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NHL Best Puck Classic: The Four Pillars of Drafting

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

For many, this may be your introduction to the greatest form of Fantasy Hockey on the market, Best Puck. If so, it would be wise to check out the Introduction to Best Puck article. Once the basics are understood we can take a dive into how to draft to maximize each draft.

If you have not already, sign up on Underdog Fantasy and use promo code MSP for up to a $100 match deposit. At this time, it will be the only place to draft NHL Best Ball as DraftKings confirmed with me that they do not plan on running any NHL season-long Best Ball contests this season.

The purpose of this article is to work as a decision tree. If you are going to be doing multiple drafts it is important to have a structure ready to go. As average draft position (ADP) sorts itself out things will become easier, but to start the drafting season you will need to have the search bar ready. To make things as easy as possible all of our rankings will be featured through the SportsbookHUD.



The Four Pillars are in order of importance, but I will say that none of them are substantially more important than the other. All should be considered within the vacuum of each round and subsequent selection.

Preview Notes:

  • First, a massive thank you to Matt Moody and Jason Moser for all their help getting the data organized and ready to start the NHL Best Puck Season.

  • Last year’s tournament did not fill and thus the standard advancement rate was 19.9% when adjusted for the overlay.

  • The top 4 selections by ADP last year gave a massive advantage. Advancement rates into the playoffs: McDavid advanced at 28.1%, Matthews at 40.3%, MacKinnon at 31.6%, and Draisaitl at 21.9%. I outline this to add a grain of salt to some of the graphics, as access to these draft positions, and by default, these players, drove results in a non-negligible way that is tough to untangle from the structure-based points we are looking to make.

Pillar #1: Value-Based Drafting

  • If any of you are coming over from NFL Best Ball you may know this as sticking to ADP in some capacity. As we begin the draft season, we are making some assumptions about where ADP will end up. For example, in the first three NHL Best Puck drafts, Kirill Kaprizov went 18th, 7th, and 14th overall while having an initial ADP of 32.0. Our current ranking for Kaprizov is 7th.

  • For the purpose of this pillar, I am using the final results of last year’s data and thus, for current drafting, we need to be forward thinking with ADP. To put this another way, we are using the ADP for players that drafters would have seen in the final NHL Best Puck draft last season to drive the theory for this season. We do not know where this seasons final ADP’s will be, so drafting in August may lead to some differing results for value based on current market. Making our rankings more valuable to stick to now and not worrying as much about drafting any player well above ADP.

  • This graphic should sum up the importance of value-based drafting where there is a clear and substantial advance rate difference between those who drafted for value over those who consistently reached for certain players. Reach = ADP - 3 or more. Value = ADP +1 or more. all others are considered At ADP


  • Essentially, ADP in general is sharp and thus a good heuristic to stick to. It also doesn’t mean that just because you have a “value” based on ADP that is the best player to draft as we will get to within the other pillars.

  • If you are drafting 80-150 teams it will increase the importance of drafting values because if you get ‘player x’ at 85th overall while most get ‘player x’ at 70th overall, you will be more unique in structure (and have better players surrounding that ‘player x’) if ‘player x’ has a high advancement rate. While all others who took *player x* in the 6th or 7th round you were able to use that pick on a higher upside player than would have been available in the 8th round at 85th overall. This is never guaranteed to work of course, but it’s part of calculating your risk in the draft room to optimize the overall team.

Pillar #2: Roster Construction

  • We saw plenty of variation within roster construction from last year's data; my personal favorite? A 6G – 3D – 3C – 4W “Bully Goalie” build (This did not advance out of round 1). I will show the graphic of these combinations first and then get into some analysis. Only showing structures that saw 11 or more builds.

  • I want to emphasize how small the sample size we are seeing here and remind everyone of the 19.9% adjusted advance rate. I say this to illustrate that there isn’t a perfect one-size-fits-all approach to roster construction. Therefore, construction is the 2nd pillar, you shouldn’t be reaching to force a certain construction while keeping in mind there is a strategy to lead to success.

  • At least three goalies are essentially a lock for me. I think you are allowed to try a 4-goalie build, but the 2-goalie does not seem to maximize a team's playoff potential. Of the teams in the finals: 11 of 12 had 3 goalies and only 1 had 2 goalies. This doesn’t mean you need to have the best goalies as week-to-week goalies can be incredibly volatile. The main goalie takeaway should be to keep in mind the importance of 3 goalies without jeopardizing a draft by reaching for them. If goalies are going early, be patient! You may be able to get some steals later on.

