NHL DFS Primer: Thursday (10/14)
The first Thursday of the 2021-22 NHL season provides a massive nine-game slate to enjoy, as teams return to playing all 32 franchises after being restricted to divisional play throughout the regular season last year. During opening night, the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning got throttled at home by a short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins team, while the league’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken, held their own in a 4-3 loss against the Vegas Golden Knights. A few of my recommended players returned value, particularly stacking a pair of Lightning second-line skaters in Anthony Cirelli (C – TB) and Steven Stamkos (RW – TB), who combined to total four points.
A nine-game slate creates a lot more options to sift through when constructing winning lineups. Understanding which skating lines have the best matchups, as well as the skill level of the opposing goaltender, are two important factors to focus on when projecting the value of a particular player. Using this constructive framework, let’s look at a few players who possess high-value upside during a busy Thursday night in the NHL.
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
DraftKings maximum salary is set at $50,000
Alexander Kerfoot (C – TOR): $4,400
The injury to Auston Matthews (C- TOR) will force the Toronto Maple Leafs to look for points elsewhere, which could start on the second line with Alexander Kerfoot. The 27-year old enters his fourth season in Toronto and produced 23 points in a shortened 2020-21 regular season and faces an Ottawa Senators team with one of the worst goaltenders in the league. Matt Murray (G – OTT) finished with a 3.38 GAA in 25 starts last season, which creates a favorable matchup to justify rostering Kerfoot for a discounted salary on Thursday night.
Max Pacioretty (LW – VGK): $7,800
Pacioretty wasted no time in his season debut against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday, finding the net twice and chipping in on an assist to finish with three points. Vegas is a heavy betting favorite on the road against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, where Pacioretty should continue to produce against Kings’ goaltender Cal Peterson (G – LAK), who is expected to get the start in net despite allowing 2.89 GAA in 35 starts last season. Skating on the top-line alongside Mark Stone (RW – VGK), who racked up assists on three of Vegas’ four goals on Tuesday, is a massive benefit for Pacioretty. Pay up and roster one of the most potent offensive players in the league in a plus-matchup.
Aaron Ekblad (D -FLA): $5,800
The Florida Panthers host the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday after they dispensed of Tampa Bay in a 6-2 rout opening night. While the defense will certainly be pressed at times, it’s important to keep in mind the Penguins continue to be without star Sidney Crosby (C – PIT) and talented first-line winger, Jake Guentzel (LW – PIT). This means the opportunity for the Panthers to counter and attack will be there, and Aaron Ekblad ended last season with 101 shots on goal. He accounted for 11 goals and 11 assists in just 35 games and also earns valuable opportunity on the Panthers’ top powerplay unit. With 10 defensemen priced higher during Thursday’s slate, Ekblad is a solid investment in lineups.
Petr Mrazek (G – TOR): $8,200
Former Carolina Hurricanes goaltender, Petr Mrazek, signed a deal with Toronto during the offseason and has been confirmed as the starter on the road against Ottawa for Thursday night. Last season, Mrazek was the relief in net for the Hurricanes, starting in just 12 games but sporting an impressive .923 save percentage and 2.06 GAA, which bodes well against an underwhelming offensive opponent such as the Senators. Ottawa is one of just three teams with plus-odds, making them an underdog at home on Thursday. Mrazek will dominate the crease, so make sure he’s plugged into lineups prior to the puck-drop.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
FanDuel maximum salary is set at $55,000
Anthony Cirelli (C – TB): $4,300
I’m running back to Cirelli yet again after a dominant two-point outing in a game that got away from the Lightning on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has the highest Moneyline of any game during Thursday’s slate, as the team is on the road against Detroit. Yes, Alex Nedeljkovic (G – DET) is now the top netminder for the Red Wings and had a league-leading 1.90 GAA in 23 starts for Carolina last season. Yet, Detroit lacks the personnel to stay competitive against Tampa Bay, who will be motivated to avenge an embarrassing home loss in their season opener. Cirelli saw 18 minutes of time on ice and took two shots, one resulting in a goal while adding an assist skating alongside talented second-line veteran winger, Steven Stamkos. Roster Cirelli at a discount once again and reap the rewards.
Jordan Eberle (RW – SEA): $4,500
Eberle is a veteran winger playing on the top line for the Seattle Kraken and it didn’t take long for him to log a point for his new team, as he chipped in on an assist that cut Vegas’ lead in the second period. Eberle played over 20 minutes in his season debut and will play another tough opponent on the road in Nashville on Thursday, where he will try to improve his accuracy with shots on goal, as he took six but only connected once against the Golden Knights. Still, Juuse Saros (G – NSH) had plenty of vulnerable stretches in the crease for Nashville last season, which puts Eberle in a prime position to return value in Thursday lineups.
Brian Dumoulin (D – PIT): $3,600
The lesser of the two Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen is still a talented player on his own but alongside Kris Letang (D – PIT), his stock rises considerably. He was held without a point in a six-goal explosion against Tampa Bay on Tuesday but faces streaky goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (G – FLA) during the team’s second consecutive game in Florida. Opportunities are plentiful for Dumoulin despite not being featured on either powerplay unit, as he logged 22 minutes of time on ice and finished with two shots on goal. The Panthers are talented but lack the personnel Tampa Bay has, meaning if Pittsburgh can replicate their efforts from Tuesday, Dumoulin has a strong chance of collecting a point. He is a good floor play and carries considerable upside at this salary, making Dumoulin a fine play on Thursday.
Igor Shesterkin (G – NYR): $7,900
The beneficiary of a strong offense and a stout defensive line, New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin will make his season debut in the net at home against a talented Dallas Stars team on Thursday night. The 25-year old Russian netminder is streaky but did record two shutouts last season amidst 31 starts while stringing together a 2.62 GAA, ranking 19th amongst all goaltenders in 2021. In addition, Jason Robertson (LW – DAL), the Stars’ first-line winger, is day-to-day and may not suit up, increasing Shesterkin’s appeal in lineups Thursday night.