Welcome to Stack the Deck, where we focus on the key players in action on February 19th across the industry, 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 5-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
Phew, did I ever need that. Last night was great from start to finish, with Ovechkin and Seguin combining for 20 DKPts, and Baertschi chipping in a goal very late in the night to send me flying up some leaderboards. My lackluster defensemen couldn’t cover for the ARI forwards that I neglected, but with 25 points from 3 players totaling under $20k, I had some room for error in cash games. Arizona’s outburst was really surprising, but most of it can be blamed on Antti Niemi, who absolutely blew the game for Dallas with some soft goals against. That said, Dallas’ improved possession play aside, their goalie situation won’t get any better unless they make a trade, so targeting both sides of Dallas games will be a great play through the end of the season.
Friday’s slate is a bit lackluster compared to most other Fridays in the season, but with 10 teams in action, there is a lot to like, especially with most of the league’s elite goaltenders off tonight. Here’s some of my thoughts on Friday’s top plays at each position.
Target: Cam Atkinson (W) – CBJ (v. BUF) – $5,000
Atkinson has been a favorite of mine since before the All-Star break, where is shot rate stats pointed towards a massive outbreak. Well, if you’ll remember, he torched the Canadiens for a hat trick and the next day put up 2 points on them. Since then, he’s been a very consistent producer, averaging well over 5 shot attempts per game, and totaling 5 points in 7 games. The matchup with the Sabres tonight is a great one, without a doubt the most offensive (or least defensive?) game on the night, with goals aplenty from both sides. Columbus has relied on their PP1 heavily recently, and given Atkinson roughly 70% of the PP TOI, yet Atkinson has yet to fully take advantage, with only one PP point in the last 10 games. He’s produced at a 5.1 FPPG level over his last 10, almost entirely at 5v5, so when Columbus finally pots a few in with the man advantage, Atkinson’s value will climb even higher.
Fade: Ryan Murray (D) – $3,700
Getting back to the powerplay dilemma in Columbus, Ryan Murray has logged nearly 80% of all available ice-time in the last three games. While John Tortorella may be unwilling to admit that perhaps Seth Jones or Jack Johnson should take over the lead PP duties, he hasn’t been good at all. With ice time comes opportunity, but you have to be able to take advantage. In over 150 minutes on the PP, Murray has 6 points, and hasn’t been shooting the puck at all, with an iCorsi/60 of just 14, far behind the other members of the CBJ PP1, who are all in the mid 20’s to low 30’s. If Cam Atkinson and co. manage to break out of their PP funk, the reality is that Murray probably won’t be involved. He’s cheap enough to take a GPP flyer on, but in cash games I would stick to the forwards in the unit.
Target: Jack Eichel (C) – Buf (@ CBJ) – $5,700
Both of these teams are pretty bad NHL teams. What that does not mean, however, is that they are bad DFS teams. Vegas agrees with me, and has this game at a 5.5 O/U, with the home Blue Jackets favored. On a relatively slow-paced slate in terms of Corsi pace, at least on paper, this one shapes up to be the highest paced game, and as such is my favorite target on the night. On a night where Cam Atkinson is my favorite play of the night, it is only fitting that Eichel makes for a great play as well. For the Tank Truthers in Buffalo, you’ll certainly recall Atkinson’s goal in the penultimate game of last season, a game-winner that clinched the Sabres’ last place finish and a guaranteed McDavid or Eichel draft selection. While the Oilers won the ping-pong tournament for McJesus, Eichel is certainly as good a consolation prize as there is in the NHL.
Tied with teammate Sam Reinhart for 3rd in the NHL in goals, Eichel has dragged his awful linemates (Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, or Evander Kane haven’t been on his line for any extended amount of time all season) with him to do so. That hasn’t stopped his fantasy production, either, as he currently ranks 51st in the league in iCorsi/60, even though his linemates (and his defensive inexperience) have really hurt his possession figures. Seeing PP1 time with a top 10 PP unit in the league, Eichel has been instrumental in Buffalo’s success rate, with a great one timer and truly elite passing abilities. Against the Blue Jackets Eichel has a good chance to beat the inexperienced Korpisalo with his twisted wrister and quick release, and I will be locking him into my lineups tonight.
Stack: Rasmus Ristolainen (D) – $5,700
Risto hasn’t been all that good as of late, but there are some promising signs pointing to a turnaround. First off is his direct exposure to Buffalo’s dynamic powerplay, giving him massive upside, as he has a nice shot from the point and is actively involved. Although he has no points, he is a +6 in his last 3 games, meaning he was on the ice for at least 6 5v5 goals. When good things happen around a player with the talent of Ristolainen, it is only a matter of time before he gets involved in them. With 5 shots and 5 blocks last game, and another high-paced matchup in store tonight, he should be able to make good on his mid-$5k price tag, with a higher floor than Shayne Gostisbehere based on his minutes and blocks, and similar multi-point upside on a good powerplay unit.
Target: Brent Burns (D) – S.J (@ Car) – $8,200
Hurry! There’s just enough time to jump on the Brent Burns death train before it leaves the station. After going ice cold in recent weeks, Chewbacca has arisen from his hibernation, and is out for blood. After 8 games sandwiching the all-star break in which Burns exceeded 8 shot attempts just once in a game, over the last 4 Burns has averaged 12.5 iCorsi/game, and just under 7 FPPG. Carolina is a strong defensive team, but Burns has shown an ability to put up double digit shots+blocks against any opponent, no matter how strong, when he is on his game. One of the more unique skill sets in DFS NHL, Burns has played his way back into consideration on a slate with a surprising number of value options.
Stack: Joe Thornton (C) – $5,500
Although I don’t particularly enjoy rostering players that have a pass-first mindset, Joe Thornton is so unbelievably consistent that he deserves his own category: High-Floor Passer. He is nearly a point per game player, and has 13 points over his last 10. Carolina is a team that can be exposed in net, so a guy who knows how to find the open man is a great safe option in a good matchup for San Jose. I might not be able to fit Thornton into my lineups, but he is definitely worthy of a play if you are not sold on the Buffalo-Columbus matchup’s ability to sustain multiple cash-viable options.
If you have any comments or questions regarding Friday’s NHL DFS action, or just want to say hi, you can reach out me on Twitter @Mattman1398. Good luck tonight, and as always:
Thanks for reading!