Five games are on tap for Friday's NHL slate starting at 7:00 PM Eastern time. A pair of Metropolitan Division tilts highlight this light slate, which makes up for a lack of quantity with plenty of quality talent in action. The players below stand out from the pack as the evening's top value plays…
Semyon Varlamov, COL vs. ANH ($25): Yahoo!'s pricing system is stuck in the past with this valuation of Varlamov, as the Avalanche team that's guided him to a 3-0-0 record looks much improved compared to last year's league-worst outfit while the Russian netminder has regained top form after getting surgery on his oft-injured groin. Varlamov's 1.67 GAA and .945 save percentage are reminiscent of the 2.41 and .927 marks he posted in a healthy 2013-14 campaign, and he won't stay down at $25 for long if he keeps playing like this. Anaheim's totaled only five goals in its past three games after scoring that many in its opener against the defensively-deficient Coyotes, so there's little reason to sweat this matchup for the affordable netminder.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Cory Schneider, NJ vs. WAS ($29): Schneider appears to be on his way to a bounce-back campaign, but that doesn't mean you can just start using him willy-nilly. This matchup with a dangerous Capitals team led by Alex Ovechkin's eight goals in four games is likely to result in Schneider's first loss of the young season.
Mika Zibanejad, NYR at CLS ($19): Regardless of which goaltender Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella tabs to start the first leg of Columbus' weekend back-to-back set, Zibanejad makes for a strong play given his blistering start. The 24-year-old center has embraced his promotion to the first line this season, potting five goals through four games, including four with the extra man, while already launching 20 shots on frame. Columbus' penalty kill ranked only ninth last season at 82.5 even though the team surrendered the second-fewest goals per game overall, so don't be surprised to see Zibanejad continue to find success with the extra man here.
CENTER TO AVOID
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, OTT at CGY ($18): Pageau is significantly overpriced at $18 given his role and level of play thus far. The third-line center sees little to no power-play time and has just one assist and a minus-2 rating thus far. If you insist on using a Senators center here against a Flames team that comes in on a three-game winning streak, Derick Brassard ($17) is a cheaper option who skates in a top-six role, gets power-play time and already has one goal, two assists and a plus-5 rating.
James Neal, VGK vs. DET ($21): Neal has scored at least once in every game in Golden Knights history for a total of five goals through three contests. He has a golden opportunity to extend that streak against a tired Red Wings team that will be playing the second night of a back-to-back set. Detroit allowed the fifth most goals per game last year at 2.98, so this is a favorable matchup even without considering the fatigue factor (this is the last of a four-game road trip).
Jesper Bratt, NJ vs. WAS ($16): It's too early to tell if Bratt's torrid start is a legitimate sign of greatness to come, but $16 isn't much to pay to find out. The 2016 sixth-rounder has three goals and three assists to go with a plus-5 rating in his first three NHL games, so it's no wonder his ice time has risen with each subsequent contest. There's little reason to believe Bratt will dip back below 17 minutes any time soon, and skating in a top-six role alongside 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier gives the 19-year-old Swede plenty of scoring upside even in a tough matchup with the Capitals.
WINGS TO AVOID
Gustav Nyquist, DET at VGK ($16): Nyquist's getting all the ice time he can handle with over 20:00 per game, but he hasn't been able to translate that hefty role into any points. His goal total has dropped off in each of the past three seasons, and Nyquist's given little indication that trend won't continue for a fourth consecutive year despite needing only 12 goals to reach last season's 76-game total.
Mike Hoffman, OTT at CGY ($21): Hoffman has reportedly been battling an illness, which explains his sluggish start. The three-time 25-goal scorer has been held without a point while posting a minus-5 rating through three games, and can't be trusted at this price until he shows himself to be healthy.
Brady Skjei, NYR at CLS ($15): Skjei is quietly growing his offensive game, as he's already scored a goal while putting 12 pucks on net through four contests after a strong postseason run that saw him tally four goals in 12 games. His first marker of the season beat Montreal star Carey Price, so Skjei has no qualms about facing the league's best goaltenders. The 23-year-old blueliner won't stay so cheap for long if he maintains this offensive presence, so this is a good opportunity to buy low.
David Savard, CLS vs. NYR ($17): Savard hasn't been able to get on the scoresheet yet, but he's contributed plenty of fantasy value with 10 shots and nine blocks through three games. He's averaging a solid 19:34 of ice time per game and should continue to bring a high floor for his price, but Savard also has decent offensive potential after totaling 21 goals and 84 points in 221 games (.38 points per game) over his previous three campaigns.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Francois Beauchemin, ANH at COL ($15): Beauchemin's seeing more work than expected with Sami Vatanen (shoulder) and Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) both sidelined, but he still carries little fantasy upside at this stage of his career. The 37-year-old stay-at-home defenseman doesn't have the speed to join the rush at this stage of his career, as evidenced by last season's mere 18 points and minus-14 rating in 81 games with the Avalanche. Even the motivation of playing his old team is unlikely to be enough to earn Beauchemin his first point of the season.
Dougie Hamilton, CGY vs. OTT ($19): Hamilton's an inferior option to teammates Mark Giordano ($19) and T.J. Brodie ($17), both of whom are averaging at least three more minutes of ice time per game and have at least as many points. Giordano and Brodie have both also been more effective on the power play while each providing more than twice as many blocked shots as Hamilton's paltry four through four games, so the former Bruins blueliner is clearly the third option in Calgary's defense corps despite being tied for the highest price.