The wait is over, folks. NHL hockey is back.
For some the wait has been a few short months after the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup in late September, but for others we’ve crossed 10 months since the seven non-playoff teams played their most recent game.
Kudos to hockey fans across the globe for your patience, and now it’s time be rewarded.
I’ll be here daily throughout the NHL season delivering NHL DFS lineups (and game picks), and buckle up because it’s going to be a busy season.
It’s also going to be a unique season with plenty of lineup changes throughout, and due to these picks being released well before puck drop, make sure to follow me on Twitter @BKemp17 to stay updated on lineup changes that affect what I release earlier in the day while I’ll opine on some notable tidbits as I see fit throughout the day.
For those playing at FanDuel, you’ll notice a new-look format. Rather than four winger spots, FanDuel has changed things up and allowed two winger slots and two utility spots for the new season, offering up some additional roster flexibility in the process.
With that in mind, let’s get it to it! We’ll start our season by building some bankroll with a cash-aimed lineup that should get us off and rolling to kick off the 2021 NHL season!
FanDuel NHL DFS Picks – January 13, 2020
C – Brayden Point (TB) – $7,900 vs. CHI
The defending Stanley Cup champs open up their Central-Division schedule with a soft matchup against a Blackhawks squad that is already beat up before the season even begins.
They’re without their scheduled top two centers in Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach while Alex Nylander joins Dach in missing the entire season while Toews’ status remains up in the air due to an unknown illness. While the defense is healthy, it’s a group that is going to see the ice tilted towards their goal as the Blackhawks’ forward group is just not good enough to control possession in this one.
It’s also a Blackhawks defense coming off ranking last while allowing 35.1 shots per game last season while likely starter Malcolm Subban posted an .890 Sv% in 20 games with the Vegas Golden Knights last season and owns a 2.97 GAA and .899 Sv% across 66 NHL appearances for his career.
Add it up and the Lightning are easily the top cash play on the board, beginning with No. 1 center point who notched 25 goals and 64 points in 66 games last season while he recorded a whopping 92 points in 79 games in the 2018-19 campaign.
The Lightning are without Nikita Kucherov for at least the 2021 regular season, but Point remains a top-tier pivot in the league and should thrive nonetheless.
C – John Tavares (TOR) – $7,600 vs. MON
We’d like to get the Rocket Richard Trophy favorite Auston Matthews into this lineup, but the Lightning stack left us in a cap crunch, so we’ll slip down to the second line with Tavares and co.
The Maple Leafs’ third-ranked offense from last season takes on a Canadiens team that tied for 19th in overall defense, but it’s an improved defense from a season ago. That said, the total for this game remains at 6.5 as oddsmakers look for some high-scoring affairs to begin the season, which is often the case even in a normal year.
For Tavares, he’ll enter this one on the heels of a 25-goal, 60-point season across 63 games. It was a pretty standard season for the 2009 first overall pick as he’s hovered around a point-per-game for much of his NHL career, but Tavares also puts plenty of pucks on goal with 197 shots in those 63 contests last season.
One thing we’ll keep an eye on with this Leafs team is how the power play operates. Last season, they loaded up their top unit with Tavares skating with the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but it appears head coach Sheldon Keefe is going to spread the wealth as Tavares will skate with William Nylander on the second unit, or the 1B unit, if you will.
At the end of the day, Tavares has been among the most consistent producers in the league since entering it in the 2009-10 campaign, so let’s look for a hot start to the 2021 season tonight.
W – Steven Stamkos (TB) – $8,400 vs. CHI
We’ll see how much rust Stamkos has in those skates as he has played about 2:30 of game action since he injured his core in February, scoring that epic Stanley Cup Final goal in his lone postseason appearance last fall.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) September 24, 2020
With Kucherov out, Stamkos will look to find his old form in a hurry after he notched a ho-hum 29 goals and 66 points in his 57 regular-season contests last season. Injuries have been a concern in his career, but Stamkos has finished with less than a point-per-game just twice over the last nine seasons and he should, by all means, hit that mark again this season in what is the weakest on-paper division in the league.
