NHL DFS Opening Night Blog
We’ll be providing fantasy projections and top stack rankings for tonight’s slate for our premium members, and will be live with our premium podcast tomorrow for Thursday’s slate of games. It is exciting to be back in the mix for NHL DFS Opening Night and here are some quick hitting news and notes in a blog-style format. We’ll be updating this periodically… this article is a collaboration from Drewby, MaxEErnst, JayWilly and TheNumbersGuy…
Not a lot has changed for the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals. The likely suspension of Tom Wilson opens up top-six time for Brett Connolly but the Washington roster remains very similar to the championship team, albeit a bit more hungover. Christian Djoos is skating with Carlson and could see an extended role as he continues to develop. In Boston, Torey Krug is injured and it looks like Matt Grzelcyk could get the first shot at PP1 D duties. Rick Nash has been gone opening up some more ice time and PP Time for players like Ryan Donato (PP1), Jake Debrusk or Danton Heinen. This has been accounted for in projections.
The Toronto Maple Leafs went fishing on July 1, and reeled in the biggest catch in, arguably, free agency history. John Tavares joining Toronto turns the team into an offensive juggernaut, and the odds on favorite to lead the league in goals.
The team’s power play (second in the league last year next to Pittsburgh), also doesn’t seem likely to miss a beat, especially with the top unit. While losing James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak may seem a negative, the addition of Tavares and Auston Matthews to the top unit makes it arguably the best fivesome in the game.
The only frustrating aspect, from a DFS perspective, is not knowing where the scoring is going to come from night in and night out. Having a potent power play is great, but the top power play unit as currently constructed involves the centers from each of their top three lines, and features only two players who count themselves as linemates at even strength. At even strength itself, having such depth creates a minutes ceiling for players of such skill that you wouldn’t be used to seeing on other teams. So while Leafs games are going to be as entertaining as they come, the correlation plays that are conducive to success in DFS tournaments are going to be among the trickiest in the league in optimizing.
On defense, the loss of Roman Polak is likely a large plus for Freddie Andersen and the team at large. Regardless of who fills in for him, these Leafs are likely to be better off from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. He didn’t tack on heavy minutes for the team last year, so the difference may only be marginal on the whole, but it will be a positive one for Andersen.
The Montreal Canadians side of things has somehow gotten worse as the forward group has downgraded and Shea Weber is still out. Only a huge year from Carey Price can save this group. Jesper Kotkaniemi will be tasked with trying to hold down the 2nd-line center role while Max Domi starts the season on the third line. Tomas Tatar opens up on the team’s top line. The thin blue line opens up some opportunity. Victor Mete will start on the top pair and could see 20+ minutes, so while he was not fantasy relevant last year it is worth monitoring.
The San Jose Sharks made a huge splash in September when they traded for arguably the best defenseman in the NHL, Erik Karlsson. The West-Coast late hammer is definitely going to be in vogue this season, as the opportunity to roster the likes of Karlsson, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, and Logan Couture in a variety of correlated combinations can’t be ignored. It certainly won’t be cheap to play both #65 and #88 together, but it’s looking like they’ll be playing on the power-play together, so the time is nigh to get creative in your constructions.
The Sharks will get the Anaheim Ducks who are a lot thinner up front than Anaheim teams of the past. Corey Perry was injured in the preseason and will be out for the foreseeable future and Ondrej Kase is also out. Troy Terry and Maxim Comtois have cracked the early top six forwards.
The Calgary Flames made a major offseason move by trading stud defenseman Dougie Hamilton, but they’ll open the season with three new prominent faces including James Neal, Elias Lindholm, and Noah Hanifin. Additionally, the Flames have brought in a new head coach in Bill Peters (formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes) with the hope that Peters will bring a fresh look and a structured, possession-based system. The biggest current unknown here is whether Lindholm or the Real Deal James Neal will play the wing on the Flames’ top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Neal didn’t have a ton of success in that role throughout the preseason, so keep an eye out for Lindholm as a strong value play early on.
