How Does Fantasy Hockey Work?

Fantasy hockey is a straightforward endeavor — at first. You step into the shoes of the general manager and join a league before the start of the NHL season. With your salary budget, you go through the draft against the players you're competing with and try and build your dream team.

Over the course of the ice hockey season, you go head-to-head with your competitors, accumulating points from the players in your line-up. As the season closes, one fantasy squad emerges victorious. Winning requires constant tinkering, clever moves, and just a little bit of luck. Once you know the right steps, you'll be the Doug Armstrong of your fantasy league, keeping everyone on strings.

How to Join a Fantasy Hockey League

  • 1
    First, pick your league. Try and find a site with a slick design, enticing welcome bonus, and most importantly, a lot of other players to compete against.
  • 2
    Sign up prior to the NHL season so you have plenty of time to do your research.
  • 3
    Invite your friends to test themselves alongside you. Firstly, so you can beat them, but secondly, so you can take advantage of the referral bonuses on offer at some sites.
  • 4
    Get ready for fantasy draft day, and when your picks come up — act fast!

Best Fantasy Hockey Betting Sites

Fantasy Draft

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Yahoo Fantasy Sports

Rating Excellent
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Fantasy Premier League

Rating Excellent
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Fantasy Hockey Strategy

When it comes to winning at fantasy hockey, there is one thing every player needs to remember — create a sound fantasy hockey strategy before the draft.

Study your league's fantasy hockey rankings before the draft and know who the best players are on every team, not just your favorite team. There is more to a successful fantasy hockey strategy than just that, of course.

In the following steps, we will talk about different aspects of the fantasy hockey game and how they can help you develop a winning strategy.

Step 1: Fantasy Hockey Mock Drafts

Mock drafts are a great way to hone your skills and tactics before the real thing. Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey offer a top-notch draft simulator for you to run through a few times, helping you adapt to the twists and turns your real fantasy hockey draft is likely to take. Try out a few practice runs and find out who you'll be prioritizing, and who'd be a good last-minute backup should your number one pick be snatched away.

Step 2: Fantasy Hockey Draft

Once fantasy hockey draft day starts, the real work begins. Nailing your squad from day one will stand you in the best stead to go the distance, so do your research in advance. Make sure you've gone through a few mock drafts so you can think on your feet.

Fantasy hockey drafts usually work along the Snake format, like most other fantasy sports drafts. Say you have 10 teams and 30 picks: in the Snake format, each team gets one pick, all the way to the 10th draft, before the order of drafting is reversed, and the team who got the last first-round pick gets the first second-round pick.

Step 3: Understanding Goaltending

The goaltender position is one of the most important in your roster and one that you should be willing to spend a large portion of your salary cap on. A reliable goaltender will accumulate more game time than a player in any other position. Checking a goalie's appearances per season and save percentage are key to ensuring you have a net-minder who'll earn fantasy points consistently.

Step 4: League Player Injuries

Injuries are a sad reality in all sports and an even sadder one for fantasy hockey leagues. While you dread even the thought of your superstar going down with an injury, you must be prepared for the possibility.

If you can, stash his backup on your bench. He will probably be available late in the draft or maybe even in free agency.

That way, you can replace your injured star with someone who will play every day. He will not score as many fantasy points for your team, of course. But he will have the opportunity and may play good enough to keep your team afloat until the superstar comes back.

Step 5: Average Draft Position (ADP)

If a player has an ADP lower than the selection you are thinking of using on him, then that player has value. Every other draft had selected him sooner. But if the number is higher, then he was drafted in the later rounds in every other draft your site has hosted.

That means you can probably wait to pick him up.

You are not going to pay attention to the ADP in the first few rounds of the draft. But it is something you should be aware of in the later rounds. It can be a useful tool in helping you decide when or if you should take someone.

Step 6: Trades

Trades give you a chance to improve your roster. But if done poorly or without thinking them through, they can also destroy your roster. To acquire someone of value you will need to offer someone of value.

The hardest part about trades is knowing when to pull the trigger. When do you trade the surprising rookie or the resurgent veteran?

It is all about value. Now, if you are being offered someone you perceive to have more value, make the trade before the other player comes to their senses.

Step 7: Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire

Other than trades, the waiver wire is the only other option to improve your roster during the season. The trick is figuring out when to pick someone up. Just because a player does great one week does not mean they will do so the next.

The waiver wire is like rolling the dice. How do you know if a player is worth picking up?

