The NHL DFS Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.

Thursday features the largest of the season so far, with nine games. It’s slated to kick off at 7:00 pm ET.

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Top Play

Alex Barkov ($7,400 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Panthers take on the Penguins in their home opener, a team fresh off an upset win over the Lightning. Florida still heads into this game as big -181 favorites, and they top the slate with a 3.8 implied team total. This is all to say we should not shy away from rostering their big guns tonight.

Alex Barkov currently rates as potentially the biggest gun on this slate. His Ceiling Projection in the FantasyLabs Model has him over 2.0 points above the next player at his position. His Projected Plus/Minus (projected points minus his salary-based expectations) is the best among the big names.

Barkov’s Bargain Rating is much better on FanDuel tonight, where he’ll likely also be more popular too, but if you’re playing for pure ceiling here, he’s the consensus play tonight. His upside percentage is tied with Roope Hintz for the best on this slate of anyone with a salary of $6,000 or higher on DraftKings here as well.

Pittsburgh is coming off a shock win, but they did suffer through inconsistent net-minding last year and ranked near the bottom in penalty-kill efficiency in 2020-2021 as well. Barkov’s in a nice spot for night one and carries some of the best upside on this slate.


Top Value

Anthony Cirelli ($3,900 DraftKings, $4,300 FanDuel) vs. Detroit Red Wings

We have a lot of weaker opponents on this slate, and that scenario tends to give many of the value options on these stronger teams a much better fantasy outlook. Anthony Cirelli is one such player who really stands out here as being in a great spot for night three.

The Lightning take on Detroit, and Cirelli is coming off a two-point performance in game one where he skated over 17-minutes as part of Tampa’s second line.

Tampa’s loss of veterans like Tyler Johnson means Cirelli’s role among the top-six is going to be far more secure this year. His ratings here have him projected out as one of the stronger value plays under $4,000 (DraftKings) at center. Like Barkov, Cirelli is also playing on a massive favorite and a team that carries a 3.8 implied puck total into this game. His Bargain Rating on FanDuel is also much stronger, but at under $4,000 on DraftKings, it’s hard to argue he’s not underpriced there as well.

This is a player who could be ready for a massive breakout season, and his opportunity and production from game one may give us a glimpse into what kind of year Cirelli may have in store for us. Using him as a value piece on this big slate makes a lot of sense here.

Wing

Top Play

Artemi Panarin ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel) vs. Dallas Stars

Artemi Panarin and the Rangers will be playing on the back-to-back here, but I still like paying up for him tonight. The Rangers were a little snakebit in game one, and Panarin only skated 17:52 minutes, so he’s not likely to have his minutes limited at all here. Despite the poor start Panarin still rates out in the top six in many different categories in the FantasyLabs Models, including Ceiling Projection and expected points per salary.

If you are planning to use him and attack with the Rangers’ top powerplay unit (which could be lower-owned based on the perceived poor match-up with Dallas), then he makes for a far better play on DraftKings, where he has a massive 88% Bargain Rating and is also the only winger above $7,000 there who has a Bargain Rating above 25%.

Dallas may be good at limiting scoring chances, but they also feature one of the worst goaltending duos in the league. Panarin’s a definite chase here at these kinds of prices.


Top Value

Patrick Laine ($4,300 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel) vs. Arizona Coyotes

Patrick Laine can be one of the most irritating players to roster in daily fantasy as he continues to get top-line minutes wherever he lands but has also continually underperformed in that role now for over two years. Maybe we should learn our lesson and just turn our heads away when he’s this cheap, but he’s again projected to start the season on the now revamped Blue Jackets top-line and PP1 unit and faces an Arizona team today, which allowed the seventh-most quality scoring chances against last year.

Laine’s rating in the Projected Points Model tonight has him sticking out like a sore thumb too. He carries the eighth-best Ceiling Projection on this slate at wing and also has a big DraftKings Bargain Rating here of 95%. You can stack the Blue Jackets PP1 against a weak opponent like Arizona, but Laine’s certainly available here as just a standard plug-and-play value option given his upside.

Defense

Top Play

Roman Josi ($6,300 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel) vs. Seattle Kraken

The Kraken allowed a couple of quick goals early in their inaugural game and four goals on 30 shots against, overall. We’ll see if that kind of loose scoring is available against them every night, but regardless of how they turn out, the price we’re getting on Roman Josi is enough to convince us to take him for a spin here.

