The NHL season is underway, and a new season means a return of this column. With the explosion of DFS over the last couple of years, I assume there are a lot of new players, and naturally, new readers.
My weekly articles here on RotoWire will always deal with bargain-bin options for the upcoming week on FanDuel. I look at the week ahead for the teams, look at the low-cost players, and try to find the best options. Sometimes they hit, and sometimes they donít. The nice thing about bargain players is that taking a zero from them doesnít really hurt that much. And when they hit, theyíre a very pleasant surprise.
This column will deal with players for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 9-11), but thatís only because of a mid-week start to the season. After this column, they will return to their normal Tuesday schedule.
I will list one player per FanDuel position, and each skater will be $4,000 or less (using the most recent pricing available). I will also list one cheap goalie, but their position always sports a higher cost, so the netminders will be somewhere between $6,000 and 7,000.
Alexander Wennberg, CLM: $3,700
The Jacketsí trade package for Brandon Saad included shipping off center Artem Anisimov to Chicago, leaving Wennberg as the de facto third line center.
Wennberg was a first-round pick (14th overall) by the Blue Jackets back in 2013. After playing a minimal role over the last couple of seasons, heís now taking on more prominent minutes for Columbus. With the wealth of talent up front for Columbus, heís expected to center Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson to start the year.
For Hartnell owners, the tough veteran playing on the third line isnít ideal. For Wennberg backers, though, itís a good sign. It was limited action, but over 20 games worth of ice time together last year, Wennberg and Hartnell were exceptional at generating offense. The teamís mark of 66 shot attempts per 60 minutes together at 5-on-5 represents an increase of more than 50 percent for Wennberg over when he played without Hartnell, and more than 20 percent for Hartnell versus when he played without Wennberg. Clearly thereís some offense-generating chemistry here.
The Jackets have back-to-back games against the Rangers this weekend. Though the Rangers are a strong defensive team, Wennbergís line should avoid the Rangersí top blueliners, Ryan McDonagh an Dan Girardi, and that can only help. Iíd rather have Wennberg in the home game, but either night is fine for salary relief.
Artemi Panarin, CHI: $3,000
PanarinĎs first NHL game Wednesday was a good night. He played nearly 17 minutes at 5-on-5 (thanks largely to a lack of penalties) and managed two shots on goal, with one of those finding the twine. Oddly enough, for a player playing opposite Patrick Kane and scoring in his first game of the season, Panarinís price hasnít increased.
Panarin is an import from the KHL, coming into his first NHL season as a 23-year-old. While thatís normally a flag, Panarin has as much skill as most NHL players could hope for. He has the hands, the vision and the patience to be a successful NHLer. The fact that heís playing with Kane is a huge bonus.
The Blackhawks have back-to-back games this weekend with the Islanders, who have an excellent top defensive pairing with Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. After that, though, it gets a bit dicey as far as consistent shutdown d-men. I donít expect the Kane-Anisimov-Panarin trio to see much of that top pair, especially in their home game Saturday. As with Wennberg, I would rather use Panarin at home, but for a min-priced winger with his upside, I have no problem using him either Friday or Saturday.
Teemu Pulkkinen, DET: $3,200
The Red Wings are at home Friday against the Maple Leafs, then on the road Saturday in Carolina. Of the two, I would much rather use Wings players in their home game. Carolina may be stingy as far as scoring chances go, so it seems like avoiding Detroit on Saturday night is the prudent move.
Pulkkinen has the skill set to be a goal scorer. He has the shot (and mostly the release) to be a prime finisher. While he isnít occupying a cushy spot in the lineup, being on the third line with Riley Sheahan isnít a bad placement, either. Sheahan has shown the ability to be very good in softer matchups over the last couple of years, and with a (hopefully) healthy Johan Franzen on the other wing, itís a third line that can play like a solid second scoring line.
The Leafs may be improved a bit from last year, but thereís only so much depth on that team. Even without loads of ice time, the line of Franzen-Sheahan-Pulkkinen should be able to drive a lot of offense. With a near-minimum price tag and top-end scoring skill, Pulkkinen is a solid option for salary relief.
Alec Martinez, LAK: $3,500
The Kings had a fairly poor showing in their first game of the year, losing 5-1 at home to the Sharks. Even though they were outshot 32-20, Martinez was one of six Kings to have a positive shot-attempt differential, and only one of two defensemen. Heís solid on the blue line for the Kings, and often gets overshadowed because of Drew Doughty.
Martinez skated on the second power-play unit for the Kings in the first game of the year, too. Like last year, itís worth noting that there was a clear divide between the first and second unit in ice time; the second unit will get fewer minutes. Even so, some power-play time is better than none.
Los Angeles is at home Friday night against the Coyotes, who have a good chance be the worst team in the NHL this year. They donít have depth at any position, and the Kings outshot the Coyotes by 45 total shots over their final three head-to-head games last year. And Arizonaís roster this season may well be worse than it was last year.
I expect the Kings to run over the Coyotes, and on a short slate, the stars for Los Angeles will be highly owned. Martinez shouldnít have a high ownership rate, as most DFSers will go for Drew Doughty or Christian Ehrhoff. With a good matchup, good scoring opportunity and minimal cost, Martinez would be my preferred Kings blueliner.
Karri Ramo, CGY: $6,500
Please note that this is tentative. The Flames got shelled Wednesday night against Vancouver, and that means Ramo isnít guaranteed to start. If he doesnít start the game, Iím fine with using Jonas Hiller in his stead.
It was a terrible result for the Flames in their season opener. They let up over 40 shots, and considering the Canucks are expected to take a step back this year, itís pretty embarrassing.
The fact that Vancouver shouldnít be as good as last year, though, is the reason I like Ramo again in net. The Canucks really donít have much offensive depth past the Sedin twins, and two of the first three Canucks goals on Wednesday were a little bit lucky. Sometimes teams get the bounces, sometimes they donít. Thatís the nature of hockey.
Beyond an improvement on the ice, there is a bit of game theory here. There were a lot of DFSers who used Ramo on Wednesday and got burned by him. When that happens with a player, the best time to use him is shortly afterward. A one-game sample shouldnít change opinions of a player or team, so anyone who thought Ramo (or Hiller) was a good play for his price on Wednesday should have the same opinion for this game. That will not be the case overall, though.
While itís preferable to use him in a tournament, now is the time to put Ramo in net as a cheap goalie. He will be much less widely owned than Wednesday, and that can pay off in a big way for those who keep the faith.