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The Keys to the Zamboni

Underdog NHL Playoff Zamboni Contest - General Overview

For some of you reading, this may be your 10,000th Best Ball Draft and you can skip ahead a couple paragraphs if so. The goal of this week is to grow Best Ball Hockey and Underdog has given us the chance to do so with $20k as a top prize. There are people in the Betting/Fantasy Community who have started to dip their toes in the Best Ball streets and we need them to dive in. Share this article with anyone in the Hockey space and ask them to give this style a try! As anyone who has drafted before knows, once you get started drafting, you will be hooked.

Why I love the format of Best Ball is the ability to draft 150 combinations without any roster management. To me, this is a much more interesting way to play season long fantasy as the roster management component in traditional leagues is time consuming and tedious.

Your roster will automatically play the optimal lineup once points are accumulated (Scoring Below). From the 12 players you select, 6 of them will be rostered in the playoff format which creates some interesting theory as you will need to balance building a viable finals team with scoring enough to advance. Again, once you complete your draft, there is no maintenance of any kind.

Considering not all series will play the same number of games, it would make sense to spread your exposure. Or put another way, don’t force specific teams because you believe they are more likely to win the Cup if you are drafting many rosters.

Per MoneyPuck the highest odds Cup Winner is Edmonton at 13.9% as of writing. We have seen historically good regular season teams get swept by far inferior opponents before so don’t lose your mind missing out on Boston. Keep in mind, while others are fighting over the scraps of Boston and Colorado, you can be completing unique high end builds of teams 8-10% less likely to win the Cup.

Basics on Drafting - Playoff Optimizing

Your strategy will be largely based on how the cards fall in round 1-3. Currently, there are two teams that are very difficult to stack with a goalie. Boston, with Ullmark, Pasta, Bergeron, and Marchand all going within the first two rounds of the draft. Colorado, with MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar, Georgiev going in the first two rounds.

You should still be considering these two teams, but if you swing and miss on both goalies and are trying for a build with both, your only path to winning is the small % chance of a backup goalie taking the net. If you run with this theory 5-8% I would only do so with a true #1 to pair as you are likely taking an unusable goalie score in at least the first round from Francouz/Swayman.

Based on last year's final, the biggest differentiator was having a goalie in the final. 7 of the top 10 teams had Vasilevskiy while only 1 total finals team had Darcy Kuemper and finished 18. To be fair to Kuemper, he missed much of the playoffs with an eye injury which cratered his advancement rates. I think it is worth looking at the 1st place team and 18th place with Kuemper:

My first takeaway is that over the course of the cup final, the goalie who lost, Vasilevskiy, outscored Kuemper. It is also important to note that last year's contest was 60% smaller than this years.

Thus leading to Strategy #1: Beginning with COL and/or BOS

  • If you miss the goalie in your stack, build an opposite Conference Finals stack. If you miss both goalies, don’t stack both. It will be impossibly hard to make up for not having a goalie in the finals. As previously noted, the backup goalie being useful enough to help advance to the finals + play in the finals seems very unlikely. I wouldn’t force it often.

  • Ensure you have enough to meet the 1-1-1-2-1 Roster finals roster while again, creating some Conference Finals potential to get there

Missing on COL/BOS leads to many unique opportunities, often including Edmonton as currently, McDavid and Draisaitl are the only other players in the top 6. I will point out, the ADP’s on Edmonton players has risen a ton over time. Getting McDavid and Draisaitl was not too difficult, and some were taking Mike Smith as the EDM Goalie which evaporated their chance to win. This all to say, I am primarily using Edmonton to stack vs an Eastern Conference final at this point. Assuming they are in the finals, you can outscore many of the Oilers builds in your Semi-Finals pools while still getting the clearly must have McDavid or Draisaitl into the Finals.

Strategy 2: Fight for Edmonton

  • At this point in the lobbies, you’re not getting McDavid and Draisaitl together and will thus be in a battle with whichever drafter took the other. Only one will get Skinner in net, which means you can build an Eastern Conference final as previously mentioned. If you do get Skinner, you are likely missing on TB/BOS/TOR top guys and if you want Kane/Hyman/RNH that could cost the best on NJ/NYR. So, you either are getting skinny on Edmonton or taking a flier on a wild card team. Let the lobby fall into line, maybe Jack Hughes or Igor/Zibanejad slip.

Strategy 3: Avoid the Three Team War

  • You will be fighting with the draft lobby for COL/BOS/EDM for the entire 12 rounds if you choose that path. There’s no guarantee any of these teams will be in the finals so if you want to get unique go for it! It does not hurt in a mix of 150 drafts to throw some TOR vs DAL or NYR vs VGK into your mix. Even if you take McDavid at #1 and decide you don’t want to go all in on EDM, they could easily play Dallas in the Western Conference Finals and lose. Don’t be afraid to be unique if you are drafting a lot of rosters. Most people will not stray too far from normal builds.

Last Important Note:

While not everything is 100% set in stone, we can confirm that the bracket will not allow for some matchups to exist in the conference finals. West is more or less set. East all set but where wild cards will fit!

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