There are a plethora of players to choose as the NHL features 12 games Thursday. Most teams are coming off one-day rest with the exception of the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres who each played Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the Vancouver Canucks respond from an eight-day hiatus as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets in their first game since the All-Star break. Owners can go with one of 12 players priced over $8,000 and fill the rest of the lineup with value picks or assemble a team with selections mostly from the mid-price range. Here are some players to target.
Cory Schneider ($8,400) – There’s a good reason why Schneider is the second-most expensive goaltender Thursday, but if you are going to choose a player in that price range then the Devils goalie should be a sound investment at the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto has lost nine of its past 11 games and Schneider is 5-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in his past six starts. Although the All-Star lost to Toronto in overtime on Dec. 8, Schneider is 4-0-3 with a 1.64 GAA in seven career starts against the Atlantic Division team.
Antti Niemi ($7,100) – Picking either Niemi or Lehtonen ($7,000) when the Dallas Stars visit the Colorado Avalanche is a conservative value choice. Both goalies remain priced on the lower end and give owners a shot at snagging crucial fantasy points with a win. Niemi has eight wins with a 2.82 GAA and an average of 24.6 saves in 15 career starts against Colorado and is 6-5-5 in 16 road games this season so owners can save a chunk of change on Niemi.
Others to Consider: Brian Elliott ($8,100), Craig Anderson ($7,800), Louis Domingue ($6,600)
Kevin Shattenkirk ($6,500) – Owners shouldn’t need to blow their budget on a defender with Shattenkirk available at a very fair price. The Blues lone defenseman on their top power-play unit has 15 power-play points and always has the chance to rack up the fantasy points surrounded by his offensively talented teammates. Shattenkirk should prove worthy at home against the San Jose Sharks; he has 13 point (five goals, eight assists) in 15 career games against San Jose and 19 (six goals, 13 assists) of his 27 points this season have come in 22 home games.
Ryan McDonagh ($5,100) – The Rangers captain has stepped it up against his hometown Minnesota Wild with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven career games. McDongagh followed a season-high four-game point streak with a current three-game scoring drought but his numbers against Minnesota have been consistent enough to warrant the low-risk pick. Linking him up with Shattenkirk not only frees up the budget to spend on a higher-priced forward or goalie, but also gives owners the opportunity to say that they won their contest with two American defensemen.
Others to Consider: John Klingberg ($6,100), Shayne Gostisbehere ($5,300), Jake Muzzin ($5,100), Aaron Ekblad ($4,900)
Claude Giroux ($6,800) – Consistency is the name of the game for Giroux and he should be close to a sure thing at the Nashville Predators. The Flyers captain leads the team with 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) through 48 games and has been great at home this season as well as against the Predators in his career. Giroux has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and 62 shots on goal in 24 games at Wells Fargo Center and has nine points (four goals, five assists) and 32 SOG in 10 games against Nashville. Owners can go with more expensive centers but should get more bang for their buck with Giroux.
Artemi Panarin ($6,200) – The NHL leader among rookies with 18 goals and 47 points, Panarin continues to be an amazing value choice. The 24 year-old Russian is a good pick at the Arizona Coyotes with a goal and four SOG in his first game against Arizona on Dec. 29. Panarin has also been great on the road this season; he has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) and 62 SOG in 27 away games.
Others to Consider: Nicklas Backstrom ($6,700), Daniel Sedin ($6,400), Connor McDavid ($5,800), Ryan Spooner ($4,700)