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NHL DFS Picks Today: Nathan MacKinnon and the Carolina Hurricanes Top Line

Michael Clifford

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Nathan MacKinnon and the Carolina Hurricanes Top Line

There are 10 games in the NHL tonight on another full Thursday slate, giving us lots of options for our  NHL DFS picks. There is one key situation to monitor and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. They will be discussed with more detail later, but they played last night and changed their lines as the game wore on, moving Andrei Svechnikov alongside Sebastian Aho. That is a spot where we could get low-owned line combinations if information isn’t released until warmups. For that, and other, reasons, Stokastic subscribers should check our members-only Discord as teams start to hit the ice.

Alright, let’s go through some top options.

NHL DFS Picks Today, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

Center

Nathan MacKinnon (COL vs. NSH): DraftKings – $8,900 | FanDuel – $10,200

It has been a weird start to the season for Nathan MacKinnon, who has 19 points in 11 games, but just three goals. The culprit is a 5.5% shooting percentage, a number that is just a little better than half his three-year average of 10.6%. A normal conversion rate (for him) would have him on pace for the 40-goal neighborhood, which is more what we expect from him. What is important is his shot rate has risen a bit from last year so it’s not a function of shooting reticence. Rather, it’s simply a run of tough luck for a high-end goal scorer.

Nashville visiting tonight is a good matchup for MacKinnon and the Avalanche. The Predators are above average (3.6) by times short-handed per game (3.4) so the Colorado power play should get their chances. What’s more is the Nashville top line has struggled defensively this year, giving up 2.9 expected goals and over 4.0 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

Colorado’s top forward has correlation with both his wingers on the power play so full stacking the entire line in tournaments is perfectly acceptable. MacKinnon also shoots enough where he can be used by himself, especially where his projection is three points higher than any skater on either site tonight.

Mathew Barzal (NYI vs. ARI): DraftKings – $5,000 | FanDuel – $5,500

Staying with weird starts, Mathew Barzal is managing a career-best points-per-game rate at 1.07. What is weird about that is he has zero goals; all his points are assists. It isn’t as if he’s lacking in the shots department, either: the 25-year-old is landing a career-best 2.7 shots per game. His ice time is very inconsistent – as low as 15:34 and as high as 24:01 in his last five games – but overall, he’s managing decent shot volume. He just hasn’t scored yet, which is remarkable for a 14-game stretch.

The matchup tonight is obviously the draw here. Arizona is 30th in the league in 5-on-5 expected goals against per 60 minutes and 31st by actual goals against. On top of that, Oliver Wahlstrom was moved to Barzal’s line (again) last game, and that duo is generating 3.3 expected goals per 60 minutes going back to last season. They are dynamic offensively and should be a challenge for the Coyotes to contain.

As with all players facing Arizona, ownership will be high here. However, Barzal has tremendous upside once he starts scoring, which is reflected in his projection leading all mid-priced centers on both sites. Because of his passing propensity, using him with at least one of his line mates in tournaments is preferred.


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Winger

Andrei Svechnikov (CAR vs. EDM): DraftKings – $7,100 | FanDuel – $9,000

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Carolina played last night, and this makes it a back-to-back for them. At least they’re at home, though, and Edmonton in town gives them a good matchup. On the season, Edmonton is giving the opposition the most power plays per game at 4.4. Edmonton is a bottom-10 penalty killing team by most any metric, and that has all led to the team giving up an average of one power-play goal against per game. They are an undisciplined team that can’t make up for the mistakes.

This is where Andrei Svechnikov enters the picture. He is managing 43.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes with the man advantage this year, a 97th percentile mark through the first month of the campaign. He is shooting more often than luminaries like Mika Zibanejad, Alex Ovechkin, and David Pastrnak. That has helped put Svechnikov on pace for nearly 20 power-play goals this year.

Like Barzal, there can be inconsistent ice time here. Sometimes Svechnikov plays 16-17 minutes, sometimes 20-plus minutes, and it’s one thing keeping his ownership very low tonight. It makes him unreliable in cash games. In tournaments, though, his special team matchup is too good to ignore. Just beware of even-strength line changes and where he’s slotted at warmups.

Jonathan Marchessault (VGK at BUF): DraftKings – $5,800 | FanDuel – $6,400

Jack Eichel returning to Buffalo is the big story here, but Jonathan Marchessault is the player we’re going to target. He is averaging over three shots per game, as he normally does, but he’s also skating on the top power-play unit. Buffalo’s penalty kill has not been strong this season as they sit 23rd by goals against per 60 minutes. They do not take a lot of penalties but can struggle to kill the ones they do take.

The other key here is how Buffalo runs their lines. They rarely use the Tage Thompson line in a shutdown role, opting for Dylan Cozens and Alex Tuch instead. With those two Sabres off the ice, the team’s expected goals against rate rises 40%. Marchessault and his line mates will mostly see softer in-game matchups and it is part of the reason we are drawn here.

Marchessault leads Vegas in shot attempts and expected goals on the man advantage and his line will get good matchups. He doesn’t correlate with those line mates on the power play so using him as a one-off is perfectly fine here. They are not expensive, though, so using the trio as a line stack is fine seeing as they look to be carrying low single-digit ownership by our Top Stacks.

