With opening night comes the start of daily fantasy hockey contests at DraftKings. Much has transpired since we last played DFS NHL in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, so let’s jump right into the implications, price structure and matchups for this four-game Wednesday slate.
Keep in mind player prices for this season-opening contest are user-friendly and scaled down. While you normally have to work around players in the $8,000-9,000 range, only two goalies cost $8,000 or more, and only four skaters cost $7,000 or more. You should have no problem fitting high-upside stacks and top-tier players at each position into your $50,000 salary cap. If needed, there are plenty of sleepers to round out your nine-man roster.
Carey Price ($8,100) – Price, who led the League in nearly every goalie category last season en route to the Hart and Vezina Trophies, faces the rebuilding Maple Leafs, who traded Phil Kessel this offseason. I don’t spend up for expensive goalies too often, but this is the time given the favorable matchup and low-priced structure. The only issue in large contests is that Price is bound to have high ownership because he has the safest matchup and is going for at least $1,000 less than his usual cost.
Martin Jones ($6,900) – This is my against-the-grain pick of the night. Jones, the former Kings’ backup to Jonathan Quick, knows his former team and its shooting tendencies inside and out. He was outstanding in the preseason with a 3-1-0 record, a .970 save percentage and two shutouts, and what better way to prove he’s worthy of a starting job than to beat his former team at Staples Center. If you’re in a Guaranteed Prize Pool contest, you need to take some risks. The Kings are banged up on ‘D’ and I like Jones’ chances of making a statement.
Karri Ramo ($6,700) – One of my favorite DraftKings strategies is finding the cheapest goalie with a chance to win, and Ramo fits the bill with a price tag tied for 10th-highest on a night with only eight teams in action. Ramo gets the opening-night nod over Jonas Hiller at home, where he was 8-3-3 last season and finished off Vancouver in Game 6 of their first-round series. The Canucks’ top line can roll with the best of them, but the Flames’ stout defense can shut down the Sedins and exploit the opposition’s suspect forward depth.
Mark Giordano ($5,400) – Giordano averaged the most DraftKings points per game (4.0) last season among defensemen in action Wednesday, yet is priced third at his position behind P.K. Subban ($5,700) and Brent Burns ($5,500). He finished tied for second among blueliners in points per game behind Erik Karlsson last season and has back-to-back seasons of 100-plus blocked shots despite playing only 125 of a possible 164 games because of injuries. Anytime he’s healthy and priced this low, he’s a great daily play.
Drew Doughty ($4,900) – If you don’t draft Jones, you can’t go wrong with Doughty. He averages a half-a-point and more than two SOG per game in his career against the Sharks, who allowed the eighth-most DraftKings points to defensemen last season. He’s usually priced much higher than this and quarterbacks the first power-play unit of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter. When the Sharks commit penalties at Staples Center, the Kings usually make them pay. Doughty also covers SOG well, finishing seventh among ‘D’ in that category last season (219 in 82 games).
Andrei Markov ($4,500) – Power-play points don’t count in DraftKings, but it’s still a relevant metric when you have defensemen who block shots regularly and produce with the man advantage. Only Subban and Keith Yandle (70 each) have more PPP than Markov (69) since 2012-13, so he’s consistently on the top unit with Subban and in position to do damage offensively. He’s also among ninth League-wide in blocked shots (413 in 210 games) over that span.
Trevor Daley ($3,800) – Daley was excellent in the preseason with a goal, three assists and nine shots on goal in four games. Many forget he finished fifth among D-men in goals (16) last season and will now be playing top-four minutes for the defending champions. He’s one of the best sleeper ‘D’ out there for opening night, especially considering he had 123 blocked shots last season in only 68 games.
Others to Consider: Duncan Keith ($4,800), Dougie Hamilton ($4,600) Morgan Rielly ($4,100), Paul Martin ($3,000)
Max Pacioretty ($7,100) – Pacioretty is ready for the start of the season after an offseason knee injury and faces the Leafs, who were among the bottom five in goals and SOG allowed last season. Pacioretty will be centered by Tomas Plekanec and SOG specialist Brendan Gallagher with as high a ceiling and as good a matchup as any wing on this night. He was a balanced scorer (37 goals, 30 assists) last season, one of three players to eclipse 300 SOG, and even added occasional DraftKings bonuses with five shorthanded points (T-2nd in NHL).
Joe Pavelski ($6,800) – Pavelski is tied with Rick Nash for the highest DraftKings point-per-game average (4.3) in 2014-15 among players in this contest, and is $200 cheaper. He’s one of my favorite DFS plays on a nightly basis because he’s on the ice in all situations, touches on goals, assists, SOG and blocked shots, and plays on the West coast (for late-night DFS comebacks). It’s also safe to say he’ll be fired up to finally have the ‘C’ on his sweater.
James van Riemsdyk ($6,000) – If you’re not drafting Price, JVR is an intriguing wing option because he should have a low ownership percentage with five-plus SOG and maybe even a point or two. He averaged 3.4 DraftKings points per contest last season even through navigating the fantasy abyss that was the second half of Toronto’s season. He’s the Maple Leafs’ best offensive player and I expect him to be back over 60 points with 250-plus SOG in his first season under Mike Babcock’s guidance.
Sean Monahan ($5,700) – I highly recommend stacking Monahan with Johnny Gaudreau ($5,500) or Jiri Hudler ($4,800) since their prices are so manageable. Each finished with 60-plus points last season and they combined for 47 goals in 41 regular-season home games. Hudler is priced lower because his SOG volume doesn’t stack up, but this line is primed to combine on a team goal or two in their opener to dismiss their doubters. Monahan is one of the rising stars at his position and a threat for 30-plus goals and 30-plus assists again.
Derick Brassard ($4,900) – The last time I picked Brassard in DFS, he had a $4,800 price tag in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and busted out for a hat trick, two assists and 10 SOG! When you see a high-upside player like Brassard priced this low, you should prioritize him more times than not. Brassard led the Rangers in assists (41) last season, is centering New York’s top line with Nash and Mats Zuccarello, and was nearly as productive on the road (29 points) as he was at home (31) last season.
Teuvo Teravainen ($3,500) – With Marko Dano assigned to the American Hockey League, Teravainen will start the season as the Blackhawks’ top-line left wing next to Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Teravainen had his moments last season in a depth role, none bigger than his multi-point outing in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Now, he has a chance to see elevated minutes after Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad were traded this summer. If you set multiple lineups, he should be your only constant.
Others to Consider: Patrick Kane ($7,000), Alex Galchenyuk ($4,700), Joe Thornton ($4,400), Milan Lucic ($4,300), Kevin Hayes ($4,200), Bo Horvat ($3,600), Artem Anisimov ($3,500)
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