NHL DFS Picks Today: Slapstick Plays of the Day (January 6)

It is a huge 13-game slate in the NHL tonight and there are nine games that start after 7 PM Eastern, which means a lot of potential for late news after the earliest games lock. Keeping an eye on the members-only Stokastic Discord is always important, but tonight especially so. Nonetheless, onto our NHL DFS picks today.

Let’s take a look at the board.

NHL DFS Picks Today, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Connor McDavid (EDM vs. OTT): DraftKings – $9,500 | FanDuel – $10,300

McDavid’s slow start seems like a fever dream at this point as he’s posted an absurd 12 goals and 31 assists in 22 games since Edmonton fired their coach in the middle of November. That stretch saw him kept off the scoresheet only twice, and both of those games were on the road. Over the last month alone, his line has created 4.7 expected goals and 4.3 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 as their offensive dominance continues unabated. He has had games with lower ice time totals recently, but they were often in blowouts, so if he’s being rested because the team has scored too many goals, it’s a trade DFS players will take.

The matchup tonight with Ottawa is a great one at all strengths. Through eight games since Ottawa fired their own coach, they are 31st, dead last, and 31st by shots, expected goals, and actual goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, respectively. They have also given up eight power play goals against in those games and McDavid’s power play unit is one of the best in the league.

Among all centers on the slate, McDavid is second by DK fantasy point projections and first on FD. A high team total is going to draw a lot of ownership to Edmonton, but even 10-15% is reasonable, so the superstar and his line mates should be heavily considered for either cash games or tournaments.

Evgeni Malkin (PIT vs. BUF): DraftKings – $6,200 | FanDuel – $7,600

His last 15 games have seen Malkin manage 48 shots on goal, or 3.2 shots per game. That is a huge improvement over the first two months of the season where he landed exactly 2.5 shots per outing. He has even added a little over a minute per game in that stretch while posting a DK shot bonus three times in his last five outings. He has gotten Bryan Rust back on his wing recently and in a larger sample last season, the team created 38.6 shots and 3.6 expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 with that duo on the ice. He has seen more minutes, more shots, and improved line mates recently and those are all boosts to his DFS profile.

Buffalo being in town presents a good opportunity for our center. Over the last four weeks, the Sabres have allowed 18.6% more shot attempts and 58.2% more expected goals against with their top line off the ice at 5-on-5. Malkin will get a lot of those depth matchups and that’s one positive note. The second positive note is Buffalo’s penalty kill is 26th by shots against per minute and 27th by goals against per minute over that same four-week stretch. With an improved power play around him, that is a second good matchup for Malkin.

Of all centers priced under $7,000 on DraftKings and $8,000 on FanDuel, Malkin ranks third by fantasy point projection. It gives him good value, and his ownership projection for both sites is just under 5%. That makes him someone to give attention to in tournaments.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

Cole Caufield (MTL vs. NYR): DraftKings – $6,200 | FanDuel – $6,500

Caufield has seen a shot drop of late but five of his previous eight games were on the road against Carolina, Florida, Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg, or arguably five of the top-10 defensive teams in the league since December 1st. Importantly for tonight, he is at home and will get the shutdown matchup against New York’s top line. That top line is giving up 3.3 expected goals and 4.4 actual goals per 60 minutes since December 1st, so it’s a much easier matchup than Caufield has often had recently. The winger’s line created 2.7 expected goals/60 and 3.8 goals/60 in that brutal stretch of games and that bodes well for him in a better matchup.

Caufield has suffered poor shooting percentages most of this season but it’s not as if he’s generating poor shot quality. He is in the 87th percentile of the league’s forwards by individual expected goals at 5-on-5 over the last month, which is easily a top-line rate. Montreal’s power play has improved both their shot and goal rates since adding Juraj Slafkovsky so this is a better matchup for Caufield than it would have been six weeks ago with different lineup configurations.

Thanks to a high fantasy point projection on both sites, Caufield’s point-per-$1,000 exceeds 2.0 on DK and 2.2 on FD. That is very good value in a home matchup at a reasonable price. Caufield should be given some attention for DFS players in tournament formats.

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Andrei Svechnikov (CAR vs. STL): DraftKings – $5,500 | FanDuel – $6,100

Svechnikov missed a little under two weeks in December due to an injury. In the eight games since returning, he has eight goals and seven assists in a very hot stretch of play. While shooting percentages are the reason for the sky-high point totals, his 5-on-5 duo with Sebastian Aho has been phenomenal generating offense in that stretch, sitting at 34.4 shots and 4.0 expected goals per 60 minutes. Facing St. Louis means facing a team that has been among the least-penalized in the league all season, but Svechnikov’s power play unit has been otherworldly this season, creating 52 shots and 14 goals in 34:24 together. Again, a high shooting percentage, but still a lot of shot generation.

Carolina is playing their second game of a back-to-back, but they’re at home, and that’s much better than being on the road. While they have been getting more shutdown matchups of late, the way this line is controlling the play makes any shutdown matchups less daunting. Ice time is a concern, so that means Svechnikov is a better tournament option than cash-game play, but at least his price isn’t prohibitive across the industry.

Svechnikov’s DK projection is just north of 16.2 fantasy points, and that is nearly 34% higher than the next-closest winger priced under $6,000. There is an even larger gap for his FD projection, so he’s clearly the top option in his price range. He should be heavily considered for cash games but he may be the highest-owned player on the slate so DFS players have a decision to make in tournaments.

