This week is kind of a weird one in the NHL. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday combined, there are eight games. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday combined, there are 34 games. Nights with short slates are always tough to play because there are so few points of differentiation that itís difficult to parse out luck from skill (well, even more difficult than usual). As a general rule, I usually cut back my volume on short slates, if I play at all.
With that said, here are some value picks for this week, all of which are under $4,000, except for the goaltender.
Tomas Jurco, Detroit ($3,500)
For DFS hockey, one of the best ways to look for values is to find someone whose situation has changed in a positive way, but where the salary has yet to reflect the change. Jurco fits this category very well.
In Detroitís most recent game, a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Jurco finished tied for the fourth-most power-play time among all Red Wing skaters. He trailed only Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall. The reason for that is because Jurco, along with Darren Helm, had been moved to the top power-play unit with the three players mentioned. Playing on a power play unit with three all-world players is always a good thing. The fact that Jurco is so cheap is just an added bonus.
There are two things that will limit Jurcoís upside for now. For one, heís not getting a lot of ice time -- heís actually averaging about two minutes less at even strength this season than he did in 2013-14. It could always change, but expecting more than third-line minutes right now is unrealistic. Secondly, heís shooting less than he did last season -- Jurcoís shot attempt rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five is down about 16 percent. Even so, his placement on the top power-play unit makes him worth the punt play at right wing.
William Karlsson, Anaheim ($3,100)
Last week, I discussed the value of Anaheim winger Devante Smith-Pelly, and how well he could do alongside of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. He had a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-4 rating in three games last week.
This week, the honor of having inflated fantasy value due to his presence with Getzlaf and Perry belongs to rookie William Karlsson. Itís not at even strength, though; that placement still goes to Smith-Pelly. Instead, Karlsson is playing alongside that dynamic duo on the power play, which is almost as good.
Karlsson was drafted in the second round in 2011, but hadnít made his NHL debut until this season. The 21-year-old was playing in the Swedish Elite League until last year, and posted 65 points in his final 105 games. He finished last season in the AHL, putting up 12 points in 17 games for the Norfolk, including the playoffs.
A player with good speed like Karlsson does fit well on the top power-play unit. Most significantly, he can chase down loose pucks and force turnovers to get the puck to his linemates. That skill set should mesh well with Perry and Getzlaf.
Anaheim has a tough stretch to start the week with trips to Chicago and St. Louis. After that, though, it will visit Dallas and Colorado. Those last two teams are in the bottom 20 percent of the NHL in shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes of shorthanded time, with Dallas rating as the worst in the league (via War On Ice). That would make power-play specialists like Karlsson highly valuable later this week.
Marcus Johansson, Washington ($3,900)
This will probably be the last time Johansson will be seen with a salary under $4,000. That salary was as of Sunday, a day in which Johansson potted his third goal of the season. He is still well worth his price tag, though.
The biggest problem with Johansson in fantasy hockey -- be it daily or season-long -- since he came into the league was that he rarely shot the puck. In fact, out of 286 players who logged at least 2,000 even-strength minutes from 2010-11 through 2013-14, Johansson ranked 272nd in shot attempts per 60 minutes (via Hockey Analysis). That led to him having 4.63 shots on goal every 60 minutes. That very poor rate suppresses offensive upside, while also giving him a low floor of production.
Thatís changed so far this season, as Johansson is averaging an additional three shots per 60 minutes than he had since coming into the league. In fact, heís third among Washington forwards in this regard, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Liam OíBrien. On top of that, two of his four points this season have come on the power play, as he plays on the top unit with Ovechkin and company.
Johansson derives a lot of his value from that power-play placement, much like Tomas Jurco does. What does separate him a bit is that he receives a few more minutes per game in ice time. Itís not an easy schedule for Washington this week with Detroit and Tampa Bay, but that makes Johansson a nice contrarian punt play. Thereís also a tantalizing matchup with Arizona on Sunday.
James Sheppard, San Jose ($3,700)
The deck chairs have been shuffled around in San Jose, and the latest game saw Sheppard playing as the third-line wing with Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto. He even got nearly a minute of power-play time on top of that.
You might have noticed that I said Sheppard was playing third-line wing with Nieto and Tierney, not on defense. Sometimes, players fall through the cracks on DFS sites. Guys are listed at the wrong position, prices donít really reflect reality, or theyíre left off the list altogether. Last week, I wanted to list Columbusís Tim Erixon as a value defenseman, but he was listed as a winger. Sheppard is listed as a defenseman, despite the fact that he hasnít played defense for a few years now.
This is about exploiting an opportunity. Last season, the top-scoring defenseman on a per-60-minute basis at five-on-five was Victor Hedman at 1.55 (minimum of 500 minutes played). That mark would have tied for the 167th-best mark among forwards. Forwards just happen to get the lionís share of points, and it doesnít even have to be first-liners when compared to defensemen. This makes Sheppard pretty valuable, considering heíll draw easy competition as a third-liner and is listed at the wrong position.
Dustin Tokarski, Montreal ($6,300)
The Canadiens start off this week with a back-to-back set on the road. On Monday, the Canadiens will travel to Edmonton for a game, before heading to Calgary for a tilt Tuesday with the Flames. Calgary is a good team to target for a backup goalie. At time of this writing, Carey Price isnít locked to start the game against Edmonton, but the expectation is that he will be. That would seem to indicate that Tokarski would get Calgary on Tuesday.
This season, Calgary has the third-worst unblocked shot attempt percentage in the NHL, ahead of only Buffalo and Ottawa. The Flamesí team shooting percentage is whatís floating them right now, but Iím highly skeptical that their current rate is sustainable. If that starts to trail off, Calgary is going to be in big trouble on a nightly basis. That would seem to make Tokarski a good play against the Flames should he get the start, particularly in a tournament game.
Update: Tokarski has been confirmed as the starter for Mondayís game in Edmonton, with Price expected to go Tuesday as a result. While Iíd prefer to use Tokarski in a matchup against the Flames, the Oilers would seem to represent a favorable landing spot as well.
Good luck this week!