This week is going to be a very tough week to project exactly how well players will do in daily fantasy hockey on FanDuel. With dozens of players returning to the NHL at some point today from the Sochi Olympics, which will entail just a two day turnaround for some, thereís not much time to get rid of that jet lag. From Sochi to the West Coast in North America, itís a 12-hour time difference. Professional athletes are creatures of habit and that amount of travel with so little adjustment time is not easy.
For this week only, I will be focusing on teams that start their return from the NHL at home. There are some teams like Carolina and Los Angeles that start on Tuesday and Wednesday and head straight for a road trip.
With that in mind, here are value plays for FanDuel for the upcoming week.
Left Wing: Jamie McGinn, COL, $4,100
Jamie McGinn is a name that didnít have much fanfare coming into the year and that carried for most of the season. However, Colorado has struggled with injuries up front at times this year and news came out recently that Alex Tanguay will miss the rest of the season following hip surgery. This should cement McGinn on the top two lines in Colorado for the rest of the season.
On the year, McGinn has scored at a more efficient rate on the power play than guys like Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny. In Avalanche games leading up the Olympic break, McGinn was on the ice for over two-thirds of Coloradoís total power play time. Clearly, Avs coach Patrick Roy favors him over other depth players for the man advantage.
Colorado also start their games at home against Los Angeles (Olympians include Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick), Phoenix (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mike Smith) and finally with Tampa Bay (which should be a tougher game). Their first two games off the break are against teams whose critical players are just returning last night or early today from Sochi and then have to turn around and head back out on the road either tomorrow or the day after. Colorado has Olympians as well but Iíll take the home team over the road team in this context.
Right Wing: Brendan Gallagher, MON, $5,500
Leading into the Olympic break, Gallagher hadnít scored in six straight games, but itís not like he wasnít generating chances: Gallagher was plus-5, had 14 shots on goal and four assists in those games. Players go on hot and cold streaks with their goal scoring all the time, but Gallagher was finding other ways to contribute and thatís the hallmark of a reliable fantasy player.
Gallagher is 52nd out of 207 forwards that have played at least 50 games in average shot distance at 27.7 feet. On the power play, this number drops down to 18.6 feet, which is 14th among forwards that get regular power play time (at least two minutes every 60 minutes). This is important because Montrealís first three games back off the break are at home against Detroit, in Pittsburgh and at home against Toronto. Detroit has lost Henrik Zetterberg for the season to a back injury, Pavel Datsyuk is essentially skating on one leg, and the Wings have several players returning late from the Olympics like Daniel Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, and Jonathan Ericsson. Pittsburgh lost Paul Martin for about a month with a hand injury while guys like Sidney Crosby, Jussi Jokinen and Brooks Orpik will be late arrivals. Meanwhile, Toronto is never a good team to lean on to keep the puck out of their net. The first two teams are typically good penalty kill teams, but the Red Wings and Penguins have a lot of question marks for the time being while Maple Leafs are just bad on the penalty kill, period.
Gallagher looked good going into the break and he gets two good home match-ups with Detroit and Toronto even, if the one in Pittsburgh doesnít end up being that great.
Center: Mikael Backlund, CGY, TBD (FanDuel salaries for Thursday and beyond werenít released as of publication)
The Flames get a very soft schedule to start, as they host Los Angeles on Thursday before playing in Edmonton on Saturday. It might not seem ideal to get Los Angeles right off the hop, but the Flames already hold two wins over Los Angeles so far this year (giving up just three goals against along the way) and that game will be the second game of a back-to-back situation on the road for the Kings.
The Olympic break couldnít have been timed worse for Backlund, as he had six goals and ten points in the seven games leading into Sochi. He was also getting regular top power-play minutes and was playing on what is Flamesí top line with Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak. Itís still a small sample size, but Backlund is plus-2 when playing with Hudler this year and minus-10 without him, all at five-on-five. The Flames get two good matchups to start and Backlund receives nearly half their power play time now. These are all positive signs and considering the team he plays on and his production to date, his price is still pretty cheap.
While I consider Backlund a solid play regardless of the type of game (GPP, 50/50), he makes a better GPP play than a 50/50 play. This is still the Flames after all. If thereís one silver lining, itís that Backlund hasnít been worse than minus-2 in any game this year and thatís fairly impressive considering the Flames allow over three goals per game.
Defenseman: Patrick Wiercioch, OTT, TBD
Ottawaís first game back after the break is a home game against the Red Wings and Iíve already discussed as to why itís a good idea to pick players against Detroit coming out of the break. Thereís more to it than that, though.
Wiercioch is an interesting case because he passes the eye test on the offensive side of the puck. He seems to have the skills to be a proficient offensive defenseman, including the size and the vision on the ice to make plays that some defensemen canít. That said, heís seen his ice time decline since the start of the year and he actually hasnít cracked the 19-minute mark since the end of November. What makes him a good value play is that he doesnít get matched against opposing teamsí top lines. When he does get ice time, itís usually with one of the top two lines in Ottawa, and he also has found his way to the top power-play unit alongside Erik Karlsson. Wiercioch might not get a lot of minutes, but the playing time he does receive are prime for production. Ottawaís second game of the week is in Vancouver, but anyone that has watched the Canucks over the last two months has seen a team that is a shell of what they had been for years.
This isnít a ringing endorsement of Wiercioch, other than I like his matchups this week and the situations heís being used in. His price also means there should be extra money left to spend on more expensive, proven players elsewhere, regardless of the type of daily game being played.
Goalie: Tim Thomas, FLA, TBD
Two of Floridaís first three games coming off the Olympic break are ideal matchups.
The Panthers return to action Thursday against Washington. The Capitals are reliant on Alex Ovechkin for their offense Ė he has scored nearly 25-percent of their goals this year Ė and Ovechkin was delayed returning from Sochi because his father suffered a heart attack. Itís possible Marcus Johansson wonít even get a full practice before the game because of passport issues. In two games this year, each team has won in a shootout at home.
Thomas has another decent setup for Sundayís tilt against the Islanders. Following the news that John Tavares will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury and with Frans Nielsen already on the injured reserve, the Islanders will be without their top two centers. Itís not a perfect situation because Florida plays the night before in Columbus, but I would be very keen on any team playing the Islanders right now.
Thomas is a goalie I would almost never use in 50/50 games or small tournaments, but heís a good play in the larger games. Florida can be porous at times, but the Panthers are a team thatís better at home than on the road, so that first game in particular against Washington looks like a very good match-up for the veteran goaltender.
Again, there are a lot of moving parts this week and anything from jet lag to illnesses to minor injuries are all important factors in these first few games.