NHL DFS Picks Today: Breaking Brock Nelson (January 4)

It is a huge 13-game slate in the NHL tonight and there are nine games that start after 7 PM Eastern, which means a lot of potential for late news after the earliest games lock. Keeping an eye on the members-only Stokastic Discord is always important, but tonight especially so. Nonetheless, onto our NHL DFS picks today.

Let’s take a look at the board.

NHL DFS Picks Today, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Brock Nelson (NYI at ARI): DraftKings – $6,400 | FanDuel – $8,000

Posting one goal and one assist a couple of nights ago gave Nelson his sixth multi-point game since December 1st, a stretch that has seen him tally seven goals, nine assists, and 47 shots. He is now pacing for 38 goals on the season as he’s been a model of goal-scoring consistency over the last three seasons. A big part of his success this season is skating on a second line that is generating 36.7 shots, 3.5 expected goals, and 3.0 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Those are all very good offensive marks and show how dangerous he (and they) can be on any given night.

A big part of Nelson’s appeal tonight is the matchup in Arizona. The team’s penalty kill has been below-average this season and things have been worse over the last four weeks, ranking 28th by shots against and 23rd by goals against per minute. Nelson, meanwhile, is top-10 among the league’s regular power play forwards in shot rate this season. Arizona isn’t taking many penalties of late, but are struggling to kill the ones they do take, and that bodes well for our center.

Nelson has seen a bit of an ice-time drop of late by skating under 17 minutes in six of his last eight games. That is keeping his fantasy point projection low for his price but is also keeping his ownership very low for tournaments (projection under 1% on both sites). It is what makes him, and his line mates, tournament targets.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (LA vs. DET): DraftKings – $3,500 | FanDuel – $4,200

Los Angeles has changed up their lines a bit and this iteration has moved Dubois to the second line with Adrian Kempe as his winger. It gives Dubois a near-point-per-game winger to play with, a big upgrade over his last month of usage. On a 60-minute basis, this center isn’t having a bad season, necessarily, as he has a four-year high in points/60 at 5-on-5 and an improved shots/60 from last season. His problem has been getting acceptable levels of ice time, and his new line should help in that regard.

Improved usage is one thing that is a boon for Dubois tonight. The other is the matchup. Detroit is in town, and this is a team that is struggling mightily. They are 4-9-1 over the last month and rank 27th, 31st, and 32nd by expected goals, shots, and actual goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 over those 14 contests. That is awful team defense and gives Dubois, and his new wingers, a very positive offensive spot for their first game together.

Improved usage and line mates are helping Dubois’s fantasy point projection as he leads all centers priced under $4,000 and $4,500 on DK and FD, respectively. It gives him very strong point-per-dollar values and ownership isn’t high on DK, projecting around 5%.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

Steven Stamkos (TB at MIN): DraftKings – $6,800 | FanDuel – $8,500

Stamkos has been skating with Nikita Kucherov but without Brayden Point of late, and that Stamkos/Kucherov duo has led to 3.6 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 over the last couple of seasons for Tampa Bay. It is similar to what the entire trio does when they skate together, so it’s still been an offensive force for the Lightning. Stamkos scored on Tuesday night, his first in seven games, but he still had seven points in that span. Even when things aren’t going well, he’s still productive.

Tonight isn’t about the 5-on-5 matchup (though with Minnesota goalie Filip Gustavsson injured, things should be a bit easier); this game is about the power play matchup. Minnesota has given up 34 PP goals against in 36 games and though that has gotten better with their new coach, the 17 games since John Hynes was hired has seen the Wild remain in the bottom-5 of the league by shots against while short-handed. The difference has been great goaltending and with Gustavsson injured, the team has a sizable downgrade in net. Minnesota is also giving up the fifth-most power plays per game to the opponent and all that makes it a great power play matchup for Stamkos.

Minnesota has been solid defensively and it’s leaving Stamkos’s fantasy point projection lower than those in his price range. However, his ownership is also under 5% on DK (and lower on FD) so he should be considered for tournaments due to the exceptional power play matchup he has.

Stamkos is listed as a center on FanDuel, so for an expensive winger, Artemi Panarin (NYR, $10,100) has a very strong projection in a home matchup against a weak Chicago Blackhawks roster.

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Travis Konecny (PHI vs. CLS): DraftKings – $6,300 | FanDuel – $7,600

It has been a very good season overall for Konecny, but he has been great since December 1st with 6 goals and 16 points in 14 games, averaging 3.4 shots per contest. He is one of just 11 regular forwards in the league averaging at least 1.2 goals and 1.3 assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 as he’s been tremendously productive at that strength. He has formed a very good top-line duo with Sean Couturier as the team averages 35.1 shots and 3.2 goals every 60 minutes at 5-on-5. It isn’t elite, but it’s very good, and Konecny has averaged over 19 minutes a night in that recent 14-game stretch.

Our winger’s big problem this season is power play production as he has just three power play points on the year. For reference, the aforementioned Stamkos has two power play points in the last five days. The good news is Columbus is in town and since their top-line center Boone Jenner was injured, Columbus is 29th by shots against and 30th by goals against per minute while short-handed. If there was ever a game for this poor Flyers power play to get on the board, this is certainly a good matchup for it.

A reasonable fantasy point projection for his price is leaving Konecny with reasonable point-per-dollar value and ownership projections. He is perfectly fine as a one-off option for tournaments on this 13-game slate.

