NHL DFS Picks Today: New Year, New Value (January 2)

The first full NHL DFS slate of calendar 2024 has 13 games on it and that brings a lot of superstars in excellent matchups. Let’s look at some of the top options on the board while looking for some low-owned players in positions to succeed.

As always, Stokastic members are strongly encouraged to check the Discord before individual games lock for updated roster information.

NHL DFS Picks Today, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Nathan MacKinnon (COL vs. NYI): DraftKings – $9,800 | FanDuel – $10,300

Despite a bit of a lull – by MacKinnon’s standards – in shot volume with 37 shots on target in his last 10 games, the superstar has eight goals and 21 points in that span. He now sits second in the league in points (58) while being on pace for his second consecutive 40-goal season. What helps him to such high totals is his consistently high ice time as he’s not skated below 20 minutes in any game for 22 straight games, dating back to the middle of November.

Another key to MacKinnon’s success is Colorado’s elite top power play unit. Their premiere PP quintet is generating over 14 goals per 60 minutes this season and that is a super-elite number. He is fifth among the league’s forwards in power play points per game, and he’s done that while shooting a paltry 7.8%. The good news for tonight is facing a New York Islanders penalty kill that is allowing the second-most goals per minute; they’re still 30th in the league by shots against per minute on the PK since December 1st.

As expected, MacKinnon leads all centers by fantasy point projections tonight on both DK and FD, and it’s not close as he clears the second-place option by 26.5% on DK and 17.3% on FD. It should lead to ownership in the mid-teens on both sites, even on a slate this big, but he’s in the mix for cash games at least.

Phillip Danault (LA vs. TOR): DraftKings – $4,400- | FanDuel – $5,500

A recent stretch of having just one assist (and no goals) in five games is pushing Danault’s points-per-game mark down, but it isn’t for lack of trying: those five games have seen his line create 39 shots in over 57 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, a great offensive number for that sample. Danault himself has 13 shots in that span, so he’s staying involved. This has been an excellent offensive line since being assembled – 3.6 expected goals and 3.6 actual goals per 60 minutes – but both hot and cold streaks come and go.

Hosting Toronto tonight is not an overly difficult matchup for Danault’s second line. The Leafs are 23rd in the league by expected goals against/60 at 5-on-5 dating back to American Thanksgiving, ranking 21st by actual goals against. They are also employing their two minor league goalies right now as one starter is hurt and the other has been so bad he’s been sent to the minor leagues himself. This is a good time for a great line – with Danault in the middle – to catch this Toronto roster.

Danault is typically not a big shooting threat and that is what keeps his fantasy point projection moderate for his price on either site. However, that is also keeping his ownership projection low as he’s outside the top-20 centers by this measure on Stokastic tonight. It brings him, and his line, into play tonight for tournaments.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

David Pastrnak (BOS at CLS): DraftKings – $9,500 | FanDuel – $10,400

What continues to make Pastrnak so valuable in DFS is that his shot volume rarely seems to tail off. He has 53 pucks on target in his last 10 games, quite literally averaging a DK shot bonus per game. On the season, he is second among the league’s regular power play forwards in shot attempts per minute with the man advantage while ranking sixth in power play points per minute. He is currently on pace for over 50 power play points if he plays the full season, and that is a truly elite number.

Noting the power play success is important for this matchup. Columbus is missing both Boone Jenner and Sean Kuraly, easily the team’s top two penalty-killing forwards by shots and goals against. As a result, Columbus is allowing the most shots against per minute while short-handed since the injury to Jenner, allowing nine PP goals in nine games. They don’t take a lot of penalties, but the Blue Jackets are really struggling to kill the ones they are taking, and that’s great news for Pastrnak. Columbus also has poor 5-on-5 defensive numbers in that stretch, so this is a great all-around matchup for the star winger.

Like MacKinnon, Pastrnak is far-and-away the highest projected winger tonight by fantasy points, clearing the next-closest option on DK by over four full points, and on FD by nearly four full points. Also like MacKinnon, it is likely to lead to higher ownership rates for a slate this large, so tournament players have more of a decision to make than cash-game ones.

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Clayton Keller (ARI vs. FLA): DraftKings – $5,900 | FanDuel – $7,300

The addition of Alex Kerfoot to Keller’s line might have seen like a lateral move, but it has been very beneficial for the top Arizona trio as their expected goals-for at 5-on-5 has risen 22.9% with Kerfoot there, and their actual goals-for are up 30%. They still aren’t approaching high-end rates as Keller has seen his previous couple of seasons, but it’s a big step up for a line that was not finding much offensive success off the power play this season.

Another recent change for Keller that will be beneficial for this particular matchup is he is not being used in a shutdown role at home anymore. That means avoiding the Aleksander Barkov line from Florida tonight, a line that has allowed just five goals in nearly 277 minutes of 5-on-5 time. The Panthers are closer to league average defensively with Barkov’s line on the bench, and that’s a boost for Keller in this matchup.

Similar to Danault above, Keller’s raw fantasy point projection is moderate for his price, which lags his point-per-dollar value away from others in a similar price range. However, it is also keeping his ownership projection under 3% on both DK and FD and with his line’s improved play, he and his line mates are tournament options tonight.

