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NHL Opening Night DFS Breakdown
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Boys! The NHL is back! I say boys because most of my followers are in fact male, 95% to be specific, but for the female DFS NHL beauties, I am sure it is good to be back as well. Speaking of being back, I wrote about a lot of NHL last year. Some of it is no longer relevant, such as “Fly with the Wings on DraftKings” but a lot of it was written with more long-form in mind trying to teach you to become a better NHL player or different things we should consider, etc. While the examples may be aged, the tactics are still worth brushing up on. I’ve outlined the long form articles here.

But on to opening night… we open with a 4-game slate, which isn’t super exciting – but you know what is exciting? Money! Both Fanduel and DraftKings are offering $100,000 tournaments. Fanduel offers $20,000 to first place while DraftKings is a flatter payout structure with $5,000 to first place. Both sites are offering  more than $200,000 in total prizes across their different GPPs so there is more than half a million dollars up for grabs. Not too shabby! Because we now have two sites offering similar scoring elements, but with different pricing and payouts, it will open up some interesting decisions. I’m going to walk quickly through each game on the slate with my 1st look and thoughts on where and when I’d play guys.

Toronto at Ottawa (-135)

The first matchup of the night comes from two of my favorite teams to pick on in DFS last year. The Leafs and Senators both finished in the bottom 10 for fantasy production allowed while also finishing in the top ten of total corsi per 60 minute metrics. At least verbally the Senators want to play fast and indeed did just that in the preseason. It remains to be seen what tactics new coach Guy Boucher will deploy. The Leafs meanwhile look to rebuild and boast some exciting young talent, while under coach Mike Babcock for the 2nd year and looking to build. While both coaches could change the way their teams play I’ll still be playing them as target against teams until metrics prove differently.

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Both teams are square in play for me on DFS opening night. The Senators top 2 lines are both in play in GPPs across the industry and Erik Karlsson is always worth considering, even more so on Fanduel where he is criminally underpriced. The other depth forwards aren’t in play for me anywhere except Fanduel where they should be at minuscule ownership and as a “turn $3 into $20,000 dart throw” you can think differently than you would in other DFS contests. Craig Anderson (who figures to see 30+ shots and is a favorite in the game) has as much upside as anybody, and while Toronto is better this year, he also has a higher floor than most – even in games he loses. Of the Senators, Karlsson is a lock for me in cash games but beyond him I’ll probably stick to the 1st unit.

Because of Ottawa’s fast paced play and Toronto’s ability to generate offense the Leafs are also in play. If you aren’t going to pair your goalie with forwards, a game stack is certainly an option. The challenge with playing Toronto is their lines are pretty balanced which is great in real life but a struggle for DFS purposes. Even the power play units are scattered, making correlation harder to find and PP time on ice a bit of an unknown, but perhaps more fruitful if you are able to pull it off. Frederik Andersen is the cheapest goalie on the slate. I don’t mind him, particularly as a correlation play if you are playing Maple Leafs skaters without Senators exposure. For the Leafs I trust James Van Riemsdyk the most but am also giving Kadri a hard look. Rookie Auston Matthews will flash at times this season but I think he will end up more popular than I’d like opening night so I’m taking a wait and see approach.

St. Louis at Chicago (-130)

This is a tough game to get a read on both in terms of expectations but also how DFS players will attack it. If either team ended up low owned I’d be drawn in, but with so much name value, I’d expect them to be somewhat popular. Both teams were tough fantasy matchups last season but lack the same level of depth this year and could regress. The Blues “first” line is set to feature Paul Stastny, Alex Steen and Robby Fabbri. While Steen is priced fair, both Stastny and Fabbri come at a discount and Fabbri should see an expanded role and more ice time this season which ticks up his expectations. The “second” line will be driven by Tarasenko and Tank is always worth considering with a high floor driven by shooting. Pivot Jori Lehtera doesn’t shoot enough to attract me as anything except a play with Tarasenko. David Perron is a substantial downgrade from Jaden Schwarz. Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko are in play for me on the blue line with Jake Allen a GPP option.

