FanDuel NHL Lineup Advice: Thursday 1/14
The National Hockey League is back in business, and I, for one, could not be happier. The NHL is planning to play 56 games in 116 days. Divisions have been aligned geographically, with no interdivisional play planned until the Conference Finals. This season is not going to be perfect. The divisions are unbalanced; players will miss time with designations like “Quarantine” and “Unfit to play,” and backup goalies will be relied on more than ever. The league is doing the best it can to move forward through these unpredictable times. However, I will not be surprised if the league implements some permanent takeaways from this season. Having rivals playing on back-to-back nights or several times in one week may present an exciting element. I hope that this season is as smooth as the playoff bubble, which was a tremendous success. While I have my trepidations, I am more than anything grateful to have hockey back on my television. With that, let’s get this thing started.
Mathew Barzal (NYI): $6,600 @ NYR
At the 11th hour of training camp, Barzal finally signed a three year, $7 million bridge deal with the Islanders. Both parties should be happy with that. Barzal is an elite puck handler, but he has shot the puck more in each of his three seasons in the NHL. He is still chasing career highs from his rookie year when he tallied 85 points, but I expect another break out year in his age 23 season. Barzal will center Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, as well as the top power-play unit. Tonight the Islanders head to Madison Square Garden to take on a Rangers team that finished in the bottom 10 for goals per game, shots faced per game, and penalty kill percentage. While the Rangers may be exciting, their defense still leaves a lot to be desired.
Tage Thompson (BUF): $3,000 vs. WSH
The exciting addition of Taylor Hall to the Buffalo Sabres roster has generated a lot of interest in tracking this lineup. While most expected Victor Oloffson to flank Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel, it is Tage Thompson slated to get the first crack. Thompson is a 23-year-old former first-round pick. He has not played to expectations yet, but riding shotgun on this line could put his career progression on fast forward. By all accounts, Thompson has earned this role with a strong training camp. Buffalo will host the Capitals tonight. The Caps will turn to Ilya Samsonov to carry the load in the net after Henrik Lundqvist’s season was ended before it started with a scary heart condition. Samsonov is a touted prospect, but there is a history of volatile results when a young goalie goes from “part-time” to “full-time.” I’ll take my chances at this price.
Kevin Fiala (MIN): $6,700 @ LAK
I don’t mean to make this column a Kevin Fiala fan account, but just judging by his average draft position on various fantasy platforms, this guy is still criminally underrated. In 64 games last season, Fiala tallied 23 goals and 31 assists for 54 points. He added 18 power-play points, and he shot the puck 175 times. Since finding his new home in Minnesota, Fiala has shown his ultra talent. This offseason, the Wild added rookie KHL star Kirill Kaprizov. While they’re not slated to skate on the same line to start the season, expect Kaprizov’s lethal shot to bolster a power-play unit that finished just outside the top ten last year. This is only going to help Fiala reach new heights. It also does not hurt to be playing the Kings.
Matt Grzelcyk (BOS): $4,100 @ NJ
The Boston Bruins defense is going through a transitional period. With Torey Krug’s exit to St. Louis and Zdeno Chara to Washington, there is a lot of ice time to disperse. I expect Matt Grzelcyk will be the biggest beneficiary. One week after losing Krug to the Blues, the Bruins locked up Grzelcyk to a four-year deal. Krug was an elite power-play point producer for the Bruins, tallying between 25 and 30 points on the man advantage over the last four seasons. While many hoped it would be Charlie McAvoy stepping into this role, it was often Grzelcyk who spelled Krug last season, and that’s just what we’re seeing to start this year – with Grzelcyk slated to run the top unit. I expect this will be a popular bargain choice on defense, but I can understand why.
Juuse Saros (NSH): $6,900 vs CBJ
It feels like we have been talking about Juuse Saros, the prospect, forever. This is the year that Saros is projected to take full control of the Predator net. It was a tale of two seasons last year for Saros. In his first 23 games, Saros had a horrid 6-17 record, and a .895 save percentage. In his last 17 games, Saros recorded an 11-6 record with a sparkling .936 save percentage. My expectations for him are somewhere in the middle. Tonight the Preds welcome a Columbus team that continue to have trade rumors swirling around star players to start the season. Despite firing the 8th most shots per game last season, the Blue Jackets still finished 28th in goals. This translates to easy saves and not many scoring chances.