Thursday NHL DFS Breakdown: Line Stacks & Strategy
Thursday NHL DFS Breakdown: Line Stacks & Strategy

This article is part of our NHL DFS Breakdown series.

Welcome to my inaugural article for RotoWire, and thank you in advance for checking it out.

The purpose of this article will be to give you a variety of options and strategy thoughts for the daily slate in the NHL for both FanDuel and DraftKings.

To begin, you see and hear a lot about Cash vs GPP plays in Daily Fantasy Sports, but I typically don't believe in Cash vs GPP players. If a player is good, I believe he's usable in any format.

I do believe in different Cash vs GPP lineup construction though.

In GPP Tournaments, I think you should have at least one full line stack, potentially two full stacks (or at least two forwards plus a corresponding defenseman). However, in cash-game lineups, you are probably much better off limiting your team-by-team exposure to two players maximum, with an exception of potentially using three players from the same team on smaller slates.

My favorite way to approach cash-game lineups is to choose my top player of the night and use his lower priced linemate. For example, Toronto center Auston Matthews is a great play almost nightly, but instead of pairing him with Patrick Marleau, use the cheaper wing linemate -- Kasperi Kapanen -- this way you still get exposure to two-thirds of a top Toronto line, but you save cap space to get more firepower elsewhere in your lineup.

Use this strategy by choosing one or two players from the lines below and mixing up your cash-game lineups, instead of using full-line stacks as you would in your GPP lineups.

I tend to be fairly math-oriented in my research, but you should not be a slave to your rankings as numbers often lie. That said, my main sources of ranking data include a Shots/Minute, Shooting Percentage, Corsi For/Minute and Corsi Against/Minute player ranking system to determine team pace, offensive and defensive ranks. For reference in the article below, my system has the average of 247 CF/Game.

Expensive Line Stacks

BOS1 vs EDM: Brad Marchand (8100 FD, 7300 DK), Patrice Bergeron (7900 FD, 7500 DK), David Pastrnak (7700 FD, 7400 DK) – This is currently the premier line in all of fantasy hockey, but that talent comes at a premium price as they are the most expensive line on both sites. This line can put up three-plus goals on any given night, and a home game against a poor Edmonton defense (254 CA) is a good spot to have some exposure, even at the hefty price tag.

TB1 vs VAN: Nikita Kucherov (8300 FD, 7500 DK), Steven Stamkos (7800 FD, 6400 DK), Ondrej Palat (5200 FD, 4500 DK) – The Stamkos/Kucherov combo is deadly when they are clicking; the line was quiet in the opening game of the season, but at home against a Vancouver team allowing 4.7 goals per game, there is a lot of potential here at a discount compared to BOS1. Palat is getting a bump to the top line Thursday and makes for a great stand-alone play if need be as well.

NJ1 vs WAS: Taylor Hall (8000 FD, 6800 DK), Nico Hischier (6000 FD, 4900 DK), Kyle Palmeiri (5800 FD, 5400 DK) – This line was a pleasant surprise last season and started out with a bang in their first game this year with Palmeiri netting a pair of goals. Washington is a slightly subpar defense team (252 CA) that gets hidden by great goaltending from Braden Holtby, however, Holtby is not starting in this matchup as Phoenix Copley is getting the nod Thursday in New Jersey.

SJ1 @ NYR: Joe Pavelski (7200 FD, 6300 DK), Evander Kane (6800 FD, 6900 DK), Kevin Labanc (4400 FD, 4900 DK) – The Sharks came out of the gate slow in their first three games, but an injury to top-line center Joe Thornton led to a change that ignited the team en route to a four-goal performance by this group. A matchup against a porous Rangers defense (260 CA) could be another big night for the Sharks' top line.

STL1 vs CGY: Vladimir Tarasenko (7600 FD, 7000 DK), Ryan O'Reilly (5900 FD, 5600 DK), Patrick Maroon (4700 FD, 4700 DK) – This line might fly a little under the radar with so many other high-end options on a slate this large, but they could be a great option for the price and home matchup against Calgary, who is rumored to be starting their backup goalie (David Rittich).

Value Line Stacks

MIN1 vs CHI: Eric Staal (6900 FD, 5200 DK), Jason Zucker (5300 FD, 5000 DK), Joel Eriksson Ek (3300 FD, 3500 DK) – This line provides some good upside at a cheap price, however both Staal and Ek are centers on FanDuel, so that could lead to some issues. They will likely avoid the strong CHI1 defense, so I like their potential for multiple points at home.

DET1 vs TOR: Dylan Larkin (6400 FD, 5300 DK), Anthony Mantha (5100 FD, 4600 DK), Justin Abdelkader (3900 FD, 3200 DK) – If you have been paying attention to Toronto games so far this year, you should have noticed that they are scoring a lot of goals, but also giving up a lot of goals (259 CA). You can probably ignore Abdelkader from this line, but Larkin/Mantha looks like a great value pairing to me.

