We have a monster 13-game Tuesday night NHL slate on our hands after a minuscule one-gamer Monday evening.
Of course, there’s going to be a wealth of options on the board and some diluted ownership slate-wide, so let’s dive into a GPP-aimed lineup and see if we can profit on a busy night in the NHL!
FanDuel NHL DFS Picks – January 26, 2021
C – Mika Zibanejad (NYR) – $7,300 vs. BUF
A minor surprise in the early stages of this NHL season is the Rangers coming out of the gate so slow on offense. They haven’t been completely anemic in averaging 2.60 goals per game through five contests, but that puts them 24th in the league after finishing fifth with much of the same group last season. They have also failed to score more than three times in four of their five games so far.
Needless to say, I’m expecting a coming out party for this group in short order, and I don’t mind the matchup in Buffalo tonight. The Sabres have been a middle-of-the-pack defense so far, but their advanced metrics rank among the best in the league.
Why target them with so many other options on the slate? It’s all about ownership as I don’t see the Rangers attracting much given what I’ve already mentioned above, but we know this group is far more capable than they’ve shown in four of their five games this season.
Zibanejad’s shortened 2019-20 campaign was the best of his career as he posted 41 goals and 75 points in just 57 games, one year after producing 74 points in 82 contests. He was also lethal on the power play in notching 15 man-advantage goals in the process.
We’ve yet to see this Rangers offense consistently produce at full capacity in the young season, so we’ll see if we can sneak them in here at low ownership as a result.
C – Mathew Barzal (NYI) – $6,700 vs. WSH
We know that the Islanders are a defense-first team under Barry Trotz and that’s been incredibly apparent so far as they the league’s second-ranked defense so far, but also the worst offense in averaging just 1.80 goals per game. They’ve scored four goals in two of their five games so far, but just one in the other three combined. Quite a volatile group so far.
That said, tonight marks the first of two in a row against the undermanned Caps, a team that will be without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov once again after their protocol breach. By no means are the Isles a dominant possession team, but the ice should be tilted in their favor in this one with so many high-caliber players out for the Caps. It’s a Washington team that’s also allowed four or more goals in four of their six games this season while rookie goaltender Vitek Vanecek can certainly be targeted despite his acceptable play so far.
After a contract dispute had the early portion of his season in jeopardy, Barzal is hot to begin the season, tallying two goals and four points in five games with 10 shots in that time. He’s actually done all of that damage on the scoresheet in two of his five games, but there’s no doubt he’ll get his chances against a watered-down Capitals roster in this one, one that boasts some wildly poor advanced metrics on the whole.
Add it up and I’ll look for the 23-year-old to get back on the scoresheet in this one.
W – Chris Kreider (NYR) – $5,700 vs. BUF
Next man up in our three-man Rangers stack is Kreider who will skate alongside Zibanejad on the team’s top line and top power play unit once again tonight.
The big 29-year-old power forward has been partly to blame for the team’s early-season offensive output, notching just one goal for his lone point in five games despite logging 18:37 of ice time per game. That tally come on the man advantage last Tuesday against the Devils, but is otherwise pointless with just three shots on goal in his other four games this season.
There’s little doubt he’ll come around. Kreider has been an extremely reliable producer in his NHL career, notching at least 21 goals in his last five healthy seasons and has been on pace to do so in his other two seasons that involved missing time with injuries. Last season, he tallied 24 goals and 45 points in 63 games as he, Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin were one of the most productive lines in the league.
Not much of a decision on whether or not to include Kreider in a Zibanejad-led Rangers stack.
W – Alexis Lafreniere (NYR) – $4,200 vs. BUF
The public is going to be sour on Lafreniere as the 2020 first overall pick has yet to hit the scoresheet through the first five games of his NHL career and has just six shots in that time.
He’s projected to flank Zibanejad at 5v5 in this one, and he’ll also give us some exposure to the Rangers’ second power play unit.
There’s no doubt he’s fighting it early on. A puck sent his way for a wide-open tap in simply bounced off his stick wide of the cage his last time out against the Penguins as clear evidence that he’s snakebitten at the moment. Head coach David Quinn is doing everything he can to get the former Rimouski Oceanic star going as Lafreniere logged 18:49 in that contest, the highest total of his career by far.
One of the most highly-touted prospects since Sidney Crosby also came out of Rimouski, Lafreniere recorded a whopping 112 points in 52 games in the QMJHL last season and also took home World Junior MVP honors after posting five goals and 10 points in five games en route to a gold medal for Team Canada.
It’s going to happen for him sooner than later, so let’s be there when that happens.
D – Ryan Pulock (NYI) – $4,400 vs. WSH
Here’s a player that brings a solid floor to the table at a low price, but also shouldn’t see much ownership as part of this three-man Islanders stack.
Pulock has a cannon for a shot, helping him score 29 goals over the last three seasons, tying him with Torey Krug, Thomas Chabot and Morgan Rielly for 21st in the league among defensemen in that time. Not bad company there.