Jack Quinn (BUF at MON): DraftKings – $3,700 | FanDuel – $3,800

It has been six games since Quinn returned from his Achilles injury and his 14.6 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in those outings puts him just inside the top-third of the league’s forwards. More importantly, the second line that he’s been skating on has been very good by outshooting the opposition 32-21 in their 49 minutes together, scoring three times. They are generating a lot of offense, even more than they did in their productive 2022-23 season, so it looks like that second line is finding its groove.

Because he skates on the second line, Quinn will avoid the shutdown matchup from Montreal tonight. With Montreal’s top shutdown line off the ice over the last month, the team allows 25.3% more shots and 39.9% more high-danger shot attempts against. It gives Quinn and his second line great matchups to take advantage of. Though our winger doesn’t get top power play minutes, he has been earning nearly two PP minutes per game on the second unit, and that’s valuable.

Among all wingers priced under $4,000 on either site tonight, Quinn ranks 7th on DK and 1st on FD by fantasy point projection. That gives him very good point-per-dollar values and low expected ownership makes him a one-off salary-saving target for tournaments.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Defense

Mike Matheson (MON vs. BUF): DraftKings – $6,000 | FanDuel – $7,600

On the other side of that Montreal/Buffalo game is Matheson, who is the only defenseman in the league with at least 5 goals, 20 assists, 90 shots, and 70 blocks. That kind of across-the-board stat coverage is what’s made him so valuable in DFS as he has five DK shot bonuses, 10 DK block bonuses, and five multi-point nights. It is a great matchup for his point production as Buffalo is giving up the fourth-most shots, and most goals against, per 60 minutes while short-handed since December 1st, a span of 15 games. That stretch has also seen the road team in the bottom-10 of the league by expected goals and actual goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, so it’s a good spot all around for Montreal’s top blue liner.

Matheson’s DraftKings fantasy point projection ranks eighth among all blue liners tonight, but he’s the 12th-most expensive option. That gap gives him a fine point-per-dollar value for this slate, so he’s a strong tournament option on that site. The value is worse on FanDuel, but it is in line with other rearguards in his price range.

Justin Schultz (SEA vs. OTT): DraftKings – $2,800 | FanDuel – $4,000

On the topic of awful penalty-killing teams, Ottawa is in Seattle tonight. Since December 1st, Ottawa is 26th in the league by shots against per minute while short-handed while giving up the second-most goals per minute (only Buffalo has been worse). The Senators are also giving the opponent 3.6 power plays per game over their last 10 games, so they’ve been much more undisciplined of late as well. Even with a new coach, the team is bottom-10 in the league by PK shots against and bottom-5 by PK goals against under their new bench boss. Schultz doesn’t earn many minutes these days, but he still runs one of Seattle’s two power play units, so he has additional value tonight.

A lack of minutes is keeping Schultz’s fantasy projection low, but the same can be said for his ownership projection, and this is one of the better power play matchups on the board. He can be considered for a cheap defenseman in tournaments tonight.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Elvis Merzlikins (CBJ at PHI): DraftKings – $7,200 | FanDuel – $7,100

Even with a poor defensive team in front of him, Merzlikins has been solid this season with a .907 save percentage across 23 starts. Among regular starters this season, Merzlikins is seeing the third-most shots against per 60 minutes and that shot volume has helped him to 10 games this season of at least 15 DK or FD points; that is good production for his price. Though, as mentioned earlier, his team’s penalty killing has declined over the last month, their opponent is dead last in the league in power play goals scored per game. If the Flyers can’t break through on the PP, it could be a lot of even strength shots for Merzlikins, and that’s good news for DFS.

Stokastic’s GoalieStats section has Merzlikins with the second-highest expected save total tonight, but the third-highest expected goals against total as well. That is the double-edged sword of using a goalie from a poor defensive team, but the cheap price and expected volume means he should be given some thought for tournaments.

Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

WPG1: Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Gabriel Vilardi

This Winnipeg trio has been tremendous since being assembled, creating 3.9 expected goals and 5.3 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. They have out-shot the opposition 75-58 in their 122-plus minutes together, so they have truly been excellent, especially on the attack. They also skate together on the power play, which gives them perfect correlation. Tonight is a great matchup in San Jose as the Sharks have suffered nine straight regulation losses while ranking 31st by both expected goals and actual goals against per minute at 5-on-5 over the last month.

Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool has this trio with the third-highest top-2 stack probability on both DK and FD with ownership rates in a similar range. It is a great matchup for a great line that may not carry sky-high ownership, and that makes them a stack to ponder for this 13-gamer.

STL1: Pavel Buchnevich – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou

St. Louis coach Craig Berube was fired three weeks ago. In the eight games since, this top line has generated 2.9 expected goals and 3.9 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, outshooting the opposition 68-46 in nearly 105 minutes together. They have all been put on the same top power play unit in a recent practice, something that hasn’t been a regular thing this season. Though Vancouver has been good defensively over the last month or so, this is a very talented St. Louis top line that is finally perfectly correlated on the power play.

The FanDuel portion of the Top Stacks tool has this line eighth by positive leverage, meaning higher top-2 stack probability than expected ownership. On DraftKings, they 7th by top-2 stack probability and are the only line among the top-10 to be priced under $18,000. Ownership may approach 10%, but considering their price and perfect correlation, they warrant consideration as a mid-priced stack tonight.

Stokastic’s NHL Premium subscription is available in either weekly or monthly packages and includes NHL DFS projections, top stacks, expert Discord and more! Join today!

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*Additional best NHL DFS picks today stats from Natural Stat Trick

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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