This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
After a two-game Opening Night slate to whet your appetite Tuesday, NHL action continues Wednesday with a five-game slate beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Below, you'll find a breakdown of the action and suggested options for crafting an effective lineup.
There's a number of intriguing rivalry games to peruse Wednesday, including Canadiens-Maple Leafs and Rangers-Capitals, but the night's largest favorites are the Avalanche at home against the new-look Blackhawks, though Toronto isn't too far on Colorado's heels. The highest-scoring game is projected to be Vancouver-Edmonton, where the star-laden Oilers are favored at home in a game with an over/under of 6.5 goals, while the lowest-scoring game is expected to be Winnipeg-Anaheim (over/under: 5.5 goals), with the remaining three contests coming in at 6.0. Eight of last season's nine top point producers are rostered on teams in action — though Auston Matthews (wrist) and Nathan MacKinnon (COVID-19) won't play — so there's no shortage of star power to choose from in this slate, but it will be equally important to identify top values elsewhere to maximize what you can spend on the stars.
Connor Hellebuyck, WPG at ANH ($7,900): After taking home the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie in 2020, Hellebuyck posted comparable numbers last year, cementing his status as one of the league's best netminders with a 24-17-3 record, 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage. He should get off to a hot start here against a rebuilding Ducks team that averaged a league-low 2.21 goals per game last season.
Darcy Kuemper, COL vs. CHI ($8,300): Among the familiar faces that ended up in new places by the time the offseason goalie carousel stopped spinning, Kuemper is primed to find the most success. He already has excellent career ratios (2.47 GAA, .917 save percentage) and now joins an Avalanche club with whom Philipp Grubauer just mustered a 1.95 GAA and .922 save percentage last season. The visiting Blackhawks have some star power to throw at Kuemper, but Colorado's a far superior team top to bottom.
Marc-Andre Fleury, CHI at COL ($7,500): Fleury's an against-the-grain option in net against an Avalanche offense that was the best in the league last season but won't have one of the league's top players in MacKinnon. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner beat Colorado four times in five playoff matchups last year, but keep in mind that was with a stout Golden Knights defense corps in front of Fleury rather than the much less proven group of blueliners Chicago has assembled.
Jake Allen, MON at TOR ($7,300): Like Fleury, Allen's an affordable netminder facing a team that will be without its elite first-line center. While Toronto's still dangerous sans Matthews, Montreal established a defensive identity en route to the Stanley Cup Final last postseason. In the regular season leading up to that run, Allen (2.68 GAA, .907 save percentage) outplayed Carey Price (2.64 GAA, .901 save percentage), who is now in the league's player assistance program.
Leon Draisaitl, EDM vs. VAN ($7,700): Draisaitl's expected to start the season on a separate line from Connor McDavid, but last year's top two point producers will still share the ice with the extra man and are both capable of carrying their respective lines on any given night. Stacking the two Oilers superstars, who combined for 189 points in 56 games last season, will likely be a common strategy against a Canucks team that surrendered 3.34 goals per game last season — sixth-most in the NHL and the most among teams in action Wednesday.
Nazem Kadri, COL vs. CHI ($5,200): With MacKinnon sidelined, Kadri's projected to slide onto Colorado's high-powered top line between standout wingers Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. While he's no MacKinnon, Kadri has more than enough skill to thrive in such a situation considering he has twice surpassed the 30-goal mark in his career.
Cole Caufield, MON at TOR ($4,900): Caufield's a popular sleeper pick, and his valuation should only climb as the season unfolds if things go as expected. He's still technically a rookie after posting a 4-1-5 line in 10 regular-season games, but the prolific scorer at all pre-NHL levels is expected to open the season on the top line and will likely finish among Montreal's top producers if he can stay healthy.
J.T. Miller, VAN at EDM ($5,400): In two seasons since joining the Canucks, Miller has a 42-76-118 line. He leads the team in both goals and points over that span, with no teammate mustering more than 94 points. In fact, he's tied for 18th league-wide in points over the past two seasons, yet this slate of 10 teams alone has 39 skaters valued above Miller at $5,400.
Hendrix Lapierre, WAS vs. NYR ($2,500): Lapierre earned a spot on the Capitals' roster with an outstanding preseason, and he'll help fill the void at center with Nicklas Backstrom (hip) sidelined. The 2020 first-round pick will open the season in a middle-six role and should see time on the power play, of which there could be a lot with bad blood still boiling over between these teams after Tom Wilson's unpunished cheap shots from last season. At the minimum $2,500 valuation, Lapierre's a low-risk, high-reward option.
