NHL DFS Picks Today: All The Value On Saturday (February 17)

There are just six games on the NHL docket tonight with an outdoor game between New Jersey and Philadelphia. All the typically expensive lines are not on the slate as none of Colorado, Tampa Bay, or Edmonton are playing, and that opens things up. Let’s look at some of the top options while digging for a bit of value.

As always, Stokastic members are encouraged to double-check the Discord before lock for lineup news.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Lineup Decisions and More

NHL DFS Picks: Center

Auston Matthews (TOR vs. ANH)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

It is one of those special seasons for Matthews who has managed 45 goals in just 51 games thus far. That is the third-highest total of his career, and he still has 30 games to go. His most recent 10 games alone have seen him average 4.6 shots per game which is a solid improvement over his 4.3 shots/game across the first half of the season.

Where he’s made headway is on the power play thanks to shooting 27.9%, and that is a career high. The upside is he’s averaging 2.7 expected goals/60 minutes with the man advantage, tying a career high, so he is generating a lot of quality to support that high shooting percentage.

Noting his PP prowess is important for this matchup as Anaheim is one of the most penalized teams in the league: since the Christmas break, the Ducks are taking 4.6 minor penalties per game, the third-highest rate in the league and easily the highest mark of the 12 teams playing tonight. Toronto scores less without Morgan Rielly on the power play, and he’s still suspended, but their on-ice goals-for/60 minutes is still over 10.5, which is very good.

As expected, given the slate, Matthews leads all centers by fantasy point projection, clearing the next-closest pivot by 22.7% on DK and 13.3% on FD. He will be one of, if not the, highest-owned player on the night, so that’s a decision for tournament players to make, but this is a tremendous matchup for him.  

Boone Jenner (CLS at SJ)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though he has just three points in eight games since returning from injury, he’s landed 25 shots on goal. After a slow shooting start to the season, Jenner has managed 98 shots in 33 games, or just shy of three per game. That helps provide a solid peripheral floor to work with, and it’s good news when facing a San Jose squad giving up the most shots against/60 minutes at 5-on-5 since the Christmas break.

With the Sharks missing both Logan Couture and Tomáš Hertl due to injury, two key pieces are missing from a roster that was fighting for last place anyway. It gives Jenner a tremendous matchup at 5-on-5, which is rare for this Columbus team.

It isn’t a big sample – a little shy of 100 minutes – but the current iteration of the Blue Jackets’ top line has been very productive offensively by generating 35.8 shots/60, 3.2 expected goals/60, and 4.3 actual goals/60. Jenner has seen his ice time rise for five straight games and that span has seen him average 20:57 per night. The ice time is an improvement over the 19:16 he averaged before that, so this is a forward in an excellent matchup that is being relied on more heavily by his coaches.

Of all centers on DK tonight, Jenner ranks third by fantasy point projection but he’s being priced ninth. That gives him very good relative value and his ownership projection is much lower than the other top names, particularly those from Toronto. In tournaments, Jenner can be used as a one-off or part of a stack.

NHL DFS Picks: Winger

Cole Caufield (MTL vs. WSH)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Through 18 games in calendar 2024, Caufield has registered 9 goals, 10 assists, and 73 shots on target. That last number gives him over 4.0 shots per game, a jump over the 3.6 shots/game he averaged through the end of December. Those recent 18 contests have seen him reach the DraftKings shot bonus six times, or one-third of his outings.

After a brief downturn in ice time just before and after the All-Star break, Caufield has skated at least 18:50 in four straight games, averaging 19:56 per appearance. The top line has turned around their offensive play over the last month, and Caufield is a big part of it.

Hosting the Washington Capitals is a good spot for Caufield and the Canadiens. Since the Christmas break – a span of 21 games – the Capitals are tied for the second-highest goals against/60 at 5-on-5, ranking 27th in the league by actual goals against/60. That stretch has also seen Washington rank 21st by shot attempts against/60 while on the penalty kill, coming in 26th by goals against/60. They don’t take a lot of penalties, but they are struggling mightily to kill off the ones they do take.

