Hockey season is almost upon us. The season kicks off on Friday and Saturday with Nashville and San Jose playing in Switzerland. There are two games on Tuesday, including the Rangers kicking things off. Those are just tastes until Wednesday when there are 6 games on the slate. That means we have 3 slates to look at over 4 days of action. Starting with the San Jose/Nashville DraftKings showdown slate, let’s look at potential options at captain and try to find some early value plays.
As a reminder, this is new content that I’m experimenting with this season. If I find that it is useful and there is an audience for DFS content, I will continue. Please let me know in the comments if you like this content. As a reminder, this is a DraftKings strategy only. There are always free contests if you don’t feel you’re ready to put real money in. And as always, please know your own bankroll and limits, and play within those.
Before moving on, be sure to read the general strategies in how to win DFS hockey. This is how I build both my cash game and tournament lineups.
Friday/Saturday – San Jose/Nashville Showdown
As of now only the Friday game is up on DraftKings. I’m guessing the Saturday game will be priced a little differently, but it shouldn’t be too much of a difference. The values and optimal plays should apply to both Showdown slates.
You’re not picking your usual 9 player lineup in showdowns. It’s 1 captain and 5 utility players. Captains are priced up by 50%, and they earn 50% more points. To have a chance, you really want to get your captain right.
Nashville is a heavy favorite, and the line is 5.5 goals, so it’s expected to be relatively low scoring. So immediately I look at the top powerplay unit in Nashville of Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen (2L)-Matt Duchene-Mikael Granlund-Roman Josi. Josi is the most expensive player on the slate, more expensive than all 4 goalies.
Believe it or not, San Jose had a very good penalty kill last year at 85.2%, 2nd in the league. Nashville had a top-ten powerplay though at 24.4% (6th), and are returning all players from their top unit. There’s chemistry, trust, and no reason to believe they will be any worse this year with the man advantage.
On the flip side, San Jose had the 22nd ranked powerplay last year at 19%, and they too are returning the majority of that unit. Tomas Hertl-Logan Couture (2L)-Timo Meier-Alexander Barabanov (OUT)-Erik Karlsson is still quite skilled, and Nashvilles PK was sub-80% last year. Again, target special teams.
Given the 50% price increase on captains, it’s tough to justify goalies in that spot. Sure, goalies will win you a contest if it’s a 1-0 game, and those will happen. But we are trying to give ourselves the best odds at winning, and goalie points just aren’t high enough on a consistent basis where you can build an optimal lineup at that price increase.
Also, given that forwards and centers are usually your higher scoring players, odds are they will comprise the majority of the lineup. There are a few exceptions though, and Josi is certainly one of them.
If you’re picking Josi as your captain, then you’ll want to pair him with at least 2 other players on Nashville’s powerplay. This is where stacking comes into play, as Josi’s powerplay points will come with someone else on the unit getting points as well. Josi also lead Nashville in blocked shots and shots on goal last year, and both are worth points and bonuses on DraftKings. If Josi has himself a game, he breaks the slate.
The value play jumping out at me is Granlund, who is priced at $7400 in FLEX and $11,100 in the captain spot. As of now, he is projected to play top powerplay and top line duties. As a center, he is surprisingly priced down compared to other centers across the league. Now remember, this is at first glance. The game isn’t until 2pm on Friday, so be sure to check the morning skate and practice lines leading up to the game.
If I’m going with Granlund as my captain, I’m stacking Forsberg and Duchene. Nashville is favored by 1.5 goals in a game with a 5.5 goal spread. The implied team total for the Predators here is 3.5 goals to San Jose’s 2 goals. Stacking the top line and three from the top powerplay unit is a good start, and gives us some wiggle room to fill out the rest of the roster.
In reality, any of the top line/PP1 from Nashville can be used in the captain spot, Granlund simply gives you more money to work with to fill out the rest of your roster. If you think Forsberg or Duchene are going to have bigger nights, then go for it. They are fine options. Both had over 200 SOG for Nashville last year as well, compared to Granlund’s 117 SOG. That’s almost double the SOG per game. Volume matters too.
If you want to be contrarian and go for a Shark in the captain spot, then Meier ($13,800 in the captain spot) or Hertl ($12,900) are your best bets with Barabanov out. Watch this situation unfold over the next two days to see who replaces him on the top line and top powerplay unit. Kevin Labanc ($8,700) and Noah Gregor ($7,800) could be the next man up.
In terms of volume, Meier had 326 (!) shots on goal last year in 77 games. That’s 4 shots per game and an easy bet to hit that 3 point bonus for 5 SOG.
Value plays at FLEX
One player to watch: Eeli Tolvanen. Yes he’s on the fourth line, but he’s also on a line with rookie Cody Glass, which could potentially be a sneaky offensive line. Tolvanen is also expected to get PP2 minutes, and he was 4th on the team in SOG last year. All that for $3,200? Sign me up for that. Glass at $2,600 is intriguing if he finds his way onto PP2 as well. The rookie is a pure wild card.
Newcomers Nino Niederreiter ($7,200) and Ryan McDonagh ($6,500) could be good value plays if they play in all three situations. Again, monitor expected usage. Ice time is king.
In addition to watching that San Jose PP1/1L situation. Labanc and Gregor could be value plays at $5,800 and $5,200, respectively. Couture at $8,000 is decent value, but his stacking scenarios aren’t the same since he, as of now, doesn’t play on the same even strength line as the rest of that powerplay unit.
Nick Bonino, who plays PP2 and PK minutes, could be a sneaky FLEX play at $8,100. TOI is king, and Bonino plays in all situations, was 6th on the team in SOG (137), third in blocked shots (102), and still put up 16 goals.
If you think games are going to be slow or low scoring, then a goalie is likely a good play. I prefer to avoid playing them at CPT in showdown, but if you want to, then by all means go for it. They are simply too expensive, and the risk/reward ceiling is tough to hit. You’re basically hoping for a 35+ save shutout. to maximize that value. It can happen, and goalies do have a pretty high floor, but this isn’t the route for me.
Monitor the starting goalies though. If you do play one at captain or at flex, there’s nothing worse than playing a goalie that isn’t starting.
Be sure to monitor practice and morning skates
Hockey is tougher to project than football since lines and units can change after the pricing comes out. The Barabanov injury in San Jose is something to monitor, as is the starting goalie. Juuse Saros is the only sure-fire starter, and Kevin Lankinen is simply not good. Given the travel and back-to-back games, we may see both backups play this weekend.