Another nine-game night of NHL action on tap Thursday, so be sure to brush up on which high-end picks are worth the price of admission. Important offensive players are returning (John Tavares, Martin Hanzal) while goaltending continues to be as unpredictable as ever. There are plenty of matchups that could yield high-scoring affairs, so it’s important to avoid goose eggs at any of your four positions. Load up on consistent shot volume and blocked shots (for defensemen) producers while being mindful of the few lopsided matchups that could set your team apart from the rest.
Jaroslav Halak ($7,200) – Halak’s last game at Montreal did not go well (27 saves on 33 shots faced Jan. 17), but his career numbers are still strong (4-1-0, 10 GA) against the Habs and you should expect a strong response from him and the Islanders, who rank third in power-play conversion percentage and first in penalty killing this season. Halak has been excellent this season (4-1-1, .936 save percentage, 2 shutouts), especially on the road (1-0-1, 2 GA), and get a sizable lift with the return of captain John Tavares from an illness. This is a contrarian play that the average DFS player will likely avoid, so it has upside for larger contests.
Mike Smith ($6,100) – The lowest-priced goalies in this contest are Smith at home against the Avalanche and the Sabres goalies (Linus Ullmark $6,100; Chad Johnson $6,200) at home against the Lightning. Smith is the way to go Thursday if you’re looking to get a cheap shot at a win with 30-plus saves. Smith and the Coyotes have regrouped after a five-day break between games and get back Martin Hanzal, who was instrumental in Anthony Duclair’s early success at even strength and on the power play. Smith has allowed three-plus goals in each of his past six decisions, but has a chance to set the record straight at home against Colorado, who has only nine goals in five road games this season.
Others worth considering: Braden Holtby ($7,900), Martin Jones ($7,300), Linus Ullmark ($6,100)
Ryan Suter ($5,400) – The Wild have been getting contributions from their second and third lines in recent games, and Suter has emerged as a reliable DFS option who has gotten involved in the scoring – wherever it happens to come from each night. He’s averaging 4.2 DraftKings points per contest, plays more than 26 minutes per night, and is riding a three-game point streak into Thursday against the Predators. On the season, Suter has 10 points in 11 games, which is quietly tied for sixth in scoring among defensemen. He’s also averaging more than two blocked shots per game (23) and has seen an uptick in shots on goal per game (2.3) compared to his career average (1.6).
Victor Hedman ($5,100) – The Lightning have been disappointing out of the gate and Hedman has sputtered in his past three games (0 points, 2 blocks, 4 SOG), but this low of a price for an elite defenseman with a favorable matchup (at Buffalo) is why he’s such a great target in this spot. Hedman has eight assists, 11 blocks and 16 SOG in nine road games this season, and the Sabres have the second-worst penalty kill in the NHL (71.4 percent). Buffalo also attempts the most SOG per game (32.8), so Hedman will have an opportunity to score some points and block shots for DraftKings production.
Others worth considering: Drew Doughty ($5,600), Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($5,000), Mark Streit ($4,800), Jake Muzzin ($4,400), Rasmus Ristolainen ($4,100)
Jeff Carter ($5,800) – Columbus has the second-worst road penalty kill in the NHL (71.9), so expect Carter, who plays with Milan Lucic ($4,600) and Tyler Toffoli ($5,700) at even strength and with the man-advantage, to capitalize on any Blue Jackets’ mistakes at Staples Center. Carter (12 points in 12 games) has points in five of his past seven games and 31 SOG on the season. He’s been much more valuable than Anze Kopitar ($5,300, sustained injury Tuesday) and only costs $500 more with clear-cut line stacking options.
Matt Duchene ($5,200) – After Avalanche coach Patrick Roy moved Duchene to a line with Gabriel Landeskog ($7,100) and Carl Soderberg ($4,200), Duchene snapped out of his season-opening funk with two goals, one assist, one block and 10 SOG in his past two games. If you’re not rostering Coyotes goalie Mike Smith on Thursday, it’s worth riding the hot hand with Duchene, especially with Soderberg and Duchene emerging as one of the best value line stacks of the night.
Sam Bennett ($3,500) – Bennett’s production has taken off since being stationed next to Johnny Gaudreau at even strength, with him registering two goals, four assists and eight SOG during his four-game point streak. He was a preseason fantasy sleeper of mine and is finally getting the usage he deserves, so take advantage while he’s 49th contest-wide in terms of price among centers.
Others worth considering: Kyle Turris ($6,400), Evgeny Kuznetsov ($5,600), Mikko Koivu ($4,500), Martin Hanzal ($4,000), Boone Jenner ($3,900)
Alex Ovechkin ($9,400) – The Capitals have bounced back after each of their prior two losses this season, so you have to expect them to do the same at home against the Bruins, who are allowing the third-most goals per game League-wide this season. Ovechkin is expensive, no question, but he’s still much cheaper alongside Kuznetsov ($5,600) than if he was playing with Nicklas Backstrom ($6,600). Ovi and Kuznetsov’s combined salaries balance out to $7,500 per player, and Ovi has moved the chains in DraftKings with 13 points in 10 games with a tad under five SOG per contest (49). That’s scary potential given the Bruins just surrendered a hat trick at home to Tyler Seguin and are due to eventually lose a road game (5-0-0 on road; lone remaining unbeaten).
Jakub Voracek ($6,400) – No goals on 50 SOG is enough. Voracek finally has the favorable matchup against the Flames, who have the worst goal differential in the NHL by far (minus-26), and this could be the multigoal game that we’ve all been waiting for alongside Claude Giroux ($6,700). The Flyers are a one-dimensional offense with their top point pair carrying the load in recent seasons, but their power play has floundered (11.1 percent, 29th in NHL) in 2015-16. Calgary’s PK is among the League’s bottom-10 and their goaltending situation has been disastrous (4.23 goals allowed per game, worst in NHL), so the stars could align here for Philly to end its five-game losing skid and Giroux, Voracek and Mark Streit ($4,800) to alter the DraftKings landscape with monster performances on the road.
Max Domi ($5,300) – With Antoine Vermette questionable for Thursday and the aforementioned return of Martin Hanzal, don’t be surprised to see Domi, Anthony Duclair ($4,100) and Martin Hanzal ($4,000) playing together at even strength. Together with Ekman-Larsson ($5,000), this well-rested group has a chance to change the fortunes of a slumping power-play unit (11.6 percent) with a big effort on home ice. Domi has points in seven of his past nine games, and could spell doom for the Avs, one of seven teams allowing three-plus goals per game this season.
Others worth considering: Nikita Kucherov ($5,400), Ryan O’Reilly ($5,100), Nikolaj Ehlers ($4,800), Justin Williams ($4,400), Jason Zucker ($4,100), Alex Killorn ($3,800)