This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
The 2021-22 NHL season begins Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. EDT with a two-game slate, as the Lightning host the Penguins followed by the Kraken visiting the Golden Knights for the first regular-season game in Seattle's franchise history. Below, you'll find a breakdown of the action and suggested options for crafting an effective lineup.
The Lightning are unsurprisingly favored at home as they begin their quest for a third consecutive Stanley Cup against a Penguins team that's missing two key members of the core that's kept Pittsburgh among the top cup contenders for over a decade. The other matchup features the league's two newest teams, as Seattle was formed through the same expansion draft process that created Vegas in 2017. While the Golden Knights have been among the league's most successful teams since their creation, the Kraken will have a hard time replicating that success, as the rest of the league was more prepared for the expansion draft the second time around. As a result, it's not surprising that Vegas is the night's largest favorite, though the Penguins-Lightning game has a higher over/under (6.0 goals vs. 5.5 for Seattle-Vegas).
Robin Lehner, VGK vs. SEA ($8,200): Lehner's the go-to guy in Vegas' net following the offseason trade of Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago, and the outspoken netminder's coming off an excellent regular season in his own right (13-4-2 with a 2.29 GAA and .913 save percentage), even if it was overshadowed by Fleury's Vezina Trophy-winning campaign. While we won't know what to make of Seattle until we see the team in action, the Kraken are expected to struggle offensively, as nobody on the team scored more than 17 goals last season. Behind the stingy Vegas defense, Lehner's in position to stifle Seattle in the season opener.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB vs. PIT ($8,000): Pittsburgh's offense is normally among the league's toughest on opposing goalies, but the Penguins will open the season without franchise icons Sidney Crosby (wrist) and Evgeni Malkin (knee), nor high-scoring winger Jake Guentzel, who just cleared COVID-19 protocols. Vasilevskiy's good enough to hold a full-strength Pittsburgh squad at bay, let alone this depleted version. He's coming off the best season of his career, in which Vasilevskiy posted a 31-10-1 record, 2.21 GAA and .925 save percentage. The 27-year-old Russian would almost certainly be considered one of the game's elite goalies, even if he wasn't on a Lightning team so stacked that it had to use creative accounting to exceed the salary cap by $17 million last season.
Philipp Grubauer, SEA at VGK ($7,000): Grubauer's coming off a tremendous season that saw him finish third in Vezina Trophy voting behind Fleury and Vasilevskiy. It's easy to write the German netminder's success off as a product of playing for a great Avalanche team, but an offseason move to Seattle will give Grubauer an opportunity to prove last year's 30-9-1 record, 1.95 GAA and .922 save percentage were just as much his doing as his team's. If you believe in his abilities, Grubauer's a bargain at $7,000.
Max Pacioretty, VGK vs. SEA ($7,100): Pacioretty's fantasy value goes beyond his scoring, which is already elite judging by last year's 24-27-51 line in 48 appearances. The veteran power forward's also among the league's top sources of shots, as single-game shot totals in the high single digits aren't uncommon for Patches. His 481 shots over the past two seasons are fourth league-wide, trailing only Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin. Even if he's held off the scoresheet, Pacioretty's shoot-first mentality gives him substantial value.
Steven Stamkos, TB vs. PIT ($5,900): Stamkos seems to have been lost in the shuffle a bit and is available at a bargain valuation as a result. His 17-17-34 line in 38 regular-season appearances translated to a 37-goal, 73-point, 82-game pace for the five-time 40-goal scorer in 2020-21, yet Stamkos can be had for just $100 more than fellow Lightning forward Ondrej Palat, who has topped out at 17 goals and 52 points over the last six seasons. While Stamkos is undeniably injury-prone, he's a great value while healthy.
Jordan Eberle, SEA at VGK ($4,600): Perhaps leaving an Islanders team that emphasized defense and structure will help Eberle unlock another gear offensively. His career highs of 34 goals and 76 points — set with Edmonton back in 2011-12 — are probably out of reach for the 31-year-old winger, but Eberle should jump back over the 20-goal mark for the first time since 2017-18 considering he scored at least 20 goals for five consecutive seasons prior to this three-year drought. He's arguably the most offensively gifted member of the Kraken, but Eberle's $4,600 valuation puts him sixth among Seattle's skaters for Opening Night.
