though I haven’t done it just yet as I try to boost my elite C exposure). After this elite tier early, we find that there’s very little separating the dots from ~C10 to ~C25, which is a range of about 10-11 UDPts per game. This is an ADP range of pick ~40 through the early 110s! Otherwise, the line pretty cleanly runs through the glut of options at C. At the end of your drafts, you can reasonably expect to get a player who will score you 9.5 UDPts per game! That’s pretty good and, more importantly, proves our prior that “Cs are better fantasy players than W/D positions, all else being equal.”
Since all of the above is useless without context, let’s look at W lastly. Of course, several more W go in each lobby, and thus we see the back-of-the-draft quality erode quite more than the other skaters, as you can expect ~8 UDPts per game from a late W. Additionally, when we look for where the line crosses ~10 UDPts (the mark we set for C earlier), we see that at ~W33 or so this occurs. W10 and C10 are each a shade over 11 UDPts per game, so let’s run the same exercise, and you may see where I’m going with this:
~C10 to ~C25 is a range of about 10-11 UDPts per game. This is an ADP range of pick ~40 through the early 110s.
~W10 to ~W33 is a range of about 10-11 UDPts per game. This is an ADP range of pick ~20 through pick ~70.
Not only do the better Ws go earlier and you need more of them to score in a week, but there is far more opportunity cost when you miss a W. If you miss getting your guy at the position in round 4 or 5, it’s relatively easy to slide in at pick 100 and get a comparable C to the one you missed. At W, this window starts earlier, and closes much sooner than that.
My takeaway? Draft W early, draft them often, and don’t sacrifice W production for other skater positions. After all, if you nail your W picks, they can still score in the Flex too!
Check out our live shows, or the MSP Discord, for more thoughts like this, and TUNE IN TONIGHT, LIVE AT 9PM!
As a final parting thought - some people need data to take them to the promised land, others are just born with greatness in their blood. We remain chasing the NHL GOAT.
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