We have a massive 12-game slate ahead of us on this first Saturday night of the NHL season. That means a wide pool from which to make our NHL DFS picks, so we’re here to help you narrow things down. Helping us along will be our Awesemo Premium Tools, including the NHL DFS ownership. Let’s check in on the Awesemo projections and find some of the best daily fantasy hockey picks and top stacks.
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NHL DFS Picks, Tops Stacks & Lineup Optimizer Plays
Jeff Carter (PIT vs. CHI)
DraftKings – $5,400
FanDuel – $5,900
In Marc-André Fleury’s return to Pittsburgh, Carter looks to be on the top line with Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. (Note that Rust could be a game-time decision so be sure to check his availability. Even without him, someone like Kasperi Kapanen should work just fine on the top line.) Carter has passed 19:30 in ice time in his two games thus far, as both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain missing from the lineup. He will be leaned on heavily in this game, and his shot volume — nine in two games this year, 2.9 per game last year playing 16:34 per night — means a good floor here.
The matchup is the appeal here. Chicago was a bottom-10 team by most defensive metrics last year, both at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill. Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Seth Jones will help some, but Toews isn’t the player he was 10 years ago. How much help is actually coming is very much up for debate. This should be a high-pace game, which is great for a high-minute player like Carter.
Tonight, he’s useful in just about every format given his price drop. Our own values have him as the top center value priced above $4,000 tonight on DraftKings.
Bo Horvat (VAN at DET)
DraftKings – $4,900
FanDuel – $5,900
Detroit was dealt a blow in the offseason with the injury to Jakub Vrana, and now Dylan Larkin is suspended one game for his actions on Thursday night. This leaves a team that had the second-worst shot differentials last year without two-thirds of its top line and its only proven top-six center. Despite Vancouver coming in on a back-to-back, this isn’t a good situation for Detroit, either.
Matchups aren’t a concern here. The one matchup problem is the duo of Bertuzzi/Larkin and, well, that’s not an issue tonight. That means Horvat, Garland et al. should be able to have the run of play regardless of who they face.
There is just a lot to like about Horvat’s situation. He is a center that is expected to play around 20 minutes a night, will play top power-play minutes, and had Conor Garland as a winger at even strength. All positives for Horvat going up what could be a bottom-five team again this season.
One problem with Horvat is he’s not a big shot-volume shooter, so his floor is lower than someone like Carter’s. That doesn’t necessarily make him ideal for cash games. All the same, Horvat and his linemates, at 5-on-5 or the power play, make sense as stacks. He is also just fine in a tournament by himself.
Artemi Panarin (NYR at MTL)
DraftKings – $6,900
FanDuel – $7,900
It hasn’t been a great start for the Rangers, going 0-1-1 in their first two games. The team is shooting 5% right now, though, so maybe a little reprieve is warranted. The line of Panarin-Strome-Kakko has plus-ratings in expected goals and shot share. Strome looks to be out tonight due to COVID-19 protocols. With that said, the Rangers have actually scored more with Panarin on the ice without Strome or Mika Zibanejad as his center, because he’s that good.
Panarin is flat out one of the most talented wingers in hockey. Over the last three seasons, he has scored at the highest rate of any winger outside of Boston and he’s back near 19:30 a game again so far this season. One of the most efficient scorers that can threaten 20 minutes per night is always a target.
Montreal had a tough offseason. It lost two-thirds of its top line to free agency, Shea Weber and Carey Price to various ailments, Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet, and Joel Edmundson is also injured. There wasn’t a lot brought in to replace these players, so it’s very plausible that a team with an expected goal share under 40 percent through two games go much worse.
A lot of Rangers are in play tonight, but Panarin is near the top of the list for expensive options in tournaments, especially considering we have him top five by raw point projections.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that Alex Ovechkin is priced the cheapest he’s likely ever been on DraftKings. He is $6,400 there but $8,800 on FanDuel. Not sure what happened there, but DraftKings users take note.
Timo Meier (SJS vs. WPG)
DraftKings – $5,800
FanDuel – $5,000
It was a tough 2021 season for Meier. It has been a rough couple years for him, really, as he has just 34 goals in his last 124 games. That is about 22 goals per season, a far cry from the potential he showed in 2018-19 when he scored 30 goals and posted 66 points.
The issue that has plagued Meier is ice time. Even with his struggles, he has virtually identical production rates as Brock Boeser over the last three years. He has just one season above 17 minutes a game and he was at 16:04 last year. Boeser on the other hand, has been over 19 minutes a game, on average, for three years. That is why he paces for 66 points/82 games while Meier is closer to 53. Ice time matters a lot.
