Blocked Shots are the Best

People who have played hockey at a high level will tell you that they cheer harder for blocked shots than most goals.

It takes a special type of teammate to sacrifice his body. I say that as a former Division I college and minor league hockey player. Shooters who score goals get all the praise (and have higher daily fantasy ownership), but the guys who throw their bodies in front of slap shots are beloved.

Blocking shots is how you win real hockey games — and the same might true for DFS. On both DraftKings and FanDuel, blocks are worth as many points as shots on goal.

What positions benefit the most in DFS from blocked shots? And how do they compare to shots on goal?

No One Cares About Your Glory Days

Our signature metric at FantasyLabs is Plus/Minus, which shows how players perform in the context of their salary-based expectations. Note that DFS scoring is typically lower for NHL than other sports like NFL or NBA, so the NHL Plus/Minus values we see are likely to be relatively small.

For example, last week Vladimir Tarasenko had an absolutely massive game (three goals, one assist, four shots, one block), and it amounted to just 16.5 DraftKings points. Small differences in NHL Plus/Minus values are more significant than they may seem.

Per our Trends tool, we can compare the Plus/Minus values of shots and blocked shots. Let’s look at guys who play on the power play and are in the top quintile of the respective metric:

shots per game Blocks per game

What we see is that both stats have a relatively equal effect on Plus/Minus. Shots certainly have more upside, since they can lead to goals, but in the aggregate blocked shots have been worth just as much as shots on goal.

Since blocked shots aren’t as exciting as shots on goal, it’s possible that DFS salaries might not take them into account, especially for certain positions. Let’s explore this idea further.

Shots versus Blocks by Position

Let’s look at shots broken down by defense and forwards. (There was no distinguishable difference in value gained by wingers versus centers, so I’m lumping them into forwards for now.) The following chart breaks down two percentile ranges: The top quintile and decile in shots per game:

SOG

First, the counts are much higher for forwards, as they tend to average more shots than defensemen. Second, it’s intriguing that the defensemen have higher Plus/Minus values and Consistency Ratings.

Now, what about blocks?

BLKs

It makes sense to separate centers and wingers here, as centers block far more shots and fall into the top 80 and 90 percentile more often than wingers. That said, defensemen reach this threshold significantly more often than centers and wingers.

Unsurprisingly, defensemen see steady value from blocking shots, and wingers see almost no value. Centers, however, surprise in that they have the highest Plus/Minus in the cohort. Centers who block shots seem undervalued.

Can You Have Your Cake and Eat It Too?

In theory, yes. Rostering players who block shots and shoot the puck at a high volume is most definitely a viable strategy. Since wingers gain almost no value from blocking shots, let’s look at defensemen and then centers who both shoot and block in the top quintile.

Here are the defensemen:

D combo

Unsurprisingly, power play defensemen hit both thresholds often and display a very solid Plus/Minus. At the same time, these defensemen don’t look all that different than the defensemen in the top decile in shooting. The edge here isn’t huge.

Okay, so what about centers?

Center Combo

Bingo. That’s a big edge.

The sample is small, but as FantasyLabs Co-founder Jonathan Bales put it in his latest book, “Small samples can be useful, specifically when the results are extreme.” This could be one of those instances.

Conclusion

Blocked shots don’t provide upside, but they can provide an elevated DFS floor.

Although defensemen block the most shots, their shot-blocking potential is likely priced into their DFS salaries. Centers, however, can be a hidden source of value when they’re willing to throw their bodies in front of the puck. Those guys are rare — but, like most rare objects, they’re of worth.