Jason Zucker, PIT at TB ($4,400): Zucker's a bounce-back candidate coming off a nine-goal season that ended a streak of four consecutive 20-goal campaigns. The 29-year-old winger's 33-goal, 64-point season with the Wild in 2017-18 wasn't that long ago, and Zucker's valuation would quickly climb from its current $4,400 mark if he shows any signs of regaining that level.
FORWARD LINE STACKS
Lightning vs. Penguins
Many a successful fantasy lineup has been and will be built around Point and Kucherov, who form one of the league's most effective duos, both on the ice and in fantasy. Point has an 89-115-204 line in 201 appearances over the past three regular seasons, while Kucherov (213) was one of three players to top 200 points between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, along with Connor McDavid (215) and Leon Draisaitl (213). Kucherov then sat out the last regular season thanks to a conveniently timed hip surgery and recovery, which allowed him to return healthy for the playoffs and post an 8-24-32 line over 23 games. Palat has become a staple on this line and posted a 15-31-46 line in 55 games last season.
Penguins at Lightning
Pittsburgh's top line has the skill and veteran savvy to hold its own here, even without Crosby, Malkin or Guentzel. Rust was right on Guentzel's heels in terms of goal-scoring with a 22-20-42 line last season, while Carter scored nine goals in 14 regular-season contests for Pittsburgh after coming over from the Kings via trade before adding four in six postseason games, so the veteran pivot still has enough offensive ability to excel in a top-line role while Crosby and Malkin recover. Heinen's an enticing cheap filler if he indeed gets the third spot on this line over Zucker to open the season.
Golden Knights vs. Kraken
Vegas' affordable new third line combined for four appearances with the Golden Knights last season; Patrick and Dadonov were acquired in the offseason while the 20-year-old Krebs spent most of the season in the juniors. Dadonov lit the lamp just 13 times on a bad Senators team last season, but perhaps joining a contender will motivate the 32-year-old winger to find the form that allowed Dadonov to pot 25-plus goals in each of the previous three seasons with the Panthers. Patrick never lived up to expectations in Philadelphia after being selected second overall in the 2017 draft, but he's an obvious candidate to benefit tremendously from a change of scenery, and Krebs is ready for a full-time role to showcase the skills that prompted Vegas to select him 17th overall in the 2019 draft.
Mark Giordano, SEA at VGK ($5,600): While it remains to be seen how playing time will shake out on the Kraken, there's little question that Giordano will play a prominent role. The former Flames captain almost certainly won't replicate his 74-point production from 2018-19, but he's still capable of leading Seattle on and off the ice while making robust contributions in both the scoring and non-scoring categories. Giordano's well-rounded game coupled with likely usage in all situations make him a strong choice, especially since he'll be extra motivated to perform in the franchise's first game.
Alec Martinez, VGK vs. SEA ($5,500): Overshadowed on the excellent Vegas blue line by Alex Pietrangelo ($6,000) and Shea Theodore ($5,700), Martinez has the highest floor of the three thanks to his shot-blocking ability. His 168 blocked shots last season were far and away most in the league, with Edmonton's Adam Larsson — who's also available in this slate at $3,900 as a member of the Kraken — coming a distant second with 128. Martinez actually outperformed Pietrangelo offensively during the regular season as well, with a 9-23-32 line in 53 games to Pietrangelo's 7-16-23 in 41 contests.
Mikhail Sergachev, TB vs. PIT ($3,400): Victor Hedman ($6,300) is obviously the go-to option among Lightning defensemen, but Sergachev's a nice alternative if you prefer to spend big on other positions. Despite watching his shooting percentage plummet from 8.5 in 2019-20 to 3.7 last season, Sergachev still mustered 30 points in 56 games. The 23-year-old blueliner boasts a career scoring rate just shy of half a point per game, and Sergachev could improve on that significantly with some better puck luck and natural development. He may not be available at just $3,400 for long.
Mike Matheson, PIT at TB ($3,700): Matheson has more offensive ability than meets the eye. Despite being limited to 44 appearances last season, he ranked second among Penguins blueliners in both goals (five) and shots (86), while the since-departed Cody Ceci narrowly beat out Matheson for second among the team's defensemen with 17 points to Matheson's 16. Of course, Matheson doesn't hold a candle to Kris Letang ($5,800) offensively, but that's why he's $2,100 cheaper.