NHL DFS Picks Today: Find Hidden Value (February 20)

There are eight games in the NHL tonight but many back-to-back situations as all of Ottawa, Dallas, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Vegas played yesterday. That means lineup news for those teams will be late, and that’s of particular interest for Dallas and Vegas as they may (or may not) have key defensemen returning. As always, double-check the Discord before lock for updated roster news.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Lineup Decisions and More

NHL DFS Picks: Center

Nico Hischier (NJ at WAS)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Lineup absences forced wingers Jesper Bratt and Ondrej Palat to Hischier’s line before the All-Star break and this trio has been utterly dominant offensively. In nearly 230 minutes together at 5-on-5, they are averaging 38.2 shots/60 minutes, 4.3 expected goals/60-, and 5.2 actual goals/60, which are absurd numbers.

The 10 previous games for Hischier resulted in six goals, seven assists, and 3.3 shots per appearances as his production ticked up with this line’s performance. Even with Jack Hughes returning, Hischier has averaged 20:37 in ice time per game over his last five outings, crossing the 20-minute mark in four of them.

Going to Washington is a great matchup, too. Since the Christmas break, a 22-game span, the Capitals are 31st by expected goals against/60 at 5-on-5 and 25th by actual goals against/60. On top of that, Washington is 25th in the league by goals against/60 on the penalty kill in the post-holiday span, so this is a good spot for a New Jersey side that has had a much better power play with Hughes healthy this season.

Of all centers priced under $6,000 tonight on DraftKings, Hischier leads by fantasy point projection, and the same is true for pivots under $7,000 on FanDuel. He is likely to be among the top-5 most-owned centers but his value is very good for his price so he, and his line mates, warrant consideration for tournaments.  

Wyatt Johnston (DAL at NYR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Dallas is on a road back-to-back, having played yesterday in Boston. Lineup news is vital here as Stars forward Matt Duchene was a late scratch in that game and that led to a season-high 22:11 in ice time for Johnston. He had eight shots and a goal, which is nice to see, but he had registered 30 shots in the 10 games prior to that so he had been seeking the net quite a bit anyway.

He was still skating on a line with Ty Dellandrea, but the small-sample returns have been good for the entire line by outshooting the opposition 49-35 and outscoring them 6-2 in nearly 75 minutes together at 5-on-5.

It is notable that despite Dallas being on a road back-to-back, and New York being rested and at home, the Stars have an implied goal total just under 3.0. That is with question marks around the availability of both Duchene and elite defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The road team has one of the higher road totals on the slate and that could be with key pieces missing from the lineup. If Duchene is out again, Johnston stands to reap more benefits from the additional ice time.

Johnston is tied for the highest fantasy point projection at his position for any option priced under $5,000 on DK, and that gives him very good value. The value is lower on FD considering the higher price, but if Duchene is out again, he is still playable. For FD users wanting better value at the position, consider Dylan Strome (WSH, $5,800).

NHL DFS Picks: Winger

Carter Verhaeghe (FLA vs. OTT)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

The elite season that Sam Reinhart is having, as well as Matthew Tkachuk’s two-month hot streak, is overshadowing just how well Verhaeghe has produced. Verhaeghe is up to 30 goals, which is 10th in the league, ranking fifth overall by individual goals/60. Back on February 10th, he was moved to the top line with Reinhart and Aleksander Barkov and the results were immediate: five goals, one assist, and 15 shots in four games for Verhaeghe. He is even seeing more ice time, on average, in that span (18:33) as compared to earlier in the season (17:51) with the improved role.

Florida is at home to Ottawa tonight and the Panthers have one of the highest implied team goal total on the board. Ottawa snapped a five-game losing streak on January 13th and are 9-4-2 in 15 games since. Despite the uptick in wins, the Senators are still 24th in the league by goals against/60 minutes. A lot of that is related to poor goaltending but with the team on a road back-to-back, the defense may not be able to hold up to Florida’s attack, especially with Verhaeghe’s line as loaded as it is.

Despite being the 10th-most expensive DK winger tonight, and seventh on FD, Verhaeghe is fifth and third, respectively, by fantasy point projection on the two sites. It gives him good relative value, which makes him playable for tournaments, though the high correlation with his line mates brings a full stack into play.

Viktor Arvidsson (LA vs. CLS)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

This is another spot where lineup news will be key. Los Angeles played in Pittsburgh on Sunday night and then traveled home, so there was no practice update. That is important because Kevin Fiala was moved to Arvidsson’s line during that game and those two, along with Phillip Danault, were very good last season at 5-on-5: 39 shots/60, 3.0 expected goals/60, and 3.3 actual goals/60 in 130 minutes together.

There is no real sample this season because Arvidsson has played just three games since returning from injury, but the winger has two assists and 12 shots in those three outings.

Hosting Columbus is a great spot for Arvidsson, too. The Blue Jackets are bottom-10 in the league over their last seven games by expected goals against/60 at 5-on-5, coinciding with the return of defenseman Zach Werenski, and are one spot worse when going all the way back to the Christmas break. That span since Christmas has seen Columbus give up 19 power play goals against in 18 games, ranking 24th by shots against/60, so it’s a good opportunity for Arvidsson on the top power play unit as well.

In a theme of today’s article, Arvidsson leads all DK wingers priced under $6,000 by fantasy point projection and is even higher than the aforementioned Fiala. He is second on FD, but not by much, so he’s an option on both sites either by himself or as part of a Kings stack.

Gabriel Vilardi (WPG vs. MIN)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Winnipeg played yesterday, as did Minnesota, so neither has the rest advantage. The home team’s top line has often been injured this season with the trio combining to miss 42 games, so the sample isn’t big (about 75 minutes at 5-on-5). However, that small sample has been very good offensively with 3.1 expected goals/60 and 4.1 actual goals/60.

