NHL DraftKings and FanDuel DFS Primer: Saturday (3/5)
There is no shortage of games on Saturday’s NHL slate. It’s packed with 12 hours of wall-to-wall action and ten matchups presenting dozens of prospects to construct DFS lineups. This season, I have not done enough to emphasize a team’s schedule, mainly when they are playing a doubleheader or the third game within a five-day window. Fresh legs are critical for keeping an offense humming, but without them, even the best players struggle to deliver their best brand of hockey. Of course, this is one of only several factors to consider when playing NHL DFS. The starting goaltender, momentum from previous performances, and the number of total goals regarding the over/under are just a few other critical pieces of information to digest.
Thursday’s slate saw half of my recommended prospects secure a point or a win, but it was the undervalued players who generated the production. J.T. Miller (C – VAN) was the only one to score a goal, but Tyler Toffoli (RW – CGY) and Jakob Chychrun (D – ARI) both netted assists to wind up in the point column, Thatcher Demko (G – VAN) defended the crease long enough to earn a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders, while Mikko Rantanen (RW – COL) sprayed six shots on goal but failed to score in a shocking 2-1 loss to Arizona. Brayden Point (C – TB) was the most prominent bust, as the Lightning were routed 5-1 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thursday’s slate saw Arizona, Montreal, and Chicago beat vastly superior opponents, completely flipping the value onto players with low expectations and low salaries.
I’ve done my due diligence and have found eight players to help create a solid foundation when setting DFS lineups on Saturday. So let’s get to it!
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
DraftKings maximum salary is set at $50,000
Patrice Bergeron (C – BOS): $6,200
The veteran leader of Boston is undoubtedly Patrice Bergeron. The 36-year old skates on the Bruins’ first-line attack and top powerplay unit, where he has managed to stack over 40 points through 51 games played this season. Bergeron already has more assists (26) than he finished with during a shortened 54 game season last year, but he’s gone two straight games without producing a point. However, he’s too talented to keep this slump up for much longer, and he’ll get a plus-matchup against Columbus’ reserve netminder Jean-Francois Berube (G – CBJ). This season, Berube has surrendered three or more goals in all four starts, and Bergeron is a high-volume shooter. He took six shots on goal in a win over Vegas on Thursday, which is a solid floor to rely on if the points don’t follow. At just over $6,000 on DraftKings, Bergeron is a solid investment in a plus-matchup.
Evander Kane (LW – EDM): $5,600
Evander Kane has been a good addition for Edmonton since being traded from the San Jose Sharks a few weeks ago. The 30-year old winger skates on the Oilers’ second-line attack but centers their top powerplay unit, affording him quality scoring opportunities regularly. Of course, it helps that he skates alongside Leon Draisaitl (C – EDM), who leads the league in goals scored with 38. Kane is not just an assist machine. He’s a quality goal-scorer too. He just netted a pair of goals against Chicago, taking seven shots on goal in the process. Kane also has two assists in his last five games and finds himself in a favorable position against struggling Montreal goaltender Samuel Montembeault. The netminder surrendered seven goals to Winnipeg earlier in the week and has an abysmal 3.74 GAA with a 5-11 record as a starter. Kane should return value quickly with Edmonton -250 favorites on the Moneyline and the total goals expected to hit over 6.5.
Quinn Hughes (D – VAN): $4,900
Not too many defensemen find themselves in the top two in terms of total points scored for their team. However, this is precisely the situation with Quinn Hughes. The 22-year old doesn’t net goals too often, but he has 39 assists, producing 20 of them on the Canucks’ top powerplay unit. He’s more of a finesse defenseman than a gritty goon who seeks out blocked shots and hits. It’s also nice to see that Hughes is a high-volume shooter, attempting at least four shots on goal in four of his previous five matchups. In his last four games, he has two multi-assist games and will get a soft matchup against Toronto goaltender Jack Campbell (G – TOR). Campbell has allowed at least four goals in three straight starts, showing that he’s more vulnerable than earlier in the season. Neither Hughes nor Campbell played in their previous matchup on February 12th, so it will be an excellent opportunity to see how each performs. Toronto is an excellent team, but Hughes is extremely savvy navigating the offensive zone and setting up his teammates for success. At under $5,000 on DraftKings, Hughes is arguably the top value amongst all defensemen on Saturday’s slate, so plug him into lineups with confidence.
