NHL DFS Picks Today: Nathan MacKinnon Smoking the Field (April 26)

There are four games on the board for tonight’s playoff NHL DFS slate, including tough defensive matchups one way or another across the board. Let’s look at those matchups, some top options to target, and then dig for value.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Nathan MacKinnon (COL vs. WPG)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Not only did the Avalanche come out of Winnipeg with a tied series, but they mostly dominated those two games with 81.2 shot attempts, 4.4 expected goals, and 4.7 actual goas per 60 minutes at five-on-five. MacKinnon had a goal, two assists, and six shots in those two games as he was good, but not great. With the Avalanche returning home, they are back to dictating matchups and that’s a very good thing for this center and his top line because now they avoid the shutdown third line from Winnipeg. MacKinnon will see a lot more ice time against the opposing top trio, and that Winnipeg top line gave up 26.8% more shots and 61.1% more expected goals than their shutdown unit. It is a significantly better matchup for MacKinnon, who was much more productive at home (2.2 points/game) than on the road (1.2 points/game) this season.

It was that production at home that super-charged MacKinnon’s season. His 5.8 points per 60 minutes in Denver trailed only Connor McDavid’s rate of 6.4 in Edmonton and was 20% higher than the next-closest player. Just in general, what helps separate MacKinnon from most top producers is ice time as he averaged 23:35 in the first two games (most among playoff forwards) and led all centers in this regard in the regular season. With a better in-game matchup, prolific at home, and high ice time totals, there is a lot to like about MacKinnon’s upside tonight.

MacKinnon is the top skater on the board and it’s not even close, as his fantasy point projection exceeds the next-closest DraftKings option by a preposterous 43.9%, and the next-closest FanDuel option by a nearly-as-preposterous 33.5%. He is likely to be the highest owned forward on either site, but considering he’s in a tier of his own, it’s hard to fade him in any format.

Adam Lowry (WPG at COL)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

As mentioned in the section above, Lowry’s line was often used to try and shut down MacKinnon in the first two games of this series. That was the case all season as his shutdown line was sent out against the opposition’s stars when Winnipeg was at home and could dictate matchups. That is not the case tonight, so he shouldn’t see much of the MacKinnon line, and that is good news for Lowry’s upside: his line created 32 shots and 2.4 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five on the road in the regular season, but those numbers fell to 30 shots and 1.7 goals per 60 minutes when at home. Percentages are one reason for the goal difference, but they were creating fewer shots and that’s important to note.

Lowry isn’t a big volume shooter as his regular season five-on-five shot rate was that of a mid-tier third line forward. However, he does get to the net very well as his ratio of shots to expected goals which heavily factors proximity to the net was the fourth highest among all regular forwards in the league. He doesn’t shoot a lot, but his shots tend to be very high quality, and being able to get to the net is a hallmark of his profile. Against a Colorado blue line that may still be without defensive stalwart Samuel Girard, that is a good profile to have.

Lowry’s low shot rates keep his fantasy point projections muted, but that is keeping his ownership projections muted as he comes in under 2% on DraftKings and under 5% on FanDuel. For DFS players looking for a cheap, low-owned one-off center, Lowry is an option.


NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

Artemi Panarin (NYR at WAS)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Even through two tight-checking games, Panarin managed to have a monster Game 1 with seven shots resulting in one goal. He was held off the board in Game 2, and he was held without a shot twice during the regular season. The good news is that in the two games following those shot-less outings, he had one outing with two assists and seven shots while the other appearance had a goal on two shots. Not that two games make a meaningful sample, but elite players like Panarin usually can’t be held down for long, especially on a line that averaged 36.6 shots, 3.2 expected goals, and 3.8 actual goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five this season.

Down the stretch of the regular season, Washington wasn’t a very imposing defensive team, ranking 16th by shots against and 12th by expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Importantly, this team looks to still be without both Rasmus Sandin and Nick Jensen, two blue-line regulars. Jensen, in particular, is a key part of the blue line as his on-ice goals against rate was the lowest among their defenders. Panarin’s line dominated so far this series with a 59% shot share and two goals in fewer than 20 minutes together at five-on-five, and it is not a bad overall matchup for him.