The relative value to other winger prices makes Caufield a better value on FD than on DK, but he’s fine for either site. A price jump on DK that sees him at his highest since mid-November is driving down ownership, too, as that projection is under 8% on that site (and under 10% on FD). He also can be used as a one-off or part of a line stack for tournaments.

Owen Tippett (PHI at NJ)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Showing that his 2022-23 breakout wasn’t a fluke, Tippett is on pace for over 30 goals while averaging 3.6 shots per game. As he’s proved himself to the coaching staff, Tippett has earned more ice time as his 15 games thus far in calendar 2024 have seen him average 18:09 per game, and that’s led to just north of 4.0 shots per game.

That is in stark contrast to the 15:20 per game he averaged through December 31st where he registered just under 3.5 shots per game. Philadelphia’s power play is generally poor, but he’s taking over 30% more shot attempts than the next-closest Flyers forward, so there has been no shortage of his effort in trying to create power play goals.

On Tippett’s side is that he’s skating on Philadelphia’s top line. That trio is just shy of 40 shots/60 minutes in their time together at 5-on-5, averaging 3.2 expected goals/60 and 4.1 actual goals/60. New Jersey is still missing some key pieces from their lineup and that bodes well for our winger and his cohorts.

Tippett ranks just behind Caufield for fantasy point projections on both sites, and he’s a fair bit cheaper than the Montreal forward on both sites as well (more so on DraftKings). His ownership projections are between 12-14% on both DK and FD, which is just fine for a six-game slate.

Michael Bunting (CAR at VGK)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Bunting’s opposite winger tonight is Martin Nečas and in the 10 games since the latter returned from injury, Bunting is second among the team’s forwards in shots/60 minutes. That has led to 2.2 shots per game, which isn’t a high bar, but is much better than the 1.6 shots/game he averaged over the first 42 contests of the season.

Our winger’s line has been very good offensively since being assembled as they average 34 shots/60, 3.1 expected goals/60, and 3.2 actual goals/60 at 5-on-5. Carolina played last night in Arizona, which gives Vegas the rest advantage, but the Hurricanes have scored 26 goals in eight games that were the second of a back-to-back.

A big bonus for Bunting in this matchup is avoiding the top shutdown line from Vegas. He should see more of Mark Stone’s line at 5-on-5, and that line has been poor defensively by giving up 30.7 shots/60, 2.9 expected goals/60, and 3.9 actual goals/60 at 5-on-5. Not only that, but Bunting is on Carolina’s top power play unit and Vegas’s penalty kill has been league-average since the Christmas break. That is nothing to be concerned about and gives this cheap winger another avenue for offensive success.

The preponderance of great values for cheap teams (Columbus and San Jose especially) pushes Bunting down the list for relative value tonight. That is also pushing down his ownership as he comes in at 2% or less on both DK and FD. As the lone member of the top PP unit from his line, he can be used as a cheap one-off winger for this tournament slate.

NHL DFS Picks: Defender

John Carlson (WSH at MTL)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Small improvements are important for fantasy and Max Pacioretty’s return from injury has given Washington a boost on the power play: the team’s core PP trio of Pacioretty, Carlson, and Alex Ovechkin have generated 16.5% more shots and 23.2% more goals than the pre-Pacioretty games. .

They still aren’t a dangerous power play, necessarily, but they face a Montreal side that is taking 4.0 minor penalties per game since the Christmas break and that’s fifth-most in the league. That has led to 18 power play goals against in 21 games, so this is a good chance for Carlson to get on the board through special teams. That he’s averaging 2.1 shots and 2.7 blocks per game over his last 20 games gives him a solid peripheral floor, too

Among defenceman priced $6,000 or less on DK, and $7,000 or less on FD, Carlson ranks first and second by fantasy point projection. He is also well clear of the next-closest option on DK), but that great value should also make him one of the highest owned defenders as well.