NYR2 vs SJ: Mika Zibanejad (6400 FD, 5300 DK), Pavel Buchnevich (5300 FD, 4600 DK), Jesper Fast (3700 FD, 3700 DK) – This line has quietly been one of the strongest values in the league so far netting three goals in three games. Although the matchup with San Jose is not ideal on paper, the game is in Madison Square Garden and the Sharks will be pivoting back to Martin Jones who sports a lowly .859 save percentage so far this year.

Expensive Defensemen

Morgan Rielly TOR at DET (5700 FD, 6200 DK) – Rielly is trending toward being usable on FanDuel only as DraftKings has properly adjusted his price already. He has been on fire as a distributor in the potent Toronto offense, dishing out eight assists through four games – while adding a pair of goals as well. The matchup at Detroit should be a little slower than previous games, but Toronto is matchup-proof until further notice, and this is one of your last chances to get Rielly before he crosses that $6,000 mark on FanDuel.

Zach Werenski CLS at FLA (5200 FD, 4800 DK) – Werenski is in play on both sites against a Florida defense, which takes a huge downgrade after losing starting goalie Roberto Luongo in the first game of the year. He's yet to record a point in three games, but with over 25 minutes per game in ice time and 11 shots on goal, that streak ends Thursday.

Rasmus Ristolainen BUF vs. COL (5300 FD, 5300 DK) – Ristolainen is a monster ice time guy (25:36 per game) who has recorded a pair of assists and eight shots on goal in three games so far. Buffalo has a much-improved offense, and a favorable home matchup against Colorado (249 CA, but more extreme home/road splits than most teams), Ristolainen is in position to have a multi-point game and possibly get on the scoreboard for the first time this year.

Value Defensemen

Colin Miller VGK at PIT (4700 FD, 4100 DK) – Miller is a guy I have been waiting for a breakout from, and after a discussion with another analyst yesterday, we both think it is coming soon. Even on a back-to-back, Vegas has a plus matchup with a Pittsburgh team that has allowed 11 goals in two games. Miller plays nearly 22 minutes per game, gets first line power-play time, and is not afraid to pepper the net, ranking in the top-10 in the league in shots by defensemen.

Henri Jokiharju CHI at MIN (3900 FD, 3600 DK) – The rookie is off a fast start with five assists in the first three games of the season; with 10 shots, a top power-play unit slot, and nearly 20 minutes of average ice time, he is likely to light the lamp soon as well. Minnesota is a middle of the road defense team (244 CA), and I think Jokiharju needs to be considered if you are looking for value at one of your defensive slots.

Filip Hronek DET vs. TOR (3500 FD, 3000 DK) – Here is your Hail Mary punt pick of the day, the 20-year old rookie from the Czech Republic has yet to record a point in three games this year, but he has put five shots on net and was promoted to the top power-play unit for the up-tempo game against Toronto (257 CF/259 CA). At a minimum salary on FanDuel, he looks like a great pairing with the DET1 line stack – with that stack being so cheap you can load up at the other positions.

One mistake I made when I first started playing DFS Hockey was overvaluing wins for goalies. The stat you want to focus on is saves. Wins and losses are much harder to predict than you may think, and while I do not completely ignore the factor of wins, I think many players over-rate it when choose their goalie. I do not suggest starting a bad goalie facing a team like Toronto or Tampa Bay in order to accumulate saves, because goals allowed are important to avoid as well.

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy TB vs. VAN (8700 FD, 8500 DK) – Vasilevskiy is probably the top option on the board Thursday with a great home matchup against Vancouver. While he is likely to get the win in this game, the thing that excites me about Vasilevskiy is the ability of Vancouver to get shots on goal (31.0 projected shots Thursday), which will drive up his output.

Carter Hutton BUF vs. COL (7500 FD, 7600 DK) – The is one of those "beyond the numbers" picks as he shows up as a middling option in my rankings, but Colorado has extreme home/road splits (145 home goals, 110 road goals last year). Hutton had a rough Opening Night game, but rebounded with back-to-back starts with a pair of wins and 78 saves in 81 shots against.

Casey DeSmith PIT vs. VGK (7200 FD, 7300 DK) – Here is your cap-saving option at goalie Thursday. While Pittsburgh has been soft defensively so far, allowing 11 goals in two games, those games were poor performances by starting goalie Matt Murray. Murray is out Thursday with a concussion, leaving the Pens to turn to DeSmith. I am willing to give DeSmith the benefit of the doubt because the underlying numbers from the Pittsburgh defense are solid (234 CA) and Vegas is on the second game of a road back-to-back, but they are still able to put shots on net.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Russ Prentice plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: sportfreak1996, DraftKings: sportfreak1996.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russ Prentice
Russ has been playing fantasy baseball, football, basketball and golf for 25 years, and hockey for approximately 15 years. He's played high-stakes games at NFBC/NFFC over 12 years, highlighted by a runner up finish in the 2012 NFFC Primetime event, multiple NFBC Main Event league championships, and a Top 10 finish in the NFBC RotoWire Online Championship. Russ has won the overall prize in the CDM Football Challenge, and two CDM Golf Challenges. He's played DFS for five years, focusing on NFL and NHL.
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