Among all wingers tonight, Panarin’s fantasy point projection leads on FanDuel, and is second on DraftKings. He is the most expensive option, so that makes sense, but with expensive options elsewhere on the board, his ownership projections are under 5% on FanDuel and under 8% on DraftKings. DFS players looking to get away from a very chalky Colorado team have a pivot option here.

Kevin Fiala (LA vs. EDM)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Fiala scored in Los Angeles’s Game 2 overtime win, and he now has seven shots in three games. Though he’s listed on the third line, he is 1 of 4 Los Angeles attackers to average at least 18 minutes a game thus far. He is being used across the lineup as he has received shifts on all four lines through those two games as the team searches for a scoring boost to match the high-powered Edmonton offense. Considering Fiala finished second on the team in goals (29) and points (73) during the regular season, that is a good idea. Even if he does get moved across the roster, he is consistently getting top power play time on a productive unit that scored 9.8 goals per 60 minutes in the regular season.

Getting that power play time is important for this matchup. Edmonton has generally been a strong defensive team under their new coach but after the Trade Deadline, the team was 19th by goals against per minute while short-handed. On the season, Edmonton’s starting goalie Stuart Skinner was in the 18th percentile of regular starting goalies by save percentage on the penalty kill. He was in the middle of the league in the prior season, so this is not a goalie that excels when his team is short-handed, and that’s good news for Fiala’s power play upside.

Of wingers priced under $6,000 on DraftKings, Fiala ranks second by fantasy point projection and that gives him fine relative and point-per-dollar values. He is much more expensive on FanDuel, but he is carrying single-digit ownership projections on both sites, and that brings him in play as a one-off winger in any tournament format.

Jason Zucker (NSH vs. VAN)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Zucker was one of Nashville’s top performers in their two postseason games in Vancouver with a goal, an assist, and four shots while averaging just under 13 minutes a game. One key for him in this matchup is that Vancouver’s starting goalie Thatcher Demko is injured so they are turning to backup goalie Casey DeSmith. There were few teams with a bigger drop-off from the starter to the backup as the stats site Evolving Hockey has Demko with 0.51 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes this season while DeSmith was at 0.02. In effect, the drop from Demko to DeSmith is a half-goal allowed per 60 minutes, and that’s a massive difference. We saw that play out in Game 2 as DeSmith allowed three goals on just 15 shots.

The other key for Zucker is he’s found some chemistry with center Colton Sissons. In 150 minutes together at five-on-five after Zucker’s acquisition at the Trade Deadline, Nashville created 34.4 shots and 4.0 expected goals per 60 minutes. In just 17 minutes at five-on-five in the postseason, this duo has helped Nashville outshoot Vancouver 11-7 and outscore them 2-0. With them off the ice, Nashville is being outshot 24-11 and outscored 4-2, so they have been a big key to the team’s early success, and with a much easier goalie to shoot on, it means good things for Zucker’s DFS prospects.

There are just eight wingers priced under $4,000 on DraftKings tonight with a fantasy point projection of at least 6.0, and just six wingers on FanDuel priced under $5,000 with a projection of at least 7.0. Zucker is one of those, and given how well his line has played, he is a one-off salary-saving option in tournaments.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Defender

Evan Bouchard (EDM at LA)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though Los Angeles has generally had a good penalty kill this season, Edmonton has been able to break through that solid play. In the regular season, the Oilers scored three times in 14 power play opportunities against the Kings, and they have four goals in eight power play opportunities so far in the postseason. That makes seven goals in 22 power play chances this season, or nearly a 33% conversion rate. Bouchard had three power play points in four games in their regular season matchups and has two in two playoff games. He also had seven blocks and seven shots in those postseason contests as he’s getting involved at both ends of the ice even when he’s not putting up points. If Edmonton breaks through on the power play, Bouchard is very likely to be involved.

Bouchard is the third-most expensive defenseman on both sites tonight and comes in fourth by fantasy point projection. Importantly, with so much focus on Colorado (or cheaper options), Bouchard’s ownership projections are in the single digits for both sites. This series has already seen him with a huge DFS performance on the back of a great power play, and he makes a nice alternative to the defenders with much higher ownership.