Urho Vaakanainen (ANH at TOR)

DraftKings Salary

FanDuel Salary

Over his first 28 games through the end of December, Vaakanainen was earning just 15:52 per appearance in a third-pair role. That span saw him post just 25 shot blocks, which doesn’t give much of a DFS floor, even at his price. Calendar 2024 has seen that change, though, as he’s managed 28 blocks in 17 games thanks to averaging over 19 minutes a night.

He has hit the DraftKings shot bonus five times in that span, the only five times he’s done that all season. Vaakanainen has skated at least 20 minutes in each game since returning from the All-Star break and faces a Toronto team that is sixth in the league by shot attempts/60 at 5-on-5 since the Christmas break, giving our defender plenty of opportunities to throw himself in front of the puck.

DFS players looking for a true punt on the blue line for DK can look in Vaakanainen’s direction as his point projection for those options is third tonight. DFS players on FD should consider Adam Boqvist (CBJ, $3,900) whose projection is much higher for just $200 more.

NHL DFS Picks: Goalie

Thatcher Demko (VAN vs. WPG)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

One thing that can really help a goalie’s DFS value is a good penalty kill, and Vancouver has given up the sixth-fewest shots against/60 while shorthanded in 20 games since the Christmas break. Conversely, Winnipeg is dead last in the league by goals-for/60 on the power play in that span.

Even when they were all healthy, Winnipeg’s top PP unit was creating just 7.8 goals/60 minutes; for refence, Vancouver’s top PP unit sits at 10.6 goals/60. The Jets are shooting a lot at 5-on-5 – the third-highest shot attempts/60 since Christmas – but as long as the power play stays as it is, more 5-on-5 shots but fewer PP shots against are good for Demko’s fantasy potential.

The Stokastic GoalieStats section has Demko saving the fourth-most shots of all goalies expected to start tonight but allowing just the second-most goals. That gap is great for DFS value, and it’s what makes him an option in all formats.

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NHL DFS Top Stacks Today

NJ1: Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt

Philadelphia has generally been very good defensively, but this New Jersey line has been tremendous offensively since being assembled. In nearly 220 minutes together at 5-on-5, they have generated 37.6 shots/60, 4.2 expected goals/60, and 4.6 actual goals/60. Those are numbers often seen only in Edmonton or Pittsburgh and speak to the level at which this trio has been playing. Even with Jack Hughes back in the lineup over the last five games, both Bratt and Hischier are still averaging over 19:30 per night in ice time. It is not a good power play matchup, but both those players are also on the team’s top power play unit, and it does give them a bit of added value.

Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool has this trio with a 7.6% top-2 stack percentage but just 6.2% expected ownership. That is solid leverage, and it’s also the third-highest top-2 stack probability of any line priced under $17,500 on DK and $20,000 on FD.

VGK1: Ivan Barbashev – Nicolas Roy – Jonathan Marchessault

As mentioned earlier, Carolina played last night so the rest advantage is on Vegas’s side. The Hurricanes also started goalie Pyotr Kochetkov, and in his 26 starts the team has given up just 2.3 goals/game. Contrasting that are the 27 games started by any other Carolina goalie that have led to 3.4 goals against/game. It puts Vegas in a good position tonight.

The Hurricanes’ goalie issues necessarily means that this Vegas line is in a good position. Since being assembled, they’ve created 32.9 shots/60 and 2.8 expected goals/60 at 5-on-5. They will match up against Carolina’s top line, which has been their weakest defensively. The visiting team has a great penalty kill so that only Marchessault skates on the top PP unit isn’t a big concern, as indicated by the fact that Vegas has the fourth-highest implied team total on the slate.

The Top Stacks tool has this trio coming in with identical top-2 stack and projected ownership percentages on DK, and near-identical percentages on FD. They are perfectly fine to use as a mid-priced stack in tournaments.

*Additional stats from Natural Stat Trick

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Michael has been writing about fantasy hockey for over a decade, and has been playing Daily Fantasy for just as long. He has contributed to both the Chicago Tribune and the Boston Herald, has worked for Rogers Sportsnet in Canada and is now in his fifth season with Stokastic. He lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, and can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy.

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