Anthony Duclair (SJ vs. DET): DraftKings – $3,200 | FanDuel – $4,300

Duclair was moved to the top line with Tomas Hertl at the end of San Jose’s most recent game and that has been a better spot for the winger for his shot volume: Duclair is taking 26.2% more shot attempts per minute next to Hertl than elsewhere in the lineup. The point production hasn’t been stellar – as has been the case for all of San Jose’s wingers – but additional shot volume at such a cheap price is always important to note for DFS.

The other half of this recommendation is the matchup. Detroit is 3-9-1 over the last four weeks and are dead last in the league in goals against per minute at 5-on-5 in that span. It isn’t just a run of back luck, either, as they are 28th by expected goals against per minute over those 13 games. The penalty kill has been good, which has kept them in games, but they have been abysmal defensively otherwise and are not dissimilar from this basement San Jose roster. It provides Duclair with a good matchup as he’s been moved up the lineup.

At his reasonable cost on both sites, Duclair is carrying a point-per-$1,000 value of nearly 2.3 on DK and 2.1 on FD. That makes him a very good value tonight regardless of the site, though he rates better on DraftKings. He can be used as a salary-saving one-off option.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Defense

Quinn Hughes (VAN vs. OTT): DraftKings – $7,000 | FanDuel – $8,100

Hughes’s shot attempt rate has gone down 24% over his last 10 games, and that is a concern for his DFS value because he’s not a player that blocks many shots, so his peripheral profile has taken a hit. The good news is that the matchup tonight might make that a moot point as Ottawa visits and their penalty kill has been awful for a while now: their last 15 games as seen the Senators 27th by shots against per minute on the PK while ranking 31st by goals against per minute. Ottawa is also giving up the fifth-most power plays per game this season, and that double-whammy of a poor PK with undisciplined play makes this a great power play matchup for Hughes.

Hughes’s lack of peripherals makes his fantasy projection lag behind others in his price range, but it should be noted that he already has five games this season where he’s registered three-or-fewer shots on goal but managed at least 18 DK points. If Vancouver fills the net, he’s likely to figure in heavily, and that makes him a tournament target tonight.

Alex Vlasic (CHI at NSH): DraftKings – $3,200 | FanDuel – $3,600

Injuries on the Chicago blue line, notably to Seth Jones, have pushed Vlasic into a bigger role and that has meant 22:43 in average per-game ice time over the last five games without Jones. That stretch has seen him put up three points and 14 blocks while earning secondary power play minutes. Nashville has been an average defensive team at 5-on-5 by expected goals against over the last four weeks, so this isn’t an awful matchup for Chicago. That Vlasic is seeing a much bigger role of late, combined with a reasonable matchup, is part of what makes him a target tonight.

With ownership projections under 2% on DK and 3% on FD, Vlasic should be a cheap, low-owned blue line option that is seeing a bigger role because of his team’s circumstances. He is fine to use as a salary-saver in tournament formats.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Igor Shesterkin (NYR vs. CAR): DraftKings – $7,900 | FanDuel – $7,700

The Stokastic GoalieStats section has Shesterkin tied for the sixth-highest projected save total tonight and the lowest expected goals against total of any goalies above him by those projected saves. He is facing a Carolina roster that is top-5 by shot attempts and shots on goal since the start of December, so he stands a good chance of seeing a lot of volume here tonight. His point-per-dollar value sits fourth among projected starting goalies for both DK and FD and he’s not overly expensive on either site. He makes a fine goalie to target in any format tonight.

Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

VAN2: Phillip Di Giuseppe – JT Miller – Brock Boeser

Vancouver recently reunited this line that was successful earlier in the season by scoring 3.2 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in nearly 210 minutes together. As mentioned in the Hughes section, this is a tremendous power play matchup for the Canucks, and both Miller and Boeser skate on that top PP unit. It is also a good matchup at 5-on-5 as the visiting Ottawa Senators are 28th in the league by expected goals against since firing their coach. It is a small six-game sample, but this has been a bottom-10 team on the season by this measure anyway. Things may have just gone from bad to worse, and that’s great news for this Canucks line tonight.

Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool has this line hovering around 1% ownership tonight though their top-2 stack probability is over 2%. That gives them positive leverage, and, at a moderate price, it makes them a target for tournaments. DFS players may want to consider turning it into a true power play stack by adding Hughes or Elias Pettersson, but this Canucks trio is in a good matchup at all strengths tonight.

DAL3: Jamie Benn – Wyatt Johnston – Evgenii Dadonov

This line that was so good for Dallas last year was struggling to create much offensively to start this season sitting at just 2.1 expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 over the first eight weeks. They have turned things around of late, though, as that number has jumped 35% over the last four weeks. Their actual goal scoring hasn’t rebounded much but shooting under 5% is the culprit and that should regress positively. It is a good matchup tonight against Montreal’s depth forwards as the Canadiens are allowing 21% more shot attempts with their top line on the bench over the last month. Benn is still on the team’s top power play unit as well, so there’s some special teams value.

This Dallas trio is coming in with negative leverage on both DK and FD, which means higher expected ownership than top-2 stack probability, but such is the for most filler lines on most slates. Their improved play, reasonable top-2 stack probability, and solid depth matchups are what make them stand out above most others in their price range.

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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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