Dawson Mercer (NJ vs. VAN): DraftKings – $4,100 | FanDuel – $5,700

New Jersey is another team that played last night but they were at home so at least there’s no travel involved. The Devils have a couple of injuries among their forwards, and it has led to more ice time for Mercer recently – the winger has averaged 20:05 in five games since the Christmas break and has skated at least 19 minutes in six straight outings. Mercer has been skating with Erik Haula and that duo has quietly been excellent offensively for the Devils in their 123 minutes together, creating 3.3 expected goals and 3.9 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

The added bonus for tonight is he should often be matched against the JT Miller/Brock Boeser duo, and they have been below-average by both expected goals and actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 since December 1st. Mercer still isn’t getting top power play minutes, but he’s also not being priced as if he needs them for DFS success.

On DK, Mercer’s projected points-per-$1,000 exceeds 2.0 so he’s carrying very good value tonight. He also has a moderate ownership projection of 6.3% so he makes a fine one-off option for tournaments.

Mercer is listed as a center on FD, so for a cheap wing option, FanDuel users should look at Conor Garland (VAN, $4,300) who projects very well for his price.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Defense

Thomas Harley (DAL vs. NSH): DraftKings – $4,600 | FanDuel – $5,800

An injury to Miro Heiskanen is going to push Harley into a bigger role for Dallas. While it’s not a guarantee that Harley will move to the top PP unit, he has been a regular on the second unit all season (other than Nils Lundkvist, who has been a healthy scratch recently so that seems unlikely). The advanced stats website Evolving Hockey has Harley second among Dallas blue liners in expected goals-for impact at even strength, and in the 92nd percentile in even-strength offensive goals above average. All that is to say there are many measures that show Harley with very good offensive skills and that is important for a rearguard who is expected to earn more minutes overall, but specifically higher-quality offensive minutes.

Of all blue liners priced under $5,000 on DK and $6,000 on FD, Harley ranks sixth by fantasy point projection. If he can start to scratch his offensive upside in his improved role, his price will only rise from here, so he should be considered in all formats at his current cost.

Nick Perbix (TB at BOS): DraftKings – $3,000 | FanDuel – $3,700

On the season, Perbix is in the 84th percentile of the league in shots blocked per 60 minutes at all strengths. His issue has largely been ice time, but Tampa Bay is missing half their defensemen due to injury, and that has resulted in Perbix skating at least 21 minutes in three straight games while averaging over 24 minutes a night. He has 10 blocks in those three games, so the high level of blocks-per-minute is translating well to his bigger role.

There are a lot of punt defensemen on this slate and of those priced $3,000 or less on DK, and $4,000 or less on FD, Perbix ranks second and fifth on DK and FD, respectively, by fantasy point projection. With all the injuries on Tampa’s blue line and his considerably higher usage, there are reasons to use him as a cheap defender in tournament lineups.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Ilya Sorokin (NYI at VGK): DraftKings – $7,400 | FanDuel – $7,100

Sorokin leads all regular starting goalies in shots against per 60 minutes, which is not typically the hallmark of a New York Islanders team, but it does give Sorokin a lot of DFS upside. He has faced at least 30 shots in 20 out of 25 starts while posting at least 20 DK points in 12 of those starts, and at least 20 FD points in 13 outings. He faces a Vegas team that is 17th in the league by goals per minute since American Thanksgiving, which coincides with an injury to star defenseman Shea Theodore. It gives Sorokin a matchup where he could face a high shot total against a team that is not providing a lot of goals.

Stokastic’s GoalieStats section has Sorokin second on tonight’s slate by projected saves, yet just 10th by expected goals against. That discrepancy is something discussed in the paragraph above, and it’s what makes him a target in goal regardless of the format. There is even single-digit ownership projections for him on both sites.

Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

NYR2: Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Alexis Lafrenière

Sometimes, there are line combinations that start off hot and then cool off and never regain that scoring touch. It has not been the case for this Rangers trio as they have been great since being assembled, and their last 10 games alone have seen them create 3.2 expected goals and 3.4 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. They should avoid Montreal’s top line at 5-on-5 and that gives them softer matchups at that strength. Montreal has also given up 13 power play goals against in their last 15 games as the team’s penalty killing struggles have continued basically all season. It gives Panarin and Trocheck, especially, a great special teams opportunity.

The Top Stacks tool has this Rangers trio with a 7.7% top-2 stack percentage on DK and 4.7% on FD. There is expected to be much lower ownership than those numbers, however, and that gives them good positive leverage for tournaments. They should be considered among the expensive stacks to use tonight.

TOR2: Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander

This unit has been dominant for the Leafs as they’ve created 3.7 expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 while controlling 62% of the expected goal share. Their goal scoring is above average, but not quite elite, thanks to a low shooting percentage; their superiority is not in doubt, though. Going into San Jose allows them to miss the Tomas Hertl shutdown line, which gives them very soft depth matchups against the worst team in the league. Nylander’s offensive prowess has been well-documented, but Tavares has averaged over four shots per game since American Thanksgiving, a 19-game span. Once his shooting percentage turns, he will fill the net, and facing a hapless Sharks team might be the jolt he needs.

Toronto’s second line ranks fourth by top-2 stack probability on the DraftKings side of the Top Stacks tool, and second on FanDuel. They will likely see double-digit ownership on DK, at least, so a lot of attention will come this way in such a good matchup. All the same, that great matchup is the same reason to consider rostering them in tournaments.

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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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