Fabian Zetterlund (NJD vs. OTT): DraftKings – $3,800 | FanDuel – $4,500

New Jersey has changed up their lines at times in their last few games, but their morning skate saw Fabian Zetterlund back with Nico Hischier. In nearly 65 minutes together this season, that duo has helped the Devils generate 3.5 expected goals and 3.7 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Tomas Tatar is the third member of that line and though he hasn’t been hugely productive, good two-way play has helped keep them on the attack.

Perhaps just as importantly, Zetterlund has been seeing some top power-play time for the Devils. Tonight, they host an Ottawa team that is giving up the sixth-most power plays per game to the opponent at 3.9. Their penalty kill has been good, but the sheer volume of penalties means the Sens have given up 10 power-play goals against in 12 games. This all brings Zetterlund’s projection among the top guys for cheap-ish wingers tonight.

Zetterlund is not a household name, but he did have 52 points in 58 games last season in the AHL, managing a shade over three shots per game. In eight NHL games this year, he trails only Jack Hughes in shot attempt rate at 5-on-5 for the Devils. At a cheap price, he’s fine by himself, but using him with at least Hischier for some power-play correlation is another route to take.

Defense

Roman Josi (NSH at COL): DraftKings – $7,500 | FanDuel – $7,200

Roman Josi has been very un-Josi-like to start the season with just two goals and seven points in 13 games. There is a bit of bad luck here as he’s shooting just 3.7% against a three-year average of 6.9%. A normal conversion rate would have him on pace for a 25-goal season, a year after scoring 23. Once that percentage regresses, the goals will come.

Among all defensemen priced at least $6,500 on both sites, Josi is carrying the second-highest projection (behind Cale Makar) and is top-3 by value. Even with the team’s slow start, he’s still looking like an elite high-priced blue liner.

Even without the points, Josi is averaging two blocks and over four shots per game. He has reached the shot or block bonus five teams each on DraftKings this year. Colorado will be missing all of Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, and Samuel Girard for this contest. Josi projects very well and should be given strong consideration as a one-off in tournaments.

Sean Durzi (LAK vs. CHI): DraftKings – $4,500 | FanDuel – $5,100

It has been an uneven season by ice time standards for Sean Durzi. He averaged 21:31 in the team’s first seven games, skating under 20 minutes just once. That has fallen to 18:58 over his last seven games, cracking 20 minutes just twice. That makes him very unreliable for cash games.

In tournaments, though, this is a great matchup for Durzi and the Kings. Los Angeles is tops in the league in power-plays drawn per game while Chicago is tied for third in power plays given to the opponent. The Kings have started running two even power-play units and that gives this defenseman a lot of PPTOI potential.

The issue with the ice time means his peripherals are taking a hit, but Durzi is in a very good power-play matchup tonight. He requires some attention for tournaments, whether by himself or in some sort of stack with the Los Angeles second line (his power-play forwards). Just beware of heavy ownership all around for this team in this matchup.

Goalie

Pyotr Kochetkov (CAR vs. EDM): DraftKings – $6,500 | FanDuel – $6,500

The reason we have Pyotr Kochetkov listed here is obviously his price. As a recent minor-league call up, his price hasn’t adjusted across the industry and he’s the cheapest goalie on the slate tonight. He is also facing an Edmonton team that is third in the league in goals per minute. It is quite the matchup.

One thing working in the netminder’s favor is Carolina’s penalty kill. They allow among the fifth-fewest expected goals and shots against when down a man. Edmonton’s power play has accounted for nearly one-third of the team’s goals (32%) so if the Hurricanes can lock things down on the PK, Kochetkov stands a reasonable chance of success. Kochetkov’s price means he doesn’t need a big night to be a useful DFS option and that makes him one of our best projected goalie values on the slate.

Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

BOS2: Hall-Krejci-Pastrnak

In the first run of our Top Stacks tool this morning, Boston’s second line rate as one of the top leverage spots on the night. They are expensive across the industry, but with good reason: this trio generates 3.3 expected goals and controls over 62% of the expected goal share at 5-on-5. On top of that, they avoid top-line matchups most of the time. David Krejci is likely to lose his power-play role to the returning Charlie McAvoy, but Calgary has an elite penalty kill anyway. Using at least Krejci and David Pastrnak in a duo is in play tonight for DFS players, or just going with the entire trio.

CAR1: Svechnikov-Aho-Necas

This is entirely contingent on this trio being used together in warmups. We will need to pay attention at 6:30 ET when they hit the ice, but they bring tremendous upside. As mentioned in the section on Svechnikov, the Oilers are a team that take a lot of penalties. Since adding Stefan Noesen to the top PP unit, Carolina is generating 60% more expected goals with the man advantage and are scoring over 13 goals per 60 minutes. Assuming all three forwards listed are skating together, they have the potential to be elite both at even strength and on the power play. If they are together in warmups, they may be a low-owned trio as the news will come late.

*Additional stats from Natural Stat Trick

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