Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players on the 1/8 NHL DraftKings slate, and determine whether they should be played with a teammate, or ridden individually. Stacking is a common tactic in NHL, with linemates and power play units staying relatively stable throughout the course of a game, and to a smaller extent, a season. Here are a few players I am targeting on Friday’s six-game slate, and my thoughts on who to play with them in order to stack the deck in your favor.
Stats are gathered from War-On-Ice.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com
Player Matchups are gathered from HockeyViz.com
Target: Patrick Kane (W) – Chi (v. Buf) – $8,900
10 points in 5 games and 4 shots per game will get you a few looks from DFS players. I’m hoping Kane’s high salary will keep some away, but it doesn’t seem likely, given the Blackhawks matchup with the lowly Sabres. I hate targeting the Sabres, they really are a good hockey team, just completely snake-bitten offensively and in net. Their goalie of the future, Robin Lehner, is finally on track to complete his first game with the organization Friday, but with the AHL team about 90 miles east of Buffalo. This leaves the subpar tandem of Linus Ullmark and Chad Johnson to duke it out until Lehner shows he is in game-shape. While the two backups have had their moments, both have been weak in certain areas of their games and haven’t been able to overcome those weaknesses, costing the Sabres more than a few games with goals that shouldn’t go in. Kane should be able to cash in on any opportunities he may get against his hometown team.
Fade: Artemi Panarin (W) – $5,900
Don’t completely disregard a player with 4 goals in his last 2 games and 38 points in 42 games on the season. That is ridiculous. This reads more as a “caution” than anything else. While Panarin can produce a lot of points (duh), he is a very limited DFS option. He averages well under 3 shots+blocks per game, with 109 in 42 games. That is a very low floor, and he needs a point in order to pay off value, as he is incapable of doing it through ice time/volume alone. He scored his 4 goals on only 12 shot attempts, which while good, does not bode well for him to score another pair Friday. For $6k, I think you can find a better option, but if you want to play Panarin with Kane, you are certainly not wrong for doing so.
Target: Mattias Ekholm (D) – Nsh (@Col) – $3,200
If you haven’t heard, the Predators traded Seth Jones, former 4th overall pick from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, for Ryan Johansen, a former 4th overall pick from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Wait, that didn’t go as expected. Coincidences aside, this trade made a lot of sense for both sides: Torts needed a new player to bully and derail the morale and creativity of, and the Predators got to use their overflow of defensive talent to shore up their center ranks, formerly one of the weakest units in the league (on the ice, that is. Off the ice, Mike Fisher wins. Period.) With Seth Jones leaving town, a top 4 spot just opened up for Ekholm. He is already coming off of two 2-point games in his last four, and is only a hair above $3k. I expect him to see some PP minutes, but that is yet to be determined. Regardless of whether you play him tonight, Ekholm is a player you should keep your eye on for the future, as he may be able to use his opportunity to show the offensive upside which he has flashed as of late.
**And yes, if you noticed, I have completed my life-long goal of writing a hockey piece that has a reference to Carrie Underwood in it. And it wasn’t even that far of a stretch to include Mike Fisher!**
Stack: James Neal (W) – $5,800
Neal stands to benefit most from Johansen’s arrival. While Johansen is uber talented, he doesn’t shoot an awful lot, at only 12 attempts per 60 at 5v5. For comparison’s sake, Ovechkin comes in at 22 attempts, and Neal 18. Ovi leads the league, and Neal is 27th in the NHL, far more valuable in DFS than Johansen. Neal will see the quality of his chances go up solely due to the attention shifting away from him over to his star teammate, and the volume should increase as well. Johansen is a fine play, but expect tons of people to be on him, given the excitement surrounding the trade, so taking Neal at the same price with a safer floor is a great move. For an even better “game theory” pick, take Filip Forsberg at the exact same price as Neal, as Forsberg will be playing PP1 with the duo, but also EV2, giving you a great pivot in case the first line falters and takes a significant amount of the field with it.
Target: Alexander Wennberg (C) – CBJ (@Car) – $3,400
I don’t know how many people will be on Wennberg centering the top line in Columbus now that Johansen is gone, as he has been up there for a few games now while Johansen was anchoring the 4th line. I think that in this matchup with Carolina and their bad goaltending, Wennberg is a great play at a better price. He provides immediate exposure to Brandon Saad, who has been the best Blue Jacket in the games I’ve watched, on both the PP and 5on5. The entire line of Wennberg, Saad, and Scott Hartnell make for a good GPP stack.
Stack: Anton Forsberg (G) – $6,100
Here’s the cheap goalie of the night, and he gets one of the best matchups. Although Vegas is giving the edge currently to the Hurricanes, it has slid more towards Columbus from where it opened, giving me reason to believe Forsberg may be able to pay off his salary with a win. By no means should you start your lineups with Forsberg, but if you find yourself needing a cheap goalie, and you think Columbus can put up some goals against the Hurricanes, then he could be in line for the win, while facing a lot of shots. Last time out, he stopped 29 of 31 against the Wild, so he has performed at a good level in the past.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Friday’s NHL DFS action, you can find me on Twitter @Mattman1398. Good luck tonight, and as always:
Thanks for reading!