NHL DFS Picks Today: Cashing Connor Bedard (February 29)

It is another large slate as the NHL has 12 games on the docket this Thursday night. As is often the case when the league gets to this point of the season, there are a few very lopsided matchups so let’s navigate those and look to where we can go against the grain.

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

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Lineup Decisions and More

NHL DFS Picks: Center

Auston Matthews (TOR vs. ARI)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

To have the season that Matthews is having (52 goals in 57 games), elite performance on the power play is necessary and he’s doing exactly that – his 4.9 goals/60 minutes with the man advantage is second in the league. He has 15 power play goals on the campaign, one shy of his prior career-best total in 16 fewer games played. Toronto’s top power play unit is scoring 13 goals/60 minutes overall, which is an outstanding mark.

All that is important because Toronto hosts Arizona tonight and over the last eight weeks, the Coyotes are taking the second-most minor penalties per game in the league, giving up 18 power play goals against across 21 games in that span.

Toronto’s top line remains excellent, too. They sit at 3.2 expected goals-for/60 and 3.6 actual goals-for/60 in nearly 355 minutes together at 5-on-5. Arizona has improved their team defense over the last couple of months – 11th in the league by expected goals against/60 – but the improvements have mostly been at the bottom of the lineup, and they are likely without top winger Clayton Keller tonight.

As expected, Matthews ranks second on the slate by fantasy point projection among all centers, trailing only Nathan MacKinnon. The difference is that Matthews’s ownership projection is nearly half that of MacKinnon DK, and less than half on FD. Fantasy players looking for a lower-owned, high-upside pivot from the chalkier MacKinnon have the option here.

Connor Bedard (CHI vs. COL)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

The fantasy focus in this game is on MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche – and rightly so – but this isn’t a bad matchup for Bedard. He rarely takes top-line matchups when Chicago is at home, so he won’t see a lot of time against MacKinnon. The Colorado second line sits with 2.8 expected goals against/60 minutes this season and that mark is well below the league average.

They play at a high pace, too, as their shot attempts for+against at 5-on-5 are just shy of 140 per 60 minutes where the league average is just under 120. Since the All-Star break, Bedard is averaging 16:49 per game at 5-on-5, and that’s sixth among all forwards in the league, so he’ll get a lot of time in a high-event matchup.

Injury aside, it has been a superlative rookie season for Bedard by averaging three shots per game and having an 82-game pace of 31 goals and 42 assists. Chicago has also seen a big turnaround on the power play by adding Nick Foligno to the top unit as they’ve scored 11 times in just under 62 minutes when he’s on the top unit with Bedard. Of the 24 teams on this slate, Colorado is ninth by minor penalties taken per game over the last eight weeks.

Of the centers priced under $7,000 on either site, Bedard is third and first by fantasy point projections on DK and FD, respectively. He is expected to have very low ownership on DK, as that projection is at 1.6%, and even his 6% mark on FD is reasonable. He can be used as a one-off option in tournament formats.

NHL DFS Picks: Winger

Matthew Tkachuk (FLA vs. MON)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Tkachuk rebounded from his only performance without a fantasy point this season by posting one goal, one assist, and seven shots against Buffalo on Tuesday. In calendar 2024, he is tied for third in the league with 16 goals and 40 points, registering 17 of those 40 points on the power play. That is very important for him tonight as Montreal is in town and they’re taking the sixth-most minor penalties per game over the last couple of months.

They have given up 17 power play goals against in 21 games in those eight weeks and are allowing the fourth-most shots against per minute while short-handed. It is a great power play matchup for Tkachuk.

Florida has put Nick Cousins on Tkachuk’s line. He is a downgrade offensively on many options that have occupied that role this season, but the team is still generating 3.0 expected goals/60 minutes at 5-on-5 with Cousins on that line. Facing a Montreal side that is giving up the fourth-most expected goals against/60 at 5-on-5 over the last two months puts Tkachuk in a very good offensive position at all strengths.

Tkachuk has the highest fantasy point projection for any winger priced under $9,500 on DK tonight, and $10,000 on FD. That excellent value may lead to a lot of ownership on DraftKings, as that projection leads all wingers on the slate, but it’s under 10% on FD. Either way, it is a great matchup and great value for one of the top fantasy producers over the last couple of months.

Mathew Barzal (NYI at DET)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Brock Nelson has been moved to Barzal’s line and while there is no sample with that particular combination, what is important is the Islanders top line has been scoring 3.2 goals/60 minutes at 5-on-5 in nearly 600 minutes with any winger not named Simon Holmstrom. That is very good offense, especially when considering the ice time Barzal has been receiving.

In 13 games since their new coach took over, our winger has averaged 22:51 in ice time, a huge improvement to the 19:22 per game he averaged before that. It has helped Barzal manage 3.8 shots per game and register four DraftKings shot bonuses in that time with the new bench boss.

Detroit has been on a winning streak lately, but the team defense still is nothing to be feared. Over the team’s last 20 games at 5-on-5, they rank 27th by shot attempts against/60 and 26th by expected goals against/60. Outstanding goaltending has helped keep their goals against moderate, but they can’t rely on that every game, and it puts Barzal’s line in a positive matchup. That Detroit is 27th by shots against/60 on the penalty kill in that span only helps Barzal’s DFS cause.

The wingers priced under $7,000 on DraftKings have Barzal at the top by fantasy point projections, giving him a point-per-$1,000 mark over 2.0. He also leads the way for flanks on FanDuel under $8,900, but unlike Tkachuk, he has low ownership expectations across the board – under 6% on DK and under 4% on FD. That makes he and his line mates tournament targets.  