Vilardi has similarly excellent offensive numbers in a much larger sample with Mark Scheifele (add nearly 189 minutes), so this is likely just a high-end offensive trio. Vilardi has also seen his ice time rise for three straight games, peaking at 19:06 yesterday, his highest mark since December.

One big Achilles’ heel for Winnipeg had been their power play but things have turned around in a big way since getting healthy and acquiring Sean Monahan. The six games with Monahan have provided four power play goals, or just one fewer than their prior 15 games. Vilardi has a point on all four of those goals, and they face a Minnesota team that is middle-of-the-road on the penalty kill since hiring their new coach at the end of November.

Vilardi’s lack of shot volume – about 2.5 per game – leaves his point projection lower than others in his price range, and worse on FD where his price is much higher. Regardless, the value is still fine, though like Verhaeghe, he has high correlation with his line mates so a full line stack should be considered for tournaments as well.

NHL DFS Picks: Defender

Cale Makar (COL vs. VAN)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

One thing Makar has done this season to float his DFS value is grow the peripheral stats. His 3.14 shots per game are a career high, as are his 1.9 blocks per game. He already has 14 DraftKings shot bonuses (he had 10 last season in nine more games played) and 16 DK block bonuses (he had nine last year). It is how he’s averaged 10.8 DK points over his last five games despite zero goals and zero assists.

Vancouver played in Minnesota yesterday, so the rest advantage is with Makar. Importantly, going back to Christmas, Vancouver is one of four teams taking at least four minor penalties per game while Colorado is averaging the second-most minor penalties draw in that span. The Canucks have generally had an improved penalty kill compared to the early portions of the season (yesterday’s game aside) but taking that many penalties against a high-end power play like Colorado’s benefits Makar greatly.

Makar is the most expensive defenseman on the slate but he’s also the highest projected defenseman. The value is fine for his price and his DK ownership projection is just 9.6%, which is very good for an eight-game slate. The superstar blue liner should be given some attention by DFS tournament players.

Esa Lindell (DAL at NYR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Like Johnston, this is a situation where lineup news will matter. Heiskanen missed the team’s game yesterday and with two other injuries on the blue line, it led to Lindell skating 25:58, the second-highest mark for him this season. Lindell averages 1.8 blocks every 20 minutes of ice time, so a 25-minute game would average around 2.3, which is a very solid mark.

To reiterate, Dallas has one of the highest road totals tonight so this could be a good spot for Lindell to not only rack up peripherals but get on the scoresheet (as he did by scoring yesterday). He has averaged 27 points/82 games over the last three seasons, so he’s not offensively inept, either.

The increase role is providing Lindell with the highest projected fantasy point total tonight for all defenders priced under $4,000 on DK. He is a bit further down for similarly-priced rearguards on FD but is still the highest outside of Florida. Keep an eye on the news, but Lindell is a good, cheap option with Heiskanen’s availability uncertain.  

NHL DFS Picks: Goalie

Juuse Saros (NSH at VGK)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Saros isn’t having an elite season as he normally does, but he is facing just shy of 31 shots/60, which is inside the top-third of the league’s regular netminders. A big bonus for Saros is facing Vegas as the Golden Knights have just four power play goals in 13 games since the injury to star center Jack Eichel. Vegas is 30th in the league by both shots/60 and goals/60 with the man advantage in that span and are well below average in drawing power play opportunities.

Saros stands a good chance of seeing a lot of 5-on-5 shots rather than power play shots, and that’s good for his DFS upside, particularly at his price.

Fantasy point projections have Saros with the best value for any DK goalie priced under $7,500 tonight, ranking second on FD. He projects for single-digit ownership on both sites as well, and all this makes him a cheap tournament option.

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NHL DFS Top Stacks Today

NYR1: Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Jimmy Vesey

A brutal injury to Blake Wheeler forced Vesey to the top line, but it could be a very good thing as this trio has posted 44.4 shots/60, 3.6 expected goals/60, and 3.7 actual goals/60 together at 5-on-5 over the last two seasons (a span over 160 minutes). With significant pieces (potentially) missing from the Dallas roster, and the Stars on a back-to-back, this is an ideal time for the Rangers to host this team.

Additionally, Dallas’s penalty kill has struggled mightily since Christmas, giving up the fourth-most shots/60 and ninth-most goals/60. Both Kreider and Zibanejad skate on that top power play unit, which gives them good matchups not only at 5-on-5 but with the man advantage as well.

The Top Stacks tool shows this New York line as one of the few lines cheaper than $17,000 on DK while having at least a 3% top-2 stack probability and positive leverage (meaning a higher top-2 percentage than expected ownership). DFS players looking for an under-owned, mid-price line should consider this trio.

LA2: Viktor Arvidsson – Phillip Danault – Kevin Fiala

As mentioned in the section on Arvidsson, what Los Angeles’ lineup looks like at morning skate matters here. Assuming this trio is together, their line numbers were referenced, and they’ve been very good. What is also important here is they’re likely to match up often against Columbus’s second line, and they’ve been horrific defensively, giving up 3.2 expected goals against/60 at 5-on-5, and nearly 15 high-danger attempts against/60. Combine that with the awful Columbus penalty kill and it is a very good spot for this Los Angeles line. Even if Trevor Moore were moved back on the line in place of Fiala, the upside remains as he had great shot generation numbers with Arvidsson/Danault last season, though the top power play correlation would get worse.

For DFS players looking for a mid-price line that has both a much higher top-2 stack probability but also a much higher expected ownership rate, this is the line for that. They are the only line under $17,000 on DK that is over an 8% top-2 stack percentage, but their ownership could be double that. It gives them negative leverage, but it’s a very good line in a very good spot.

*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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