I’d Like to Be Bobby Orr
I used to be a Division I college and minor league hockey player. Now I play DFS and write full time. “No ragrets,” as they say, but if I had it to do all over again — and was blessed with more ability — I would be an offensive defenseman.
In general, it’s the job of a defenseman, you know, to play defense and block shots and all of that. But defensemen who can contribute offensively are special.
In college, I played against Shayne Gostisbehere and was enamored with his skating ability and offensive skill set. In the NHL players like Gostisbehere are exposed for their defensive deficiencies, which in turn results in less ice time. They become niche players whose jobs primarily are to score points. Fortunately that’s what we care about most in daily fantasy hockey.
Pricing Levels and Time On Ice
As a community we emphasize Time On Ice (TOI) statistics, which are valuable but may overlook the worth of offensive defensemen like Gostisbehere. Is there an edge to be found in targeting offensive defensemen who see less total TOI but receive “quality minutes” on the power play (PP)?
At FantasyLabs, we can leverage our database of historical NHL data to answer that question with our Trends tool. Specifically, we’ll be looking through the lens of our signature Plus/Minus metric, which shows how players perform in the context of their salary-based expectations.
Let’s start by looking at DraftKings salary. Note: Only players on either the first or second PP unit are considered in the following samples:
In a lot of ways you get what you pay for in NHL. The elite options in the top 25 percent of salaries typically provide the most value as defensemen.
It would be easy to assume that the players who see the most TOI are the ones who do the best. Is that assumption true?
Yes, but not drastically so. PP defensemen in the top quintile of TOI fair just slightly better than those in the next quintile.
Intuitively, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Defensemen who see quality minutes on the PP but fewer minutes overall can still provide a ton of DFS — especially if they are offensive defensemen.
Can You Sacrifice TOI and not Value?
What happens when you take into account both salary and TOI? Are there certain price pockets to target to help you find an edge?
The following charts display the trends for each pricing quartile within the defensemen who qualify for the top two TOI quintiles:
Again the studs with the highest salaries and most TOI stand out as the clear top options, but sometimes it’s not easy to roster these guys.
Outside of the top tier, the salary-based production is relatively flat. That might seem boring, but there’s actually a huge edge here to be found here.
DFS players will almost always prefer to roster the defensemen with more TOI. In guaranteed prize pools, they will usually have higher ownership. But we can see that the defensemen who are priced in the bottom-half of salaries and have good but not great TOI still provide just as much salary-based production. These players could provide an edge in GPPs.
That’s Awesome, But Is There an Ideal Salary to Target?
I’m so glad you asked. Two (narrow) ranges of salaries stand out for offensive defensemen.
The first is $4,900-$5,300:
Within this pricing pocket are defensemen whose production trails that of only the high-salary/high-TOI studs.
Can we go cheaper?
Not quite stone minimum, these defensemen outperform their salary-based expectations by 38.1 percent. They don’t have fantastic Consistency (as seen in our Player Models) — but that just makes them ideal GPP players, right?
What Have We Learned?
Ice time is important, but it’s less important for offensive defensemen who play on the PP. For them, quality minutes matter more. Losing TOI isn’t such a big deal when the lost time means that a higher percentage of their overall time is spent playing offense.
Not all minutes are created equal, especially not for offensive defensemen, who may offer hidden GPP upside.