Dylan DeMelo (WPG at COL)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though Winnipeg somewhat spread their ice time among their non-Josh Morrissey defensemen in the regular season, that hasn’t been the case in the postseason: Morrissey is pushing 25 minutes per game thus far with three other defenders in the neighborhood of 21-23 minutes per appearance. That includes DeMelo, who is averaging 23:13 thus far. Though he has just two blocks in those two games, he averaged 1.7 per game during the regular season, managing 24 DraftKings block bonuses in his 82 outings. With the volume of shots Colorado is generating they’re leading the 16 playoff teams with 39 shots per 60 minutes it is just a matter of time before DeMelo really starts racking up the blocked shot totals.

DeMelo’s points-per-$1,000 on DraftKings tonight exceeds 2.0, which is good for a player in his price range. It is lower on FanDuel where blocked shots don’t matter as much, so users on that site may want to consider Matt Roy (LAK, $4,000) for an option that projects better at a lower price.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Charlie Lindgren (WAS vs. NYR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Though every team wins more when their goalie allows few goals, that is especially true for Washington and Lindgren. On the season, the Capitals were 3-15-5 when he allowed three or more goals (13% win rate). For comparison’s sake, the New York Rangers won 32% of Igor Shesterkin’s games when he allowed three or more goals. If Washington wins a game in this series, it is almost certainly because Lindgren had a great game, and he’s had plenty of them this season as 18 of his 48 starts resulted in at least 18 DraftKings fantasy points, or roughly 2.5 times his salary. Washington is over-matched in this series, but Lindgren can be a difference-maker, and if he is, he’ll very likely turn in a great DFS performance.

Stokastic’s GoalieStats section has Lindgren leading tonight’s eight goalies by projected save total but far from the most expected goals allowed. It gives him fine value for a low price and that makes him a target for DFS players in need of a cheap goaltender.

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NHL DFS Top Stacks Today | NHL DFS Picks Today

VAN1: Pius Suter J.T. Miller Brock Boeser

Be careful here as Vancouver shuffled their lines late in their Game 2 loss against Nashville, putting different forwards in Suter’s place. It certainly wasn’t because of the play of this trio as their 19 playoff minutes together has resulted in pure dominance over the Predators: a shot attempt margin of 33-9, a shot margin of 11-3, a high-danger shot attempt margin of 11-1, and outscoring them 1-0. It was very much a continuation of what they did in the regular season as their 195 minutes together at five-on-five produced a shot margin of 109-68, a high-danger shot attempt margin of 61-28, and a goal margin of 16-4. This line has been speed-bagging one opponent after another, and the only things that can slow them down are unlucky shooting percentages or line changes.

Though this trio isn’t one of the top options by top-2 stack probability, per the Top Stacks tool, they are carrying positive leverage on both DraftKings and FanDuel. That means a higher top-2 stack probability than expected ownership, and it makes them a mid-priced stack to target for tonight’s slate.

COL1: Valeri Nichushkin Nathan MacKinnon Mikko Rantanen

This line was re-assembled early in Colorado’s Game 2 win against Winnipeg, and they were excellent in the regular season, as nearly every MacKinnon line was, with 3.1 expected goals and 3.8 actual goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. They are perfectly correlated on the power play and, as outlined in the section on MacKinnon, they get heavy overall usage. Though Winnipeg is usually a tough defensive matchup, the Avalanche haven’t had much trouble cutting through that defense so far these playoffs.

This line puts DFS players in a tough spot. They are by far the most expensive line on the board and will take up 48.6% of the salary cap on DraftKings and 51.1% on FanDuel. That is a high price to pay but they also have the highest projections and with tough defensive matchups across the slate, this trio doesn’t necessarily need triple-digit fantasy points to be the highest-scoring line.

As expected, this unit leads Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool by top-2 stack probability. They are the top option on the board, it’s just about making the salary work with the rest of a DFS lineup.

*Additional stats used for our NHL DFS picks today column 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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