Henrik Lundqvist, NYR vs. COL ($8,400): There’s nothing to overthink for this obvious choice; the Avalanche aren’t very good and they’re in King Henrik’s territory on Broadway. It’s true that Lundqvist is declining, but the 35-year-old still won 31 games and pitched two shutouts last year. The Rangers should have a much better defense this year after jettisoning some of their slower players and signing Kevin Shattenkirk, continuing the league-wide trend of valuing speed and skill. The rest of the goalies on the slate aren’t discounted enough to offset the risk of potentially losing the game.
Jack Eichel, BUF vs. MON ($6,700): The NHL’s newest multimillionaire millennial gets to show off in front of his home crowd in what could be a real breakout season for Eichel, who missed 21 games last year due to a high-ankle sprain. He’s arguably the league’s best high-volume shooter, and (had he not missed any playing time) was on pace to register more than 300 shots on goal. Carey Price is tough to beat, but Eichel should get a lot of chances with an improved supporting cast.
Matt Duchene, COL at NYR ($4,800): Okay, so I realized I also recommended Lundqvist, but Duchene is hard to pass up. He’s coming off a hugely disappointing 18-goal, minus-34 season and he’s been on the trade block for what seems like forever. So, if Duchene wants to make the best out of his situation, why not show everyone the dazzling offensive skill that once made him a third overall pick? He can do that by shooting a lot more after recording a career-low 2.08 shots per game last year.
Tyler Toffoli, LA vs. PHI ($5,400): The Flyers allowed three goals, including two in the first period, and 35 shots against the Sharks last night, and must now face the Kings in the second half of their back-to-back. The 25-year-old Toffoli is just two years removed from scoring 31 goals and desperate to prove he can be a top-line winger. It’s about time “That ‘70s Line” got its swagger back.
Anthony Mantha, DET vs. MIN ($4,900): The former back-to-back 50-goal scorer in major junior lit the lamp 17 times in 60 games for the Red Wings last year, and he’s primed for a breakout season. The team desperately needs someone to shoulder the offensive load with Henrik Zetterberg turning 37 in just a few days, and Mantha will get his first real test in the season opener. He’s slated to skate alongside Dylan Larkin, making them perhaps the fastest duo on the ice.
Clayton Keller, ARI at ANH ($4,100): There’s a lot of players at this price, but Keller’s enormous upside is not up for debate. He’s got the quickness and the skill of someone like Patrick Kane, and come Opening Night he’ll be on the top line with Derek Stepan and Max Domi. The Ducks, by the way, are without shutdown center Ryan Kesler and their top two defensemen, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen.
Kevin Shattenkirk, NYR vs. COL ($5,200): The Avalanche defense that allowed the most goals in the league and ranked 29th on the penalty kill last year “addressed their problems” by claiming Patrik Nemeth off waivers just days before the season began. The Rangers will have a field day when the Avalanche start taking penalties, and Shattenkirk will quarterback the power play.
Cody Ceci, OTT vs. WAS ($3,400): Ceci will have to serve as the team’s best skating defenseman and power-play quarterback in Erik Karlsson’s absence, and the local boy certainly has the tools to do so. If Dion Phaneuf can take some of the tougher minutes, most likely against Alex Ovechkin since they’re close in size, that gives Ceci a little more opportunity to create offense rather than having to worry about defense. Ceci scored 124 points over his final 133 games in major junior, and in his fifth pro season, should be starting to unlock that potential.