This is where data comes into play. If you have a player you can drop (and not miss), you can add someone off the wire. Stash him on your roster until you feel confident enough to put him in your lineup.

Step 8: Fantasy Hockey Sleeps

Sleepers can turn a good fantasy hockey team into a great one but recognizing them can be challenging.

A good sleeper will be someone who has not performed at a high level in the past or not throughout a full season. This could be due to injury or because they were playing behind someone better.

The best sleepers are typically younger players. They're athletes that have played well when given the opportunity but have yet to make it into their team's regular rotation. Sleepers will usually be a starter in the coming season.

Step 9: Head-to-Head

The format of your league is vital. It'll impact how you manage your roster during the season and ultimately your fantasy hockey strategy. In head-to-head leagues, your team will face off against another team each week.

Whoever has the highest score at the end of the week will be the winner. Playoff seeding (and if you qualify) will be decided according to how many wins you have during your league's regular season.

In such leagues, when drafting and managing your team, your focus needs to be on having the best players possible in every position. Having the best goalies will not matter if your defense and forwards are subpar.

Step 10: Rotisserie League

In a rotisseries league, teams are ranked from first to last in each statistical category according to how they produce. At the end of the season, teams are awarded points according to their rank in each category which is then totaled up to decide the winner.

This format allows players some flexibility when it comes to drafting and managing their team. If you want a team that performs well in every category, you can. But if you want one that dominates some categories but struggles in others, that is an option.

Having a team that performs well but doesn't dominate in any category can also win. But so could a team that dominates in some while struggling in others. It's all about finding value in the stats.

NHL Fantasy Hockey

A successful draft is only the first step towards lifting the virtual Stanley Cup in your fantasy hockey leaderboard. There are several factors to keep in mind as the season progresses:

  • 1
    Be aware of injuries, not just to your players but to players across the league.
  • 2
    Pay attention to rising stars/sleepers. Try to stash a couple on your bench if you can.
  • 3
    Keep up with how well MVPs are playing. If they are not playing well, this could mean an opportunity for another player to shine.
  • 4
    Do not forget about good players on poor teams.

Fantasy Hockey Leagues

If you think every fantasy hockey league is going to be the same no matter who is hosting it, you're wrong. Most sites will host leagues using a standard format. But if you want to tweak the format, you will need to find one that allows you to customize it. While there are free sites out there, the ones that you have to pay for will often come with more bells and whistles.

Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Hockey

Yahoo! fantasy hockey gets rave reviews from users for its interface and mobile app. It is undoubtedly the most popular of the free fantasy hockey sites available. But if you are looking for an experience beyond your basic league, you may want to look at the other options below.


CBS Sports offers free leagues and pay leagues which you can customize and set to private. Many users have found it easier to run and organize than ESPN and find the player articles and stats useful. But users have had issues with how CBS Sports categorizes certain players.

ESPN fantasy hockey

ESPN may be great for other fantasy sports, but many users do not give it high marks when it comes to ESPN fantasy hockey. Some of the common complaints involve the user interface, mistakes in scoring, and the fact the website is not mobile-friendly (the app gets poor marks as well).


Fantrax gets rave reviews from many users for how much it allows you to customize your league (free and premium). The site especially gets high marks from those who play in dynasty and keeper leagues. But to some users, too many options result in a league that is confusing and hard to understand.

Best Fantasy Hockey Players

A common trap for many fantasy hockey players is the assumption that if a player is popular, he must be a good fantasy player. But that is not always the case. The following are ten of the best fantasy hockey players in 2021 with their stats from the 2020 season.

#PlayerTeamPositionKey Stats
1Andrei VasilevskiyTampa BayGoalie2020: 51 GS, 35 W, 13 L, 3 SO, 3 OTL, 2.57 GAA, .917 SV%
2Connor McDavidEdmontonForward2020: 63 GP, 33 G, 63 A, 96 PTS, 28 PIM, 43 PPP, 21:50 ATOI, 208 SOG
3Philipp GrubauerColoradoGoalie2020: 36 GS, 18 W, 12 L, 2 SO, 4 OTL, 2.63 GAA, .916 SV%
4Leon DraisaitlEdmontonForward2020: 69 GP, 43 G, 67 A, 110 PTS, 18 PIM, 44 PPP, 22:35 ATOI, 215 SOG
5Nathan MacKinnonColoradoForward2020: 68 GP, 35 G, 58 A, 93 PTS, 12 PIM, 31 PPP, 21:23 ATOI, 317 SOG
6Mikko RantanenColoradoForward2020: 42 GP, 19 G, 22 A, 41 PTS, 14 PIM, 14 PPP, 18:56 ATOI, 107 SOG
7Marc-Andre FleuryLas VegasGoalie2020: 47 GS, 26 W, 16 L, 5 SO, 5 OTL, 2.79 GAA, .905 SV%
8Brad MarchandBostonForward2020: 69 GP, 28 G, 58 A, 86 PTS, 78 PIM, 28 PPP, 19:29 ATOI, 182 SOG
9Auston MatthewsTorontoForward2020: 69 GP, 46 G, 33 A, 79 PTS, 8 PIM, 24 PPP, 20:56 ATOI, 283 SOG
10Patrick KaneChicagoForward2020: 69 GP, 31 G, 51 A, 82 PTS, 40 PIM, 22 PPP, 21:23 ATOI, 264 SOG