Michael Bunting (CAR at CBJ)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

On the topic of struggling penalty kills, this Columbus team is going through it. In their last 20 games, they are 26th by shots against/60 when down a man, ranking dead last by goals against/60. Even top Columbus center Boone Jenner hasn’t helped as the 14 games since his return from injury have seen the Blue Jackets give up 14 power play goals against in 14 games.

On the season, 15 of Bunting’s 35 points have come on the power play, and he is second among Carolina’s wingers in points/60 with the man advantage. He has also been shooting a lot more of late with 35 shots in 11 games since the All-Star break.

A big part of Bunting’s uptick in shot rate has been his line’s performance at 5-on-5. In those 11 games since the break, his trio has helped the team generate 41.6 shots/60 and 3.2 expected goals/60. His line is Carolina’s only even-strength group to average over 30 shots/60 at 5-on-5 since the break, let alone 40. They did change the forward combinations towards the end of their most recent game, which is why we always say to double-check the Discord for updated information.  

Bunting’s points-per-$1,000 value is excellent across the board in this matchup, coming in at 2.5 on DK and a shade higher on FD. That excellent value could lead to high ownership levels – over 10% on both sites – but it’s hard to ignore an option this cheap in a matchup this good.

NHL DFS Picks: Defender

Victor Hedman (TB vs. BUF)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Tampa Bay’s power play has been struggling of late but struggling for Tampa Bay’s top unit means being around the league average rather than the elite. This is a good matchup for Hedman and the power play to get things on track as Buffalo is taking the ninth-most minor penalties per game over the last eight weeks and are allowing the eight-most shots against/60 on the penalty kill.

Injury problems for Tampa Bay have meant more ice time for Hedman of late as he’s averaged 25:43 per game in calendar 2024 compared to 24:09 before New Year’s. It has helped him to four DraftKings block bonuses in 23 games, where he had four in the first 36 games of the season. He has also been a point-per-game player in that span with 5 goals and 18 assists.

Hedman leads all DraftKings defensemen priced under $6,000 by fantasy point projections and it’s not even close, clearing the next-highest option by 13.5%. He also leads those on FanDuel priced under $8,000, so he’s fine to use on either site for tournaments tonight.  

Cam Fowler (ANH at SJ)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though he’s not a big peripheral producer with 82 shots and 83 blocks in 58 games this season, Fowler does have 28 points, which puts him on pace for nearly 40. Importantly, half of his points (14/28) have come on the power play and Anaheim is drawing the fifth-most minor penalties per game of any team in the league over the last eight weeks.

Just since the All-Star break, he’s been on the ice for all six of the team’s power play goals and while San Jose doesn’t have a poor penalty kill, it is certainly not among the elite. That Fowler skates heavy minutes – over 24 per game since the break – is good news for his DFS value in this solid matchup.

Stokastic projections for Fowler on FanDuel have him leading the way for all blue liners priced under $5,000, and that gives him very good value. That value mark is lower on DK where peripherals matter more, but it’s also leaving him with an ownership projection under 5%. He is fine to use on either site in any tournament contest.

NHL DFS Picks: Goalie

Thatcher Demko (VAN vs. LA)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though Vancouver is a good defensive team, Demko’s 20 starts in calendar 2024 have seen him face over 30 shots per game, and that’s good volume. On top of that, he faces a Los Angeles roster that is landing the third-most shots/60 at 5-on-5 in that same span. The bonus is the Kings have had a lot of trouble finishing by ranking 31st by goals/60 at 5-on-5, so they’re getting a lot of shots but very few goals, and that’s good for Demko’s DFS value.

Los Angeles does have a few key injuries, so maybe they struggle to generate shots as they normally do, but the injuries also take even more offensive upside out of the lineup which helps balance out any potential shot drop.  

The Stoakstic GoalieStats section has Demko saving the fifth-most shots of any goalie on the board tonight, but his expected goals against mark is the seventh-lowest. That gap mirrors what was outlined above, and it gives him a strong projection and value proposition on both sites for this slate.  

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NHL DFS Top Stacks Today

FLA1: Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart

In the section on Tkachuk, the excellent power play matchup for the Panthers was mentioned, and all three members of their top line are part of the top unit. That doesn’t get into how good this line has been at 5-on-5, either, by creating 3.2 expected goals/60 and 3.4 actual goals/60, controlling over 64% of the expected goal share. This line also plays heavy minutes, only getting light ice time totals when they are blowing out the opposition (such as in recent 4-0 and 9-2 wins). If they are blowing out Montreal tonight and only skate around 16 minutes, it’s a trade-off that DFS owners will make.

Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool has this Florida trio with the fourth-highest top-2 stack total on DraftKings, but they are expected to be the lowest-owned line of any trio priced $20,000 or higher. That gap gives them positive leverage and makes them a target in tournament formats. Their top-2 probability is even higher on FanDuel, so they’re an option on either site.

SJ1: Anthony Duclair – Mikael Granlund – Fabian Zetterlund

It isn’t often that the Sharks will make this column on a 12-game slate, but when facing a team like Anaheim – 28th by expected goals against/60 and 31st by actual goals against/60 over the last eight weeks – they cannot be ignored.

For as bad as San Jose is, this top line has been solid offensively by generating 2.4 expected goals and 2.8 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. It is at least around/above league average in those respects, and we can’t ask for more than that from this roster. This trio also skates together on the team’s top power play unit and Anaheim has taken the third-most minor penalties per game over the last eight weeks, giving up 22 power play goals against in 21 contests.

At the opposite end of the leverage spectrum is this San Jose line, which is expected to have much higher ownership than top-2 stack probability. However, of all DraftKings lines priced under $13,000 tonight, they have the highest top-2 percentage of any line at 2.8% (no other line is 2% or higher). They will be in a lot of lineups, but justifiably so in this matchup.

*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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