The first Thursday of the NHL season is here and ready to reward players thirsty for Yahoo! DFS success. Sixteen teams will be in action starting at 7:00 PM Eastern time, and these are the players from those teams with the best chance of providing strong value relative to price…
Henrik Lundqvist, NYR vs. COL ($32): Lundqvist struggled for most of last season, but turned it on late with a 2.25 GAA and .927 save percentage in the playoffs. The 35-year-old also backstopped Sweden to the title at the World Championships in the offseason, further proving that he still has plenty left in the tank. Priced at a middling $32 for New York's opener, Lundqvist should easily outperform that valuation at home against an Avalanche team that ranked dead last with 2.01 goals per game last season.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Corey Crawford, CHI vs. PIT ($30): Usually Crawford would be a tremendous bargain at $30, but that's not the case with the defending champs in town. Even with home ice advantage in this contest, Crawford's way too risky against a Penguins team that led the league with 3.39 goals per game in 2016-17.
Alex Galchenyuk, MON at BUF ($15): Galchenyuk will be skating in a bottom-six role when the season starts, but that's nothing new for the talented forward. His defensive deficiencies have long limited Galchenyuk's playing time at even strength and defensive-minded coach Claude Julien has no qualms about giving bigger minutes to grittier guys. Galchenyuk's offensive-zone skills are undeniable, however, as evidenced by last season's 15 points with the extra man, third only to Shea Weber and the since-departed Alexander Radulov. Slated to work with the top power-play unit once more, look for him to capitalize on this matchup with a Sabres team that ranked sixth-worst on the penalty kill at 77.6 percent.
CENTER TO AVOID
Claude Giroux, PHI at LAA ($20): Giroux does most of his damage with the extra man, as 31 of his 58 points last season came on the power play. That reliance on the power play has him fighting an uphill battle against a Kings team that was fifth-stingiest with an 84.5 percent rate on the penalty kill last year despite playing most of the season without star goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Anthony Mantha, DET vs. MIN ($13): Mantha's underpriced at $13, especially given his growth potential at age 23. The 2013 first-rounder showed great two-way ability in his first full NHL season last year, picking up 17 goals, 36 points and a plus-10 rating while firing over two shots per contest in 60 games. Mantha won't stay this cheap for long even if he just matches last year's production, so this is the time to buy low.
Nino Niederreiter, MIN at DET ($14): Niederreiter's another player likely to get more love from the pricing algorithm as the season wears on. Still just 25, the 2010 fifth overall pick has seen his point total steadily increase every season since 2013-14, going from 36 to last year's career-high 57. He's also coming off career bests in goals (25) and plus-minus (plus-17), so it's no surprise Niederreiter's 6.2 fantasy points per game were easily tops among sub-$15 players available in this slate.
WINGS TO AVOID
David Backes, BOS vs. NSH ($19): Backes is expected to skate in a bottom-six role this year, which should come as no surprise after he totaled just 38 points in 74 games last season. The 33-year-old power forward is clearly slowing down and a matchup with the defending Western Conference champions should only speed up the aging process.
Evander Kane, BUF vs. MON ($21): Kane's value is tied almost exclusively to scoring goals, as he had just 15 helpers and a minus-17 rating in 2016-17. He's unlikely to light the lamp against Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who's considered arguably the best netminder in the league and is coming off a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Kevin Shattenkirk, NYR vs. COL ($21): Shattenkirk is poised for a memorable debut with the team he grew up rooting for against the franchise that drafted him in the first round back in 2007. The offensive-minded defenseman is especially deadly on the power play, having finished with at least 25 power-play points in each of the past four seasons. Colorado's penalty kill ranked 29th at 76.6 percent last year and the Avalanche also surrendered no shortage of even strength scores in allowing a total of 3.37 goals per game.
Cam Fowler, ANH vs. ARI ($19): Fowler led all Ducks defensemen last year with 39 points, including 15 on the power play. That offensive ability will likely be on display against a Coyotes team that allowed 3.15 goals per game while killing off just 77.3 percent of opposing power plays. Those two numbers ranked third-worst and fourth-worst in the league, respectively.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Erik Johnson, COL at NYR ($17): Johnson doesn't bring much on the offensive end, as evidenced by his two goals and 17 points in 46 games last year. Given his substantial rating downside in this matchup, Johnson has neither a high ceiling nor a high floor.
Alex Goligoski, ARI at ANH ($18): Stay-at-home defenseman on bad teams don't tend to make for strong fantasy plays. Even after some offseason upgrades, the Coyotes still look far inferior to a perennially playoff-bound Ducks team, so don't expect a guy that contributed just six goals and a minus-8 rating last year to live up to his $18 price in this situation.