We’ve finally made it, people. It’s opening night in the National Hockey League and while the preseason was a fun ride, I’m more than ready for the puck to drop on the regular season tonight. This write up will cover both DraftKings and FanDuel and unless noted, all players mentioned are usable on both sites. As promised, moving forward these write-ups will be narrowed down as opposed to the preseason version where I was highlighting my favorite plays along with clarifying who was playing for their respective teams each night. Without further ado, let’s get going!
Frederik Andersen (TOR)
Andersen is my top goalie on both sites tonight coming in at $8,400 on both DK and FD. Last season he faced the Canadiens three times winning all three games, stopping 95 of 100 shots he faces (.950) with a 1.66 GAA and a shutout. This Montreal team was already pinned as being a poor team before trading Max Pacioretty and now that he’s gone they are dissembled down to virtually nothing. Couple that with the absence of Shea Weber and a very good Toronto team in front of him, Andersen stands out as a top option in all formats tonight.
Mike Smith (CGY)
Mike Smith is an interesting goalie as he’s been around for a very long time now. His best days came with the Coyotes; notably during the 2011-2012 season when he won 38 games. Fast forward to two seasons ago when he made the All-Star team with the ‘Yotes and was considered a good tournament play on most nights as he has been known to stand on his head at times. With this Calgary team, a team that will more than likely run a slower pace with new Head Coach Bill Peters, Smith figures to see fewer shots against on a nightly basis. Vancouver averaged just 30 shots on goal per game last season, fourth fewest in the league. Plain and simple, a team that will try to limit shots against facing a team that near the bottom in shots per game suggests the Smith could see limited work in this spot. Limited shots against will suppress his upside and if he happens to let one or two of those shots squeak through, then it’s a failed proposition to me in tournaments. Smith is ok as a pivot off of Andersen on DK for salary purposes where he’s $900 cheaper and on FD for ownership purposes where his salary is close enough to Andersen’s that I think people may gravitate toward the Toronto netminder. However, I don’t expect him to blow the doors off here with a big night unless he pitches a shutout. I think he wins, I also think he lets a couple of goals in which is one of the reasons I have him below Andersen.
Martin Jones (SJS)
Jones is a DK play to consider for me tonight at $8,200. There isn’t a chance in hell that I would play him on FD for $8,800. Jones has shown to be a solid goaltender, dependable in most spots, but very rarely the guy that will take the game over between the pipes. He was very good against this Ducks team last season with a .940 save percentage. The Sharks should win and Jones is a fine play, but he’s a clear third option for me tonight.
Key Three Skaters
This section will cover my three favorite skaters for a particular slate overall.
Auston Matthews (TOR)
Matthews will center Toronto’s second line and skate on the top power-play unit. He’s less expensive on both sites than his teammate John Tavares and, in my eyes, is in just as good a spot as him. The phenom has killed Montreal early on in his career with seven goals, two assists, and 23 shots on goal in seven games against Montreal. With Tavares taking over most of the top-line defensive responsibilities this season, more than likely, Matthews is primed for a big year while not having all of the pressure of producing.
Sean Monahan (CGY)
In what looks to be a major pricing gaffe, Monahan is just $5,900 on DK, sixth-lowest at the center position. He centers the Flames’ first line with running mate Johnny Gaudreau on one of his wings. Monahan had a goal and two assists in four games against Vancouver last season, and although he figures to see Bo Horvat matched up against him who’s a good defender, Monahan’s salary is just to good for me to ignore.
Evander Kane (SJS)
Kane was having a very good season at the start in Buffalo last year before slowing down, getting hurt, and then getting traded to San Jose. The speedy winger was a productive high-volume shooter with the Sabres with 3.70 shots per game but when he came to San Jose he took his game to another level. In 17 games with the Sharks, Kane buried nine goals, dished out five assists, and averaged 4.70 shots per game. I expect him to have big-time production in his first full season with the Sharks and in this matchup, his speed will be an x-factor.
