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Daily Fantasy Hockey Strategy: February 19th

Below I’ve got a discussion of the best matchups and potential stacks of the day followed by cash game rankings for tonight’s DraftKings contests. At the bottom of the post I’ve embedded my research chart for the day. Here is just a snippet of the chart I’ll use to explain what you’re looking at.


First the colors. Purple/blue is amazeballs, green is great, yellow is good, orange is bad, red is awful and deep red is no effing way.

The first column that isn’t self-explanatory is the fifth one, the one that is titled ‘z’ to the right of salary. That is how far above or below average the player’s salary is compared to all other players in action today. ‘Pts/Gm’ is a projection derived from my own Marcel-like projection system. The ‘z’ next to the projection is how far above or below average the projection is compared to all other players in action today. And then ‘zDIFF’ is the projection z-score minus the player’s salary z-score. The zDIFF column is really what we’re looking at.

Make sure to check Twitter for any injury news and line changes, and check Daily Faceoff for starting goalies.

Teams to Target

The last two times I’ve written our NHL DFS post, the Flyers have been in action with a good matchup. That’s the case again tonight when they host Buffalo. They were in Buffalo for one of the two previously mentioned good matchups. In both matchups I recommended the top line both because the matchup was good and because collectively the top line’s price tags represented value given their average production. And both times the top line promptly shit the bed. Wayne Simmonds scored again on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, but the Giroux/Voracek/Schenn line was held completely off the score sheet for the second game in a row.

While that’s discouraging, it means that the top line’s prices certainly aren’t inflated, while Simmonds has been so hot that he’s almost as expensive as Giroux right now. It’s hard to roster guys who are running cold, but I firmly believe it’s a bad idea to avoid guys who haven’t performed recently and target guys on hot streaks. For one thing, the pricing models take recent performance into account as Simmonds’ price evidences. There’s often value in rostering players whose recent performance is not indicative of their average performance. Second, none of us can predict when a streak, hot or cold, will begin or end. But it’s hard for us to ignore recent performance. Here’s a tweet from Jonathan Bales about how ownership levels are affected by recent performance in baseball.

I would not at all be surprised if the same thing is true in hockey. If it is, then players like the Philly top line who have been running cold have both the benefit of lower salaries and lower ownership levels. That’s basically everything you could want in a player you roster. Cheaper than they should be and not owned by many teams in your contest. So for that reason I can’t help but go back to the well with Claude Giroux ($7,500, C), Jakub Voracek ($5,700, W), Brayden Schenn ($3,800) and Mark Streit ($4,100, D), which is 4/5 of the top power play unit.

The game most likely to see both teams score big today is probably San Jose at Dallas. Dallas is a tough team to figure out right now. For the year they’ve very clearly been a great offensive team and a bad defensive team, which makes them constantly a DFS factor as they’re usually an option as is the team playing against them. But it’s unclear whether they’re still that team while they’re without Tyler Seguin, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves, which is half of their top six group. In two games without that trio, they got dominated by an awful possession team, the Avalanche, and they dominated a decent possession team, the Blues. Go figure. I’m half tempted to give them a pass on the Colorado game as it was the first game without their injured guys, and it was on the second half of a back-to-back in mile high air.

Ultimately, I think we should probably continue to treat the Stars similar to how we did before their injuries. They’re still going to score and they’re still going to give up goals. The problem is that it’s hard to see where the scoring comes from outside of their top line. And their top line is super expensive right now, thanks in large part to Jamie Benn‘s hat trick on Tuesday. With a price tag of $8,900 for Benn and $7,400 for Jason Spezza, it’s hard to roster them, even against a below average defensive team like San Jose. That said, I’d love to find a way to get Benn in a lineup because they will see some of San Jose’s second D pair, which features Justin Braun playing on Benn’s side of the ice. Of San Jose’s top four D-men, Braun is the only one that is a below average possession player.

But about the only way I can see rostering Benn/Spezza is by pairing them with a super cheap pair of forwards. And today the only super cheap pair of forwards I like comes from Dallas’ second line. I’d like to stay on the left wing to take advantage of the matchup with Braun and Scott Hannan on the right side of San Jose’s second and third D pairs. For that reason I like Cody Eakin ($3,500, C) and Antoine Roussel ($2,800, W). Combined with Benn and Spezza as well as John Klingberg ($4,000, D), who I’d like to get in any lineup in which I use Benn, that quintet will cost you $26,660 or 53% of your budget. That’s much more reasonable. But that’s a GPP-only option. I don’t know that you can get Benn in cash games.

