NHL DFS Picks Today: Shots Flying From Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (October 19)

There are 12 games on this Thursday NHL DFS slate, and it is loaded with all the top stars like Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak, Nathan MacKinnon, Roman Josi and Connor McDavid. Parsing which superstars to target, and the cheap options to build around them, is the approach for tonight.

Stokastic members are encouraged to check the Discord as warmups start for updated roster and injury information.

NHL DFS Picks, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Nathan MacKinnon (COL vs. CHI): DraftKings – $9,500 | FanDuel – $10,500

It has been a good start in the fantasy game for Colorado’s superstar center, as MacKinnon has 3 points in three games but has notably registered 21 shots in those contests. Two-thirds of those came in one game against San Jose, but that level of shot volume highlights what makes him such a wonderful DFS option: He doesn’t need goals to provide high fantasy point totals.

Colorado’s most recent game saw Valeri Nichushkin jump to MacKinnon’s line with Mikko Rantanen. In nearly 300 minutes at five-on-five with that trio on the ice over the last three seasons, the team is generating 39.3 shots, 3.3 expected goals and 3.2 actual goals per 60 minutes. A below-average shooting percentage is what is keeping this three-man unit from posting elite goal totals, rather than simply very good ones. They’re facing a team allowing the second-most shots per minute at five-on-five this season, which bodes well for MacKinnon firing at will towards the opposing goaltender.

Stokastic’s NHL DFS projections have MacKinnon as far and away the top option tonight on both sites, leading the next-closest player by 18% and 13% on DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively. The matchup against Chicago will lead to high ownership levels, but he needs to be strongly considered for cash games at least.

Sean Couturier (PHI vs. EDM): DraftKings – $5,100 | FanDuel – $4,500

In his first season returning from his back surgery, Couturier has not shown much worse for the wear, as he’s skated at least 20 minutes in all three Flyers games. He is leading the team’s forwards in ice time per game by nearly 3:30 per night, and that highlights just how much the team is leaning on him in all areas. Roster changes have meant inconsistent linemates – he has spent at least 10 of his 63 minutes with six different forwards – but the one constant has been his importance to the coaches and the team.

Hosting Edmonton means facing off against McDavid, but one key to that matchup is how the Oilers trade chances: With McDavid on the ice at five-on-five over the last two seasons, the team has allowed 2.6 expected goals against (a bit worse than average) and 2.9 actual goals against (well below average) per 60 minutes at five-on-five. The Flyers are not a strong offensive team, but considering the minutes Couturier is playing, he will get his opportunities to score.

The big note here is the pricing discrepancy between the two sites. Philadelphia’s top pivot is much cheaper on FanDuel than on DraftKings, and that is not something that happens often. He is one of the top 3 center values on that site for this slate, but he’s still fine on DraftKings as well.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

Matthew Tkachuk (FLA vs. TOR): DraftKings – $8,000 | FanDuel – $9,200

It has been a good start, of sorts, for Tkachuk’s season. He has 4 points in three games, but all 4 points are assists. He has failed to score on his 16 shots (5.3 shots per game), but he’s looked so dangerous in a variety of fantasy-relevant areas, and that is what’s important here. He is also lining up with Carter Verhaeghe on his left side, which is good news, as the team has generated 4.3 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five with that duo on the ice without star center Aleksander Barkov over the last two seasons.

Toronto is in town tonight, and that matchup can be difficult for some lines and easier for others. In this case, it should be easier for Tkachuk and co. The main reason for that is, since the Trade Deadline in March (23 total games), the Leafs have allowed 32.5% more expected goals and 47.5% more actual goals against per minute with the top line off the ice. In just three games this season, the difference has been similar yet more drastic. That is a matchup Tkachuk’s line can feast on.

Among all wingers on the slate tonight, Tkachuk ranks fourth by Stokastic NHL DFS projections on both DraftKings and FanDuel. With players like Pastrnak and Nikita Kucherov in such fantastic spots, Tkachuk may not carry significant ownership on FanDuel, where he’s projected under 5%. He can be used in cash games but is better served as part of a Florida stack in tournaments.

Joe Pavelski (DAL at ANA): DraftKings – $6,600 | FanDuel – $7,600

Among the aging marvels in the NHL, or just in Dallas specifically, Pavelski is at or near the top of the list. He is 39 years old but has posted three straight seasons of at least 25 goals and has not missed a game since the 2019-20 season. He has one goal in two games to start this campaign, landing six shots in those contests. The return of Roope Hintz also gave him his regular center back, so the Infinity Gauntlet of Dallas Stars forwards have been assembled; that line has scored an even 4.0 goals per 60 minutes over the last three years.

Going into Anaheim presents two good opportunities for Pavelski and his linemates. First, the Ducks used the Ryan Strome line in a shutdown matchup in their first home game. In limited time together last year, that Ducks line gave up 3.2 expected goals and 4.3 actual goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. The second opportunity is the Anaheim penalty kill, which gave up the second-most shots and goals per minute in 2022-23. An improved blue line should help the Ducks, but even a 20% improvement would leave them well below average on the penalty kill. There is a long way to go, and that favors Pavelski.

