NHL DFS Primer: Saturday (10/16)
The first Saturday of league play provides a jam-packed 14-game slate to enjoy, as teams are finally able to travel outside of their division to play other opponents during the regular season. Several teams have already played two games but none of them remain undefeated, displaying the parity that has grown within the NHL across the last several years. Rosters have been overhauled or rebuilt, adding to the mystery and intrigue surrounding the 2021-22 season.
Even with a massive 14-game slate, it’s important to stack skaters on the same line to earn double or triple the points on one scoring play. Let’s take a look at players who are reasonably priced or face a favorable opponent during the opening weekend of the National Hockey League.
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
DraftKings maximum salary is set at $50,000
Elias Pettersson (C – VAN): $6,500
At just 22-years old, Pettersson is centering the first line for the Vancouver Canucks and is coming off of a two-point outing against the Flyers on Friday. Pettersson earns additional minutes on the top powerplay unit for the Canucks, extending his time on ice to over 23 minutes in both games this season. The Swede had six shots to lead Vancouver in their win over Philadelphia and heads into a plus-matchup facing newly signed Detroit goaltender, Alex Nedeljkovic (G – DET), who just allowed seven goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning that resulted in a blown lead and a disappointing loss. Pettersson is a great offensive player to insert into lineups during Saturday’s busy slate.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (RW – CBJ): $5,900
Bjorkstrand produced an impressive outing during the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opening game against the Arizona Coyotes, chipping in on two assists and finding the back of the net twice to finish with four points. The nice thing about rostering Bjorkstrand on Saturday is that he remains reasonably priced under $6,000 and faces the Seattle Kraken at home, which should allow him to take advantage of the league’s newest roster that is still forming chemistry. Bjorkstrand gets additional time on the ice as he anchors the top powerplay unit for the Blue Jackets, meaning he will have tons of opportunities to return value in lineups. He produced four points with just three shots on goal, meaning he doesn’t need to pepper the net and can instead rely on his efficiency. Plug Bjorkstrand into lineups and reap the rewards.
Vladislav Gavrikov (D – CBJ): $3,800
Adhering to the line-stacking strategy referenced in the introduction, pairing Vladislav Gavrikov with fellow second-line winger Oliver Bjorkstrand will create double-up opportunities during Saturday’s lineups. The 25-year old Russian defenseman is now in his third year with Columbus and despite finishing last season with a plus-minus of -13, Gavrikov rattled off a couple of assists during the team’s 8-2 throttling of the Arizona Coyotes this past Thursday. The Kraken have a zero-point differential and are a fairly balanced team with the additions made during their expansion draft, so expect a tighter game on Saturday night in Columbus. Gavrikov played 20 minutes without being featured on either powerplay unit and has the ability to deliver crisp passes in the offensive zone to set up his linemates for success. Plug him in for an assist or two at a great discounted rate during Saturday’s 14-game slate.
Jeremy Swayman (G – BOS): $8,200
Boston makes their season debut on Saturday against the Dallas Stars and will deploy 22-year old American netminder Jeremy Swayman in between the pipes. Last season, Swayman played in just ten regular-season games but went 7-3 and finished with an absurdly low 1.50 GAA with a .945 save percentage. These are Hall of Fame numbers, albeit in a limited sample size. Dallas is a talented team but they are down their first-line winger, Jason Robertson (LW – DAL), and have not surpassed three goals in either game of the young season. Rostering Swayman is expensive but well worth it, as shutouts and wins reward goaltenders with a flood of points. Swayman is one of the best goalies featured on one of the best teams in the league, facing a good but not great opponent. He should be plugged into Saturday’s lineups without hesitation.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
FanDuel maximum salary is set at $55,000
Evgeny Kuznetsov (C – WAS): $6,600
Year in and year out, the Washington Capitals deliver high-octane offense. It might be attributed to their talent and chemistry, as the first-line has played together for years. Veteran Evgeny Kuznetsov anchors the top-line for the Capitals and churned out three assists in a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Don’t be discouraged by the sportsbooks valuing Washington as a home underdog with the puck line set at +1.5, as they are playing the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. This should be a high-scoring game with the total goals set at 6.5, meaning Kuznetsov will continue working his magic in the offensive zone alongside Alex Ovechkin (LW – WAS) and Tom Wilson (RW – WAS). He’s on the pricier end of skaters but the skillset is too much to ignore. Insert Kuznetsov into lineups as often as possible to achieve a winning outcome.
Dustin Brown (RW – LAK): $4,900
A name synonymous with the Los Angeles Kings, Dustin Brown remains a first-line winger and top powerplay unit contributor, despite entering his 18th season with the Kings. In the team’s home opener on Thursday, Brown netted a goal and an assist, finishing with two points and four shots on goal. This is extremely efficient against a talented Vegas team, so entering Saturday’s home contest against another talented Minnesota Wild team should not phase the decision to fade Brown in lineups. The Kings are home underdogs once again at +105 but Brown will get enough looks and opportunities to pay off as a cheap investment. There aren’t many first-line skaters who produce that can be rostered under $5,000 in DFS, so take advantage and watch the points accrue.
Darnell Nurse (D – EDM): $5,500
Logging nearly 33 minutes of time on ice in Edmonton’s season opener, Darnell Nurse should be fully rested after two days off entering Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Nurse is one of the more talented defensemen in the offensive zone, as he managed to rack up 20 assists and 16 goals last season, earning the second-highest point total of his eight-year career. He helped set up a scoring possession this past Wednesday and will have another good opportunity to do so against projected Calgary netminder Jacob Markstrom (G – CGY), who allowed 2.66 GAA and a .904 save percentage last season, his lowest since becoming a consistent starter in 2015. Nurse also spends time on the Oilers’ second powerplay unit alongside star Connor McDavid (C – EDM) and Leon Draisaitl (LW – EDM), which raises his ceiling considerably. Roster Nurse in a plus-matchup and don’t look back.
Mike Smith (G – EDM): $7,700
Age is just a number, as Mike Smith is defying father time by playing some of his best puck in the crease last season. The 39-year old netminder had a 2.31 GAA in 32 starts last season and looked strong in the season-opening win over Vancouver, posting a .947 save percentage and 1.85 GAA. He is among the cheaper goalies to roster during Saturday’s 14-game slate and draws another favorable opponent at home, with Calgary valued at +125 on the Moneyline. Calgary has a formidable first-line of offensive talent with Mathew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau (LW – CGY), so Smith will be busy in the net, which is actually a good thing as long as he continues to stonewall their shots. Each save is worth 0.8 on FanDuel, which adds points quickly, while each goal erases five saves since they are valued at negative four points. Smith is good enough to overcome these odds and is a good value amongst the available netminders on Saturday.