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NHL DFS Picks Today: Nikita Kucherov and a Stack From the Vancouver Canucks

Michael Clifford

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NHL DFS Picks Today: Nikita Kucherov and a Stack From the Vancouver Canucks

There are nine games on the NHL docket tonight, giving us plenty of options for our DFS picks, including a featured matchup of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins hosting Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs. We are going to sift through high-end (Nikita Kucherov), mid-priced (Tyler Bertuzzi), and cheap options (Mario Ferraro) to try and find a good mix of projections and upside. As always, Stokastic subscribers are encouraged to check our members-only Discord through the day, particularly at warmups, for updated lineup and injury information.

Let’s get to it.

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NHL DFS Picks Today, Top Stacks, Lineup Optimizer Plays

Center

Tage Thompson (BUF vs. VAN): DraftKings – $7,900 | FanDuel – $10,100

It has been a superlative start to the year for Tage Thompson, who has managed 11 goals and 19 points in 15 games. There are small signs of pending regression but more importantly is just how much he’s shooting: he is fourth in the league in shot attempts per minute, trailing only David Pastrnak, Timo Meier, and Matthew Tkachuk. He is averaging over four shots per game as a result and that gives him a very high peripheral floor to work with.

Vancouver coming to town tonight provides Thompson and the Sabres a very good power-play matchup. The Vancouver penalty kill is giving up the most goals per minute in the league when they’re down a man and though a lot of it is poor goaltending, that goaltending has shown no signs of improvement in this area. Until they do, they are a target for top PP options on the opposing team.

Alex Tuch has been moved back to the top line for Buffalo and that gives Thompson’s trio perfect correlation at both even strength and the power play. The center’s shot volume and matchup make him a top-5 center by our projections on both sites this evening and he can be used as a one-off or part of a line stack.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH at FLA): DraftKings – $5,400 | FanDuel – $5,900

Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a rocky start to his 2022-23 campaign. He started the year with zero goals in 12 straight games before finally scoring twice against Edmonton a week ago. A big problem of his was a lack of shooting: just 20 shot attempts in his first six games, or 3.3 per game. He has 49 in 10 games since, or just shy of five per game. The improved shot rate is much more indicative of his typical performance.

As with Thompson, it is the power-play matchup that draws us here. While Washington’s PP has struggled at times, Florida gives up 3.8 power plays per game, the seventh-most in the league. They are mid-pack league-wide by penalty-kill efficiency and that, in conjunction with undisciplined play, means the team is giving up nearly one PP goal against per game (14 in 15 contests). Kuznetsov is shooting the second-most with the man advantage among Washington forwards and all this puts him in a good power-play position tonight.

Skating with Alex Ovechkin at all strengths means that using Kuznetsov at least in a duo with his legendary scoring winger is the approach to take in tournaments. At the least, ownership on them should be reasonable as our Top Stacks has Kuznetsov’s line at 4% on DK and 8% on FD. Let’s take a look at the top winger options in NHL DFS tonight.

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Winger

Nikita Kucherov (TBL vs. DAL): DraftKings – $8,700 | FanDuel – $10,300

Though it seems Nikita Kucherov is a grizzled, aged veteran by now, he is still just 29 years old and producing as well as he ever has: seven goals and 23 points in 15 games, pacing for125 points. Dating back to the start of last season, only Connor McDavid (4.39) has managed a higher points-per-60 rate than Kucherov’s 4.37.

The outright concern here is ice time. Kucherov’s first 11 games of the season saw him skate at least 20 minutes in 10 of them, averaging 22:38 per night. In four games since, he has not cracked 20 minutes in any of them, averaging 18:44. The flipside of that is he produced seven points in those four games. He averaged under 20 minutes a game a year ago and paced for a 120-point season. More ice time would be nice, but he is so efficient offensively that he can still be an upper-tier fantasy star without 22 minutes every contest.

Dallas is tied for the second-most penalized team in the league while Tampa Bay is tied for the second-most power-play opportunities per game. The Stars have a good PK but giving too many chances to Kucherov and the Lightning can be perilous. The winger is fine by himself but better in a full-line stack with his correlated line mates, given our ownership projections have TB1 in low single digits.

Tyler Bertuzzi (DET at ANA): DraftKings – $4,600 | FanDuel – $4,000

Tuesday night marks the return to the lineup for Tyler Bertuzzi, who missed 12 games with an upper-body injury. Dating back to the 2021 Bubble Season, Bertuzzi has 70 points in 79 games as a featured flank for the Red Wings. He is back on the top line with usual line mates Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond as well.

The matchup with the Ducks is about as good as it gets in the league for any team. Anaheim is last in the league in expected goals against, and 30th in actual goals against, per minute at 5-on-5. They are also 24th in goals against per minute while down a man. Finally, the Ducks are ninth in the league in times short-handed this season, giving the opposition 3.7 power plays per game. For a return game, this is a great head-to-head for Bertuzzi.

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Coming off an injury has given Bertuzzi a reasonable price across the industry and tops our projections for sub-$5,000 wingers on both sites. That is likely to draw a lot of ownership, but it is also a spot we cannot ignore. Using him in a full-line stack is one way to dilute that ownership.