Top Teams to Target
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
With the Maple Leafs acquisition of John Tavares in the offseason, they now have two of the leagues top centers at their disposal along with Auston Matthews. With JT centering the first line at the outset with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman at his wings, this figures to be a line that will be one of the stronger trio’s at even strength this season. Matthews will center the second line, a task that was up to guys like Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak last season. With Bozak gone, Kadri drops down to the third line making Auston the focal point centering Patrick Marleau and Tyler Ennis (for now). The Leafs will miss the net presence of James van Riemsdyk who was sixth in the league last season with 5.54 high danger scoring chances per 60 minutes (iHDCF/60). Replacing JVR with Marleau could bode well for Matthews and company as the longtime Shark generated 4.37 iHDCF/60 last season in his own right. The Canadiens will miss the presence of Shea Weber protecting the net at the outset. Ennis will serve as a fill-in on the second line while the Leafs anxiously wait for Willie Nylander, a skater that showed to have great chemistry last season with Matthews signs his restricted free agent tender. Both lines are in play (Tavares’ and Matthews’), however, considering salary and production I’m gravitating more toward the Matthews line as he’s fared extremely well against the Canadiens (noted above). Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are two blue-liners to consider here, especially Gardiner with his low salary who correlates well with Matthews at even strength.
Favorite one-off Toronto one-off: Marner
Favorite Toronto defensemen: Gardiner, Rielly
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks
The Flames high-powered offense will skate into Vancouver to take on the Canucks who, although they have some good young talent are still in the midst of a rebuild. The Flames attack is focused around their first line of Sean Monahan at center, Johnny Gaudreau at one wing and offseason acquisition Elias Lindholm at the other wing spot stepping in to take over for the departed Micheal Ferland. Last season the trio of Monahan, Gaudreau, and Ferland combined for 39 goals as a unit, fourth-most of any line in hockey. Monahan, as noted was good against Vancouver last season, while Gaudreau logged two goals and two assists in four contests against the Canucks. I really want to get exposure to Monahan and Johnny tonight as a pairing while Lindholm’s salary fits nicely as someone to simply plug in along with them. All three of these forwards will skate together on the teams’ top power play unit as well. The second line will consist of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and budding star Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk turned it on in the second half last season, specifically in January and February scoring 14 goals and dishing out 10 assists in 24 games over that span before getting injured in March. His production on the road (15 goals, 12 assists in 34 games) is worth noting for such a young player as well as his willingness to play in front of the net with 4.95 iHDCF/60 at even strength. He’ll get a shot to start the season on the Flames’ top power-play unit. On defense, Dougie Hamilton was an offensive spark last season but has since been traded to Carolina leaving Mark Giordano as the most pertinent threat offensively on the blue-line. Gio has 13 goals and 38 points in 82 games last season, including three goals against the Canucks. He’ll man the blue line on the Flames’ top power-play unit. Noah Hanifin and T.J. Brodie are two value defensemen to look at here as well with some offensive upside. Each of them posted 32 points last season.
Favorite Calgary one-off: Tkachuk
Favorite Calgary defensemen: Giordano, Hanifin
Favorite Line Stacks
Maple Leafs Second Line
Marleau – Matthews – Ennis
Flames First Line
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Sneaky Line Stacks
Bruins Second Line
Debrusk – Krejci – Heinen
Flames Second Line
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Top Positional Plays
These will be skaters not mentioned in the “Key Three” or “Top Teams” sections.
Joe Thornton (SJS) – Will center the Sharks’ top line and is a good value play on both sites ($4,300 on DK, $5,700 on FD)
Nazem Kadri (TOR) – Third-line center for the Leafs who will see top power-play unit time.
Elias Pettersson (VAN) – At just 19 years-of-age, the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft had a goal and three assists in four preseason games. He’s going to center the second line for Vancouver at full strength and man one of the points on the top power-play unit.
Alex Ovechkin (BOS) – Not exactly breaking news here, but he’s very good. He should come out hot if he’s not still drunk from the Stanley Cup celebration. Also, he has four goals and three assists with 23 shots on goal over his last seven games against Boston.
Ryan Donato (BOS) – Great value one-off on both sites, slated to skate on Boston’s top power-play unit.
Brock Boeser (VAN) – Had a great rookie campaign cut short due to injury. He gets one of the Vancouver goals against Smith tonight.
Rickard Rakell (ANA) – Had five points and 14 shots against San Jose in four games last season.
Troy Terry (ANA) – Cheap option slotted into Corey Perry’s spot on the Ducks’ top line
Cam Fowler (ANA) – Point man on the Ducks’ top power-play unit, offers shots on goal and blocked shots seeing big-time minutes.
John Carlson (WAS) – Good pivot off of Burns and EK in San Jose as the third-highest priced option on both sites.
Alex Edler (VAN) – He’s a shot-blocking machine and has some offensive ability against Calgary who gave up a lot of production to defensemen last season.
Matt Grzelcyk (BOS) – Cheap option taking Torrey Krug’s place on Boston’s top power-play unit.