After a quiet two-game NHL schedule last night the action ramps back up to a 10-game NHL slate on this Thursday night.
Let’s get back at it and see if we can reel in some dough on this big slate!
C – Matt Duchene (NSH) – $7,200 vs. MIN
It’s a Central Division matchup tonight from Nashville as the Predators and Minnesota Wild butt heads with the Wild playing some improved hockey of late. That said, while the Predators are probably in for some regression on offense, they still rank first in the NHL while averaging 4.22 goals per game on the season, and one of the biggest reasons why has been Duchene in his first year with the team. Entering play tonight, Duchene has tallied two goals and 11 points in nine games on the season. Duchene has never reached a point-per-game in his NHL career over a single season, however he did come close last season with 70 points in 73 games split between the Senators and Blue Jackets and was actually on pace to do so before the trade to Columbus as he notched 58 points in 50 games with Ottawa prior to the trade deadline deal. While Duchene’s 11 points in nine games is nice, we should certainly expect positive goal-scoring regression from the 10-year vet as his two goals on 23 shots represents a tiny 8.7% shooting percentage, a number well below his career mark of 12.9%. He’s actually been shooting at 8,.7% for a while now as he posted that same number in 23 regular season games with the Blue Jackets last season as well. A goal-scoring outburst is likely on the horizon for the 28-year-old.
C – Brayden Schenn (STL) – $6,200 vs. LA
The St. Louis Blues get a nice matchup as well tonight as they take on the Los Angeles Kings on home ice. While the Kings have played better defensively of late in allowing just three goals over their last two games and three or less in four straight, however I still believe that this is a poor defensive club as Drew Doughty and Alex Martinez are probably their only two defenseman that would be part of most teams’ top six at this moment. We don’t know who will start this one in goal for the Kings, and while Jonathan Quick has been better after a horrid start to his season, I wouldn’t be worried if he got the nod with his .847 Sv% on the season or Jack Campbell who owns an .897 mark on the year. As a result, I’m simply going to stack the big boys for the Blues and that begins here with Schenn who centers the team’s top line at even strength as well as the top power play unit. After signing a long-term extension with the Blues before the season, Schenn is off to a fine start in proving the Blues right as he’s tallied six goals and nine points in as many games this season on 21 shots on goal. His 28.6% shooting percentage is very much an unsustainable number, but for tonight the matchup is right and I want to take advantage.
W – Kyle Turris (NSH) – $4,300 vs. MIN
I’m loving the value upside we can obtain with Turris tonight as he is lining up with Duchene on the team’s top or 1B line tonight, a spot that’s seen him enjoy success of late. It was a down season last year for Turris who tallied just seven goals and 23 points in 55 games, however he’s off to a real nice start this season with three goals and seven points in nine games. Furthermore, he enters this one riding a four-game point streak that’s seen him post two goals and five points and he’s fired seven shots on goal over his last two contests. His ice time is down on the whole this season, however it’s been up recently as he skated 18:11 two games ago and another 15:02 his last time out, both numbers greatly exceeding the 13:33 he’s averaged to this point in the season as he started the year as the team’s fourth-line center. Maybe Turris isn’t quite the same player that was annually hovering around 25 goals a season with the Ottawa Senators later in his Sens tenure, but he’s a skilled player to be sure and has certainly benefited from playing on a line with Duchene, interestingly a player who was involved in the three-team trade that sent Turris to Nashville – and Duchene to Ottawa – in the first place. For now, the pair is thriving and I want to see what they can do against the league’s 27th-ranked defense tonight.
W – Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) – $7,600 vs. LA
Next man up in our three-man Blues stack is Tarasenko who will skate alongside Schenn on the team’s top line as well as the top power play unit for this matchup tonight with the Kings. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to expect of Tarasenko. While he remains one of the more reliable goal-scorers in the NHL, he hasn’t exactly lifted off like I thought he would after scoring 40 goals in the 2015-16 season as he fell to 39 the following season and 33 in each of the last two seasons. This time around, he’s scored three goals and has 10 points in nine games on the season with his 12.5% shooting percentage very much falling in line with the 12.9% mark he owns for his career. What we do know for sure is he likes to put pucks on the net as he’s managed 24 shots in nine games this season and is annually falling just shy of the 300-shot barrier, although his 275 from last season was his lowest mark since the 2014-15 season. Nonetheless, the Kings are not receiving much in the terms of goaltending this season despite some improved results of late, so having a player like Tarasenko that puts a ton of pucks on goal should be able to get us on the scoreboard tonight.
W – Jaden Schwartz (STL) – $5,500 vs. LA
Next man up in our three-man Blues stack is Schwartz who is yet another member of this Blues top line at even strength as well as the top power play unit. To me, it would appear the 27-year-old is in for some massive goal-scroer regression here in the 2019-20 season. Schwartz owns a solid 12.2% shooting percentage for his NHL career – a number accumulated over parts of nine seasons now in the NHL. However, Schwartz’s 6% mark from last season is less than half that total as he scored 11 goals in 69 games despite putting a healthy 183 shots on goal – good for a 217-shot pace in a full 82-game season. This season, it’s a similar story. Schwartz has just one goal in nine games on the season on 15 shots – a low number but also one that represents a tiny 6.7% shooting percentage. In other words, Schwartz has been shooting miles and miles under his normal shooting rate over the last 78 regular season games. I suppose we can factor in his 19% from last season’s playoff run in which he scored 12 goals on 26 shots and saw some positive regression kick in there. Still, there’s more positive regression to be had this time around and I believe tonight is a nice night for that to kick in against the visiting Kings.
