Tip Drill: Fantasy Hockey Scouting 101

When it comes to fantasy sports I'll just be up front about it – I'm a tinkerer, a point-and-click guy, a pick-up junkie. I'm generally among the add/drop leaders in any pool I play in, and with that in mind it's a good time to examine some rules of thumb as we're trying to find good stuff cheap – help on the free agent wire.

Follow the shots: Show me a guy who's consistently firing the puck at the net and I'll show you a guy who's going to have fantasy value, even if the points aren't falling his way right now. The Patric Hornqvist(notes) breakthrough was foreshadowed by a SOG spike, and the same goes for Niclas Bergfors(notes).

• Sort through the trash: Any free-agent trolling should always start with the recently-cut list of players; while some of those discarded guys clearly don't hold any current value, you're also likely to stumble on a few gems, guys who were cut because they were caught up in a numbers game from one of your deeper competitors. There's nothing quite as satisfying as getting a producer for nothing and spiting your arch rival in the process.

• Pedigree matters: Be constantly on the lookout for a fizzled first-round pick that might be starting to put things together, or a highly-touted kid who's finally getting a shot on a deep roster. And be aware that some positions take longer for players to mature; this is almost always true of taller defensemen and goalies as well.

• Cut many times, point and click once: Forget the seasonal stats when you're strolling along the waiver wire; it's more important to track what's happening lately. Make sure you're constantly looking at the leaders over the last month (and occasionally the last week), and make sure you also sort the FA list by any stat categories you might be light in. And again, when all else fails, shots on goal are a good way to break the tie.

• Life in a parallel universe: One of the advantages of being in too many leagues is the knowledge you can pick up by analyzing and comparing the player movement from pool to pool. The emerging forward you just missed out on in League A might be free for the taking in League B.

• It's all about the power play: About a quarter of the scoring in the league comes on the man advantage, so it's critical that you know who's getting a chance on each team's first and second units. Just monitoring the time spent on the PP has a value, it's basically each head coach telling you how he feels about his personnel.

• When in doubt, get to the rink: There's no better way to scout a player than to see him with your own eyes, whether it's on TV (hopefully in HD) or in person at the arena. And don't be afraid to give the radio guys some time, at least when you're in the car; the announcers in this medium know they have to tell a more-detailed story and often the radio scouting tips are better than the stuff you hear on TV.

These are just a few of the ways we do what we do; what's on your hit list? Let's share some ideas in the comments.