The Vancouver Canucks lost the Sedins to retirement but the changing of the guard was already on the way and Bo-Bo-Baertschi looks to pave the way to the future. Many are speculating Elias Pettersson will be in the Calder conversation this year after a dazzling preseason and he’ll start as the 2nd line center and crack the top power-play unit.
Thursday, Friday and Beyond
The Buffalo Sabres are a team to watch heading into the 2018-19 season. While the vast majority of the offseason hype has been focused on #1 overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin, the addition of Jeff Skinner, who has spent the preseason playing on the top line alongside Jack Eichel, will likely be most fantasy-relevant. Skinner has long been an analytics darling, consistently producing shot attempts and, in turn, high expected goals projections. Should Skinner continue to play alongside Eichel at both even strength and on the Sabres’ top power-play unit, a massive year is likely. Buffalo’s roster is already better than previous seasons and while they won’t be a matchup to avoid they may be closer to a neutral opponent.
The St. Louis Blues quietly made a number of significant offseason maneuvers, headlined by the acquisition of stud pivot Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly will fill out a top six that includes Vladimir Tarasenko, Jayden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and imports David Perron and Patrick Maroon. I’d say your forward corps are pretty damn good when you’re forced to play Alex Steen on the third line. Should O’Reilly fill the role of top line center (a spot he’s occupied for portions of the preseason), it will be interesting to see how Tarasenko performs in some tougher match-ups than he may be used to on home ice.
The Vegas Golden Knights stunned the hockey world as surprise Stanley Cup Finalists last season and, after some offseason subtractions and additions, they might actually be even better this year. Vegas won’t be bringing back the likes of James Neal and David Perron, but they snagged Max Pacioretty in a trade and brought Paul Stastny aboard to center the 2nd line. Pacioretty has immense scoring upside and I’m not sure he has ever played with a distributor as talented as Stastny — expect a big year from him. On the blueline, note that Nate Schmidt has been suspended for PEDs (20 games). Expect Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to see the vast majority of power-play time, with the former on the top unit.
The Carolina Hurricanes, now under the helm of former all-star Rod Brind’Amour, are going to be a substantially different team this season. Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Cam Ward are gone, replaced by Dougie Hamilton and a bevy of youth including top prospects Martin Necas and Valentin Zykov as well as #2 overall (2018) draft pick Andrei Svechnikov. This Canes roster is loaded with youth and the average age of the roster is younger than 25 years old. The main concern will be whether a staunch blue line can compensate for lack of experience among the forwards and remain a strong defensive club. One thing definitely isn’t changing here — the Canes are still going to trot out a relatively balanced forward corps, which will lead to some enticing pricing for DFS throughout the season.
The New York Islanders were one of the NHL’s worst teams last year and they aren’t poised to be much better. The Isles lost their best player, John Tavares, in free agency and did very little to fill the void. Lou Lamoriello instead chose to bring in a glut of veterans (including Leo Komarov and Matt Martin) that are sure to disappoint. Targeting against the Islanders is going to be a sound strategy once again this season.
The New York Rangers are knee-deep in a rebuild and are going to be a team worth targeting against for much of the year. Though New York has some talent on the offensive side of the puck, the defense corps are woefully lacking and the d-zone inexperience of the young forwards is sure to be exposed. When you had to bring in Adam McQuaid to try and “stabilize” your back end, you know you’re in trouble. In terms of rookies, it’s worth keeping an eye on Filip Chytil as he’s likely to see top-6 minutes with a fairly firm power-play role.
The Ottawa Senators traded away Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman and are poised to compete for the title of the NHL’s worst team this season. The defense corps is bad but there is a lot of opportunity now opened up with Karlsson’s minutes gone and young talented D like Thomas Chabot and Chris Wideman should see an expanded role. There could be value punting with their D on different slates and sites. The forward corps has a few redeemable pieces, but it remains to be seen how they will be utilized and generally this will still be a team to target against.
More to come…