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Revisiting Guide To Drafting 1-4 vs 5-12 + What We’re Learning Early in NHL Best Puck 3

Whether you are on draft one hundred in Best Puck or this is your first try of the NHL product after the merciful end of NFL Drafting season, thank you! We have filled an entire 2022-2023 NHL Best Puck Classic worth of entries before the first Sunday of the NFL season!


I will skip any fundamentals of the NHL Best Puck contest as this was covered in Intro to Best Puck Fantasy Hockey and get right into the strategy. I do want to note however that I will be discussing “Draft Capital” frequently in this article. I highly encourage reading Mike Leone's Best Ball Manifesto to better understand the principle of “Draft Capital”. Very basically this chart below:


Learning From Last Years Advancement ‘Unicorns’


We yet again saw a massive edge to drafting 1-4 overall in Best Puck Classic 2. This was in large part due to the success of Connor McDavid who went absolutely wild in 2022-2023 and advanced at 53.4%. Of course, with 3/12 advancing last season this is only “absolutely ridiculous” rather than “against the laws of physics”. Needless to say, when you miss on McDavid/Leon/Matthews/MacKinnon it’s an uphill battle.


Last year, David Pastrnak was the guy you needed. Advancing at a world class 47.2% which dwarfs most in his range. Let’s take a look a the top 20 ADP from last year to center us for this conversation:

Maybe this will help make you feel a little better about not holding a 1.01-1.04 as there is a path to success. One of my main points of the previous NHL Best Puck - Guide To Drafting 1-4 vs 5-12 was that you should focus more on winning at the winger position and not being as concerned about catching up at Center. For one, you aren’t going to be able to match McDavid, but more importantly, you can find very high ceiling Centers in the later rounds while the winger position dries up incredibly fast.


Since last season McDavid was a bit of a unicorn, let's remove him from the data and see what was most successful. Below is the level of investment drafted in each position for only non-McDavid teams.





This largely proves that we were onto something with investing more in Winger. The Makar injury really hurt people who invested heavily in defense, but I still think the biggest new addition to my drafting plan is being a bit lower on the top tier of defensemen. It feels much more similar to center without as many ‘tier above replacement’ type guys. Investing in Goalie/Winger early and often is an easy takeaway, but how early and how often?


Here is Investment in Center for NON-McDavid Teams and all teams where the top is showing which round you are in and the left is how many centers a roster has by said round. Advancement rate is where these points meet.


Non-McDavid Center Investment:

All Teams Center Investment:

It is interesting to see that both Non-McDavid Teams and all teams similarly benefited from waiting on obtaining your 2nd and 3rd Center. Again, helping to show that we can allocate later draft capital to the position and invest elsewhere whether we start with a 1.01-1.04 Center or not.


All Teams Winger Investment:

This early draft capital investment is best to be utilized at the Winger position where getting the most out of the two rostered wingers on a week to week basis pays off in a big way.


All Teams Defense Investment:


All Teams Goalie Investment:

I think we learned last year that drafting goalies incredibly early and instead of players like Pastrnak and Tkachuk was not the proper way of doing things. Not having a goalie by the end of round 8 is also likely to be wrong. You are giving up too many starts by not locking up one of the top tier goalies in the early rounds. Last year, some of the top tier goalies were going as early as the first round. Best Puck 3 ADP is more accurate for the goalie investment and you should be willing to reach to avoid missing on a goalie avalanche room.


The point is that whether you are drafting 1.01-1.04 or not, you should be looking to utilize the early capital on wingers and at least 1 goalie. This will come at the cost of early round centers and defenseman. This is not to say avoid the massive value of “center x” or “defenseman x” within the beginning rounds if someone falls well past ADP. If you utilize some of your early capital on Center/Defense, you should be more willing to reach on wingers/goalies to supplement this expense of your draft capital.


When Do I Reach vs ADP Value Hound


I think from this understanding, and circling back to The Updated Four Pillars of Drafting we found that not only are you far better off not reaching, but correlation was slightly less important than we previously assumed… and our team was already lower than the field on the importance of correlation. Thus, I would use this data to inform you that if you are going to reach up the ADP board for a player it should be a winger or a goalie. As time has gone on in the Best Puck Drafting window, Wingers have skyrocketed up the ADP chart while Centers/Defenseman have fallen. Goalies have been a bit hit or miss with some like Jarry moving quickly towards the 60-70 ADP range while last year's Vezina winner Linus Ullmark has collapsed.


Number of Total Team’s Stacked + Max Size of Stack for Advancement

I am of the mindset that having a few “Alpha” stacks is better than forcing any one “Mega” stack. If you are going to “reach” for a player for correlation I would:

  1. Be more likely to do so for a winger.

  2. Ensure you have invested enough draft capital in goalie/winger at that point in the draft.

  3. Consider if said player is likely to get back to you at your next selection.

  4. Consider if the correlated player is likely to play on the power play with the already drafted counterpart.

This is all to say, having correlations could be what separates you in the finals and as such, should be considered with each selection. But… getting to the finals is no easy task. As shown above, if we consider the 3C-7W-3D-3G teams as likely not completely clueless drafters, we can see that trying to limit the size of your stacks can pay dividends. Don’t reach for the 3rd guy in a stack.


Conclusion


Unlike in NFL where the “WR Avalanche” feels bearable, if you get behind on drafting wingers, you’re not going to find an easy way back up the mountain. You will find some draft rooms where there are plenty of clueless drafters taking three Centers in as many rounds, but they are becoming fewer and further between.


In these NHL Streets the edge is still massive for using pretty basic principles, but I want to close by saying that you don’t have to stick to the 3C-7W-3D-3G model. I would argue that if you are going to stray, it should be to add more Winger depth and come at the cost of Center or Defense based on the math above. Consider it a “Bully C/D” build where you got a steal you couldn’t pass up. I will have some 2/8/3/3 and 3/8/2/3’s mixed into my portfolio. I highly doubt I ever dip below the 7 Winger mark, but if you have any data to support the 6 Winger build, please send it my way!


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