On San Jose’s side, you want to pick players that are likely to avoid the Benn/Spezza line, as that’s Dallas’ only forward line that’s likely to be above average in terms of possession, and players likely to match up with the D pair of Trevor Daley and Jyrki Jokipakka, as that’s Dallas’ only D pair that is likely to be below average in terms of possession. And not just below average. That paird has been horrendous from a possession standpoint.

When San Jose was in Dallas back in November, Dallas’ top line of Benn and Seguin matched up at 5-on-5 with the Thornton/Pavelski line. I expect Benn/Spezza to be on the ice primarily with Thornton/Pavelski. As for Daley/Jokipakka, they’ve primarily been facing the opposition’s second line the last couple of games, although they have seen some of the opposition’s third line. San Jose has the formidable second line pair of Logan Couture ($8,000, C) and Patrick Marleau ($5,300) who is likely to avoid the Benn/Spezza pairing and see a healthy dose of Daley/Jokipakka. This same thinking didn’t work out when I picked the Blues second line on Tuesday, but as I did with the Giroux line, I’m going back to the well.

The other two teams I like today are the Rangers hosting the Canucks and the Predators at the Islanders.

With the Rangers I’d like to try and pick on Yannick Weber, which means center-left winger pairs from New York’s top two lines are the way to go. As you know, Rick Nash is the left winger on their top line, but I’m leaning toward New York’s second line so as to avoid the Sedin line. For that reason I’m leaning towards the second line pair of Derek Stepan ($5,000, C) and Chris Kreider ($5,100, W).

And with the Preds I want to pick on a defenseman from the Isles’ second pair, Brian Strait. Strait plays on the left side, so I’m looking at Preds right wingers. And that second D pair has seen some of each of the opposition’s top three lines in recent games. So really I’m just looking for the right winger on the Preds top six line that is likely to get away from the Tavares line. This one is in New York, and the Isles have gotten the Tavares line away from the opposition’s top line at home recently. As a result, James Neal ($6,300, W) might have the best chance to take advantage of the matchup. Pair him with his center, Mike Riberio ($3,900, C).

And then finally, if Nick Foligno is out for Columbus, I like the Malkin line. Again. The Malkin line was another play of mine on Tuesday that I ended up shying away from when San Jose went with Stalock against Nashville, pushing me more towards playing Preds. And it’s a good thing because the Malkin line didn’t deliver. As a result, the good price tag on that line that I mentioned Tuesday is still around today. Here’s another example of poor recent performance leading to a value opportunity.

Anyway, if Foligno is out, I think the Malkin line is going to see more of the Johansen/Hartnell/Tropp line than the Dubinsky line, and the Johansen line is inferior to the Dubinsky line in terms of possession. Moreover, the pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard sees plenty of the opposition’s second line, and that’s probably the worst D pair in terms of possession that’s in action today outside of any of the Buffalo D men. As of this writing it looked like Foligno was going to play. But if that changes tomorrow, fire up Evgeni Malkin ($8,300, C), Patric Hornqvist ($5,600, W), Blake Comeau ($4,200, W) and Paul Martin ($2,900, W).

Price-Adjusted Cash Game Rankings

Center/Winger Mini-Stacks

  1. Cody Eakin/Antoine Roussel – Dallas Stars
  2. Logan Couture/Patrick Marleau – San Jose Sharks
  3. Claude Giroux/Jakub Voracek – Philadelphia Flyers
  4. Mike Ribeiro/James Neal – Nashville Predators
  5. Evgeni Malkin/Patric Hornqvist – Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. Derek Stepan/Chris Kreider – New York Rangers


  1. John Klingberg – $4,000 – Dallas Stars
  2. Mark Streit – $4,100 – Philadelphia Flyers
  3. Brent Burns – $7,500 – San Jose Sharks
  4. Roman Josi – $6,100 – Nashville Predators
  5. Paul Martin – $2,900 – Pittsburgh Penguins


Goalies with an asterisk next to their name are second on their team’s depth chart, so don’t count on them playing. Any players in bold have been confirmed as the starter for the day. And players with a line through their name will not be starting tonight. Make sure you always check Daily Faceoff for starting goalie updates in case I am unable to update the list throughout the day.

  1. Curtis McElhinney – $8,200 – Columbus Blue Jackets
  2. Michal Neuvirth – $6,400 – Buffalo Sabres
  3. Ondrej Pavelec – $6,500 – Winnipeg Jets
  4. Michael Hutchinson* – $7,100 – Winnipeg Jets
  5. Carter Hutton* – $7,500 – Nashville Predators
  6. Pekka Rinne – $9,400 – Nashville Predators

Goalie is brutal tonight. There’s just no value. I almost hope Foligno does go for Columbus so I’m not tempted to play Malkin and can just got with McElhinney in most spots.

Research Chart

You can download the research chart from this Google Sheet page here.

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