The good news here is Meier is lined up both on the top line with Logan Couture and on the top power-play unit. Couture will likely be around 19 minutes, which probably puts Meier around 18. That is a big boost for a player with a 95th percentile shot rate. At home against an average Winnipeg team should be a boon for Meier, making him appealing in all formats, especially on FanDuel with his cheap price.
Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM vs. CGY)
DraftKings – $4,500
FanDuel – $4,600
The young winger is lining up on the top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He is getting a bit of power-play time with them as well, but at his price, it’s not a necessity. What is important here is how good that line is — in nearly 200 minutes together, the three of them combine for 5.2 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Even for McDavid and Draisaitl, those are cartoonish numbers. It makes any of them, and all of them, a threat on any night against any team.
As he has matured, he has earned a bigger role. He started last year playing 11-12 minutes a night. The second half of the season, that was more 15-16 minutes a game. In the playoffs, he skated the most of any of their wingers at 21:43 a game (next-closest winger was over two minutes behind) and he played 20 minutes in this season’s opener. That is good news for the player that led all non-McDavid Oilers forwards in shot rate last year at 5-on-5.
His ability to finish is an open question but he’ll get loads of opportunities playing with his line mates. He will also go overlooked compared to the guys on the top power-play unit, so he makes a nice differentiation point in tournaments at less than half of McDavid’s ownership.
John Carlson (WSH vs. TBL)
DraftKings – $5,400
FanDuel – $6,800
This is really most about pricing than anything. The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their entire third line in the offseason, and have mostly had to look internally to replace those pieces. It has left them weaker defensively, which is a problem because the second line wasn’t great defensively as it was. Carlson is priced probably $1,000 cheaper than he should be on DraftKings, so he’s a target in every format tonight, even without Nicklas Backstrom.
David Savard (MTL vs. NYR)
DraftKings – $2,800
FanDuel – $3,500
This is about price and what Savard brings to the table. He is not a point producer, having a grand total of 17 points in his last 124 games. What he brings is blocks, and that’s 278 of them in that same number of games. Any player that can average over two blocks per game at this price on DraftKings is on our radar because of the three-block bonus. The Habs, as mentioned earlier, are likely a worse team, and that means more potential shots to block.
Juuse Saros (NSH vs. CAR)
DraftKings – $7,800
FanDuel – $8,200
Last season, the Hurricanes were fifth in the league in shots per minute. Conversely, the Predators were 23rd in shots against. While the Hurricanes had a rocky offseason, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis, and he’s one of the top two-way defensemen in hockey. That is a big loss for them, and should mean more shots for Saros.
Over the previous three seasons, Saros had a higher high-danger save percentage than stalwarts like John Gibson, Darcy Kuemper and Robin Lehner. He is a good goalie on a team that should allow a lot of shots. That is a solid DFS recipe.
NHL DFS Top Stacks
San Jose 1 – Dahlen/Couture/Meier
Winnipeg is in town without top center Mark Scheifele. The Sharks open their season at home with a line of Dahlen-Couture-Meier. The latter two names are familiar, if Dahlen is not. The second-round pick in 2016 had two monster seasons in Sweden – 148 points in 96 games in the men’s league – and looks ready for the NHL limelight. This is a cheap-ish line that helps fit in more expensive lines or defensemen and two of the three will play at 5-on-5 and the power play together. Their price likely drives up some ownership but it should stay in the single digits, and that’s just fine for our purposes.
Toronto 2 – Bunting-Kerfoot-Nylander
The line of Bunting-Kerfoot-Nylander is off to a great start this year, controlling over 66% of the expected goal share in their ice time. That includes a game against this very Ottawa team that took a 3-2 win a couple nights ago. Toronto is at home this time, and not on a back to back, so we have a different situation. There will be a lot of ownership on the top line, so jumping down to the second line, in a softer matchup, makes sense. Just beware of the ice time here. Nylander is earning a lot more than his other line mates as he’s sometimes lined up by himself, so just a two-man of Kerfoot-Nylander or Bunting-Nylander can work as well. We have this line coming in around 2% ownership, which is nice to see considering their team implied goal total (3.8 at time of writing).
*Stats from Natural Stat Trick
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Find more NHL DFS lineups and NHL DFS strategy as well as the best DFS NHL. The NHL DraftKings projections model was created and is maintained by Alex Baker and Jake Hari. Initial NHL DFS ownership projections for main slates will be posted daily by 4 p.m. The NHL DraftKings rankings for fantasy points and value are derived directly from Alex's own NHL projections FanDuel.
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