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Don’t overthink your fantasy hockey playoff pool

Keeping it simple will help you in your fantasy hockey playoff pool.
Johnny Gaudreau struggled during the 2019-20 NHL season, but don’t put too much stock into that entering the playoffs. (Twitter // @NHLFlames)

An NHL Playoff which occurs more than four months after the final regular season matchup has never happened. That’s why this year, the typical strategy for fantasy hockey playoff pools will be utterly useless.

Usually, when crafting my roster, there’s two factors I consider:

  1. Which teams do I predict will make a deep run into the playoffs?
  2. What opportunities will this player receive on his team?

Not a complicated process by any stretch, but it’ll be simplified even more in 2020. With 142 days separating the last day of NHL regular season games and the first games of the postseason, predicting team performance seems like a useless exercise.

Heck, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked like a completely different team after just three days off between the regular season and the playoffs in 2019. How can we be sure of any team entering a pandemic-paused postseason?

My strategy for fantasy hockey playoff pools this season, however, has been reduced to one determinant:

  1. Pick the best player available.

It’s certainly vague, but let me explain. In playoff fantasy hockey, look at a player’s larger body of work rather than heavily focusing on his numbers from 2019-20. While those numbers should be baked into your analysis, they shouldn’t serve as the sole or disproportionally large deciding factor.

A good example of a player that you should be much higher on than the value he provided in 2019-20 is Johnny Gaudreau. Selected as a second rounder in most fantasy hockey formats prior to this season, Gaudreau was largely disappointing. After back-to-back 80+ point campaigns, the speedy Flames forward was on-pace to finish below the 70-point threshold and with the lowest shooting percentage of his career.

Given his career numbers and the extended break, I’m almost willing to completely forgive Johnny Hockey’s 2019-20 effort entirely entering this postseason. He’s topped the 75-point plateau in three of his last five seasons, and I will put more weight in his historical production than his most recent body of work.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is another player who underperformed during the 2019-20 season. Despite a career-best shooting percentage, Kuznetsov saw his assist total drop significantly last season, specifically on the power play. That has a lot to do with his frequent deployment on the Washington Capitals’ second PP unit.

Kuznetsov, however will likely still play significant minutes with Ovechkin at even strength. Although there’s not much you can be sure about entering this postseason, Ovechkin scoring goals is probably a safe bet. If the two can find success when the games resume, Kuznetsov may be able to sneak onto PP1.

Kuznetsov also boasts an impressive playoff resume. During the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup championship run, he led the postseason in assists and points.

Trying to make highly-detailed predictions during an unprecedented time seems like a futile practice. That’s why you shouldn’t try to do too much during your fantasy hockey playoff pool this year.

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