The end of the NHL regular season is in sight, as there are just two weeks left in the regular season. This can have some serious implications for DFS hockey players.
As with many sports, coaches can get a little weird with their lineups, especially those teams that are far out of playoff contention. Rookies and younger players could play higher in the lineup because teams want to see how theyíll perform when given a different role and goaltenders could be given an extra night off in favor of giving experience to the backup. There is no hard and fast rule to this though, so paying attention to official lineups as they are released becomes paramount.
With that in mind, here are this weekís FanDuel value picks.
Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes ($3,000)
The forgotten top-five pick from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has had himself a fine season as a 19-year-old rookie, posting 17 points in 50 games so far. Lindholm had been playing mostly in a third- and fourth-line role for most of the season, so heís been no more than a flyer pick on most nights.
As the season blossomed, Lindholm has seen his ice time rise dramatically; in October and December, he averaged under 12 minutes a game and was a healthy scratch at times. Over the last three months, Lindholm has been consistently over 16 minutes and is being healthy scratched a lot less. In fact, over the teamís last three games, Lindholm has gotten more power-play ice time than the teamís superstar, Eric Staal
Of late, Lindholm has been getting consistent third-line minutes and has been enjoying regular shifts with one of the best young goal scorers in the NHL in Jeff Skinner
. The additional power-play time and uptick in minutes has meant an increase in peripheral statistics for Lindholm. In his first 21 games of the season, Lindholm averaged 0.52 shots on goal/game; in his last 29 games, heís averaged 1.41 shots on goal/game.
The nice thing about taking cheap third-line players like Lindholm is that they tend to see third- and fourth-line competition, as well as the third-pairing defensemen. With the increase in his personal output lately, as well as added ice time from coach Kirk Muller, Lindholm could have a very successful stretch run over the final two weeks. With Carolina facing Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and New Jersey this week, there are no matchup issues for the Lindholm line.
Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames ($4,000)
The Flames have made for a pretty nice story over the last month. The team is nearly devoid of true top-end skill, has had unreliable goalies, and plays in the Western Conference. They have had trouble in the past scoring goals, but that seems to have corrected itself lately, as the Flames have averaged 30.7 shots on goal over their last seven games. A result in the increase in shots for the team has been 26 goals in those games. Sure, itís an unsustainable hot streak of goals, but itís also good for DFS purposes.
Part of this hot streak has been the play of Jiri Hudler
. Since returning from injury on Mar. 21, the talented winger has two goals and three assists in six games. The playing time is getting a bit sparse for Hudler as the season draws to a close because it is truly time for the Flames to evaluate their young talent. He has still managed at least 16 minutes of ice time in four of their last six games and still gets regular top power-play minutes.
As far as possession rates go, Hudler has better numbers with Matt Stajan
than any other Calgary forward that is still with the team (Lee Stempniak
had been the top performer, but heís now in Pittsburgh) at 51.5 percent. In fact, Hudlerís possession rates drop about five percent without Stajan beside him. He is playing with Curtis Glencross
and Matt Stajan
now, and itís led opponents to steer their top pairing players away from that line. The Hudler lineís quality of competition percentage is consistent with second-line competition (somewhere between 28 to 30 percent).
Calgary has three road games this week, but they are against Toronto, Florida, and Tampa Bay. Both the Leafs and Panthers are in the bottom three in the NHL in team penalty kill efficiency, while the Lightning rank 23rd. If Calgary keeps up the hot streak even for another week, Hudler could pay big dividends.
Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators ($3,300)
Typically, rookies are called up with the intention of gaining a bit of exposure to the NHL. That hasnít been the case for Stone, a former sixth-round pick, who was thrown into the fire after the injury to Bobby Ryan
. Since his call up, Stone has played alongside Kyle Turris
every game, and that line has generally been used against other teamsí top lines so far this season.
Stone wasnít highly-touted when he was drafted, as he had just 67 points in 95 games in his first two years at the junior level. After he was drafted, Stone put up a whopping 229 points in 127 games over his final two years of junior play. Through his first two seasons in the AHL, Stone has 30 goals and 74 points in 89 games. He might be a late bloomer, but heís developed into a full-blown offensive threat.
In his four games since being recalled, Stone has one goal and three assists, is a plus-7 and has managed nine shots on goal. Heís also averaged over 17 minutes of ice time and is staying alongside Turris for power play time. Thereís also one final bonus. It seems as though coach Paul MacLean has started to rely on the Jason Spezza
line for shutting down the top line of the other team, as his line leads the Senators in quality of competition each of the last three games for Ottawa.
With the Senators playing the Hurricanes, Islanders, Canadiens, and Rangers over the course of the week, it means that Stone should be able to avoid the lines of Eric Staal
, Kyle Okposo
, and Thomas Vanek
. If that indeed does happen, the depth forwards and defensemen on those teams donít have the talent to keep up with Stone, Turris, and Clarke MacArthur
. It could be a big week for Mark Stone
, as was last week, and heís still at a basement price.
Stephane Robidas, Anaheim Ducks ($3,300)
Robidas returned a couple of weeks ago after missing nearly four months with a broken leg. It naturally will take time for any player to get back into the swing of things when returning from such a long layoff (even Steven Stamkos
took a couple of games), and after Robidasí first two games, he was a minus-2 with no points and no shots on goal.
As his ice time has stabilized (between 17:46 and 20:42 each of the last four games), so has his production; in those last four games, Robidas has three assists, is a plus-4, and has managed five shots on goal. As an added bonus, heís not being relied upon to play against the opponentsí top lines. That duty has been left to Ben Lovejoy
, Sami Vatanen
, and Francois Beauchemin
to some degree. When playing in the Western Conference, avoiding top units of the other team is paramount to being able to consistently put up good plus/minus ratings. Robidas falls into that category. Heís not getting much time with the Ryan Getzlaf
line at even strength, but that is a natural byproduct of avoiding the other teamsí top lines.
Getting secondary power-play minutes is a bonus for Robidas, but itís not necessarily the reason I like him this week. Rather, itís the fact that the Ducks get the Edmonton Oilers twice this week. Now, the Ducks lost 4-3 in overtime to the Oilers on Friday, but they ran into a hot goalie, as they managed 51 shots on goal. The Oilers have allowed 25 goals against in their last five games and look ripe for Anaheim to really fill the net on them this week. That alone makes Robidas a solid play this week.
Martin Jones, Los Angeles Kings ($7,900)
Starting with the game this past Saturday and ending with the game this coming Saturday against Vancouver, the Kings will play five games in eight days. Looking at the standings, Los Angeles is nine points behind the San Jose Sharks for second in the division, and seven points clear of Minnesota for the final Wild Card spot. In short, the Kings seem locked into their playoff position. That means they could give starting goaltender Jonathan Quick
a couple of extra nights off as the playoffs approach.
Enter Jones. The young netminder went undrafted, but was later signed in a tryout by the Los Angeles Kings. There is a pedigree behind him, as he was a member of the world junior team for Canada in 2010, and heís posted a .923 save percentage in 158 games in the AHL over his last four years. Heís also posted a .933 save percentage this year in 17 games with Los Angeles and has allowed just 11 goals against in his last five games out.
There are teams that I worry about playing back-to-back games but the Kings are not one of them. The Kings are 3-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, so even if Jones gets the start Thursday in San Jose after a game on Wednesday, I donít fear him struggling that much. Heís about $1,000 cheaper than most goalies, so targeting Jones whenever he gets the start this week for GPPs is a pretty good strategy.