The first month of NHL hockey is in the books as we flip the calendar to november. Halloween is in the rear view mirror, Christmas is on the horizon and the NHL season is about to kick it into another gear.
After a tiny one-game slate last night, the first of November delivers us a huge 13-game slate with plenty of exploitable matchups on the board.
Let’s dive right into this slate and see if we can get a new month started on the right note.
*Tonight’s lineup is aimed at GPPs*
C – Jack Eichel (BUF) – $7,000 vs. OTT
The Sabres aren’t the best offense on the slate, but they have one of the best matchups as they take on the Ottawa Senators tonight in Ottawa. Not only are the Sens the 31st ranked defense against the center ice position this season, they are tied with the Flyers for the worst defense in the NHL with four goals against per game. They’re also giving up the second-most shots per game in the league with 37.6, so a high-shot player like Eichel brings a nice floor with him into this matchup. The 22-year-old has tallied four goals and 12 points in 12 games on the young season while he’s fired a whopping 47 shots on goal in that span as well, just shy of four per game. He’s always been a high-shot player with a career average of 3.53 shots per game. As the first line center at even strength and on the top power play unit, Eichel has a high floor and a very high ceiling in this one tonight.
C – Mathew Barzal (NYI) – $4,900 vs. PIT
I was of the opinion that the Penguins would be a solid defensive club this year with a deeper group of defensemen and what I thought was going to be a bounce back season for Matt Murray. They re about a middle-of-the-pack group in total defense, but the Pens are coming off a game where they allowed six goals to these Islanders on home ice, and I want to roster a couple more Islanders again at reasonable prices tonight. Last year’s Calder Trophy winner, Barzal is off to a nice start again this year with 12 points in as many games, albeit only one of those 12 points has been a goal. He has just an 8.3% shooting percentage for the season so far, so expect the goals to start going in. He has four points over his last three games, and although the Pens have been good defensively on the road, I like the value we are getting a couple of Islanders at tonight, especially one with a point-per-game on the season.
W – Jeff Skinner (BUF) – $6,700 vs. OTT
It was a slow start for Skinner in his first season with the Sabres, but he’s turned on the jets lately to the tune of 12 points over his last eight games. He shoots the puck quite a bit as well as Skinner has racked up at least 235 shots in each of his last five seasons and is coming off of a year where he posted 277 shots on goal. His average is a little bit down on this season, however it still sits strong at 2.83 per game, and the decline in shots can be attributed to playing with a center in Eichel who shoots the puck a lot as well. The chemistry wasn’t instant, but now Eichel and Skinner are leading this offense on the Sabres’ top line and top power play unit and should certainly be able to pick on a weak Senators back end tonight in Ottawa.
W – Jordan Eberle (NYI) – $4,200 vs. PIT
Eberle and Barzal form a mini-stack at both five on five and on the Islanders’ top power play unit, so I do not mind them at all at these attractive price points. He’s off to a solid start this season with three goals and three assists in 11 games, however I like the fact he scored two of the Islanders’ six goals in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and is therefore entering tonight’s contest with a hot hand. In fact, Eberle has three goals and an assist over his last four games while he’s fired eight shots on goal over his last two. Playing with an elite playmaker in Barzal should have Eberle giving the 25-goal plateau a good run after scoring that many goals in two of his last three years. While he’s full of confidence, we will roster him alongside the crafty sophomore tonight.
W – Rickard Rakell (ANA) – $5,700 vs. NYR
At a sub-$6K price, I love Rakell tonight against the visiting Rangers. New York pulled off the upset over the Sharks in their first stop in California by a 4-3 count in overtime on Tuesday, however they still rank 27th with 4.33 goals against per game on the road so far this season. The Ducks aren’t a potent offense as their 2.38 goals per game ranks 29th, however that’s exactly what will keep ownership to low levels even in a matchup as favorable as this one. Rakell has two goals and eight points in 13 games on the season, but look for his scoring to pick up now that Ryan Getzlaf is back in the lineup as Rakell will skate with the Ducks’ top forward at both even strength and on the top power play unit. With a shooting percentage of only 6.1% on the season, look for the goals to start piling up for the young star tonight.
D – Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF) – $5,100 vs. OTT
We have completed our first three-man stack of the lineup with the addition of Ristolainen. The Finnish blueliner has been very consistent with 41,45 and 41 points over his last three seasons. He has four points in 12 games this season, but his matchup tonight in Ottawa presents an opportunity for a big game alongside Eichel and Skinner. Once again, he’s logging big-time minutes on that Sabres blueline with 25:13 per game, an average that is increased by his time as the lone defenseman on the team’s top power play unit. He’s still only 24 years old with plenty of room to grow, but for tonight Ristolainen has big cross-category upside when we factor in his 27 shots and 21 blocks for the season as well.
D – Hampus Lindholm (ANA) – $4,900 vs. NYR
Lindholm has quietly enjoyed a real nice season so far on what has been a fairly weak Ducks offense. The stud blueliner has notched two goals and six assists on the young season while logging just short of 25 minutes per game on the Ducks’ blueline. He is outscoring fellow young defenseman Cam Fowler and he too is a cross-category producer as he’s tallied 20 shots on goal and also 29 blocked shots so far. Lindholm won’t see time on the top power play unit, but he’s a top-pairing defenseman which means he will skate plenty with Rakell at even strength tonight as the second leg in a three-man stack tonight.
G – John Gibson (ANA) – $8,400 vs. NYR
The Rangers scored four on a good Sharks defense Tuesday, but I will take the most expensive goaltender tonight in Gibson as he’s been one of the best goaltenders in the league this season. Gibson sports a 2.44 GAA and a .938 Sv% entering play tonight. What I also like here is the fact that the Ducks are allowing the most shots in the NHL with 38.8 per game, meaning the opportunity for a lot of saves and big fantasy numbers should be there tonight. The Ducks are also favored at around -145 for this contest tonight, so the win upside is there as well. He costs a pretty penny, but I will run with the huge ceiling that Gibson brings to the table tonight.
UTIL – Pontus Aberg (ANA) – $3,000 vs. NYR
Completing our lineup and Ducks three-man stack is Aberg who has been getting top line duties alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell as of late. Aberg has had a huge last couple of games as he’s scored two goals in back-to-back contests, making him a massive bargain entering tonight’ contest at this price. Of course, his 40% shooting percentage so far is not here to stay, but while he has the hot hand while skating with the Ducks’ top players, I don’t mind using the 25-year-old. I also like the fact that Aberg is set to skate on the second unit power play where he forms a mini-stack with Lindholm above. One of his four goals over the last two games has indeed come on that power play, so I am all over the young forward at what I believe to be a steal of a price given his spot in the lineup and the matchup on tap tonight.