This article is part of our FanDuel NHL series.
It's a light slate with just two games on tap. Two teams are still looking for their first win and the Panthers are making their season debut. The Penguins are reeling after two straight losses to their state rivals, and their defense and goaltending has been an absolute mess despite significant roster overhaul over the summer. The Caps will be a tough test and the action starts at 12 p.m. EST.
The Blackhawks are also coming off two straight losses, but they were truly outmatched by the defending champion Lightning. They have a chance against the Panthers, who are playing their first game under new GM Bill Zito and have clearly made it known that everyone starts on square one, as evidenced by their announcement that veteran Keith Yandle will sit out. His Panthers tenure seems to have already ended, which would also end his ironman streak of 866 games. The game starts at 7 p.m.
A reminder that this season will likely be more unpredictable than previous seasons because 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 past seasons. I will provide a few more players per section than usual to reflect this change.
Note: Picking goalies will be a precarious exercise this season because there are certain coaches – ahem, Peter DeBoer, ahem – who won't reveal their choice until warm-up. But, it's safe to assume that most teams will feature a rotation of some kind. FanDuel has valued backups who are expected to start the same salary as their respective teams' usual starters.
Casey DeSmith, PIT vs. WSH ($7,700): It's hard for any Pittsburgh goalie to win when their defense seems to be actively working against them. After a poor season debut and getting pulled in his second game, it'd be curious if Mike Sullivan elected to start Tristan Jarry again. DeSmith stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief and should be given a chance to start. Matinee games can be weird and an upset wouldn't be out of the question.
Ilya Samsonov, WSH at PIT ($7,600): I'm not sure why Samsonov is cheaper than backup Vitek Vanecek ($8,200) or taxi-squad veteran Craig Anderson ($8,200), but the Caps should have the edge. Pens-Caps matchups have historically been very close, but a third straight loss doesn't seem implausible with the way the Pens have looked so far. The Caps are the better team right now and went 2-1-0 with 14 goals scored last season against the Pens.
Malcolm Subban, CHI at FLA ($6,700): I thought Subban looked good against the Lightning, if only a little too overactive. The Panthers' defense is definitely a work in progress, and they are expected to start career backup/minor leaguer Chris Driedger ($7,600). In a game in which neither team is very good but both have a chance to win, it's easier just go with the better value play. And in this case, it's Subban.
Dylan Strome, CHI at FLA ($5,000): Strome has played well so far and finished with an assist and a team-high six shots in the second game against a tough Tampa team. If his wingers are Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, he's a very strong value play. If they aren't, then there isn't nearly as much incentive to pick Strome, who can't carry a line on his own.
Mark Jankowski, PIT vs. WSH ($3,600): Jankowski has looked solid now that he no longer has to live up to the burden of being a Calgary first-round pick. A fresh start on the third line has given him a spark, and he's responded by scoring three points in the first two games. With just four games on the slate, the options for value plays will be rather thin. Jankowski's one of the best bottom-six players in the early going.
Owen Tippett, FLA vs. CHI ($3,200): It's been a long time coming for the former 10th overall pick, who will open the season on an intriguing third line with rookie Eetu Luostarinen and Frank Vatrano - a fearless shooter and consistent source of 20 goals - and also play on the second PP unit. There's plenty of risk because Tippett hasn't shown much for a supposed power forward, but there's a good chance this game will be a high-scoring affair.
Carter Verhaeghe, FLA vs. CHI ($3,100): Verhaeghe will start on Aleksander Barkov's left wing with Joel Quenneville balancing out his lines and separating his top two scorers. Verhaeghe is getting his first real chance in the NHL after leading the AHL in scoring in 2018-19 and appearing in 60 games for the Lightning during the regular season and playoffs. He's got some skill and represents a strong value play playing on the top line and PP2.
Pius Suter, CHI at FLA ($3,000): A Swiss import who is a former OHL and National League champion, the undersized, undrafted goal-scoring center brings a lot of offense to the lineup. Strome often falls in and out of favor with Jeremy Colliton, and Suter finished with 18 minutes and four shots on goal in only his second game. He's a great value play if Colliton sticks to his current plan and plays Suter on the top line between Kane and DeBrincat and on the second power-play unit.
Blackhawks at Panthers
Suter keeps the cost to a minimum and the drop off from Strome isn't as much as you'd think. Expected Panthers' starter Chris Driedger has never faced the Blackhawks so they won't know much about each other, but in this matchup the edge clearly goes to Kane anyway.
Panthers vs. Blackhawks
Verhaeghe's a wild card, but so is Duclair who will have to prove last season was no fluke. How long this line will stay together is anyone's guess, so there's considerable risk in this stack. But the Blackhawks are unlikely to keep goals allowed to a minimum, and this line seems like a better bet than Jonathan Huberdeau's line with unproven playmaker Alexander Wennberg and grizzled-but-slow-as-molasses Patric Hornqvist.
Aaron Ekblad, FLA vs. CHI ($5,200): Now that Yandle has been banished to the press box and beyond, it's Ekblad's power play now. He's always been adept at getting pucks through, but has never posted gawdy offensive numbers - and that could change this season. Ekbald represents the second-best option considering how much Kris Letang ($6,300) and the Pens have struggled so far.
Dmitry Orlov, WSH at PIT ($4,100): Orlov's power-play time got cut back after the Caps signed Justin Schultz, but I question how long Schultz will stay in the lineup. Regardless, Orlov offers some offensive upside, and is also a dependable shot blocker even if he doesn't score any points.
Adam Boqvist, CHI at FLA ($3,800): Boqvist recorded two assists in two games and runs the top power-play unit. Despite being a top-10 pick, he's being overlooked because he's on a bad team, but provides tremendous upside as a puck-moving defenseman. The Panthers finished 20th in penalty killing last season and aren't likely to be any better this year.