Vitek Vanecek (G – WAS): $8,200
Washington sorely missed its primary goaltender Vitek Vanecek in February. The 26-year old returned from an upper-body injury and made his first start against Carolina on Thursday, stonewalling a talented Hurricanes offense to earn his third shutout of the season. Vanecek achieved this feat while facing 36 shots, making him one of the top performers on Thursday’s slate. Shutouts are rare, but Seattle is a team that struggles to manufacture offense, scoring more than two goals only once in their previous six games played. The Kraken are coming off of a surprising 4-3 victory over Nashville on Thursday, so their road trip to D.C. could wind up a one-sided blowout in favor of the Capitals. Vanecek is matchup-proof, but he’s well-rested and performing at a high level against an inferior opponent, justifying his expensive salary.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
FanDuel maximum salary is set at $60,000
Nick Suzuki (C – MTL): $5,800
Don’t let Montreal’s porous goaltending interfere with your perception of their first-line attack led by Nick Suzuki. The 22-year old center has fully taken over the Canadiens offense since trading away Tyler Toffoli to Calgary. Suzuki has three goals and six assists across his previous six games, including one game without a point. He’s not necessarily a high-volume shooter, but Suzuki does frequently add a couple of blocked shots onto his stat line, boosting his floor during a one or two-shot night. He earns over 2o minutes of average time on ice and skates on the top powerplay unit for Montreal, where Suzuki has scored five of his 12 goals this season. Edmonton is a formidable opponent, but their projected starting goaltender, Mike Smith (G – EDM), is volatile and inconsistent at times, fluctuating between two to four goals allowed per start. Suzuki is coming off a three-point finish on six shots in a 5-4 overtime win at Calgary, so expect him to transfer this momentum against a weaker goaltender like Smith. You won’t often find a team’s point leader available to roster under $6,000, so jump on Suzuki’s value and upside. You won’t regret it.
Michael Bunting (LW – TOR): $6,100
He may not be the point leader for Toronto yet, but Michael Bunting is well on his way if he can sustain his current frenzied pace. The 26-year old winger skates on Toronto’s first-line attack and second powerplay unit, which has resulted in Bunting producing five assists and two goals across his previous three games played. He’s nearly even in terms of goals (19) to assists (23) and is in the middle of an impressive three-game point streak entering Saturday’s home matchup against an underrated Vancouver team. Thatcher Demko has been outstanding, but he let the New York Islanders score three goals in the final two periods, holding their attempts at an equalizer in the waning minutes. Yet, this is all you need to know when rostering Bunting. He’s been so good that he doesn’t even need to attempt a shot on goal to notch an assist, showing that he’s an integral part of the Maple Leafs’ offense. Skating alongside Mitch Marner (RW – TOR) and Auston Matthews (C – TOR) is another reason why Bunting is so appealing, as the two of them have combined to score 58 goals. Bunting should be a lock in most DFS lineups Saturday night.
Ben Chiarot (D – MTL): $4,500
Montreal is still a basement dweller, but their offense has begun to pick up over the last few weeks, positively impacting first-line defenseman Ben Chiarot. The 30-year old skates on the second powerplay unit to receive plus-man advantage opportunities, which is always a nice bonus for a player as cheap as Chiarot. He was an instrumental piece of the 5-4 overtime win against Calgary on Thursday, scoring two goals and netting an assist to finish with a +2 rating and two shots on goal. He adds an extra layer of appeal due to the two or three blocked shots he tends to finish with in most games, which is nice insurance if he cannot produce a point. Fortunately, he’s only had one finish without a point in his past five games played, so Chiarot is an intriguing salary-saving option on the road against Edmonton on Saturday night.
Juuse Saros (G – NAS): $8,100
Juuse Saros has dropped two games in a row to Tampa Bay and Seattle, so it may be slightly surprising to see his name recommended. This is purely based on Saros’s opponent on the road Saturday night. The San Jose Sharks have only scored more than one goal once in their previous three games played, struggling mightily to produce enough offense to remain competitive through all three periods. Despite his struggles against the Kraken on Wednesday, Saros held the Sharks to only one goal in a 3-1 win back in October. Saros is not riding any momentum. However, the salary reflects the inferior opponent he’ll face Saturday night. Pay up and watch the points stack up from saves and, ultimately, a win for Saros and the Predators on the road.