This article is part of our FanDuel NHL series.
The season kicked off Wednesday night, but 16 teams will open their season Thursday, including nine that made the playoffs last year. The slate features heavyweights like the Bruins and Stars facing off, while hopefuls like the Canadiens look to make a statement against the Eastern Conference finalist Hurricanes. Look out opportunities in the late game, though, as Calgary and Colorado ranked second and 10th in the league, respectively, in terms of goals per game last year.
Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9,200) is the highest-priced option in this slate with the Lightning as home favorites versus the Panthers, but his first test of the year won't be easy against Sergei Bobrovsky ($8,700). Both teams are primed for plenty of opportunities, as the Lightning boasted the league's best power play last year at 28.2 percent while the Panthers lurked in second at 26.8 percent.
Two evenly matched goaltenders will kick off the season at Madison Square Garden, as Henrik Lundqvist ($7,700) and the Rangers will host Connor Hellebuyck ($7,300) and the Jets. Lundqvist is favored due to the home-ice advantage, but the Jets retained their core players from last year while the Rangers' chemistry could be a work in progress.
The value-play of the evening is Darcy Kuemper ($7,400). He'll travel to Anaheim for the season opener, and the Ducks didn't make any dramatic changes this offseason after ranking last in the league in goals per game (2.39) and shots per game (27.7). The latter may limit Kuemper's upside, but the hefty discount helps ease those concerns.
Andrew Copp ($3,700) will fill the void left by Kevin Hayes on the second line, centering Patrik Laine ($7,800) and Kyle Connor ($6,500). With those two combining for 64 goals last year, Copp's positioned well to get in on the action against the Rangers, who allowed 3.26 goals per game last year, 23rd in the league.
The Lightning brought net-front presence Patrick Maroon ($3,500) in free agency, and he'll immediately work on the team's lethal power play. Maroon notched 11 points with the man advantage last year, and he's in line for a clear upgrade surrounded by studs like Nikita Kucherov ($8,900) and Steven Stamkos ($8,200).
Evan Rodrigues ($3,800) hasn't been flashy in his first few years in the league, but there's no time like the present to make a change. He'll flank Jack Eichel ($7,500), who has registered six points in his last six games against the Penguins, on the Sabres' top line in this outing. There's question marks on the Penguins' blue line, so Rodgigues and Eichel will have the first chance to exploit them.
Predators vs. Wild
C - Ryan Johansen ($6,100)
W - Viktor Arvidsson ($7,100)
W - Craig Smith ($4,800)
Arvidsson played only 58 games last year due to injuries, but he still managed to score 34 goals, which pro-rates to 48 on an 82-game schedule. He and Smith combined for 400 shots on net last year while Johansen hit 50 assists for the first time in his career. With Matt Duchene ($6,700) centering the second line, it'll take some attention off this unit in a heavily favored home matchup.
Rangers vs. Jets
C - Mika Zibanejad ($6,800)
W - Artemi Panarin ($7,800)
W - Pavel Buchnevich ($5,000)
Some speculated that Panarin's success in his first two years in the league was tied to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, when in reality it was due to his own superstar abilities. Buchnevich and Zibanejad combined for 50 goals last year, and this trio is in a good position to stack the scoresheet against Hellebuyck, who has a career .890 save percentage against the Rangers.
Flames at Avalanche
C - Sean Monahan ($7,100)
W - Johnny Gaudreau ($7,600)
W - Elias Lindholm ($5,400)
This group lines up together at even strength and on the power play, which will come in handy with the Avalanche killing 78.7 percent of penalties last, 25th in the league. Each of these players topped 78 points with 25 on the power play during the regular, including a combined five goals and four assists against the Avalanche.
Even though it's a young man's game, the responsibility Miro Heiskanen ($4,500) was afforded in his rookie season was eye-popping, as he averaged 23:07 TOI including consistent power-play time. He managed 33 points in 82 games in the process. If the youngster made the expected strides in his development, his ceiling will shoot up with shot-tipping guru Joe Pavelski ($7,400) in the fold.
A crucial part of Mark Giordano ($6,600) winning the Norris Trophy last year was his performance on the power play where he posted 21 points. We already mentioned how the Avalanche's penalty kill struggled last year, so perhaps T.J. Brodie ($4,000) and Rasmus Andersson ($3,800) will get in on the fun too.
The Avalanche couldn't stop the power play last year and neither could the Flames, posting a 79.7 penalty-kill percentage. Cale Makar ($4,600) will start his Calder Trophy run working the man advantage with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, and there's upside with his partner Samuel Girard ($4,000) as well.