NHL DFS Picks Today: Stack Toronto’s Startes Today (April 20)

The 2024 NHL Playoffs have arrived! It is the first Saturday of the best time of the year, and we are here to help break down the two-game DFS slate. These games include a rematch from the first round of last year’s postseason with the New York Islanders going into Carolina as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs going into Boston for a familiar matchup between the two rivals. Let’s dive into our top NHL DFS picks for today, April 20.   

Though the lineups are mostly set, there could be some surprises from New York and Toronto, so Stokastic members should always double-check the Discord before an earlier-than-normal lock of 5 p.m. ET for any roster updates.

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Lineup Decisions, Expert Advice & More

NHL DFS Picks Today: Center

Auston Matthews (TOR at BOS)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Scoring 69 goals in the regular season, Matthews set a career-high mark, surpassing the 60 he scored in 2021-22. His last two postseason appearances have seen him tally nine goals in 18 games while averaging 4.3 shots per contest. In fact, during his 50 career playoff games, he has registered at least five shots on goal in 23 of those appearances.

Matthews’ playoff rates have earned him a DraftKings shot bonus in 46% of his outings; he put up a DK shot bonus in 42% of his regular season games this season. Though the goal-scoring rates aren’t as high, he still is a heavy-volume shooter in the playoffs. Every postseason is different, but considering Toronto’s lack of playoff success, he is heavily engaged in the offense.

What should help Matthews even more this time around is a top line that has been exceptional since being assembled. Skating between Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, Matthews’s trio created 42.9 shots, 4.6 expected goals, and 6.6 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Shooting 15.4% indicates they were riding a high percentage, but even 10-11% would leave them with super-elite scoring rates just because they were generating so many shots.

As expected, Matthews leads all centers by Stokastic’s fantasy point projections tonight, exceeding the next-closest option by nearly 23% on DK and nearly 17% on FD. He will carry high ownership on DK – over 30% in many contests and even higher in single-entry tournaments – but is projected at 12.4% on FD. He is in play on either site regardless of those ownership numbers == but he makes more sense on FD.

Kyle MacLean (NYI at CAR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

This is a situation where news will be important. Jean-Gabriel Pageau left New York’s final regular season game with an injury and did not practice with the team on Friday. Normally, that would indicate he’s not playing today, but this is the NHL playoffs where players often play through injury and details are always hard to come by. We will know when warmups start, but until then, we must assume MacLean is taking Pageau’s spot on the third line.

In Pierre Engvall and Anders Lee, MacLean gets a pair of wingers that created a lot of offense together with 67.1 shot attempts and 3.7 expected goals for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in a sample of nearly 65 minutes. It isn’t a high ice time total, but Lee has helped drive the offense for the forwards, so that he did the same with Engvall makes sense.

Since Christmas, Carolina has the lowest goal and shot against rates in the league. This is the best defensive team in the NHL, which puts the Islanders in a tough spot offensively. The good news for MacLean and his third line is that he’ll avoid both the Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal lines, and both trios had expected goals against rates under 1.75 per 60 minutes. That means MacLean will not see much of Carolina’s two best defensive lines and receive easier matchups against the depth.

Right now, Stokastic has MacLean listed on the fourth line in case Pageau does end up playing. That is causing him to have a very low fantasy point projection, but it will come up if Pageau is announced out, and he will have very low ownership rates because of it.

Because FanDuel hasn’t updated their player pool since the 2013 lockout, MacLean isn’t in the mix. Users on that site may want to look at Jesperi Kotkaniemi (CAR, $3,300) for a cheap center.


NHL DFS Picks Today: Winger

David Pastrňák (BOS vs. TOR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

In a season with so many elite offensive performances, David Pastrňák has been as good as nearly anyone on a 60-minute basis, finishing the season first in shots, fifth in points, and sixth in goals. His issue is not getting the same levels of ice time as some of the other top stars, but as is the case with the playoffs and elite players, his ice time rate increases every time Boston reaches the postseason.