Not only that, but his 527 shots on goal in that time ranks him 18th, one spot behind Rielly and ahead of P.K. Subban and Aaron Ekblad.
So, the floor is fairly clear. It hasn’t been there this season as he’s recorded just one assist and seven shots in five games for this vastly inconsistent Islanders offensive attack, but the 26-year-old is a weapon on the power play with that shot and this is a Capitals team that’s been brutalized on the penalty kill this season, ranking 25th with a 69.2% clip in the early going.
Add it up and I believe we can big value in store with the underrated Pulock tonight.
D – Morgan Rielly (TOR) – $4,800 vs. CGY
I swear I didn’t know how similar these two defensemen have produced over the last few years, but it appears we’re getting a pair of high-ceiling blueliners into this lineup at attractive prices.
Rielly’s price has actually come down some so far this season, but I’m not quite sure why. He’s notched a goal, three assists and 18 shots in seven games this season and is logging in excess of 24 minutes per night on the Leafs’ blueline. Rielly battled some injuries last season and his three goals and 27 points in 47 games was a subpar year as a result. However, here’s a guy that led all NHL defensemen with 20 goals in the 2018-19 season and also posted 72 points in 82 games that year. Only Brent Burns and Norris Trophy-winning Mark Giordano had more points that season.
He’s proved he can produce with the game’s best. He’s also the lone defenseman on the Maple Leafs’ top power play unit, a group that’s helped power the team to a monstrous 40.9% clip in the early going, good for third league wide. The Leafs’ 14th-ranked overall offense should also improve as they look to get going at 5v5, but for now Rielly looks like a steal at this price tonight in Calgary.
UTIL – Jordan Eberle (NYI) – $5,500 vs. WSH
Eberle and Anders Lee are both set to flank Barzal on the Islanders’ top line and top power play unit tonight, but Eberle certainly looks like the more valuable of the two wingers with Lee’s price all the way up to $7,300. Besides, both players have identical two-goal, one-assist stat lines in five games with Lee’s 16 shots slightly edging Eberle’s 15.
Eberle skated in just 58 games for an anemic Islanders offense last season, but managed to produce a healthy 16 goals and 40 points with 136 shots in that time. He was once again on pace for a 20-goal season, something he’s done every season of his NHL career or has been on pace to do so.
He’s been very good of late. He enjoyed a two-goal night on Thursday against the Devils and has also fired 10 shots on goal over his last two contests. He put six shots on goal as part of his 19:14 of ice time his last time out but was unable to solve Mackenzie Blackwood who posted a shutout in a 2-0 Devils win.
Again, there isn’t much of a decision to be made here. Perhaps Lee will see less ownership given his high cost, but as far as value goes, Eberle appears to be the top choice among the two top-line wingers this evening.
UTIL – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $8,100 vs. CGY
We’ll complete a Maple Leafs mini-stack here with Matthews who returned from a brief upper body ailment that cost him only one game.
He returned for Sunday’s win over the Flames and notched the game-winning goal in that one, albeit with a fortunate bounce off a Flames defender. The puck tends to follow the game’s elite players and that’s certainly been the case with Matthews.
The 23-year-old now has three goals and six points in as many games while his 29 shots on goal in that time ranks him second to only Connor McDavid’s 33 in one less game. He also ranks behind only McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with 108 scoring chances for when he’s been on the ice this season.
In other words, the Leafs are lethal when this guy is on the ice. Considering just one of his six points has come on the power play this season, he’s once again been a beast at 5v5 action, which is fine too.
Only Alexander Ovechkin has scored more goals than Matthews since he entered the league in the 2016-17 season, so we’ll look for the superstar pivot to keep up his goal-scoring ways in the rematch tonight.
G – Semyon Varlamov (NYI) – $8,000 vs. WSH
Here’s a guy that could very well see some ownership tonight given his elite start to the season and the well-known issues involving Ovechkin and Kuznetsov up front for Washington, but I don’t see why we should look for a pivot as this lineup has plenty of GPP feel to it regardless.
Varlamov has made three starts this season, posting a 0.33 GAA and .988 Sv% with two shutouts in that time. Much of the attention in the Islanders crease prior to the season featured rookie Ilya Sorokin in his rookie season in the NHL, but he’s struggled early on while Varlamov has simply been the NHL’s best netminder in the season’s infancy.
The Islanders have also been a stout defense on the whole. Their 1.60 goals against per game ranks second to only the Dallas Stars who have played only two games so far. They’ve been the league’s sixth-best penalty killing team so far (88.2%) and despite the Capitals sitting fourth with a 38.1% clip on the power play so far, there’s little doubt it’s a weakened group in Ovechkin’s absence.
The Capitals have still managed to sit sixth overall in offense this season, however this is their toughest test yet against Varlamov and this Islanders team. With the Isles sitting at -133 moneyline favorites, I’m comfortable in rolling with the Russian veteran in this matchup tonight.