Welcome to the NHL season! For us hockey fans it seems like forever since Sidney Crosby raised that Stanley Cup for the second season in a row, and I am personally thrilled that the day has finally come. I will be here all season long to provide daily FanDuel NHL Picks and I am hoping to get it started on the right note for tonight’s four-game slate!
C – Logan Couture (SJ) – $6,400 vs. PHI
While it may be Joe Thornton’s name atop the depth chart at center for the Sharks, there is little doubt in my mind that Couture will lead all Sharks’ centermen (assuming Joe Pavelski is labeled a winger) in scoring if he can stay healthy this season. Couture tallied 25 goals and 52 points across 73 games last season while recording 178 shots on goal. While he hasn’t excelled in a particular category, Couture is also a very important piece of the Sharks’ top power play unit and is likely going to see an uptick in his 17:36 average ice time from a season ago as he emerges as the team’s top center for good this season.
C – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $7,600 vs. WPG
Tonight’s most exciting game is likely to come from Winnipeg where there Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine story writes another chapter. 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.
W – Williams Nylander (TOR) – $6,300 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 – Michael Boedker (SJ) – $3,800 vs. PHI
Patrick Marleau bolted for the Maple Leafs in free agency and 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.
W – Conor Sheary (PIT) – $4,500 vs. STL
Sheary is likely to be a highly owned commodity on tonight’s slate due to his low price and his spot on the team’s top line next to Sidney Crosby. That said, on a four-game slate there’s not much reason for me to fade him. Sheary tallied 53 points in 61 games (0.86 PTS/GP) alongside Crosby and while he won’t crack the Pens’ loaded PP1, he will see power play minutes on the second unit. I expect Crosby to take a step back in goal department and get back to his pass-first ways this season and Sheary could be a big beneficiary of that after scoring 23 goals last season.
W – Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) – $5,100 vs. TOR
The Jets have scored at least four goals in nine of their last ten games against Toronto, so some further Jets’ exposure could be had tonight, but I will get my lone exposure he with Ehlers who has reportedly just inked a big 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.
D – Brent Burns (SJ) – $7,200 vs. PHI
Coming off of his first Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, Burns is in for another monster fantasy season this time around. Not only did Burns score 29 goals and record 76 points last season, but he also led the league with 320 shots on goal… as a defenseman. Burns will of course be receiving plenty of ice time this season as he was just shy of 25 minutes per game last season, but the shots are goal are so very valuable as he will remain the top fantasy blueliner again this season.
D – Jake Gardiner (TOR) – $4,600 vs. WPG
It looked like Gardiner was on his way out of Toronto, until Mike Babcock showed up. Gardiner has thrived under Babcock and is coming off of his best offensive season of his career with 43 points including 13 on the power play. That power play mention is extremely important when it comes to Gardiner as he is the lone defenseman on the Leafs’ top unit, a group that will include the aforementioned Matthews and Nylander as well as the newcomer Marleau. 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.
G – Martin Jones (SJ) – $8,600 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.