From the long-awaited debut of “McEichel” to a clash of offensive powerhouses in “Big D,” there will be no shortage of storylines Thursday around the NHL. With early-season player prices still reasonable, daily fantasy owners can take advantage of elite line-stacking options and quality goalies with favorable matchups, while supplementing their lineups with value defensemen. Here are some targets at each position for this seven-game night:
Pekka Rinne ($7,700) – Carolina finished 27th out of 30 teams in goals per game (2.23) last season, and its offense hasn’t improved much since. Adding James Wisniewski helps the power play, but Rinne should still have a manageable night at home against the Hurricanes. Fifth-most expensive among goalies, Rinne had 25 wins with strong peripherals in 37 games at Bridgestone Arena last year. He’ll have high ownership, but he’s the safest option out there.
Brian Elliott ($7,000) – One of the only other goalies worth ordering on this menu is Elliott, who starts against rookie phenom Connor McDavid and the Oilers. While McDavid may very well score in his first NHL game, I fully expect the defensively sound Blues to handle their opponent’s top line without Jordan Eberle (shoulder). Elliott has the highest shutouts-per-game average in the League since joining St. Louis in 2011-12, so he’s a threat for bonuses on any given night.
Others to consider: Devan Dubnyk ($7,500), Ondrej Pavelec ($7,100)
Kevin Shattenkirk ($4,800) – Shattenkirk is a vaunted power-play specialist who took the DFS world by storm prior to his injury last season. He finished tied for 20th among defensemen in scoring despite only playing 56 games, and sports the third-highest DraftKings points-per-game average among D-men in this contest. Eight blueliners are priced higher and Edmonton was tied for the second-worst penalty kill last season, so there’s every reason to draft Shattenkirk.
John Klingberg ($4,100) – How is the defenseman who’s manning a power-play unit with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza priced 18th among defensemen in this contest? All I can say is jump all over Klingberg in DFS while he’s this cheap. Klingberg outperformed Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad on a per-game basis last season in goals, assists and blocked shots — three major DraftKings categories. He’s a breakout candidate who could feast on the thin Penguins defense.
Others to consider: Victor Hedman ($4,700), Tyler Myers ($4,100), Cody Franson ($3,700), Matt Dumba ($3,400)
Claude Giroux ($6,800) – Giroux has the most points of any player in the NHL since 2010-11 and can be stacked with Jakub Voracek ($6,200) or even more conveniently with defenseman Mark Streit ($4,300). Philly has had one of the League’s best power-play units for a few years running, so he’s involved in most of the Flyers’ prime chances. When you look at the higher prices of Seguin and Crosby, you see the savings of investing in Giroux, a similar-caliber player.
Jack Eichel ($4,700) – Eichel had six points and 10 shots on goal in four preseason games, including two shorthanded goals (for which you receive bonuses in DraftKings). I’m expecting a big night from him in front of the home crowd in hockey-hungry Buffalo. He’s slated to center Evander Kane in the opener, which is an underrated stacking option that could set you apart from the competition in a large DFS contest if they combine for two or three goals.
Paul Stastny ($4,600) – Stastny was buried on the third line for much of last season, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has shaken things up this fall. He’s sandwiched by two of the game’s best wings in Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, and has a chance to get back to the high-scoring ways of his earlier career. Remember, Stastny was Nathan MacKinnon’s reliable linemate when he won the Calder Trophy two seasons ago. If you’re going to load up on an entire line in this daily contest, look no further.
Others to consider: Evgeni Malkin ($7,000), Connor McDavid ($5,500), Carl Soderberg ($4,300), Mike Ribeiro ($3,700)
Phil Kessel ($7,100) – There won’t be many days this season when you can afford to stack Sidney Crosby ($7,500) and Kessel, so why not now? Each should be in the high-$8,000 to low-$9,000 range in a matter of days, especially if they carry over their preseason success. Crosby has his sights set on 100-plus points and Kessel could score 40-45 goals this season with 80-plus points himself. This is the stack duo of all stack duos if you’re willing to limit your roster flexibility a bit.
Patrick Sharp ($6,100) – Whether he plays on the right side of Benn and Seguin or on the left side of Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin, Sharp holds bounce-back potential in his regular-season debut with the Stars. He ranks sixth in the NHL in SOG since 2010-11 and is due for better fortunes after only 16 goals on 230 SOG last season with the Blackhawks. Take advantage now before he’s priced about $1,500 higher in a few weeks.
Jonathan Drouin ($4,000) – Drouin navigated the rough times last season with healthy scratches and depth-line services, but seems to have finally earned the trust of Lightning coach Jon Cooper this preseason. He exploded for four goals, four assists (T-3rd in points) and 13 SOG in six exhibition games on Tampa Bay’s top line with Steven Stamkos, who also has a lot to prove entering his contract year. He offsets Stamkos’ steep price and is a matchup nightmare for the Flyers, who struggled on the road last season.
Others to consider: Filip Forsberg ($6,000), Evander Kane ($5,300), Matt Moulson ($4,700), Jimmy Hayes ($4,100), Sergei Plotnikov ($3,000), Anton Slepyshev ($2,500)
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