Weíve reached the final week of the NHL season and I want to thank the readers of this corner of the site for following along. Daily fantasy sports can be frustrating, no more so than hockey Ė just ask anyone that has picked losing goalies for three or four days in a row.
That frustration could really set in this week, with teams that are cemented in playoff positions content to start resting players. This happened Sunday night with Pittsburgh, as it wasnít announced until pre-game warmups that Sidney Crosby
, Chris Kunitz
, and Brooks Orpik
would not be playing with some type of "injury." This was probably just coach Dan Bylsma giving those players a night off, but these types of things may not be announced until 30 minutes before the game. For this week, itís advised to stay close by a computer or mobile device to make the appropriate lineup changes close to game time and avoid taking zeroes. Teams like Boston, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles canít move up or down from their playoff position, while teams like Minnesota, St. Louis, and Montreal arenít far off from that situation, either.
With that in mind, here are this weekís FanDuel value picks.
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars ($3,700)
A few weeks ago, I talked about the revolving door at right wing on the top line in Dallas. That revolving door has become more of a "push only" door recently. For the last couple of weeks, rookie winger Valeri Nichushkin
has managed to stay on the top line with Jamie Benn
and Tyler Seguin
The results for Nichushkin personally have not been superb, as heís posted just two points in his last six games, with the majority of his time coming with that top duo. But there are a lot of good indicators for future success ahead. Nichushkin has started in the offensive zone at least 50 percent of the time in three of those last six games. Secondly, heís averaged just under two minutes of power-play time per game. In addition, heís drawn two more penalties than heís taken, and heís played over 14 minutes in four straight games for the first time since just after the Olympic break. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, heís registered at least one shot on goal in six straight games for the first time in four weeks. Nichushkin has been very much involved in the offensive play and while the direct point results arenít there, they could be very soon.
Nichushkin has gone plus-5 in his last six games while playing on the top line, and thatís been a huge bonus trigger for his FanDuel scoring. The Stars get three home games this week, where they rank as the fifth-highest scoring team in the league. Even though one of those opponents will be the Blues, that team could be resting players by then. With the added incentive of being in a playoff race, it could be a big week for the top line, Nichushkin included.
Matt Beleskey, Anaheim Ducks ($4,200)
The Ducks have been stumbling a bit of late, having won only three of their last six games, but like most teams, this is just a hiccup in what otherwise has been a pretty stellar season. In somewhat of a similar vein as Dallas, Anaheim has had a bit of a revolving door on the top line beside Ryan Getzlaf
and Corey Perry
, only on the left wing instead of the right. Their most recent game in Edmonton saw a familiar name for the duo to play with in Beleskey.
This has been a career year in a lot of ways for Beleskey. For the season, heís averaged a career-high in assists, points, and shots on goal. Heís also averaged his most penalty minutes per game (1.18) for any season that hasnít been shortened by a lockout.
Before last nightís game against Edmonton, Beleskey was averaging a point at five-on-five with Getzlaf and Perry just about every 22 minutes. Though itís been a limited 66-minute sample, that equates to about a game and a half per point. Beleskey has also been on the ice for just one goal against with Getzlaf and Perry and seven goals for, which is better than plus-1 for every full game of ice time. In short, with his price of $4,200, Beleskey doesnít really have to do that much individually to reach value. Heís also found his way to the second power-play unit. It isnít prime real estate, but itís better than not being on the power play at all.
This is a fluid situation, as Beleskey could be on the top line Monday but on the third line by Wednesday. The Ducks still have a lot to play for Ė first place in the division would avoid a brutal first-round matchup with Los Angeles Ė so I expect them to play some of their best hockey of the season this week.
Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers ($3,500)
Typically, I try to avoid players from teams like Edmonton, Florida, and Buffalo that are prone to adverse plus/minus ratings. This can negate most (or all) of the value that a player produces on a given night. I will make exceptions when players on these teams hit a hot streak, namely because their prices are usually so low that it doesnít even take a spectacular night to double their value. One guy that is on such a streak right now is Pirri.
Pirri was among the most highly-regarded prospects in the Chicago organization pretty much until halfway through this season. Over parts of the last two seasons in the AHL, Pirri has had one fewer point (101) than games played (102), and he doesnít turn 23 years old until later this week. Heís managed 23 points in 46 games so far this season between the Blackhawks and Panthers, arriving in Florida in a deal just before the trade deadline. More significantly is what heís done lately, as Pirri has managed five points in his last four games, with nine shots on goal and a plus-2 rating.
Always regarded as a highly-skilled player, Pirri was kind of buried on the depth chart in Chicago and needed a chance to play regularly. Heís averaging over two and a half minutes more of ice time with Florida, allowing him to yield nearly an extra shot on goal per game. Of late, Pirri has been a regular on the top power-play unit, which has converted a goal in two of the last three games.
This one is purely about riding a hot streak until itís over. If it lasts the rest of the season, excellent. If not, heís not very expensive. The Panthers get the Flyers and Leafs this week, teams theyíve beaten a total of three times in five games this season.
Matt Donovan, New York Islanders ($3,700)
Another player on a non-playoff team that has been put in a pretty good position for success is Donovan.
The Islandersí defensive depth has really taken a hit throughout the season. With Lubomir Visnovsky
out for the year, Andrew MacDonald
traded to Philadelphia, and now Calvin de Haan
likely dealing with a season-ending leg injury, itís been patchwork at times for the Islandersí back end. The result of late has been that Donovan has played a much more prominent role with the team, namely being the lone defenseman on the top power-play unit. That has resulted in much better fantasy production for Donovan.
Through his first 36 games of the season, Donovan had one goal and six assists. In his last 12 games, Donovan has one goal and six assists. He also had no more than four games in a row with at least two shots on goal through those first 36 contests. Conversely, heís managed at least two shots on target in 10 straight now. Heís also played at least 20 minutes in four of his last five games.
The Islanders get the Senators, Canadiens, Devils, and Sabres to finish the season. Buffalo (20th) and Ottawa (24th) donít have particularly strong penalty kills, and it could very well be three non-playoff teams. The worrisome part is that thereís a good portion of his value that is tied to the strength of his goaltenders Ė the Islanders as a team are 27th in five-on-five save percentage Ė but hopefully the difference can be made up with power-play points.
Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks ($6,800)
First things first, I must point out that Lack has played in every single game since the Olympic break. While thoughts of a slowdown might be in order, he has a .930 save percentage in his last couple of games against the Rangers and Kings. Not too bad.
Oddly enough, with the Canucks all but eliminated from the playoffs, this might be the healthiest the team has been in months. Both Sedins are back in the lineup, which has been infrequent occurrence in the second half. Alexandre Burrows
and Ryan Kesler
are also now healthy, and the Canucks have all of their defensemen back, with the exception of those that were expected to miss the rest of the year anyway. The team has averaged 22.5 shots against at five-on-five over the course of the season, but their average over their last three games is down to 21.
Lack hasnít been great this year, but heís been passable at times in DFS formats with a .913 save percentage. With most of their regulars back in the lineup together, and a schedule that includes games against the Alberta teams and a Matt Duchene
-less Colorado team, Lack has a good price for what he could produce this week.