It’s a light night of NHL action and there’s a huge gap between the most expensive player(s) at forward/defense and the rest of the pack. Alex Ovechkin ($8,800) is $1,300 more expensive than the next forward on the price scale, while Brent Burns ($8,000) and Erik Karlsson ($7,600) are considerably more than the next two defensemen John Carlson and Kris Letang (who are dealing with injuries). After Carlson and Letang, the next most expensive defenseman is Rasmus Ristolainen at $5,500. Again, a gigantic gap. This landscape encourages value hunting, which provides roster flexibility and an opportunity to spend up for a goaltender if you see fit. Let’s get to targets at each position.
Cory Schneider ($7,700) – Schneider’s road splits are outstanding (9-4-2, .930 save percentage), so I’d roll him out with confidence against the Senators. Both teams are on the second of a back-to-back, and I view Schneider as a far superior goalie to Andrew Hammond in a game that could be full of breakdowns and boil down to the men in the crease. Keith Kinkaid got the start Tuesday against the Hurricanes and gave the Devils a big confidence boost in a 3-2 comeback win, so Schneider will be well-rested and could slow down the Sens, who were routed Tuesday in Boston.
Matt Murray ($6,300) – Murray, the cheapest goalie on the board, has a favorable matchup at home against the Maple Leafs, who are on the second of a back-to-back. With Marc-Andre Fleury out, Murray has seized the opportunity with two goals allowed or fewer in each of his first three starts (2-1-0, five goals allowed). His save percentage is excellent (.934), and while he could give up a couple of goals as he continues to get settled at the NHL level, he has an excellent chance at the win bonus considering how much better Pittsburgh’s skaters have been at home (2.44 goals per game) as opposed to on the road (2.0).
Others to consider: Braden Holtby ($8,400), Ben Bishop ($7,600)
Shayne Gostisbehere ($4,500) – Gostisbehere’s price has risen to the mid-$4,000 range, and for good reason. He has eight points in his past 10 games with 14 SOG and seven blocks, and faces the Sharks, who have been vulnerable at home this season. The Sharks’ penalty kill had a disastrous showing Monday against the Avalanche, allowing four power-play goals in the loss. With Jakub Voracek ($6,000) heating up, there are some nice against-the-grain stacking options involving a forward and Gostisbehere for Philly’s top power-play unit on the road. Among defensemen who are not dealing with injury at this time, only Burns (5.5), Karlsson (4.7) and Ristolainen (3.6) average more DraftKings points per contest this season than Gostisbehere (3.2).
Olli Maatta ($3,400) – For this cheap, I’ll take a shot on a defenseman who has played 20-plus minutes in seven of his past nine games and has seen a recent uptick in DraftKings production. He has four points (one goal, three assists) to go along with 19 SOG and 14 blocks in his past 10 games, amounting to 2.6 DraftKings points per contest compared to his season average of 1.8. He’s trending in the right direction and will continue to see big minutes at even strength as the Penguins try to weather the storm offensively with Letang finally returning after another injury.
Other to consider: Victor Hedman ($5,200), Matt Niskanen ($4,300), Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($4,200), Evgeny Medvedev ($3,000)
Joe Thornton ($4,800) – Thornton hit a rough patch but has returned to form as a consistent distributor in December. He has nine points (three goals, six assists) and 21 SOG in his past 10 games and is due for a home goal considering he has none on 21 SOG this season at SAP Center. The Sharks have been outstanding away from home (13-6-2) despite their tilted schedule (21 of first 35 games on road) this season and have struggled at their own barn (4-10-0), but that is bound to eventually change for the better. With the Flyers traveling cross-country and San Jose fresh off a stinging loss to Colorado, expect Thornton and Pavelski to provide enough offense to warrant their combined price. Thornton is priced eighth among centers.
Tyler Johnson ($4,600) – Johnson has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments League-wide as we approach the midway point of the season, but is back healthy and has seen his best SOG production on home ice (30 in 11 games), where he faces the Rangers. The Lightning have owned the Rangers dating back to their Stanley Cup Playoff series and regular-season sweep last season, and Johnson returned from injury Monday with no points and two SOG in 17-plus minutes of ice time alongside mostly Alex Killorn and J.T. Brown. Expect him to eventually be reunited with Nikita Kucherov ($6,100) and re-gain his footing on the DFS scene.
Others to consider: Sidney Crosby ($7,000), Evgeny Kuznetsov ($5,700), Mika Zibanejad ($4,400), Travis Zajac ($3,600), Sam Reinhart ($3,400)
Ryan O’Reilly ($6,000) – O’Reilly has 4.5 or more DraftKings points per game in seven of his past 10 games, and presents a lower-ownership option on the road in Washington, whom most DFS owners will be favoring heavily after the Capitals’ dominating 2-0 performance in Buffalo on Monday. O’Reilly, who is playing with Jamie McGinn and Sam Reinhart ($3,400 apiece), has 16 points in as many road games this season with nearly one block per game in such games (13). He’s an unheralded two-way star in this League, plays 20-plus minutes a night and on the top power-play unit, and dominated in the faceoff circle against the Caps (15 FOW, 8 FOL) with four SOG in their meeting earlier in the week.
Patric Hornqvist ($5,800) – Hornqvist has much better home splits than he does on the road this season, and his recent onslaught of SOG has him primed to get involved in the scoring against the Maple Leafs. He has eight points and 62 SOG in 18 home games this season, and his spot alongside Phil Kessel ($6,900) and Evgeni Malkin ($7,500) makes him a sneaky FLEX option in the hopes that the Pittsburgh offense breaks out against a favorable opponent. He has nearly four SOG per game (38) and only two goals in his past 10 games. If the shot volume remains high, it’s only a matter of time for Hornqvist and the Penguins to turn the tide.
Others to consider: Jakub Voracek ($6,000), Kyle Palmieri ($4,700), Chris Kunitz ($3,900), PA Parenteau ($3,700), Jesper Fast ($2,800)