Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, this one providing an introduction to Underdog Fantasy’s Best Puck Classic tournament. Before we jump in, be sure to check out the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon for even more content; I’ve developed an extensive group of tools for dominating your Best Puck Classic drafts that will be available exclusively to Patreon subscribers. I’m also in the Discord every day and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the best ball format, Underdog Fantasy, or anything else I’m inordinately excited about right now.
What is the Best Puck Classic?
Underdog Fantasy’s Best Puck Classic is a massive best ball tournament, with 5,640 entries available. Players can pay $10 per entry to be entered into a 12-team draft. The teams from that draft form a “league”, from which the top teams advance into the tournament playoffs. In the tournament playoffs, only the top teams continue to advance round after round until a single champion is crowned by scoring the most fantasy points in the final two week period of the schedule. The prize? The champion takes home a cool $10,000, while second place only gets a mere $3,000. In fact, there are cash prizes all the way down to the 1,410th-best team, making the risk/reward proposition on the tournament incredibly palatable if you have a lot of confidence (or hubris) around your fantasy hockey prognosticating abilities.
Roster construction plays a huge part in optimizing a best ball team, and it’s certainly important in the BPC, where you start only 1 center, 2 wingers, 1 defenseman, 1 non-specific skater position, and 1 goalie per week, leaving ten players on the bench. If you’re unfamiliar with the format, best ball means that there is no managing of your roster to do in-season; the computer selects your lineup for you at the end of each week based on who scored the most points that week. This goes on for 18 weeks at which point the top teams from each draft move into the playoff rounds as previously mentioned. Each playoff round is two weeks long and there are three rounds (quarters/semis/finals). What’s interesting about this is that a lot of the advancing teams will have a significant number of the same players on them (if you drafted both Timo Meier and Nazem Kadri late last year, your team probably did pretty well). This wrinkle makes having a unique roster construction or blend of players important for making it all the way to the winner’s circle.
The scoring format has some quirks as well, including shots being worth 1/6th of a goal and wins being by far the most heavily weighted goalie statistic. Loading up on high volume shooters for the shot floor but also those “boom” weeks where they score four or five goals is a clear advantage in this format. You can apply Apples & Ginos projections to the scoring format to see how this plays out, but interestingly it knocks Connor McDavid out of the top spot due to Auston Matthews’ dominant goal and shot production. On the goalie side, underrated goaltenders expected to get a lot of starts on very good teams should be the focus; Jordan Binnington is the most obvious answer here.
Playoff Schedule Importance
The tournament playoffs being played across six weeks obviously puts a higher premium on players who play more games during that week, leading to another chance to differentiate from the field and give yourself an edge. Alex Ovechkin has a relatively terrible playoffs schedule while David Pastrnak has a terrific one, making Pastrnak a better choice for managers looking to take home that $10K first place prize even if they might rank Ovechkin a few spots higher if all things were equal. Appropriate prioritization of players with the best playoffs and finals schedules is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle in building a roster that has a real chance at winning the tournament. Now I’m not suggesting you should never draft Timo Meier simply because his playoff schedule is one of the worst in the league, but realistically there are players around Meier’s ADP that should provide 98% of the full season production without sacrificing those all-important playoff GP. You also have to be careful in over-emphasizing playoff schedules, since games that are being played during the playoffs window are by definition not being played in the first 18 weeks of the season. You don’t want to end up with a team filled exclusively with players who have good playoff schedules but also play 3-4 games less than average during weeks 1-18; across all 16 members of your team that adds up to a lot less GP than your average opponent and makes your team that much less likely to make the playoffs in the first place.
Building Correlation within Your Roster
With all that being said, you should always “draft as if you’re right” in these best ball leagues and tournaments in particular where you need a top 1st-percentile outcome to win. To me this means searching for a good number of players with top end playoff schedules and stacking several players from those teams. If Sidney Crosby has a good year then it’s a good bet that Jake Guentzel does as well since they spend so much time on the ice together at even strength and on the power play. You also increase your weekly upside where if PIT scores seven goals in a couple of games that week, it’s a good bet that both Guentzel and Crosby had very good weeks and made your starting lineup for the week. This kind of correlation is just one more way to gain that edge and especially hits hard in a weekly lineups format like this one.
The Future of Fantasy Hockey
This best ball format is a monumental hit on the Underdog platform in fantasy football, where they are offering a $2 MILLION dollar first place prize to the winner of the biggest contest of the year. They also have a significant number of other tournaments on offer as well at varying price points and entry levels. My sense is that the fantasy hockey community will soon warm up to the concept and the BPC will continue to grow in popularity year over year. The fact that it’s not widely discussed in fantasy hockey circles currently makes the tournament very attractive in terms of the level of competition versus potential payout. Reviewing current Underdog ADP data versus my projections makes me even more confident that there are some very exploitable edges available to the sharp drafter; the lack of content being produced on the tournament in general makes the game theory around it very “Wild West” and that’s reflected in these draft rooms.
Why You Should Sign Up
I think that the BPC is a terrific way to both brush up on your drafting and the new ADP values of the upcoming season, and also to potentially find some winnings in a wide-open tournament. As always please do not use any money you can’t afford to lose when playing, but if you do sign up and use the promo code “GINOS”, Underdog will match your initial deposit up to $100. I personally sought out this partnership with Underdog because I believe that the company has a terrific line on what fantasy gamers want in a product and they deliver in spades with a fantastic user experience. If you get hooked on the BPC you’ll definitely want to stick around in-season as Underdog also offers daily drafts (draft only players playing that day) and tons of fun prop bets as well. As I mentioned above I am providing a host of tools for crushing your BPC drafts for subscribers only over on Patreon; if you want more info on what’s included there you can @ me on Twitter or in the Discord.
Make sure you check if Underdog is offered in your state or province; I’m based in Ontario which unfortunately recently passed some severe regulations on DFS sites like Underdog and as a result all of them to a man pulled out of the province. I’m hopeful that those with the power will realize the sheer number of tax dollars they’re willfully throwing away and make better decisions soon, but for this season I’ll be living vicariously through my partner in crime John Binkle who you may know from the Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Podcast midweek show. John will be providing insights on his drafts and bets he makes on the platform throughout the season, so make sure you’re following him @Binklemania on Twitter and in the #underdog-games channel in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server.
That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Soundtrack to my writing: Chaos & the Calm – James Bay