Pasta’s line has also been very good offensively by generating 32 shots, 3.2 expected goals, and 5.6 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. That is a high conversion rate, but the team outscored their expected goals number by 28.2% with Pastrňák on the ice in his prior two seasons, so doing it again is not unexpected.

One area Toronto struggled in the second half of the season was on the penalty kill. The Leafs were 16th by shots against per 60 minutes while short-handed in their final 41 games, landing 26th by goals against rate. They even took minor penalties at an above-average rate, exceeding the league norm by 8%. Boston’s power play did struggle in the second half as well, but they changed up their units down the stretch, and Pastrňák’s PP unit created over 25% more shot attempts with Kevin Shattenkirk on the blue line, so this is a good special team matchup.

Like Matthews, Pastrňák is the top option at his position on both sites, exceeding the fantasy projection of the next-closest option by 27-32% depending on the site. Even if users don’t want to stack Boston in tournaments, Pastrňák makes a lot of sense as a one-off option given his projection and involvement in Boston’s offense.

Seth Jarvis (CAR vs. NYI)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

This year was a breakout season for Jarvis as he tallied 33 goals and 34 assists across 81 games, finishing second among the team’s forwards (behind Sebastian Aho) in goals per 60 minutes and third by points. He also got a huge boost down the stretch as the team traded for winger Jake Guentzel, and their line with Aho was unbelievably productive at 5-on-5: in over 180 minutes together, they created 38.6 shots, 3.4 expected goals, and 4.1 actual goals per 60 minutes.

Jarvis also had 11 games this season where he skated at least 21:30, and five of them came in his final 15 games of the campaign. In other words, once the team acquired Guentzel, the top line was getting more usage until the team put it in cruise control for the final couple weeks of the season.

Carolina is an elite defensive team, but New York was a top-10 defensive team at 5-on-5 after hiring new coach Patrick Roy in January. The one constant for the Islanders was a bad penalty kill as the team gave up the fourth-most goals per minute while short-handed after the All-Star break. Carolina’s top PP unit generated nearly 15% more shot attempts and scored much more often after acquiring Guentzel, and that helps Jarvis’s upside as he also skates on that PP unit.

Jarvis is not a volume shooter, which keeps his fantasy projection much lower than cohorts in the same price range. That also keeps a lot of ownership away from him as he sits at 16.4% on DK and about half that rate on FD. It makes him — and his linemates — targets for tournaments.

Trent Frederic (BOS vs. TOR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

It was quietly a very productive season for Frederic. He finished with 18 goals and 40 points despite minimal power play time and third-line usage. In fact, his goals and points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 were third among all Boston forwards and ranked in the 73rd and 78th percentiles among regular forwards across the league. Those are the percentiles of a high-end second-line forward or a low-end top-line forward, which speaks to how good he was in the time he spent on the ice.

Frederic also gets reasonable usage at 5-on-5. Over the final month of the season, Boston forwards like Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand only received between 2.5-5.5% more ice time per game than Frederic. That was similarly the case back in January, or right in the middle of the season, so it wasn’t a new development that Frederic was getting ice time comparable to the team’s second line. He is not on the power play, which hurts his value, but he’s shown the ability to have good DFS performances without that special team time.

Of all wingers priced under $3,000 on DK, Frederic carries the second-highest fantasy point projection. DFS players on that site looking for a min-priced flank to help fit in expensive options elsewhere will want to look in this direction.

Frederic is listed as a center on FanDuel, so users on that site may want to consider his linemate, Jakub Lauko ($3,400).

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Defender

Brent Burns (CAR vs. NYI)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

As mentioned in the section on Jarvis, the Carolina power play was much improved after the acquisition of Guentzel, and the Islanders’ penalty kill has struggled all season even under a new coach. While Burns lost some ice time down the stretch, Carolina reduced the ice time of all their top players over the final few weeks of the season, so Burns should be back in the 21- to 22-minute range that he saw over the first four months of the campaign.