  • As for other positions, this is where pillars #2, #3, and #4 all come together and you can argue about which is more important in the vacuum of each round. For the sake of this article, I will say:

    • No less than 5 Wingers with 6 or 7 being likely more optimal

    • 3-5 Centers, but I wouldn’t shy away from unique builds

    • Defense feels like 3 is enough, if you take 4 all after round 10 that might work.

  • What’s most important from a structural standpoint with positions is spreading out your positions within the first 3 rounds. If you are drafting in the top 4, don’t let this advantage get away from you by not focusing elsewhere. The best starts last season in the first 3 rounds were C-W-W, C-D-W, C-D-G, and C-W-D. This makes logical sense based on the fact that the top 4 selection spots were almost always Center and advanced at a very high clip as outlined in the preview notes.


Pillar #3: Players Who Fit Underdog Scoring

  • This section won’t be nearly as long as it is pretty self-explanatory. With such a massive amount of Underdog points going to rate shooters it makes sense to take a look at the best iCF/G (individual shot attempts per game) players from last season and keep in mind these players. I hate to pick on Artemi Panarin, but simply put he is not a guy who will score a ton on Underdog compared to his actual production and skill. Last season with 96 points he only scored 648.5 total on Underdog. Jeff Skinner had 620 total points and was drafted by one brave soul who did advance to round 2. Our rankings really outline this so simply going to PuckLuck Rankings should help a lot.

Pillar #4: Correlation Between Players

  • You could argue this is the least important when it comes to advancing into the playoffs and the most important for winning the whole contest. Simply put, if ‘Player X’ is the guy you need in finals week, and he plays all minutes with ‘Player Y’ both should be positively affected by the success of the other. If you play any form of Daily Fantasy, you understand this principle. This doesn’t mean reaching above ADP or sacrificing structure mainly because we aren’t certain what the lines will be from March 27, 2023 – April 2, 2023. We are making our best-educated guesses and in a future article, I will outline some of my favorite potential stacks. I will add that if I get Auston Matthews you can bet on Michael Bunting finding his way on my team in round 16 though.

Conclusion:

  • It is often said on the NFL Best Ball streets that we don’t know everything yet. When it comes to the NHL we know even less, but some of the field knows next to nothing. You’ll watch certain drafters shoot themselves in the foot round after round. Any “edge” is magnified in the NHL space because so few will be exploiting it. In Best Puck, you don’t need to have the optimal build to win $10,000. In the opening round, you are racing 11 others and need to beat 9 of them. As the field narrows down to the final 47, the team who sticks to these Four Pillars will be the one crowned champion.


Final Fun Notes/Graphs:

  • Three goalies found their way into the top 35 last season and the results were poor. This isn’t to say results are going to repeat as the sample size of one season is certainly not enough to talk me off some top 20 Igor, but so everyone knows.

    • Andrei Vasilevskiy ADP 9.62 – Advance Rate 12.2%

    • Connor Hellebuyck ADP 15.68 – Advance Rate 18.4%

    • Robin Lehner ADP 35.01 – Advance Rate 15.8%

  • Top 5 Highest Advancement Rates for players drafted above 85% of total drafts

  1. Igor Shesterkin (42.9% at 50.86 ADP)

  2. Johnny Gaudreau (41.3% at 70.77 ADP)

  3. Auston Matthews (40.3% at 2.49 ADP)

  4. Nazem Kadri (40.1% at 168.7 ADP)

  5. Jacob Markstrom (39.8% at 49.26 ADP)

  • Bottom 5 Lowest Advancement Rates for players drafted above 85% of total drafts

    1. Nikita Kucherov (3.6% at 5.25 ADP)

    2. Semyon Varlamov (6.6% at 86.03 ADP)

    3. Artemi Panarin (7.7% at 14.4 ADP)

    4. Mathew Barzal (7.7% at 54.24 ADP)

    5. John Carlson/Mike Smith (8.7% at 33.69/87.34 ADP)

  • Note on Player Scoring - “Max Pts” in the various player charts you’ll see refers to the maximum contribution a given player made to his respective drafting team on Underdog. This means that on most teams, a player will contribute in some weeks, and others he won’t, due to the nature of best ball scoring. In general, a higher output means a higher “Max Pts” on the year, but the full-season UD scoring stats can be accessed by using NaturalStatTrick or some other stats warehouse to calculate.





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