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FanDuel NHL: Value Plays for the Week

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford writes about fantasy hockey for RotoWire. He was a FSWA finalist in 2015 and 2013 for Hockey Writer of the Year. Former SportsNet hockey columnist, where he churned out four articles a week.

The lineup blenders, as I talked about last week, can be extremely frustrating for Daily Fantasy Hockey players. In the last two weeks alone, for example, Valeri Nichushkin, Rich Peverley, Alex Chiasson and Ryan Garbutt have all spent time on the first line in Dallas alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. While any one of those guys could return a lot of value in DFS should they remain there for longer than a half game, thereís no guarantee they will. Through a mix of injuries and desperation, there have been instances similar to this in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Anaheim, Chicago, and Montreal. I cannot stress enough the importance of figuring out where each player will slot each day before putting the fate of your hard-earned money in their fantasy production.

With that, here are this weekís DFS Fanduel value picks.

Right Wing

Valeri Nichushkin Ė Dallas Stars ($3,700)

Due to the position in his lineup now as the top-line right wing, there may be a lot of DFS players on Nichushkin this week. In that sense, I think he makes a better 50/50 or heads-up play than in a Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP).

A common phrase among analytic types in hockey is ďWho is driving the bus?Ē Or in other words, who is driving the offensive play for a given line, and who is just along for the ride? Up until a couple of weeks ago, when the lineup really went through some transformations, Nichushkin was a bus driver for just about every linemate he had. Now that heís back on the top line, he doesnít have to drive the bus anymore and can play a little more freely. (For further information on this, I recommend the website Hockey Analysis. They are undergoing some changes, so itís not available right now, but itís a great resource to see statistically how different players play with each other.)

In Nichushkinís first game back with Seguin and Benn, he managed an assist, a plus-2 rating, and three shots on goal. While the schedule this week isnít favorable Ė Winnipeg, Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis Ė Nichushkin is an even rating in 13 games against these four teams this year. Heís also had just one minus game in his last 14 overall. Considering his cheap price, the great situation he is placed in and combine it with the likelihood that he wonít at least hurt your overall point totals, and Nichushkin is an attractive option as long as he stays on that line.

Left Wing

Benoit Pouliot Ė New York Rangers ($4,300)

The mix-and-match lineups that have happened for many teams had long eluded the New York Rangers. That changed recently as Derick Brassard, Pouliotís typical centerman, was moved up a line to play with Martin St. Louis, while Brad Richards was put alongside Pouliot and Carl Hagelin.

One player that I thought would have a particularly good stretch run was Michael Cammalleri from Calgary. The basis of this was that he was taking shots closer to the net than he was last year (and there is a direct correlation between shot distance and shooting percentage), but his shooting percentage hadnít started to reflect it yet. Cammalleri has 10 goals in 12 games this month and his shooting percentage is starting to reflect the fact that he gets so close to the net when shooting (about 31.7 feet away at five on five).

Benoit Pouliot gets very, very close to the net. For reference, Pouliotís 22.74 foot average isnít very far behind John Tavares (21.5) and Jonathan Toews (20.09). Even though heís shooting from closer to the net than he has in any year over the last five years, Pouliotís shooting percentage of 9.8 percent is the lowest of his career and at least 3.5 percent lower than either of the last two seasons. Much like Cammalleri, Pouliot is taking shots too close to the net to keep up the shooting percentage that he has.

Now that heís alongside Brad Richards, a notoriously good passer, itís probable that Pouliotís goal rates see an uptick for the rest of the year. As long as that line can avoid checking roles, they should be able to produce at even strength.


Alex Galchenyuk Ė Montreal Canadiens ($3,200)

It has been quite an up-and-down season for the young Galchenyuk. In his first 27 games of the season, Galchenyuk managed 17 points and 50 shots on goal; in his last 30 games, Galchenyuk has just 11 points with 55 shots on goal. Part of this has been fueled by injury, as he suffered a broken hand in early January and was out clear through the Olympic break. Itís not easy to take eight weeks off in the middle of the season and come back as if nothing happened, and that certainly applies to the sophomore.

Things are starting to come to form for Galchenyuk, though. After averaging 1.8 shots on goal in his first 44 games this year, Galchenyuk is averaging an even 2.0 shots on goal in his last 13 games. Another reason to be optimistic is that coach Michel Therrien is seemingly trusting him a bit more offensively; in his last two games, Galchenyuk has played nearly half the power play time available to the team. He had not been used much on the power play since returning from injury (mostly because Therrien ran one unit a lot) and if he can consistently find time with the Habsí 12th ranked power play, it should boost his DFS value.

Galchenyuk has been returned to his natural position of center after playing the wing for most of the year. While his linemates Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta arenít elite scorers, it also means that the line should draw secondary or even tertiary competition. Galchenyuk is a natural wizard with the puck and if he is finding his groove offensively, with the added power play time, he should do well this week; two of their four games (Buffalo, Florida) are very easy matchups.


Jonas Brodin Ė Minnesota Wild ($3,000)

There are a few reasons why I really like Brodin this week, so Iíll just go through them one by one.

First of all, Brodin is starting to get more involved offensively. Through his first 59 games of the season, Brodin only managed 52 shots on goal, or an exceedingly paltry 0.88 shots per game. In his last 10 games through Sunday night, Brodin averaged 2.0 shots on goal per game.

That jump in shots on goal per game would seem to be counterintuitive, because heís also seen a decrease in ice time. Whatís important about that though is that Brodin has gone from a regular second pairing defenseman to a third pairing defenseman. Itís led to only 18 or 19 minutes of ice time per game, but heís also facing much easier competition. Heís also consistently getting one of the top two lines on the ice with him. So although his minutes are down, so is the quality of the competition, while his quality of teammates have remained constant (and good).

Lastly, even though his ice time has gone down, heís remained on the second power-play unit with Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and others. Itís not ideal Ė heíd be much more valuable in DFS if he was on the top power-play unit obviously Ė but it can help boost value.

Itís not often that fewer minutes means more DFS value, but Iím making that case for Brodin. With Vancouver on Wednesday (a team that isnít very good) and Phoenix on Saturday (the 27th ranked penalty kill), there are two good matchups for him this week.


Drew MacIntyre Ė Toronto Maple Leafs

This one is a complete shot in the dark but at this point of the season, there may be lots of those in net for the lesser teams. One caveat is that if he ever does get a start, I would never use MacIntyre in any type of 50/50 or heads-up game. This is purely for large GPP games.

There is no doubt that the Leafs are on pretty big slide of late. With five straight regulation losses, their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

This is the point where I get into percentages.

The Leafs had been riding a really high save percentage all season. Up until their recent slide, they had been among the top three or four teams all year (they are still sixth at five-on-five at .931, ahead of teams like the Ducks and the Rangers). One thing they are doing of late, though, is limiting the overall chances at their net. In five games from Mar. 5 Ė Mar. 13, the team averaged 47.8 unblocked shot attempts at their net at five-on-five; in five games from Mar. 16 Ė Mar. 23, the team has averaged 37.0 unblocked shot attempts at their net at five-on-five. The difference in the final results has been that James Reimer isnít saving as many shots as he was even three months ago.

With James Reimerís confidence all but shot, and regular starting goalie Jonathan Bernier nursing a groin injury (which is a major problem for goalies, obviously), itís not unrealistic that MacIntyre gets at least one start this week. If he does, with the way the Leafs have started to limit shots, he could be a sneaky play to get a very cheap win in GPPs.
The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.