Want to play an expensive line in a smash spot (BOS1 vs Ottawa, let’s say) without using a depth line or a cheap goaltender with a ~35% chance of winning?
There’s only one solution: punting a defenseman.
In today’s post, I’m going to shed some light on the process of how I choose my punts. Since I handbuild all my lineups, there’s a lot more to it than running an optimizer and using whichever name pops up.
Here are some of the factors I look at when choosing that one final piece.
I honestly think this is an underrated aspect of picking punts. Yes, you want volume shooters. Yes, you want upside. But you also have to be realistic. A defender priced at 3K probably isn’t going to fill the scoresheet and win you the slate. You have to take what you can get.
If there’s a defensive-minded punt available – Brandon Carlo, for example – and you *know* you’re going to get 22 minutes, that probably beats out the 14-minute guy who is not really trusted by his coaches. Even if the latter is more skilled offensively, Carlo is the one who will play big minutes against top players and offer real opportunity to hit bonuses, such as the one for three blocked shots. It’s not sexy to chase those categories but a boring three BS and one SOG night turns into 8.4 fantasy points. You’re much more likely to get that kind of production from Carlo than the offensive-minded guy on the 3rd pairing.
I mean, two SOG and a donked assist from said player in 14 minutes would be a great game for him. It’s not at all a routine performance, though, and it still only turns into 8.5.
Ice time has a way of leveling the playing field even if the player doesn’t have as much natural upside.
If the minutes are remotely close, the next big thing is usage. Will the punt I’m looking at be spoon fed offensive zone starts with quality players, thus put in better positions to produce offensively? You likely need home ice for that kind of opportunity.
An example would be Rasmus Sandin if paired with Tyson Barrie. That’s the offensive pairing for Toronto, and they’re going to get cushy minutes – likely with the Auston Matthews line – if they’re playing at ScotiaBank arena. If they’re not? It’s a much different story.
Another important factor is power play time. Will my punt see any? Ideally yes, especially if there was an injury in front of him and he seems destined for the promotion (but hasn’t actually gotten it in a game yet). That can help keep him under the radar; there are lots of box score hunters.
By now you all know bonuses are king on DraftKings. You want as many as you can possibly get. Blocked shots are much more common for defenders – not a ton of them have five shot on goal upside – but you do want shooters too.
Guys like Radko Gudas, Michael Stone, and Matt Irwin shoot every chance they get. They may not be good shots, per se, but they still count the same. If somebody is going to pull the trigger every time they have the puck in the offensive zone, we want them.
The key with them is making sure there’s enough opportunity to take advantage of those shooting tendencies. If Stone is paired with another poor defender – Brandon Davidson – on the 3rd pairing he’s probably not heading for a lot of minutes. News flash: you can’t produce fantasy points from the bench!
If Stone is playing in a fully healthy lineup and is slotted with Rasmus Andersson or T.J. Brodie – somebody you *know* will play a lot – then that’s the time to go all in.
Stone doesn’t have close to the same point upside as elite defenders, but shots are shots and he takes them at a higher rate than guys like Zach Werenski, John Carlson, Oscar Klefbom, Victor Hedman, Seth Jones and Erik Karlsson. If the minutes are there, you can expect the same kind of peripheral production from him as the big guns.
Find a shooter, and find one in the right spot.
A lot of people see Punt X is facing Team Y, and that team sucks, so they immediately flock to that punt. It can work out, of course, but I think it is also important to factor in a) pace of play and; b) opposing shot volume.
Facing a low team in the standings (Buffalo) is great and all but if they don’t trade shots and it is a 2-1 game, your punt doesn’t have a lot of upside.
I’d rather face a better team that plays at a faster pace (Chicago). A lot more shots will be taken and there’s more opportunity to get in on the action.
I also don’t mind playing a guy on a team likely to get caved in. If he’s a 20 minute per night shot blocker who is facing a team that shoots from anywhere and everywhere (Carolina), there’s real potential for the blocks to pile up. I know playing an Anaheim defender vs a team they’re likely to get caved in isn’t the most confidence-inducing move but it really can work. I have no problem playing a Matt Irwin-type in that situation. In fact, I look for it.
Everybody knows the big names like Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, and co. when they’re coming up through the ranks. Not everybody knows the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounders who have been cooking for a few years overseas or in the minors and are finally getting their chance.
Going to HockeyDB and checking the boxscore numbers is easy. Everyone does that. Not everyone will go to the AHL, or dig up European and junior stats, and dig a little deeper on a player. Take advantage of that.
There are lots of defenders who excel in transition and take shots any chance they can get. The boxscores don’t show that.
Maybe Punt X scored five goals in 50 AHL games and doesn’t pop off the page. He could be 2nd on his team in shots, though. If you look into that kind of thing, you can get real upside on a call-up – likely in the 2.5K range – that will be missed by a lot of people.
Spend the extra five minutes and you can uncover someone that is underpriced by 1K and allows you to fit in that big line you so desperately want to play.