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FanDuel NHL: Value Plays for Opening Night

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.

Welcome back, NHL.

The hockey season is set to start this week, with the schedule kicking off Wednesday with a four-game slate. Of course, that means the DFS hockey season is set to kick off Wednesday as well. For the people that may be new to DFS hockey, I wrote an intro last week here on RotoWire. It should help those unfamiliar with DFS hockey get to know the game a bit, and it will also help those who might play other daily sports.

Without rambling on much further, here are some good value picks for the first night of DFS action on FanDuel. I will say, I consider a "value" pick for a skater is someone priced under $5,000. A top-flight goalie will leave an average of $5,500 to $5,600 per roster spot.

One reminder: all line combinations are subject to change. Oct. 5 was the last day of preseason, and teams are still making cuts. My favorite resource for checking line combinations are the RotoWire depth charts, so be sure to check there on Wednesday closer to game time for actual line combinations.

Center

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal ($4,000)

There is a lot of optimism coming into this season for Galchenyuk. Over his first two seasons in the NHL, Galchenyuk averaged 1.98 points/60 minutes at five-on-five play. Thatís the same mark as James van Riemsdyk and Anze Kopitar. His first two seasons, mind you, were both as a teenager.

Galchenyuk is highly-skilled and looks to be getting ready to play second-line minutes for the Canadiens. That puts him alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. This line will be relied upon for consistent offensive contribution this year behind the Max Pacioretty line, something that wasnít really expected last year.

The concern with Galchenyuk in the game on Wednesday night is that playing alongside Plekanec means getting the toughest competition from the opponent. Against Toronto, that means the Phil Kessel line. Normally, a site that counts plus/minus would lead me to avoid that kind of matchup. However, with Montreal on the road, I would expect the Toronto coaches to try to avoid matching the Kessel line against Galchenyukís line as much as possible, since their status as the home team gives them the right to last change. That might allow Galchenyuk and company to match up against Torontoís depth, and thatís a good thing.

Right Wing

Alex Burrows, Vancouver ($4,400)

Last year was one of turmoil for Burrows. Not only was he seemingly permanently removed from his cushy gig with the Sedin twins on Vancouverís first line, but injuries limited him to just 49 games. He would record just five goals, his lowest total in seven years.

Hereís the thing about those five goals: Burrows was undone by a 4.8 shooting percentage, also a seven-year low. He had actually posted a lower shooting percentage when he was a depth player in 2006-07 (4.3%). Over the years, weíve learned shooting percentages can vacillate wildly from season to season. Thatís why itís important to know that Burrows entered last season as a career 13.6-percent shooter. Itís a fairly safe assumption that heíll quite easily improve upon his 2013-14 mark.

In Wednesdayís game specifically, Burrows is playing against a Calgary team that looks to be average at best heading into the season. And though heís no longer with the Sedins, playing on the second line means Burrows will often play away from Calgaryís Mark Giordano, one of the NHLís top defensemen. Heíll also be shooting against an overrated Jonas Hiller; the new Calgary goalie ranks 23rd out of 33 goalies in 5-on-5 save percentage dating back to 2011.

Left Wing

Matthew Nieto, San Jose ($4,200)

There hasnít been a ton of fanfare around the young kids in San Jose, mostly because of the whole signing fighters/stripping captaincy stuff the Sharks did in the offseason. With that said, both Tomas Hertl and Nieto are going to be important parts of this Sharks team both this year and for years to come.

Nieto got his chance last season when Tomas Hertlís injury shuffled the depth chart. This pushed Nieto into San Joseís top-six forwards, and thatís where he looks to start this year. Projecting today, it looks like Nieto will play on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Thatís a pretty good spot to be.

Nieto will have no problem playing alongside those linemates. In fact, they were the two guys that he played with the most last year, and the trio controlled most of the play with a 53.5 percent possession rate (via Progressive Hockey). The only real worry is if the trio gets matched against Jeff Carter line of Los Angeles, but if they see a matchup against a bottom-six line, they stand a very good chance of success in this game.