We’ll see how the line combinations shake out as we move along, but for now it appears Stamkos will simply take Kucherov’s spot to the right of Point at 5v5 while hammering pucks on goal from his usual off-wing spot on the team’s top power play unit.
Some are finding a reason to doubt this Lightning offense without Kucherov in the lineup, and to an extent, it might happen. However, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest this Blackhawks defense might be the worst in the NHL when we account puck possession, personnel on the blueline and the goaltending duo of Subban and Collin Delia.
For tonight, we should absolutely expect plenty of offense from last year’s top offense club.
W – Ondrej Palat (TB) – $5,500 vs. CHI
Again, there was a sacrifice to be made here as we’d like to get Victor Hedman into a Lightning stack, however in a cost-saving move I’m simply pivoting to Palat who is set to line up with Point and Stamkos on the team’s top line and top power play unit to boot.
At $5,500, the price is a little steep considering Palat doesn’t bring the highest of floors to the table. In other words, he doesn’t shoot the puck much with just 128 shots in 69 games last season and 100 in 64 contests two seasons ago, but like with many other players this season, the floors get jacked up a notch or two when facing a defense that allowed the most shots per game in the league last season.
And let’s be honest, the floor is always increased when you’re playing with two superstars in Point and Stamkos. Palat isn’t the flashiest player around, but he’s produced at a healthy 0.66 points-per-game pace in his career and is coming off a 41-point campaign across 69 games (0.59).
Should these lines stick for the foreseeable future, there’s a good bet Palat could exceed career norms as he’ll take on a bigger role in Kucherov’s absence, most notably on the top power play unit as he’s largely been a second-unit player throughout his career. He notched just four goals and eight points on the man advantage a season ago.
Add it up and he’s worth the price in this matchup tonight.
D – Tyson Barrie (EDM) – $5,300 vs. VAN
Barrie is priced more like the Colorado Avalanche Barrie than the Toronto Maple Leafs Barrie, but that’s fine with me.
I mean, he’s coming off a 39-point season across 70 games with the Maple Leafs, a nice season for any defender. However, he did slip to five goals after scoring 14 in each of the two previous seasons while he’s scored at least 12 five of his six seasons before moving to Toronto a year ago.
He scored less, but he shot the puck plenty. Barrie recorded 169 shots on goal last season and posted 218 in the 2018-19 season. The problem was his shooting rate plummeted to just 3%, less than half of his 6.5% career mark. he spent roughly half the season on the Maple Leafs’ top power play unit alongside Tavares and Matthews, and now he’ll move to a top power play unit that features Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — the top two-point getters from last season — as part of an Oilers power play that ranked first with a 29.5% clip a season ago.
That’s not a bad fit for a “prove it” year after Barrie inked a one-year deal with the Oilers in the offseason. With Oscar Klefbom another high-end player that will miss the entire season, Barrie will take on an increased role and was signed to quarterback the top power play unit with GM Ken Holland knowing a while back that Klefbom could miss the year.
We’ll look for more of the Tyson Barrie of old in a matchup with the Canucks.
D – T.J. Brodie (TOR) – $3,700 vs. MON
Another NHL veteran that will open a new chapter tonight is Brodie, the former Calgary Flame who has spent much of his career playing to the right of Mark Giordano, helping him to a Norris Trophy win in 2019. Whether he can help Morgan Rielly do the same in Toronto remains to be seen.
Barrie is one again billed for top-pairing duty on this new-look Maple Leafs blueline, but he’ll also get a chance to open the season on the same power play unit where Tavares resides. Brodie’s power play time in Calgary declined in recent seasons as he took on a more defensive role for the Flames while he’ll enter this season coming off a 19-point 2019-20 campaign across 64 games, the worst per-game output of his career.
That said, the Flames ranked 20th on offense last season and he saw next to no power play time. He’ll get a far superior offensive opportunity on a Maple Leafs team that not only ranked third in overall offense but sixth on the man advantage.