Josi leads the slate in both Ceiling Projections and Pts/Sal and is one of only three defensemen on this slate who is averaging over 3.0 shots on goal per game — and has a CorsiFor rating of 19 or more — over the last 12 months.

The bargains we’re getting on him over on FanDuel are far cheaper, where top-priced defensemen tend to be better value propositions, but he still comes in as just the sixth-most expensive defenseman on DraftKings.

The Preds are just small favorites here but still have a strong implied team total of just under 3.0 goals and are playing a team we don’t really know much about yet. You don’t have to go stacking Predators at every position, but the scenario on Josi alone does scream buy tonight.


Top Value

 Mikhail Sergachev ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel) vs. Detroit Red Wings

As mentioned above, this spot against the Red Wings is going to make a lot of Tampa Bay’s cheaper/secondary options look much more appealing today. Mikhail Sergachev is another value option from Tampa you should have on your radar. The offensive defenseman played over 20-minutes in game one, an encouraging sign his usage may even rise in 2021-2022. While he was an abysmal -4 on the night, many Lightning players struggled on night one, and he’s got an opponent here in Detroit who gives up a solid amount of points to the defenseman position here, via the Opponent Plus/Minus indicator.

Salaries are still softer here in a lot of spots, but Sergachev really rates out as one of the best bargains out there on DraftKings at just $3,600, where he has a better Ceiling Projection than all of the other admittedly strong plays based around him. From a stacking perspective, Sergachev rates out as a great play, too, as you can value-stack him with Tampa’s second line or even put him a loosely connected stack with Tampa’s top powerplay in the hopes he gets some time with that unit if Victor Hedman needs a break.

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Goalies

Be sure to check the Starting Goalie Page throughout the day to see which goalies are confirmed starters.

Top Play

Jake Allen ($8,100 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel) vs. Buffalo Sabres

Jake Allen didn’t pick up the win in game one, but he did limit the high-powered Maple Leafs’ offense to just one goal on the night. He’s likely to get the call again for the Canadiens, who are now lacking any kind of depth in goal with the absence of Carey Price. If he does start, then Allen would be a great fantasy target as he’s matched up against the Sabres in a game where Montreal enters as -136 road favorites (despite having played last night) against a Buffalo team with just a 2.6 implied team total.

We need to wait for confirmation, but as just the 10th most-expensive goalie on FanDuel, Allen’s got a terrific Bargain Rating there and may avoid being heavy chalk in any GPPs as he’ll likely get late confirmation if he does start.


Top Value

Igor Shesterkin ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel) vs. Dallas Stars

I’m admittedly cheating a bit here by using Igor Shesterkin as my “value choice.” Still, the Rangers netminder does rate out as a great value from the perspective of his projected point output compared to his salary. Shesterkin enters this game slated to start in game two for the Rangers, who enter on a back-to-back scenario. They’ll be taking on the Stars as small road favorites, which tells you a little about how their opponent is viewed.

Regardless of what you think about the Stars roster, Shetsrkin rates out as a great play in our models. He carries the biggest Ceiling and Median Projection for his position out of any goalie on the slate. That’s pretty heady, considering some of the big favorites we have here.

Shesterkin carries an 84% Bargain Rating on DraftKings.

Notable Stacks

With Lineup Builder, it’s easy to incorporate stacks into our DFS lineups for tournaments.

Montreal Canadiens Line 2

When we punch in the Projected Plus/Minus into the FantasyLabs Stacking tool (which gives us the players most likely to perform above their current salary projections), then the Montreal second line (who we also targeted last night) comes out as a solid play. We’ve already seen this line produce for Montreal, too, as Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson combined on the only Montreal goal in game one, while new Hab Christian Dvorak accounted for three SOG.

Using these three in your stack gives you great flexibility when looking at other higher-priced lines to stack or mini-stack. Still, you can also think about using two of the forwards on their own or with a player like Ben Chiarot, who doesn’t see much power-play time but eats up a lot of second-pairing minutes.

Panthers Line 1

When we use the FantasyLabs Ratings in the Projected Points Model to spit out our stacks for the top line for the Panthers ranks among the best. We already talked in length above about the upside a player like Barkov possesses in this spot, but you can also pair him with his even strength winger Sam Reinhart here, who will also see power-play time alongside his captain, making them a perfect mini-stack on their own.

Aaron Ekblad may not get huge ownership on this slate either due to his higher salary, but using him with this duo gives you exposure to three of the Panthers’ five-man PP1 unit and should help keep your Barkov lineups somewhat unique.