NHL season has arrived! After what seemed like a long offseason, the games that count are finally here and I could not be more thrilled. The 82-game grind is an arduous one, but I will be here daily to provide DraftKings NHL Picks as I hope we can have a big season together! Let’s get started!
C – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $7,900 vs. WPG
The Leafs and Jets have went over the game total in each of their last ten head-to-head meetings, so let’s get as much exposure to get this game as possible. Coming off of his Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year, Matthews is set to take the league by storm again this season. Only Sidney Crosby scored more than Matthews’ 40 goals last season he also fired 279 shots on goal, the eighth most in the league. Matthews cruised through the preseason with five goals and seven points in four games and will obviously be the team’s number one center at both even strength and five on five this season.
C – Bryan Little (WPG) – $5,100 vs. TOR
While Mark Scheifele is the Jets’ number one center, Little should be in for a productive offensive season as well. After all, he did tally 21 goals and 47 points across an injury-shortened 59-game season last season. Little will line up with breakout star Nikolaj Ehlers at five on five and on the power play. In fact, he will be on that top power unit alongside Ehlers and Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien. If he continues to serve in this capacity Little could be a sleeper pick in fantasy circles throughout the season.
W – William Nylander (TOR) – $5,800 vs. WPG
The Matthews/Nylander combination is quickly turning into the most lethal offensive duo in the NHL. Nylander is coming off of a rookie campaign where he posted 22 goals (nine on the power play), but with Matthews scoring 40 goals it was Nylander setting a lot of those up with his 39 assists on the season as well. Like Matthews, Nylander also cracked the 200-shot barrier with 205 on the season. This duo takes on a Jets team that ranked 27th with 3.11 goals against per game last season and will roll with one of Steve Mason or Connor Hellebuyck in goal, both of whom produced uninspiring seasons a year ago.
W – Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) – $5,500 vs. TOR
As mentioned earlier, Ehlers could have another big season alongside Little. The Jets have scored at least four goals in nine of their last ten games against Toronto, so some further Jets’ exposure is necessary here with Ehlers, fresh off a brand new seven-year contract extension. Ehlers had a breakout campaign last season with 25 goals and 64 points while playing in all 82 games. He also cracked the 200-shot barrier with 204 shots on goal and will get first unit power play time alongside the big guns on the Jets tonight. The Maple Leafs’ weak point is on defense as they surrendered 2.85 goals per game last season (22nd) so look for Ehlers to get off to a good start tonight.
W – Patrick Marleau (TOR) – $4,900 vs. WPG
With the addition of Marleau, the Leafs now have arguably the best top nine forward group in the NHL. Marleau is set to play alongside Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov this season, with the former breaking out with a 32-goal campaign a season ago. With the depth the Leafs boasts up front, a huge season in the goal/point department from Marleau not likely to happen, but fortunately for him he does find himself on the team’s top power play unit alongside the aforementioned Nylander and Matthews. This is a group that ranked second on the power play last season, however the Leafs has the league’s top road power play by a mile at 28.1%. Look for Marleau to get plenty of opportunities on the top unit this evening.
D – Jake Gardiner (TOR) – $4,400 vs. WPG
With Gardiner in this lineup we now have four of the five members of the Leafs’ top power play unit with winger Connor Brown being the lone man out. Gardiner is coming off his best offensive season of his career with 43 points including 13 on the power play. Gardiner is the lone defenseman on the Leafs’ top unit, a group that could form the top power play unit in all of hockey, although some folks in Pittsburgh and Washington might have something to say about that. He doesn’t blow you away with his shot totals (127 last season) but he could increase his power play production as the Leafs ranked second overall with a 23.8% clip with the man advantage last season.
D – Kris Russell (EDM) – $3,500 vs. CGY
Russell recorded just one goal and 13 points in 68 games last season, but he also led the league with 213 blocked shots despite missing 14 games. When looking for value on defense, it makes a lot of sense to go with players who block plenty of shots as they provide a nice floor and at least provide upside in one category. The Flames ranked 22nd in shot attempts last season, but regardless Russell should provide a solid floor as Edmonton’s fearless warrior on the back end.
G – Martin Jones (SJ) – $8,200 vs. PHI
Jones is a nice play tonight as the Sharks welcome the Flyers. Philly ranked 21st with 2.59 goals per game last season, but that number dropped to 2.31 goals per game on the road. Looking at the Sharks, they allowed just 2.44 goals per game last season (5th), a number that dropped all the way to 2.17 on home ice. Jones didn’t have a great .912 save percentage last season, but it will be tough to score against the Sharks at home again this season and with the Flyers a weak road scoring team it is a fairly easy decision with Jones with win upside to boot.
UTIL – Mikkel Boedker (SJ) – $4,500 vs. PHI
With Patrick Marleau bolting for the Maple Leafs in free agency, I believe Mikkel Boedker is the one who will reap the benefits. With Marleau out of the equation, it is Boedker who will take over his wing spot on the top power play unit while he will ride shotgun next to Couture both on the power play and at even strength. We are seeing Boedker at a discounted price here due to his poor 26-point showing last season, but this is a guy who consistency tallied more than 0.5 points per game in the previous three seasons. Look for a bounce back season for Boedker beginning tonight against a Flyers team that ranked in the bottom half of the league in many defensive categories and still has serious goaltending issues.