The scoring efficiency and elite power play of Dallas’s top line means it needs to be considered in tournaments, and Pavelski’s lower cost means he’s a one-off option (though a stack is preferred).

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Brandon Saad (STL vs. ARI): DraftKings – $3,500 | FanDuel – $3,700

An injury to St. Louis winger Pavel Buchnevich has pushed Saad to the top line for the Blues. In nearly 730 minutes at five-on-five, the top line without Buchnevich on it has scored 3.7 goals per 60 minutes over the last three years. That is a hefty goal total, which speaks to the chemistry that Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have together. In the team’s last game, Saad skated well over 19 minutes as he replaced Buchnevich.

An added bonus for Saad’s fantasy value is that he is on the team’s second power play unit. St. Louis is a team that mostly splits their power plays, as it was a 60/40 ice time split last season, and that ratio has maintained itself this season. Getting that kind of power play deployment against an Arizona team that led the league in penalties taken a year ago and has given up four power play goals against in three games this season is more good news for Saad.

With so many games on the slate, Saad is coming in with low ownership, landing under 5% on both DraftKings and FanDuel. That low cost means he can be used as a salary-saving, one-off option, but he also lowers the average cost of the top line for a stack.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Defense

Quinn Hughes (VAN at TB): DraftKings – $5,400 | FanDuel – $6,000

The 2022 offseason was rife with rumors that Hughes – a blueliner that has never been a volume shooter – wanted to shoot more. That never materialized in the 2022-23 season, but in 2023-24 Hughes has 22 shot attempts in 73 minutes of ice time. That rate works out to a 92nd-percentile mark in the league for all regular rearguards, so maybe those rumors were just 12 months early. It is just three games, but it’s worth noting that Hughes did not have a single three-game stretch last year where he had more than 22 shot attempts. It is either going to be his high-water mark for this season or a sign of things to come.

Going into Tampa Bay is usually a tough matchup, but the team has looked shaky defensively to start the year – sixth-most shots against per minute – and are still without star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Hughes is projected for single-digit ownership and well outside the top dozen options on the blue line. If he’s turned over a new shooting leaf, he is being underappreciate for tonight.

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Brock Faber (MIN vs. LA): DraftKings – $3,400 | FanDuel – $4,200

Injuries on the Minnesota blue line have provided more ice time for their remaining defenders, and Faber is no exception. The rookie has skated at least 21 minutes in all three Wild games thus far and has averaged over 23 minutes per outing. He has 2 points, three shots and three blocks in those games, so it’s not as if he’s out there just getting some cardio in. Faber is not getting power play time, but at his price in the DFS game, he doesn’t need it.

There are a number of similarly projected defensemen in Faber’s price range, especially on DraftKings, but that’s one thing that will keep Faber’s ownership low. Few players at this level are threats to skate over 24 minutes, though, and that plays into the young blueliner’s favor.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Juuse Saros (NSH at NYR): DraftKings – $7,200 | FanDuel – $7,300

It had been a decent start to the season for Saros, as he had averaged nearly 27 saves and just 2.3 goals against through his first three starts. His fourth start saw him get obliterated by Edmonton and pulled for the final 40 minutes after allowing four goals on 11 shots. There isn’t much shame to a goalie getting lit up by the two of the league’s best offensive players, so hopefully Saros can bounce back to how he was playing before that game and in recent seasons generally.

Nashville goes to New York tonight to face the Rangers, and the home team is fourth in the league in shot attempts (and actual shots) per minute at five-on-five. It has managed 101 shots in its three games, and that kind of shot volume could be a boon to Saros’ fantasy output if he can keep the rubber disc on the right side of the goal line. With a cheap DFS price across the industry, Saros should be considered for tournament formats tonight.

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Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

COL1: Valeri Nichushkin – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Even with high levels of ownership expected here, especially on DraftKings where they’re coming in at 17%, this Colorado trio warrants heavy consideration. It is facing a Chicago team that boasts an elite rookie but almost nothing around him, and that’s why, as mentioned in the MacKinnon section, it has performed so poorly defensively. The Colorado top line is going to be much lower owned on FanDuel too, where it is relatively more expensive.

One key to this stack is that there are ways to change it if ownership is a serious concern. Both Ryan Johansen and Artturi Lehkonen are on the top power play unit and can be used in place of Nichushkin. There is also Cale Makar on the blue line. Ownership will be high on MacKinnon and Rantanen but for good reason, and there are ways to make the stack more unique.

NYR2: Artemi Panarin – Filip Chytil – Alexis Lafrenière

One of the early successes of this season has been the surge from New York’s young forwards, and that has been a huge boost to the second line. This particular Rangers trio has generated 22 shots and two goals in less than 35 minutes together, and that is exceptional production. They get a Nashville team that is allowing nearly 30% more shots against with their top line off the ice. Panarin and co. will avoid that matchup, and that puts them in an advantageous position.

Panarin being the only player on this line that skates on the top power play unit is keeping their ownership low, coming in with 3.2% on DraftKings and 2.4% on FanDuel, per Stokastic’s Top Stacks Tool. Subbing a player like Chytil for another power play option like Mika Zibanejad is just fine, but this Rangers trio requires some attention for tournaments.

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*Additional stats from Natural Stat Trick

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Michael Clifford
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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