The 2021 NHL season starts with a rivalry game between the Penguins and Flyers in Philadelphia and wraps up with the Avalanche hosting the Blues. Add bouts between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs and the Canucks and Oilers that project to be close, and it’s an exciting opening evening. The lone mismatch is between the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Lightning and visiting Blackhawks. Expect to see a lot of Bolts in lineups on Wednesday.
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Top Line Stacks
Lightning vs. Blackhawks
Ondrej Palat ($6,000) - Brayden Point ($7,000) - Steven Stamkos ($7,400)
No team has surrendered more high-danger scoring chances per hour over the past three seasons than the Blackhawks, and Tampa Bay is the largest favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook on the docket. While the Lightning top line doesn’t have a lot of shared ice time as a trio, Point has centered both Stamkos and Palat successfully. All three also project to skate with the No. 1 power-play unit, so while likely popular targets, Point, Stamkos and Palat should definitely be on your radar.
Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
Jimmy Vesey ($3,000) - John Tavares ($6,300) - William Nylander ($6,200)
The new-look second line for Toronto could prove to be sneaky and lower owned than the No. 1 trio. Tavares and Nylander have combined for a high-end 5.74 goals per hour over the past two seasons, and Vesey brings the combined cap hit into a manageable range. The Tavares line should also avoid Montreal’s top defensive matchups.
Superstar to Build Around
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks ($7,900) - After pacing the NHL in points last season, the 25-year-old center comes in at a bit of a discount compared to the other high-end scorers in Wednesday’s player pool. In the heart of his offensive prime, there’s no reason to expect Draisaitl to slow down in 2021, and there could be growing pains for the Canucks with offseason turnover in goal and on the blueline.
Value on Offense
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers ($4,600) - Projected to skate in a top offensive role alongside Elias Pettersson ($6,800) in all situations, Boeser is positioned to reward on this salary. After scoring 1.34 goals per 60 minutes with a 14.3 shooting through his first three seasons in the league, Boeser dipped to 0.91 and 9.5 marks last year. Expect some statistical correction in 2021, and the Oilers don’t project as a daunting matchup after allowing the sixth most goals per hour at 5-on-5 in the league last year.
Mike Hoffman, St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche ($3,200) - No doubt, Colorado checks out as a tough matchup after allowing the fourth fewest goals per 60 minutes while posting the eighth best Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 last season. However, Hoffman is a proven scorer and high-volume shooter, and his 1.26 goals and 10.51 shots per hour over the past three seasons are admirable marks. He’s also locked into an offensive role, including skating on the No. 1 power-play unit, so this salary definitely stands out as a bargain.
Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers ($2,900) - Beginning the season in an offensive role, Hoglander should be on your radar at this price. The 20-year-old winger was in the midst of his third season in the SHL before joining the Canucks for training camp, so he’s one of the few in Wednesday’s player pool who has been playing meaningful games recently.
Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers ($2,900) - Projected to skate alongside Sidney Crosby ($7,400) and Jake Guentzel ($6,500) at even strength, the first-year Pen is positioned to succeed. Crosby and Guentzel have clicked for a rock-solid 3.16 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 while dominating possession with a 55.6 Corsi For percentage over the past two seasons. However, just note that there’s cause for concern considering Philadelphia allowed the fewest goals against on home ice in the league last season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Chicago Blackhawks, ($8,400) - All goaltending decisions begin with whether or not to spend up for the Russian star. Tampa should easily handle the Blackhawks, and Vasilevskiy posted a jaw-dropping .928 save percentage and 1.85 GAA during last season’s playoffs. It’s definitely worth taking a deep dive into how your skaters fit around his hefty salary, though. There’s little margin for error when paying up in goal.
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, ($7,800) - The 2019-20 regular season is a distant memory, but Hart’s numbers at the Wells Fargo Center shouldn’t be overlooked. He went 20-3-2 with a .943 save percentage and 1.63 GAA, and as noted, Philadelphia allowed the fewest goals per 60 minutes in the league on home ice. Keep in mind that there have also been 70 combined goals through 11 regular-season games between the Flyers and Penguins over the past three seasons, so this could turn into a high-scoring affair.
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche ($7,200) - While there’s a notable difference between Binnington’s home and road numbers, and St. Louis is priced as a decent underdog, this salary still seems low. The contest could be the lowest scoring on the slate, and St. Louis boasts a deep and experienced lineup. Plus, the Blues allowed the third fewest goals against and fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes in the league last year. Binnington offers potential.
Value on Defense
Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins ($4,900) - A high-floor, well-rounded contributor, Provorov should log huge minutes against the Pens on Wednesday, including quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit. His cross-category production could also fly under the radar with so many high-end defensemen in the player pool.
Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Chicago Blackhawks ($3,200) - With the noted soft matchup in mind, the veteran defenseman offers an upside source of cap relief. McDonagh is projected to skate on the No. 2 power-play unit, and he offers a respectable floor through his willingness to block shots. There’s potential for a low ownership percentage here, too.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens ($5,600) - Montreal boasted a middle-of-the-road penalty-kill percentage last season while allowing the ninth most shorthanded goals in the league. Rielly projects to return to the No. 1 power-play unit — where he collected 46 points with the man advantage from 2017-18 through 2018-19 — and is also completely healthy to start the campaign. He’s also a good bet to lead Toronto in ice time Wednesday while also padding his fantasy point total in the shots and blocked shots columns.
Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks ($4,400) - Edmonton paced the NHL in power-play percentage last season without a man-advantage specialist like Barrie, so expect the first-year Oiler’s salary to quickly climb over the next week-plus. Don’t overreact to his struggles in Toronto last year, either. Barrie ranked fifth among regular defensemen in points per hour from 2016-17 through 2018-19.
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