The NHL features 11 games Thursday, making the choice of players plentiful with good buys from all over the pricing scale. The Minnesota Wild play a second straight road game in as many nights when they visit the Edmonton Oilers, while the New York Rangers will try to get back on track after a 5-3 loss at home against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday with a road game at the Toronto Maple Leafs. The rest of the teams in action tonight are coming off of at least a day of rest, which presents a unique opportunity for fantasy team owners to pit a lesser-priced backup goaltender against the rest of the field that is likely to be made up of respective starters. Here are some players that could help move you toward the jackpot.
Petr Mrazek ($7,900) – Still falling below the $8,000 price point despite an NHL-leading 2.02 goals-against average along with four shutouts and a .930 save percentage, Mrazek remains the best bang for your buck on a busy night. The Detroit Red Wings starting goaltender is 4-0-1 in the past five games, including a shutout and 1.80 GAA, and should be a dependable option at the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Czech goalie is 1-2-0 against the Pens in three starts, he has been a Vezina Trophy-worthy player this season and warrants a selection on any given night.
Antti Raanta ($6,800) – Rangers coach Alain Vigneault still has to announce whether he’ll return with Henrik Lundqvist ($8,300) after the starter lost to Chicago yesterday, but Raanta can be a great value pick if he is summoned to man the crease at the Maple Leafs. While the Finnish backup goalie is 0-4-1 since going 4-0-1 in his first five starts this season, his last win was a 4-3 decision at home against Toronto on Nov. 15. The Rangers are definitely the better of the two teams Thursday with a plus-18 goal differential compared to the Leafs’ Eastern Conference-worst minus-29, so Raanta can be a low-priced savior for owners.
Others to Consider: Braden Holtby ($8,400), Tuukka Rask ($8,300), Martin Jones ($7,400)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($6,100) – Owners can always go with the more expensive Brent Burns ($8,300) or Erik Karlsson ($7,900) but may see a better return from the Coyotes top defenseman. Ekman-Larsson leads all NHL defenders with 17 goals and 24 power-play points (11 goals, 13 assists) through 56 games and has been playing well enough lately to make him a solid choice against the Dallas Stars. The 24-year old Swede has 10 points (three goals, seven assists), seven blocked shots and 23 shots on goal in the past six games.
Aaron Ekblad ($4,800) – Packed schedules make players like Ekblad see increased value and owners can do well if the likely lesser-owned defender has a strong showing against the San Jose Sharks. The Florida Panthers All-Star will try to avoid a three-game pointless streak after putting up a goal, assist and five SOG in two prior games, but he brings a good enough chance at supplemental fantasy points. Ekblad has two assists, eight blocked shots and eight SOG in three career games against the Sharks.
Others to Consider: Kevin Shattenkirk ($6,600), John Carlson ($6,000), Ryan McDonagh ($5,100), Ryan Ellis ($4,100)
strong>Joe Pavelski ($7,700) – If owners don’t want to shell out $8,000-plus for their top forward then Pavelski is a fine choice against the Panthers. The Sharks superstar leads the team with 26 goals, 53 points, eight power-play goals and 20 power-play points through 55 games and has seven points (five goals, two assists) and 28 SOG in nine career games against Florida. A multi-point game is always a possibility for Pavelski and owners should not hesitate grabbing this fair-priced gem.
Nikita Kucherov ($6,800) – Going the relatively cheap route with forwards has the potential to reap huge benefits and the numbers on Kucherov would suggest he is a fine play against the Winnipeg Jets. Kucherov has five points (one goal, four assists) and 13 SOG in five career games against Winnipeg and has been fantastic at home this season with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games. The young Russian has put up multi-point efforts in three of the past four games in which he’s earned at least a point.
Others to Consider: Vladimir Tarasenko ($7,100), Patrick Sharp ($6,500), Frans Nielsen ($5,600), Jannik Hansen ($4,000)