FORWARD LINE STACKS
Oilers vs. Canucks
McDavid's the consensus top player in the league coming off a 105-point season that was 21 points clear of second-place Draisaitl for the league's top total. The Oilers have previously struggled to surround their stars with talent up front, but they've attempted to address that issue with the offseason signing of Hyman, who gelled on a line with Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews to the tune of 36 goals in 94 appearances over the past two seasons. Puljujarvi spent some time on McDavid's wing last season and potted 15 goals in 55 games, finally showcasing some of the scoring touch the Oilers foresaw when they drafted him fourth overall back in 2016.
Rangers at Capitals
This isn't one of the first lines that comes to mind given all the big-name scorers in action, but there's no shortage of upside with this trio, and it comes at a palatable price. All Panarin has done in two seasons since signing with the Rangers is post a 49-104-153 line in 111 appearances — a rate of 1.38 points per game that trails only McDavid and Draisaitl league-wide over that timeframe. He has spent most of that time skating on a line with Strome, who's coming off a solid showing of 49 points in 56 games. The best value of the three may actually be Kakko, who has quickly turned into one of the Rangers' top forwards defensively and along the boards but is ready at age 20 to showcase more of the offensive ability that made him the second overall selection in the 2019 draft.
Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
On one hand, the Maple Leafs just lost to Montreal in the first round of the playoffs last year and are without Matthews for at least the season's first three games. On the other hand, this isn't the playoffs so Toronto actually has a chance to win, plus this version of the Canadiens is missing two pieces that were instrumental in shutting down Toronto's top guys in that series: goalie Carey Price and premier defensive center Phillip Danault. Rather than pay up for the Maple Leafs' Matthews-less top line, the most efficient way to capitalize on this matchup with the Price-less Habs could well be locking in the more affordable second line. Nylander's the top player on this line; he has a 30-goal season under his belt and was the only Toronto player who got going in the playoffs against Montreal, posting a 5-3-8 line in the seven-game series. Bunting's a potential diamond in the rough who produced a 10-3-13 line in just 21 appearances for the Coyotes last season, while Kerfoot's a two-time 40-goal scorer who has been buried in the bottom six but will slide up to the second line while John Tavares fills in for Matthews on the first.
Cale Makar, COL vs. CHI ($6,600): Makar produced at a point-per-game pace last season and could be even better this year considering he's due to turn just 23 years old later this month. Surrounded by plenty of offensive talent in his role on Colorado's top pairing and No. 1 power-play unit, Makar's the cream of the crop when it comes to offense from defensemen, not only in this slate but around the entire league. Samuel Girard, who'll open the season on the top pairing alongside Makar, is also a nice value at $4,700 if you don't quite have the funds for Makar.
Quinn Hughes, VAN at EDM ($4,800): Hughes is one of the league's most offensively gifted defensemen, so he has excellent upside relative to his sub-$5,000 valuation in what's expected to be the night's highest-scoring game. He racked up 41 points in 56 games last season and has 97 points through 129 career appearances — both rates translate to more than 60 points over 82 games.
Jamie Drysdale, ANH vs. WPG ($3,300): It's likely going to be another rough year for Anaheim offensively, but Ducks fans can look forward to the development of Drysdale, whom the team selected sixth overall in 2020. The 19-year-old blueliner mustered a 3-5-8 line in 24 NHL appearances as a rookie but showcased plenty of promise with a 4-6-10 line in 14 AHL contests. Following an offseason of further development, Drysdale could be a steal in the early going at just $3,300, especially with top-unit power-play time expected out of the gate.
Evan Bouchard, EDM vs. VAN ($3,800): Bouchard's deficiencies in his own zone have kept him out of a regular role on Edmonton's blue line since being drafted 10th overall in 2018, but he looks primed to open the season in the lineup, and there's little doubt about his offensive ability. In 14 NHL appearances last season, Bouchard notched a 2-3-5 line, 38 shots and 11 blocks, including a dominant two-assist, eight-shot performance. Finding the cap space to pay up for the Oilers' top options up front and on the back end will be tough, but grabbing the former and betting on Bouchard over the latter is a tempting alternative.