The Hawks lines could juggle up until puck drop but as of now it looks like they’ve reverted back to Toews-Hossa and Dick Panik and reunited Kane-Anisimov-Panarin. If that indeed sticks, the Toews line is their strongest defensive line and they’ll shoulder more of the tough minutes. If Toews and Hossa split up, it could free up Jonathan Toews for more offensive responsibility. A name to watch for the future is rookie Tyler Motte who put up 50+ points at Michigan last year and has a productive history with the US National Development Program. Crawford is fine for me as a GPP correlation play in goal but not somebody I want to pay for in cash games facing a good attack. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are the best options on the blue-line and are cash viable. Gustav Forsling is an interesting play if you are on team “PUNT D.” Forsling has drawn comparisons to a young Torey Krug but could easily end up on the bench if he turns the puck over.

Calgary at Edmonton (-120)

One of the fastest games on the night (and the one I expect to be most popular with gamers) takes place in Edmonton where McDavid & Co. take on the Calgary Flames. Connor McDavid could be the NHL’s leading scorer as soon as this year and he should be safe for cash games and popular opening night, although you can also get exposure to him via talented linemate Jordan Eberle or the less talented Milan Lucic. Andrej Sekera figures to get the first crack at power play duties while Oscar Klefbom provides a lot of salary flexibility. One interesting thing to watch is whether Adam Larsson is effective at shutting down opposing lines, which is what he was brought over to do. Leon Draisaitl should see PP time with McDavid as well and I don’t mind him as a standalone or with linemates Nugent-Hopkins and Pouliot. Smarter people than me like Talbot as a NHL starter and cash consideration, so he’s worth a look in tournaments (as is really any goalie on a 4-game slate). It is definitely possible the Gaudreau line is rusty and gets shut down, leaving a lot of youth to pick up the slack.

With Johnny Gaudreau finally resigned at the last minute, the Flames will reunite him with Sean Monahan. Whoever skates alongside them is worth considering. The concerns with rust and “Johnny Hockey on the Road” are offset by an enticing matchup and affordable tags. As of this writing, the Flames second line features exciting youngsters Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett alongside power forward Troy Brouwer. It is hard to say how much ice-time they’ll get early on but this is an exciting spot to use them, especially with no more plus/minus considerations. I like them in large field GPP formats, especially top heavy ones like Fanduel. On defense I like Giordano, but he is priced up on both sites and I’d prefer cheaper options like Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie (all formats) or even Dennis Wideman (large GPP only) if you need salary and don’t mind guys who cross check referees. Brian Elliott projects high in my model as a goalie. Given the expected chalky nature of McDavid, I think he makes for a great GPP play and someone I am even considering in cash games across the industry.

Los Angeles at San Jose (-130)

Goalie disclaimer – both are (again) fine for GPPs on a short slate with tournament winning upside, but I won’t be playing either in cash games. In general this game is appealing to me only if it is contrarian, as both of these teams were tough fantasy matchups. On the San Jose side of the puck the entire 1st power play unit is worth considering on a nightly basis as Pavelski, Thornton, Couture, Marleau and Burns scored the most power play goals in the NHL last season. Burns is particularly favorable on Fanduel. Of the other players, Pavelski and Thornton make the most sense for tournaments as they also see even strength time together. You could consider Tomas Hertl. Honestly you probably didn’t need to read this to know to consider San Jose’s PP1 but I don’t have a lot to offer in this matchup. I expect Martin Jones to be quasi-popular in goal, but he’s not for me.

Similarly for the Kings I don’t have a lot of interest in their depth forwards in this matchup and would prefer to stick to Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli for my offensive exposure. Drew Doughty is the only cash considerable defenseman, leaving Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez as total darts. Kopitar is currently slotted on a line with Devon Setoguchi who couldn’t even crack an NHL roster this past year. Tanner Pearson has offensive upside when with Toffoli before who knows how Purcell will fit in so that is more of a wait and see for me because the Kings like to roll 4 lines, leaving time on ice capped. Perhaps things will change later this year.

I wanted to get this out early so you have time to build lineups for some of the large tournaments opening night, so be sure to monitor DailyFaceoff for any line changes. Remember – opening night is only a 4-game slate which presents some different strategic choices, especially if you want to capitalize on a high percentile GPP finish. Be sure to hit me up on twitter @drewby417 if you want to talk puck. Looking forward to another season at DailyRoto.


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