Best Fantasy Hockey Apps

Mobile apps can be a crucial component of every fantasy hockey player's season. If your host site has a good app, then you can play on the go. The following are considered the five best mobile apps for playing fantasy hockey (all recommendations are compatible with Android and iOS devices):


The Yahoo! fantasy hockey mobile app is widely considered one of the easiest to use for fantasy hockey. But like the site, it does not come with a lot of bells and whistles and the number of advertisements can slow you down.


Like Yahoo!, many users do not like the site, but the ESPN fantasy hockey mobile app is considered user-friendly. But since it encompasses all of ESPN's fantasy sports offerings it can be challenging to navigate sometimes.


Many users rave about the Fantrax for many of the same reasons why they rave about the site. If you are looking to play in a customized fantasy league, it is one of the more recommended apps.

CBS Sports

This is probably one of the better (if not the best) all-in-one fantasy apps on the market. You have easy access to all the information you need to run your team via the app.


The app makes it easy to evaluate trade offers to allow you to 'fleece' your opponents in trades (and to keep from getting fleeced yourself). Users can play under several different formats on the app.


  • How do you play fantasy hockey?

    In fantasy hockey, you take the seat of general manager and draft a team of players. Over each week in the NHL season, you tweak your roster of players to give yourself the best chance of winning against other managers of fantasy teams. These wins convert to points that help you climb up the leaderboard in fantasy hockey. We cover how fantasy hockeyworks in more detail in our guide above.

  • How do you draft in fantasy hockey?

    Most fantasy hockey drafts follow a Snake format. Teams (usually 10) are pooled together in a league, and each is given a fixed draft number. The system will work through the first 10 players in a row. In the snake format, the 10th team to draft also chooses the 11th player because the snake format changes order. That means the team that choose the 20th player also gets the 21st draft choice too. On Draft Day, wait for your draft number to appear and then choose your preferred player. The MVPs go quickly, so make sure you have alternatives in mind.

  • How do points work in fantasy hockey?

    Actions players make in real NHL games convert to points in fantasy hockey. Offensive and defensive players receive points for moves like goals, assists, and blocks, while goaltenders are marked on saves, shutouts, and team wins, but also lose points when they concede. Depending on your league's scoring system, you can accumulate points or stats all season, or on a weekly basis.

  • How is fantasy hockey scored?

    Fantasy hockey leagues use three systems (rotisserie, points, head-to-head) to score teams. The most common, rotisserie, ranks teams in each statistical category and awards points to the teams that hit the #1 spot. Rotisserie league then adds those points up to determine the best overall team. The winner of the league is the team with the most points at the end of the season.

  • How many players on a fantasy hockey team?

    A team usually has between 15-18 players, with six of them on the bench.

  • What positions should I draft first in fantasy hockey?

    This depends entirely on your strategy for the season. Some players prioritize goalies, others focus on the athletes with the highest average draft position (ADP). Instead of focusing on one star player, we recommend you first draft a strong core team: three forwards, two defense, and a goalie. Check their overall stats, then use your remaining draft picks to fill in any weaknesses in your core team.

  • How do you prepare for fantasy hockey draft?

    Research players and teams beforehand, then complete some mock drafts. Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey offers an excellent mock draft simulator. This will sharpen your skills and prepare you to draft alternative players if your top picks get taken early on Draft Day.

  • How does head-to-head fantasy hockey work?

    This exciting format sees each person compete against another team in their league on a weekly basis. Statistical categories count as games, and it's your goal to beat your opponent in as many categories as possible. Each week, 'wins' are awarded to the team that tops the categories. As NHL season progresses, the top teams compete in playoffs until a league champion is crowned.