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Fantasy hockey: Why you should be line-stacking in your draft

·9-min read
Line-stacking is a simple and productive strategy for fantasy hockey. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Line-stacking is a simple and productive strategy for fantasy hockey. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If you aren't already, you need to start stacking lines in fantasy hockey.

The logic behind why you should be doing this is very simple. Players that play on established lines and power-play units together have fewer variables involved with their production than two players on completely different teams.

The rationale for this has been illustrated and laid out in fantasy football via PlayerProfiler, but a lot of the same principles transfer over to hockey.

For example, if you draft Auston Matthews in the first round, you're better off selecting Mitch Marner in the second round over players like Patrick Kane and Alexander Ovechkin. Because fantasy hockey is played in weekly matchups, your job as a manager should be to put out a roster that has the best chance of maxing out its potential any given week. Having both Matthews and Marner does this, as there is a fairly direct correlation between these two's production, considering the fact that they both play on the same line and power-play unit. If Matthews scores, there is a good chance Marner is factoring in on the goal, and at the very least is on the ice for it. This not only helps boost your totals in categories like goals and assists, but is also a major boost for your plus-minus and power-play points total for the week. 

In this example, let's say you select Matthews and follow it up with Kane. Matthews could be lighting it up one week, but Kane could be going through a slump. Your chances of winning that week take a hit if your second-round pick isn't firing. If you select Marner, however, the odds that he's not producing while Matthews is are much slimmer. With both having a good week, your chances of winning are much higher.

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Of course, the opposite is true as well. If Matthews is not playing well, Marner likely isn't either and you're probably going to lose. Even on the Matthews and Kane team, however, if Matthews is performing below expectations, your team is probably in rough shape.

Now that the benefits of stacking in fantasy hockey have been established, here are the best stacks to acquire in your draft.

Edmonton Oilers stack

Players: C Connor McDavid (1.1 ADP on Yahoo), D Tyson Barrie (62.7), LW/RW Zach Hyman (126.6)

If you hold the first-overall pick in your fantasy hockey draft, this is the stack you should be aiming for.

With a 1.1 ADP, McDavid is the consensus first-overall pick in fantasy hockey after his dominant 2020-21 performance that netted him 105 points across 56 games. The Oilers upgraded his supporting cast this offseason by adding Hyman from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The gritty forward, who potted 15 goals and 33 points a year ago, will play alongside McDavid on both Edmonton's first line and top power-play unit. Barrie will quarterback the team's top man-advantage group, and after a season in which he led all blue-liners with 48 points, is a sensible selection.

Tampa Bay Lightning stack

Players: RW Nikita Kucherov (4.4), C/RW Brayden Point (18.8), LW Ondrej Palat (75.0)

With Kucherov returning to play in the regular season for the first time since 2019-20, the Lightning's top line certainly has plenty of stack appeal.

When healthy, Kucherov is arguably the most talented player in the league. He's just two seasons removed from an outlandish 41-goal, 128-point campaign that earned him the Art Ross and Hart Trophy. Point will serve as the middleman on this line, and after a slightly disappointing season that saw the 25-year-old produce just 23 goals and 48 points across 56 games, he should see those numbers increase with Kucherov returning. Palat proved to be a serviceable first-liner last season, notching 15 goals and 46 points in 55 contests while also adding 82 hits. This trio has some nice category coverage and all three are likely to see their fair share of power-play time.

Florida Panthers stack

Players: LW Jonathan Huberdeau (16.9), C Aleksander Barkov (24.0), C/RW Sam Reinhart (83.6)

The Panthers proved they were one of the NHL's best offences last season when they registered 188 goals for, which tied for the fourth-highest total of any team in the league. With the squad's core group of players untouched, the Cats are poised to have similar and potentially heightened success in 2021-22.

Florida did add to its already lethal group of forwards this offseason by signing Reinhart to a three-year deal. The 2014 second-overall pick has recorded 20-plus goals in five of his six NHL campaigns and that seems like a baseline for his production this upcoming season, considering the improved supporting cast he'll play with after leaving the Buffalo Sabres. He's currently projected to play on the team's top line alongside Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe. 

Huberdeau and Barkov demonstrated in 2020-21 that they are bonafide superstars, combining for a gaudy 119 points. These two are fine picks at their current ADP, and while they won't see much even-strength time together, both will be featured on the power play — likely alongside Reinhart.

New York Rangers stack

Players: LW Artemi Panarin (9.5), C Mika Zibanejad (23.2), D Adam Fox (25.3), C/RW Ryan Strome (137.4) LW Chris Kreider (159.4), LW Alexis Lafreniere (163.9)

Although you can stack the Rangers without centring it around Panarin, I highly suggest you do so. He led the Blueshirts with 58 points, and having the focal point of a certain offence is recommended. 