W – Chris Kreider (NYR) – $5,400 vs. BUF
The Buffalo Sabres are white-hot as they enter tonight’s matchup on Broadway against the New York Rangers, but I still believe their numbers are due for negative regression all-around. For this pick, I’m only worried about their defensive numbers and how unsustainable they are. The Sabres enter this one ranked sixth in league defense with 2.40 goals against per game on the season. However, their 32.6 shots against per game ranks 22nd in the league. As a result, they’ve benefited from some real good goaltending as their .926 Sv% is tied for fourth in the NHL. However, not one team in the NHL last season had a mark that high and only two teams had a mark above .920 in the Islanders and Stars. The third-ranked Lightning were at .916. We don’t know who will start in goal for Buffalo at this point, but their goaltending is due for regression – that I know. Buffalo is also being worked in the possession game as their 47.5% Corsi For% at even strength ranks 24th and they have benefited from unsustainably high power play rate. One area they have struggled is the penalty kill with a 76.7% clip on the season (20th) while Kreider will line up on the Rangers’ top power play unit tonight. He’s goalless on the season, but this is a guy whose tallied 28 goals in each of the last two season and at least 20 in each of his last four healthy seasons. On the top line and top power play unit, I’ll look for him to strike at what should be low ownership this evening.
D – Ryan Ellis (NSH) – $5,300 vs. MIN
At first thought you might want to pay up for Roman Josi in this spot, and you really can’t go wrong with him, but Ellis has been wildly productive this season and especially of late. Still one of the game’s more underrated offensive defensemen, Ellis has notched one goal and 11 assists on the season across nine games to go along with 21 shots on goal and 16 blocked shots as well. While Ellis’ current 4.8% shooting percentage is a very normal number for a defenseman, is actually an abnormal number for him as he’s posted a 7% shooting percentage in his NHL career. Furthermore, Ellis shot at just 4.7% last year, so there’s a very reasonable argument to be made that he too is due to score more goals this season – a theme throughout this lineup. Nonetheless, Ellis set a new career-high with 41 points last season and appears well on his way to besting that mark this time around. He’s actually averaging less ice time despite P.K. Subban moving on to the New Jersey Devils with 23:06 of average ice time this season compared to 24:01 last season, however he completes a high-upside three-man stack and a mini-stack with Turris on the team’s second power play unit. We are getting exposure to both power play units for a Preds team that has greatly improved their power play this season with a mark of 20%, tied for 14th in the NHL.
D – Jacob Trouba (NYR) – $5,500 vs. BUF
Completing our Rangers mini-stack is Trouba who brings a wealth of cross-category upside to the table as a budding superstar in this league. After setting a career-high with 50 points last season while with the Winnipeg Jets, Trouba is off to a fine start this season with a goal and six points in seven games to go along with 27 shots on goal, good for 3.9 shots per game. Trouba has also blocked 17 shots on the season, good for 2.4 blocks per game. There’s some serious cross-category upside already this season for a guy who is averaging 24:42 per game as the Rangers’ top-pairing defenseman as well as the lone defenseman on their top power play unit. While the Rangers have averaged just 2.71 goals per game this season, tied for 19th, their 20.8% mark on the power play ranks 13th. Again, the Sabres’ penalty kill has been their weak point so far this season, so I believe we can target that tonight with a talented Rangers power play. Three of Trouba’s five assists have indeed come on the power play and I think the Rangers could be in for some offense tonight considering the aforementioned regression I expect on the back end with the Sabres and a couple of reliable producers in Kreider and Trouba tonight.
G – Jordan Binnington (STL) – $7,900 vs. LA
We should never expect Binnington to be the same guy that burst onto the scene and posted a ridiculous 1.89 GAA and .927 Sv% across 32 appearances last year after a December call up from the AHL. After all, he did slip to a more human-like 2.46 GAA and .914 Sv% in 26 playoff starts. however, after a little but of an inconsistent start to his 2019-20 season, Binnington is coming off a strong outing in which he turned aside 17 of 18 Avalanche shots en route to his first win over his last four outings on Monday. The Blues don’t allow a ton of shots as their 30.1 shots against per game ranks seventh in the NHL, however the Kings rank first with 38 shots per game on the season, perhaps allowing Binnington to rack up the saves unlike his Monday start. Overall this season, he’s posted a 3-1-3 record to go along with a 2.66 GAA and .912 Sv%. Fairly pedestrian numbers, but numbers that I predict will improve as his consistency normalizes moving forward. After all, we are getting him tonight at a sub-$8K price with the Blues listed as -180 favorites to win this one on the moneyline. The win upside is certainly there, so let’s see if we can handle a heavier workload tonight, rack up the saves and give us some nice value at a quality price.