We have a big 11-game slate tonight including some heavy hitters like Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak and Roman Josi. Let’s not waste time getting to our NHL DFS picks.
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NHL DFS Picks: Center
Elias Pettersson (VAN at WPG): DraftKings, $6,500; FanDuel, $7,400
One of the favorite targets for myself that consistently appears in this column is top lines going into Winnipeg. That’s because the top line for the Jets, Connor-Scheifele-Laine, is one of the worst defensive lines in hockey. As of Tuesday, their expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five comes in just over 3.0. That’s translated to a nearly equal actual goals against per 60 minutes, meaning that they’re so bad defensively, not even Vezina-caliber goaltender Connor Hellebuyck can save them. This is truly one of the best road matchups in hockey and that’s all to Pettersson’s benefit.
One area the Jets have improved over recent seasons is the rate at which they take penalties, being among the least-penalized teams in 2019-20. Unfortunately, their penalty kill is abysmal, ranking last by goals allowed and 28th by expected goals against while down a man, which plays right into Vancouver’s hands. Among all centers on the road tonight, it’s arguable that Pettersson has the best matchup and he’s not among the top 10 by salary on DraftKings. He should be targeted as a one-off in all formats.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT vs. CHI): DraftKings, $5,500; FanDuel, $5,200
Ottawa is a better team than they get credit for but they’re still not very good. The upside for tonight is they’re hosting a team that might be as bad as they are, both offensively and defensively.
Brandon Saad is missing from the top line for Chicago and without Saad, the top line’s numbers suffer defensively: without Saad on their wing, the defensive expected goal numbers decline by 12 percent for Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. That means the Blackhawks going into Ottawa tonight is a good matchup overall for the Senators, but it’s even better than usual for the top line, including Pageau.
The top line for Ottawa has been very good at five-on-five this year with their expected goals per 60 minutes coming in over 2.6. Their actual goals average lags behind a little but is still solid, especially for Pageau’s price on this night. Added bonus: Chicago is giving up the most short-handed goals per minute, a Pageau specialty. Not that we’d ever predict short-handed goals, but this is a good situation for Pageau as a one-off in any format, particularly on FanDuel.
NHL DFS Picks: Winger
Joe Pavelski (DAL at COL): DraftKings, $4,900; FanDuel, $5,100
As far as in-game matchups are concerned, it’s tough to parse what happens with Colorado. Though the top line tends to match against the top line, they mix it up a lot so we’re not going to consider line matching too much here.
More than that, this is about the power play. Colorado’s penalty kill is bottom-10 by shot attempts allowed and that’s translated to 25th in goals against when down a man. It’s not a good penalty kill, and the Dallas top power play unit is due for a serious turnaround: they’re shooting under 10 percent as a whole this year. That’s considerably lower than we’d expect from a great power play unit such as theirs, which means there’s a lot of positive regression to come this season.
Pavelski also skates on a good line at five-on-five as he, Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov have combined for 2.55 expected goals per 60 minutes, which is well above average. That he doesn’t share a power play unit with any of his line mates is why he’s a one-off target for tonight.
Blake Coleman (NJD at TOR): DraftKings, $4,500; FanDuel, $4,800
It is wild how cheap Coleman is across the industry. Consider that Gabriel Landeskog has only been very slightly more productive per game on DraftKings this year than Coleman, yet it’s the Devils winger who is nearly $2,000 cheaper. This isn’t a crazy shooting percentage binge either, as he’s shooting 11.2 percent compared to 10.3 percent in 2018-19, his breakout year.
Since the trade of Taylor Hall back in mid-December, Coleman is averaging 18:36 per game while landing a whopping 4.5 shots on goal per contest. The numbers pre-Hall trade were 15:43 in time on ice and 2.3 shots per game. He’s nearly doubled his shot output and with Kyle Palmieri out of the lineup, even more of the offensive burden will fall on Coleman’s shoulders.
Coleman has put up big shot rates in small ice time samples so that he’s shooting a lot with more ice time makes sense. Like Pavelski, he doesn’t share the power play with his line mates but that’s part of what makes him an appealing one-off.
NHL DFS Picks: Defense
Roman Josi (NSH at EDM): DraftKings, $7,000; FanDuel, $7,100
It’s not often that I include $7,000 in these pages (mostly because they’re so highly ranked by us anyway that fantasy players are well aware of their proficiency) but this is a special situation. For the month of January, which has almost entirely been without Ryan Ellis on the Nashville blue line, Josi has played over 28 minutes a night across six games. In those six games, he has 14 blocked shots, had 20 shots on goal and seven assists. This little stretch has seen him average nearly 13.9 DraftKings points per game and that’s without including shot/block bonuses and without scoring a goal. That’s what buckets filled with ice time will do for a top-end player.
Team defense for the Oilers has slid as they’ve gone from 18th in shot attempts allowed through the first two months of the season to 24th over the last six weeks, just barely ahead of the Rangers. The offense in Nashville starts with their defense, and tonight that means with Josi playing nearly half the game. He’s a solid option for a one-off in any format.
Travis Dermott (TOR vs. NJD): DraftKings, $2,800; FanDuel, $3,500
The injuries to Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly has depleted what was once a stacked left side of the Toronto defense. The result of this has been Travis Dermott pushed to the top pair with Justin Holl.
Two areas where Dermott excels offensively is transitioning the puck through the neutral zone and finding teammates in the offensive zone; his zone exit and shot assist rates are both excellent. The issue is those numbers were generally gathered while playing down the lineup against weaker competition. How will he fare against stiffer competition with bigger minutes? I think he’s good enough to succeed, and having a soft game against the Devils is a good start for him. He should see a big boost in minutes and is in a good spot with a high-scoring team. He’s a solid target for salary relief in any format tonight.
NHL DFS Picks: Stacks
Ottawa’s top line of Tkachuk-Pageau-Brown
Whether DFS players use Brown as part of the stack, add in Chabot in his place or just add Chabot in altogether for additional power play exposure, as outlined in the Pageau section, this is a good matchup for the Senators. Now, they’re a bit expensive given they aren’t an elite offensive line, but this is one of the best matchups they’ll get all year and they still aren’t wildly overpriced. On such a big slate, it’s easy to see them being overlooked despite the matchup.
Nashville’s top line of Arvidsson-Johansen-Forsberg
The price on the top line has come down a lot over the last month or so, as there were times both Forsberg and Arvidsson flirted with $7,000 each on DraftKings, with Forsberg exceeding that mark, but now both are below $6,000. That line hasn’t been nearly as good this year (2.42 expected goals/60) as last year (3.5 xG/60) but they’re still above average. Plus, it’s still a small sample for the full line and they have a long history of top-end production. With the price drop, they’ve priced themselves into my mix tonight.