Yegor Sharangovich (NJD at MTL): DraftKings – $3,200 | FanDuel – $4,800

Though he’s often been used on the third and fourth lines this year, Yegor Sharangovich has been moved to a line with Jack Hughes and that duo does have a history of success dating to last season. With them on the ice alongside Jesper Bratt, the Devils generate 3.9 expected goals and 3.8 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. As long as Sharangovich skates on this line, he is very much a cheap target for us in the DFS game.

Going into Montreal has been tougher for top lines of late now that Kirby Dach is skating on Montreal’s top trio. New Jersey already has wins in Calgary, Edmonton, and New York already this season, though, and Hughes has helped the team generate 4.7 expected goals and 4.6 actual goals per 60 minutes on the road. He has been excellent regardless of matchups and that is very important for Sharangovich tonight.

The appeal tonight is obviously his price. He is a season removed from a 24-goal campaign and he’s shooting more often this season than last, on a per-minute basis. Getting better line mates should help his shooting percentage and thus is chances for scoring. He is cheap enough to be a one-off option tonight but is also fine in a tournament stack. Now let’s pick some defensemen for NHL DFS.

Defense

Aaron Ekblad (FLA vs. WSH): DraftKings – $5,000 | FanDuel – $4,900

Sometimes, injured players are priced down while they’re injured, and it takes time for the DFS algorithms to re-adjust their cost. That is what’s happened with Aaron Ekblad on both sites, who has seen his pricing often sit in the $6,000-range over the last couple seasons, sometimes reaching $7,000. Once he gets more games under his belt, Ekblad’s price will rise from here. He skated 23:42 in his first game back, managing three shots and a pair of blocks.

Having Washington in town brings a team with a mediocre-at-best penalty kill, ranking in the middle of the league by goals against and bottom-10 by expected goals against. Ekblad is back on the top PP unit for Florida, and they have been much more proficient with him than without over the years. He is a boost for them in a reasonable matchup. Ekblad leads all defensemen priced under $5,500 in our projections, and it’s not particularly close.

Mario Ferraro (SJS at VGK): DraftKings – $2,700 | FanDuel – $4,400

Using Mario Ferraro tonight is a much better idea on DraftKings than FanDuel. The former places more emphasis on blocked shots and Ferraro has 29 in 17 games on the season. He has hit the three-block bonus three times on the season, including once already against this very Vegas team.

On the year, the Golden Knights are 10th in the league in shot attempts per minute, ranking even higher when looking just at home games. Ferraro is on the ice for nearly 32 shots against per 60 and has skated at least 24 minutes in four of six games so far this month. For DFS players looking for a punt option on DK tonight, Ferraro is one of our options as he’s top-5 by our projections for blue liners priced under $3,000

Over on FanDuel, Jake Bean (CBJ, $3,900) is third in our points projections for defensemen priced under $4,000, given his top PP role for the Blue Jackets.

Goalie

Darcy Kuemper (WSH at FLA): DraftKings – $7,000 | FanDuel – $7,200

When looking for a cheap goalie, expected shot volume against is very important. On the season, Florida has the highest shot attempt rate at 5-on-5 in the league, taking nearly 72 per 60 minutes. In all situations, the Panthers also lead the league in shots on goal per 60 minutes, landing just shy of 40. They are scoring 3.1 goals per 60 minutes which means in a full game, opposing goalies are averaging a DK save bonus every time out against the Panthers. Averages don’t work out that way in a practical manner, but it gives us an idea of the upside Darcy Kuemper has if he doesn’t allow several goals against, as he’s fifth in projected saves by our numbers.

It has been an up-and-down year for Kuemper who has had great showings against Carolina, Nashville, and Tampa Bay while also being throttled by that same Tampa Bay team in his last game. That volatility can make him frustrating but the matchup tonight against a high-volume team gives him a very high ceiling. He is one of our cheap options in tournaments tonight.

Top NHL DFS Stacks Today

PIT1: Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Sidney Crosby’s line has been used less in a shutdown role as he’s aged and tonight that means he’ll be sent out often against Toronto’s second line. Going back a couple years, when Mitch Marner is skating with John Tavares, the Leafs give up 2.8 expected goals against, are under a 49% expected goal share, and allowing 3.3 goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. They just do not play well together, and Crosby’s top line will have an advantageous matchup because of it. That top line, by the way, is generating 3.2 expected goals and 3.8 actual goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season. They are just superb offensively.

Matt Murray is returning from injury tonight for Toronto and the netminder is 38th of 51 regular goalies over the last three seasons in high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5. Unless he quickly regains his form from 3-4 years ago, this is a positive for the Penguins. They will be higher owned on FanDuel than DraftKings given the pricing but offer positive leverage on both sites (much more on the latter, though).

VAN2: Pettersson-Boeser-Mikheyev

Vancouver has moved Brock Boeser to the top power-play unit and that gives the Canucks two players on their second line on the power play. That is important for tonight as Buffalo is 26th by goals against when short-handed, showing a very poor penalty kill. After a slow start to the year, the Vancouver power play has righted the ship and is top-10 in the league in goals per minute through seven November games. They typically have a very good PP, so this is much more indicative of their history than the first couple weeks of the campaign. They are coming in under 5% ownership on both sites tonight, per our Top Stacks tool.

*Additional data from Natural Stat Trick

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