Defenseman

Alexander Edler, Vancouver ($3,900)

Edler finished with the worst plus/minus rating in the entire NHL last season at minus-39. In fact, that was the worst mark for a full NHL campaign since the 2004-05 lockout. Thatís a blessing for DFS players, though, as that seems to have depressed his value out of the gate this season.

The fact is, Edler finished with a 3.54 on-ice shooting percentage last year. Thatís the rate the Canucks scored at 5-on-5 with Edler on the ice. His previous career-low was 7.32 percent. That would indicate thereís a massive rebound coming this year for Edlerís on-ice shooting percentage, which will have a positive influence on his plus/minus rating. Letís not forget the Canucks as a whole took a nosedive in the second half of last season, with Edler being just a part of it. In a similar vein, his on-ice save percentage was .902 last year, which also represented a career-low. With a more stable coach behind the bench and Ryan Miller in net, I expect that percentage to rebound as well. In short, Edler wonít come anywhere close to that minus-39 mark this year.

Finally, it appears as though Edler will be playing the first power-play unit to start the season (again, check our depth charts Wednesday for confirmation). Despite generating the second-most shot attempts per 60 minutes in the NHL last season with the man advantage, the Canucks ranked second-last in shooting percentage. Thatís another number likely in line for some improvement, which should transform Vancouverís power play into a respectable unit again. As far as first-unit power play defensemen go, Edler is exceedingly cheap.

Goaltender

Jonas Hiller, Calgary ($7,600)

Despite having two Canucks players in this column, Iím still very high on Hiller as an option for guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) on Wednesday. This means heís to be used strictly as a tournament play, and to be completely avoided in cash games.

Hiller is the only goalie priced under $9,000, which makes him the ideal GPP play. His modest price leaves lots of money in reserve to load a team with expensive players from the Bruins, Sharks, Kings and elsewhere.

Remember that Hiller, while not exceptional in his own right, is an upgrade over the mess that has been the Flamesí goaltending situation the last couple of years. Since 2012, Hillerís 5-on-5 save percentage is .928; Calgary goaltending over that stretch was .903 (via Hockey Analysis). The Flames had a solid second half last season, and itís not like theyíre facing a true Cup contender on Wednesday, either. While Vancouver is favored to win, theyíre not huge favorites at -122 on Covers Experts.

Those are the guys I like for pretty cheap prices this coming Wednesday. Here are just a few more I like for the rest of the week, though their prices have not been released yet:

Kasperi Kapanen, LW, Pittsburgh: While heís not confirmed to be on the Pittsburgh roster, it does look like heíll be there Opening Night. He should have a very cheap price and looks on track to line up alongside Evgeni Malkin (if Malkin plays).

Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay: As always, check our depth charts, but it looks like Kucherov will start the season on Tampa Bayís top power-play unit. Because heís not a big name, he too should have a fairly cheap price.

Jori Lehtera, C, St. Louis: The 26-year-old will be making his NHL debut on Thursday, and appears to be lining up between Jaden Schwartz and Joakim Lindstrom. Heís shown flashes of talent in the preseason and will be in a position to succeed out of the gate.

Mike Ribeiro, C, Nashville: Ribeiro looks like heíll play next to James Neal, and that means top power-play minutes as well. His price may be depressed because of his poor numbers last season, and Nashville gets Ottawa in their season opener. Ottawaís defense was a mess in 2013-14, and that could lead to a lot of goals on Thursday night.

Michael Stone, D, Arizona: Stone actually posted a better points per 60 minutes at 5-on-4 last year than Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and he wasnít very far behind Keith Yandle, either. While teams load up to face the top Arizona power-play unit, Stone might be able to slide under the radar on the second unit. That should make him a relatively cheap play with good upside.

Good luck with the first week of NHL!

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.