He doesn’t shoot the puck a ton with just 65 shots in 64 games last season, but he does get in front of plenty of pucks with 87 blocks last season as well.
An offensive bounce back is certainly in the cards for Brodie, and given the power play exposure with Tavares, let’s give Brodie a shot here as a value play on this season-opening five-game slate.
UTIL – Dominik Kahun (EDM) – $3,900 vs. VAN
You can look to get Kailer Yamamoto into this lineup over Kahun given the power play setup, but for now we’ll take the latter for cost reasons until further notice.
Kahun interestingly sat for a while on the free agent market and ended up signing a cost-efficient one-year deal with the Oilers despite notching a quality 31 points in 56 games last season at the age of 24. That said, Edmonton could be the perfect fit for the German winger.
Ok… so not every Dominik Kahun goal is like this.
— Thad Brown (@thadbrown7) February 24, 2020
Why? Because he grew up playing minor hockey with Leon Draisaitl, the reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner who cruised to a league-high 110 points last season. The German duo will look to connect for some second-line offense while the opportunity before Kahun appears immense.
They’ll have to do their scoring at 5v5, however, as Kahun will begin the year on the Oilers’ second power play unit, so he doesn’t exactly form a full-time mini-stack with Barrie, but it’s not a bad idea to get exposure to both power play units, even second group who will see far less action than Barrie’s top group.
The Canucks salvaged their blueline with the addition late addition of veteran Travis Hamonic and they also traded for Nate Schmidt. However, Chris Tanev was probably their best defensive defenseman and he now plays for the Flames while I’m yet to be sold on the Thatcher Demko/Braden Holtby goaltending duo despite the upside of the former.
The Canucks tied for 19th in overall defense last season, and their back end is not better on paper. We’ll see how that translates to game action, but I’m more than comfortable with the cost-efficient Kahun given the opportunity that lies ahead.
UTIL – Jimmy Vesey (TOR) – $3,600 vs. MON
Much like Kahun, Vesey is set for a major opportunity as he moves on to the Maple Leafs after scuffling last season as Kahun’s teammate with the Buffalo Sabres.
Once a highly-coveted college prospect after a productive four-year career at Harvard, Vesey hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. It’s not as if he’s been a non-factor throughout his career ad he scored 16, 17, and 17 goals in his first three seasons in the league — all with the New York Rangers — but struggled after a trade to Buffalo, notching just nine goals and 20 points in 64 games with the low-scoring Sabres a season ago.
Now, he not only moves on to the high-powered Maple Leafs, but will get a shot on the team’s second line to start alongside Tavares and William Nylander. It appears he won’t begin the season on either of the Maple Leafs’ power play groups, but the even-strength opportunity is probably one that exceeded even his own expectations upon signing in Toronto in what appeared to be a depth signing.
He’s not going to offer big shot totals as mostly a low-floor player, but it’s not going to take shots to exceed value but rather appearing on the score sheet in his first game in blue and white tonight.
G – Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB) – $8,600 vs. CHI
If you’re playing cash games tonight it’s awfully difficult to roster anyone but Vasilevskiy given the current make up of this Chicago offense.
I went over the three impact injuries up front to a team that tied for 15th in overall offense last season. The team is paper-thin down the middle at this point and offense from the back end could be hard to come by.
On the flip side, the Lightning are a rare team that ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense last season, finishing in a share of seventh place on defense while Vasilevskiy himself came around after a sluggish start to the season, finishing with a 2.56 GAA and .917 Sv%. He’ll also be in search of his second Vezina Trophy over the last three seasons after winning it thanks to a 2.40 GAA, .925 Sv% and a league-high 39 wins a couple seasons back.
Here's another look at that big second period save by Andrei Vasilevskiy ⤵️
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) September 26, 2020
The Lightning are the heaviest moneyline favorite on this slate at -238 (BetOnline), and it’s not even close. The total remains at 6.5 with the under slightly favored at -118, but I expect many, if not all of those goals to come from the home side here.
Vasilevskiy is a mandatory goaltender in cash games to kick off the 2021 NHL season.