If you select Panarin in Round 1, however, there are a number of ways you can stack your team around him. In Round 3, you'll likely have to choose between Zibanejad or Fox to get a power-play stack going. If your league counts blocks as a stat, I prefer Fox to Zibanejad at ADP. If not, feel free to draft either.

In the late rounds of your draft, a number of Rangers with high upside will be available. Strome is a must for anybody with Panarin considering both his ADP and his production from 2020-21. The 28-year-old's 49 points ranked 15th amongst all centres from last season, and that number shouldn't dip as he continues to play alongside Panarin on the man advantage and at even strength.

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Bonus: If you drafted Zibanejad over Fox and wanted even more exposure to New York, both Kreider and Lafreniere will slot in on his wings. Kreider is a reliable forward who'll average anywhere from .60 to .70 points-per-game while also adding a fair number of hits. Lafreniere would be the choice for those looking for more upside in the later rounds, as the 2020 first-overall pick is oozing with potential.

Pittsburgh Penguins stack

Players: C Sidney Crosby (18.0), LW/RW Jake Guentzel (30.3), D Kris Letang (78.6), LW/RW Bryan Rust (109.7)

A Penguins stack is very appealing, easily attainable, and it won't even cost you a first-round pick.

There are four players on Pittsburgh you can hone in on when looking to complete this stack. Even though he'll likely miss the first couple weeks of the season while recovering from wrist surgery, Crosby still isn't a bad selection at ADP. He scored 24 goals and 62 points across 55 games last season, and didn't really show any signs of slowing down.

His line-mates, Guentzel and Rust, are well-established players at this point of their careers. Guentzel, especially, continues to be one of the league's best goal-scorers. He recorded 23 goals and 57 points in 56 contests last season while churning out another impressive shooting percentage of 16.3 percent. For the second-straight campaign, Rust provided solid category coverage with 22 goals, 42 points, 154 shots, and 62 hits. As long as he's saddled alongside Crosby, he'll be extremely useful.

Letang is an increasingly important player to target in banger leagues. Aside from his solid yearly point totals, the 34-year-old offers great numbers in the hits and blocks departments. In 2020-21, Letang dished out 92 hits while also totalling 65 blocked shots. 

All four will likely see consistent usage on the team's top power-play unit, too, making this a nice collection of players to draft.

Alex Ovechkin celebrates with teammates Tom Wilson and John Carlson after scoring. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin celebrates with teammates Tom Wilson and John Carlson after scoring. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals stack

Players: LW Alex Ovechkin (11.4), D John Carlson (24.9), C Evgeny Kuznetsov (67.6)

The Capitals are getting older, but the offensive production isn't slowing down.

In 2020-21, Washington's 188 goals for tied the Panthers for the fourth-most in the league. Ovechkin's goal-scoring rate slowed down a bit as he scored 24 goals in 45 games, but he was dealing with back and leg issues last season. It also didn't help that his teammate, Kuznetsov, underwent two separate battles with COVID-19 and was suspended by his team for disciplinary reasons, limiting his games played total to just 41. With Kuznetsov healthy and likely returning to Ovechkin's line, he should bounce back and finish with a .80 to .90 point-per-game mark instead of the .71 he averaged last year.

It was business as usual for Carlson, who posted 10 goals and 44 points in 52 outings with 15 points coming on the man advantage. With all three poised to see time on the team's power play, a unit that proved to be the third-best in the NHL in 2020-21, Washington is still a team worth loading up on in your fantasy drafts.

Two-player stacks

Boston Bruins: RW David Pastrnak (7.8) or LW Brad Marchand (10.3) and C Patrice Bergeron (35.8)

Carolina Hurricanes: C Sebastian Aho (19.5) and LW/RW Andrei Svechnikov (27.7)

Chicago Blackhawks: RW Patrick Kane (13.9) and LW/RW Alex DeBrincat (33.7)

Colorado Avalanche: C Nathan MacKinnon (3.1) or RW Mikko Rantanen (7.0) and C/LW Gabriel Landeskog (35.1)

Oilers: C/LW Leon Draisaitl (2.4) and C/LW Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (76.7)

Toronto Maple Leafs: C Auston Matthews (7.8) and RW Mitch Marner (14.4)

Vancouver Canucks: D Quinn Hughes (45.2) or C Elias Pettersson (47.1) and C/LW J.T. Miller (53.0) or RW Brock Boeser (60.1)

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