That is good news for Burns’ shot volume, as his shots per 60 minutes in that earlier span of the season ranked fifth among all blue-liners in the league. He can rack up the shots if given enough ice time and gets a great power-play matchup.

Among blue liners priced under $5,000 on DK and $6,000 on FD, Burns ranks second and first, respectively, by fantasy point projection. He is also likely to be one of the highest-owned defensemen on the night, so tournament players must weigh that projection against 25-30% ownership rates.

Ryan Pulock (NYI at CAR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

Not only is Carolina one of the top defensive teams in the league, but they were at or near the top of the league by shots generated per 60 minutes all season long. That is good news for Ryan Pulock, who led Carolina’s playoff defensemen in shots blocked per minute this campaign. He finished the year averaging 2.6 blocks per game and reached the DK block bonus in 26 of his 58 appearances.

In three games against Carolina, Pulock blocked nine shots and reached the DK bonus twice. He also skated at least 22 minutes in each of the team’s final 11 games as they were chasing down a playoff spot, so he was heavily relied upon when the team needed him the most. That should be the case again tonight.

Of defensemen priced under $4,000 on DK or $5,000 on FD, Pulock ranks fifth by fantasy point projection. He is in a tough matchup offensively but should have plenty of chances to accumulate peripheral production. His ownership projects between 12.5-16.5% on the two sites.

NHL DFS Picks Today: Goalie

Semyon Varlamov (NYI at CAR)

DraftKings Salary
FanDuel Salary

In that section on Pulock, it was mentioned how much Carolina shoots, and they were second in the league by shots per minute from the Trade Deadline onward. They landed over 10% more shots per minute than the next-closest team on this slate, so Varlamov should see a lot of volume tonight, even with his team’s improved defense. While New York’s penalty kill struggled, they were disciplined under their new coach with 2.4 minor penalties taken per game after the All-Star break.

That was the second lowest in the league, and nearly 28% lower than the league average. If they can stay disciplined, it means more 5-on-5 shots for Varlamov, and that’s where he can rack up DFS production, particularly on DraftKings.

Stokatic’s GoalieStats section has Varlamov leading this slate’s four netminders by both projected saves and expected goals against. Such is the duality of facing high shot volume, but if he can keep the Hurricanes offense from filling the net, he could well be the highest-scoring netminder on the night.

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NHL DFS Top Stacks Today | NHL DFS Picks Today

TOR1: Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Max Domi

The section on Matthews outlined just how good this trio has been for the Leafs. What is also important is that the Bruins were often using the Pastrňák line in a shutdown role late in the season, and that line’s expected goals against rate per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was 2.7, which is worse than the league average.

Boston’s goaltending can help keep the goals against down, but it’s a matchup that favors the Toronto side as long as the trio plays anywhere near the level they did over the final six weeks of the season. Also, with William Nylander’s status up in the air, Bertuzzi or Domi are candidates to jump to the team’s top power=play unit.

Even with this Toronto line’s ownership creeping towards 25% on DK, Stokastic’s Top Stacks tool has them with positive leverage due to a top-2 stack probability of nearly 30%. That positive leverage is even larger on FD where they are relatively more expensive, so they are acceptable to use in all tournaments on either site.

CAR4: Jack Drury – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Stefan Noesen

There are a few reasons to consider this Carolina fourth line. The first is that the Drury/Noesen combo has provided very good depth scoring: in nearly 390 minutes with those two on the ice at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes created 3.3 expected goals and 3.3 actual goals per 60 minutes, or about 28% higher than the league average.

The second reason is that both Noesen and Kuznetsov skate on the team’s second power-play unit. They won’t get the usage the top unit will, but we’ve already mentioned how much the Islanders penalty kill has struggled, even if they are playing more disciplined. This should be a good offensive line at 5-on-5 and two of the three skaters will get power play time.

The one issue with using this line on DK tonight is that a lot of the top options have been priced down, so there may not be a need for a trio this cheap. All the same, for DFS players jamming in high-priced options from Toronto or Boston may want to look in this direction as they carry positive leverage on DK, per the Top Stacks tool.  

*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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