This article is part of our FanDuel NHL series.
The 2021 NHL season kick offs tonight with five games, starting with a Keystone State rivalry between the Flyers and Pens (5:30 p.m. EST). The defending champion Lightning will host the Blackhawks (8 p.m.) in what should be a lopsided affair, while the all-Canadian North Division will feature two historic rivalries between the Canadiens and Leafs (7 p.m.), and then the Canucks and Oilers at 10 p.m. The Blues and Avalanche round things out at 10:30 p.m.
A reminder that this season will likely be more unpredictable since players may shuffle in and out of the lineup with the addition of the taxi squad due to health concerns and/or the condensed schedule, so be sure to double-check your lineups and note any game-time decisions through RotoWire.
Note: FanDuel has included two Utility (C/W/D) spots this season, giving managers more flexibility than in past seasons. I will provide a few more players per section than usual to reflect this change.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB vs. CHI ($8,600): Wins are worth 12 points, and the reigning Vezina winner is the consensus top goalie in the league. Beyond Patrick Kane and depth scorers Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik, there's little offense to be afraid of. Lucas Wallmark (25 points in 67 games last season) is centering the second line, and that's a hint for how the Blackhawks may fare this season.
Frederik Andersen, TOR vs. MON ($8,200): If we had to pick a goalie in the Canadian matchups, the safest one is Andersen, who gets a lot of goal support. The Habs are improved and have a balanced attack, but they don't have the top-end talent the Leafs do. Andersen has a career .923 save percentage in 12 games against the Habs.
Carter Hart, PHI vs. PIT ($7,700): It'll be a close game, but Hart should have the edge head-to-head against Tristan Jarry, who's also $400 more. Not having a home crowd certainly changes things, but Hart was nearly unbeatable at home last season (20-3-2, 1.63 GAA, .943 save percentage). The Pens won't have first-line winger Kasperi Kapanen (quarantine) in the lineup, either.
Jordan Binnington, STL at COL ($7,100): Understand that the Avs are favored, but Binnington comes at a $1,300 discount to Philipp Grubauer and will likely face more shots, meaning more chances to rack up saves. This is more of a value play because the Blues definitely have a chance to win. The Avs will be without veteran defenseman Erik Johnson, as well.
Phillip Danault, MON at TOR ($4,500): The Habs' top line remains intact and were one of the league's best lines in generating scoring chances. Nick Suzuki ($5,400) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi ($4,400) may have more upside, but early on in the season it's safer to go with the tried and true. First-line centers usually don't come at this price.
Dylan Strome, CHI at TB ($4,600): The offense will have to come from somewhere, and what better way to ride Kane's coattails than to grab Chicago's best playmaking center? We should temper expectations, but Strome has one of the few enviable jobs in the Hawks lineup.
Joel Farabee, PHI vs. PIT ($4,000): He showed flashes of elite offense last season and will get a chance to shine on Philly's top line with Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes. Time will tell how the ice time will shake out, but Farabee's in a plum situation right now.
Robert Thomas, STL at COL ($3,900): Thomas will start the season as the Blues' No. 2 center and will be a popular early-season sleeper pick. He has plenty of playmaking (Jaden Schwartz) and finishing (Mike Hoffman) on his wings, too.
Jake Virtanen, VAN at EDM ($3,500): J.T. Miller (quarantine) will not be available, which means Virtanen will likely skate on the top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. Weighing in at 226 pounds this season, Virtanen is a beast of size and speed. He showed well on that line for brief stretches previously, but he often draws the ire of his coach for inconsistent and poor defensive play. Virtanen is a high-risk, high-reward option.
Oskar Lindblom, PHI vs. PIT ($3,500): He was an up-and-coming forward until a cancer diagnosis briefly derailed his career, but he's back skating with top center Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. He doesn't have Farabee's upside but, like Farabee, he's playing with very reliable and experienced players.
Nolan Patrick, PHI vs. PIT ($3,500): He's a wild card due to his injury history, but he seems healthy and will center a line with veteran scorers Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk on his wings. Ice time will hold back Patrick's production, but only Thomas and Patrick have considerable upside among centers under $4,000.
Nils Hoglander, VAN at EDM ($3,000): As of Tuesday night, the Canucks hadn't finalized their roster because they won't be able to utilize LTIR until the season begins, but expect Hoglander to start on the second line with Bo Horvat. The slick Swede could be the top-six forward the Canucks desperately need.
Mathieu Joseph, TB vs. CHI ($3,000): Tyler Johnson was waived due to cap reasons and will not be eligible to play in the season-opener, so utility winger Joseph will take his spot. Note Joseph and Alexander Volkov ($3,300) may take turns on the second line, just as they did for parts of training camp.
Penguins at Flyers
Leave out Rodrigues if you want; he's a third-line player at best whose first-line gig will only be temporary. Otherwise, Crosby and Guentzel remain one of the most efficient combos in the league, ranking 24th and 12th in goals per game, respectively, over the past two seasons.
Blackhawks at Lightning
Kane being the second-most expensive winger seems like a slight, but we'll take it. Strome and DeBrincat had good chemistry in the past, and this is the only line that seems capable of scoring for the Hawks.
Lightning vs. Blackhawks
Point's salary indicates he's a tier below the elite but that really isn't true. Replacing Nikita Kucherov (hip) with a healthy Steven Stamkos might be a wash, and Palat helps keep the cost of this line stack low. All three play on the top PP unit.
Canadiens at Maple Leafs
I have my doubts about whether Thornton can keep up, but Matthews looked even better than usual at this year's camp. Montreal's defense and goaltending are stout, but defending Matthews is more about limiting his chances because shutting him out completely is nearly impossible.
Oilers vs. Canucks
Kahun's an underrated player (31 points in 56 games last season) and Yamamoto (26 points in 27 games) is undervalued at this salary. The Canucks' defensive depth is a problem and they may not be good enough to defend Connor McDavid's line and this one. They've always had trouble defending the Oilers' speed, and it'll likely be a similar story again.
Torey Krug, STL at COL ($5,200): It's his first season as the guy, but his past body of work suggests he'll have no problem steering the Blues' power play to a top-five finish again. He's the best option among those outside the top tier.
Samuel Girard, COL vs. STL ($4,700): Girard's an underrated player because he doesn't score a whole lot even though his underlying numbers were excellent last season. He will likely quarterback the second power-play unit.
Mikhail Sergachev, TB vs. CHI ($4,700): Sergachev's got plenty of offense to give and he may be the primary shooter on the second power-play unit this year. At even strength, he should play a bigger role. The Lightning shuffled their defense with the idea of giving him more ice time, and he also got a lucrative extension to show for it.
Nate Schmidt, VAN at EDM ($4,400): Quinn Hughes will be the primary puck carrier, but Schmidt's got some of that in him as well. His use on the power play will be limited, but he drives play at even strength and the Canucks have talented forwards who can finish.
Alexander Edler, VAN at EDM ($4,300): He was a shot-blocking machine last season and will play a similar role this season. Age has decreased Edler's mobility, so his offense has been declining for a few seasons, but you can bet the Canucks defense will be buried by the Oilers for stretches, and this is where Edler shines.