Welcome back for another NHL season! It does not seem like long ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted their second Stanley Cup in as many seasons, and it was an abridged offseason. We are here to talk about our opening night two-game NHL DFS slate, utilizing the NHL DFS ownership projections, rankings and seeing which players pop in the fantasy hockey lineup optimizer to pinpoint the best overall NHL DFS picks and top stacks for DraftKings and FanDuel. We will be using our NHL Data Central for a lot of our tools and information.
NHL DFS Picks, Tops Stacks & Lineup Optimizer Plays
Jared McCann (SEA at VGK)
DraftKings – $4,900
FanDuel – $4,100
The presumptive top-line center for Seattle has a question mark around him. On Monday it was announced that a bevy of Kraken players were in COVID protocol, including McCann. However, all these players are vaccinated, and that means a negative test could get them playing opening night. There is no information at time of writing, and their morning skate will not start until late afternoon on the East Coast.
Awesemo’s projections have him as one of the top values of the night. This goes especially for FanDuel where he is especially cheap. If he is in the lineup, top line and top power play minutes likely mean somewhere around 18 to 19 minutes. That is a lot of ice time for less than $5,000 on DraftKings and just over $4,000 on FanDuel. McCann will get Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle as linemates, two top-line talents. It is a tough matchup going into Vegas, but McCann’s price will not stay depressed for long.
Teddy Blueger (PIT at TB)
DraftKings – $3,100
FanDuel – $3,300
The Penguins are going through some injuries right now, with all of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel out of the lineup with various ailments. That takes a lot of talent out of the lineup, but it also presents some opportunities for anyone looking to get a bit different. There are a few reasons to look in this direction tonight for a one-off option. First, Tampa Bay had their depth forwards gutted. They still have elite top-end talent, but they lost their entire third line, which was often their checking line. That should leave unproven talents to face Pittsburgh’s third line, and thus Blueger.
Second, for a short slate, there are a lot of big-ticket players. The entire Vegas and Tampa lineups are loaded with $6,000 players both up front and on the blue line. Lastly, Awesemo’s projections have him as the second-best value for a center under $4,000 on DraftKings, with Anthony Cirelli coming in slightly higher. The ownership on Cirelli should be considerably higher, and that is what makes Blueger the pivot.
Nikita Kucherov (TB vs. PIT)
DraftKings – $8,000
FanDuel – $8,600
Quite simply, with Pittsburgh’s injuries Kucherov is the most talented player on the slate. To highlight this, despite being the most expensive skater on the slate, Kucherov comes in as the second-best winger value on DraftKings for any forward priced over $4,000.
The NHL announced a crackdown on cross-checking in the offseason. That should presumably mean higher penalty rates across the league, though they did not skyrocket in the preseason. All the same, Pittsburgh had a bad penalty kill last year, partly because of horrific goaltending. They did not upgrade the goaltending and lost four of their regular penalty killers. Tampa has one of the best power plays year after year.
There are concerns with Tampa Bay and the shortened offseason, their second in as many years. Those concerns are more likely to manifest later in the season, though, and Kucherov is playing a Pittsburgh team missing a lot of key pieces. He is perfectly fine to use in cash games, as a one-off in tournaments or as part of a stack.
Kasperi Kapanen (PIT at TB)
DraftKings – $4,800
FanDuel – $4,200
With all the injuries the Penguins are enduring, they have had to make some line changes. One of these has been moving Evan Rodrigues to the second line with Kapanen and Jason Zucker. A big reason to look to Kapanen tonight, particularly on FanDuel, is the matchup, and more specifically the line matching. With Tampa’s third line gone, they are likely to rely more on the Brayden Point line for shutdown minutes. That should leave the Cirelli line to take on Kapanen’s line.
Last year Tampa’s second line was poor defensively. The trio of Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos and Cirelli posted 2.5 expected goals against per 60 minutes and a 44.4% expected goal share. There is no sugar-coating it: Those are bad numbers defensively. There is no guarantee they will be that bad again, but there is no other information to go off.
What can give Kapanen a little boost here is he is on the top power-play unit. They are missing some of their studs, but like the Penguins, the Lightning lost a lot of their significant penalty killers in Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and David Savard. They will probably still be good on the penalty kill, just not elite, and Kapanen’s price and role brings him into play.
Shea Theodore (VGK vs. SEA)
DraftKings – $5,700
FanDuel – $6,200
Keep an eye on news this afternoon. Theodore had his first full practice on Monday, and while he is expected to play, who knows how it will go?
The biggest difference between Theodore and teammate Alex Pietrangelo is blocked shots. Pietrangelo blocks a lot more, and that makes his floor higher. They have similar upsides, but Theodore has a lower floor, so him being lower-priced makes sense.
Theodore is being neck-and-neck in value with teammate Alec Martinez among the expensive blue liners tonight, and that makes sense given Martinez’s peripheral production. Theodore is the best puck mover on this team’s blue line, which is probably why he had 10 multi-point games last season. He will be running the team’s top power play, and if there are additional power plays, that is the guy to use. There will be a lot of ownership here tonight, but it is hard to ignore his upside on a short slate.
Mikhail Sergachev (TB vs. PIT)
DraftKings – $3,400
FanDuel – $4,800
This is a mispricing by DraftKings. Sergachev was more valuable than Ryan McDonagh last season on a per-game basis but is $1,300 cheaper. Sergachev is at home on a team with a big total, and he runs the second power-play unit. He should play around 21 to 22 minutes and is priced like a third-pair guy. In any cash game, he is the first click into lineups. Just beware that, because of this obvious mispricing, his ownership is going to be sky high. He may not be the best option in tournaments.
Philipp Grubauer (SEA at VGK)
DraftKings – $7,000
FanDuel – $7,300
There are a number of reasons to use Grubauer tonight. First is his price. He is the cheapest goalie on either site for anyone looking to save several hundred dollars. Second is Vegas’ ownership. Four of the seven most-owned projected players for tonight all come from Vegas. It is a good bet that nearly half the field will have some sort of Vegas stack, so if Grubauer can shut them down, this play will lap a large chunk of the field. Lastly, Grubauer might be the best goalie on the slate. He is top 10 over the last three seasons in high-danger save percentage, one of the best indicators of goalie talent. Taking all this together, he is a good, cheap goalie who should see lots of volume against a high-owned team.
Top NHL DFS Stacks
Tampa Bay Power Play
On a short slate like this, mixing players is necessary rather than just stacking two three-man lines. Tampa uses players from two different lines for their top power play-unit — Point, Kucherov, Stamkos, Killorn — and that can help spread out ownership. Add Victor Hedman to that, and some combination of these players makes sense.
SEA3: Donskoi – Gourde – Appleton
This is pending all the COVID results from the players, as Joonas Donskoi is one of the guys in protocol.
Vegas is a good team but if they have one weakness, it’s likely the third line. Nolan Patrick is the center, and he was traded by Philadelphia because his development had flatlined. Injuries have caught him, but he has been below-average for his career in basically all facets. Donskoi and Yanni Gourde could make a formidable third line, and they will not be owned on a short slate. Again, watch for news, but this is a nice matchup for them if all goes well.
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