NHL Power Plays – 10/14/16

This is a very short three-game slate on the first Friday night of the NHL season.

There will be a lot of ownership coming from the Calgary/Edmonton game, with a 5.5 goal total, and the 11-goal game from a couple of nights ago will be fresh in the minds of hockey fans. After that one game, Connor McDavid’s price went up $500-$600 alone, which hopefully dampens some of his ownership (though, realistically, it probably won’t).

*Prices and positions for this article are from DraftKings

Goalie

Jeff Zatkoff $7700 – LAK vs PHI
With Jonathan Quick injured, it looks like Jeff Zatkoff will be the man in net for Los Angeles in the near-term. Note that there is no discount here, as Quick is also $7700.

The problem here is tonight’s slate for goaltenders is pretty awful. There isn’t a reliable goalie on a reliable team to use in the Calgary-Edmonton game, while Pekka Rinne (Nashville) is one of the worst goalies in the NHL; Rinne’s all-situations adjusted save percentage over the last four seasons (.913) is similar to names like Antti Niemi (.914) and Jimmy Howard (.912), according to Corsica Hockey. That leaves Corey Crawford and Steve Mason – both road dogs whose teams should be out-matched in their respective games. That leaves Zatkoff.

There isn’t a big sample to work from, but Zatkoff is a .915 overall save percentage in his 36 NHL games spanning the last four seasons. That’s about league average. Over the last four years – in a much larger sample – Quick is a .917 goalie. So if Zatkoff can be league average, there shouldn’t be much of a step down in net.

Defensemen

Alec Martinez $4400 – LAK vs PHI
Sometimes undervalued among defensemen is what they can do outside of producing points. Over the 134 regular season games for Martinez from 2014-2016, he had 227 shots on goal and 299 blocked shots. That is very close to two DK points a game (1.96, actually) through shots and blocked shots alone. That type of floor is typically a characteristic of players $1000 more expensive than Martinez. Expected to skate on the second power play unit and second defense pairing, Martinez provides some security, as getting a zero seems unlikely.

P.K. Subban $6000 – NSH vs CHI
Over his last two seasons, Subban has played at a pace of 60.6 points per 82 games, with 111 in 150 contests in that span. It’s not often that 60-point defensemen are priced at $6000 or less, but that’s exactly what we have here.

Subban didn’t rack up the shots as some might expect with about 2.5 a game last year, but there is a silver lining here. Last year, Subban’s shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five, from Hockey Analysis, was 4.86, his highest since his Norris Trophy-winning season in 2012-2013, and the second-highest mark of his career. Where it cratered was on the power play, as his five-on-four shooting rate was the lowest of his career. The Montreal power play didn’t focus on him as a trigger man, but I think could change in Nashville. Higher shooting rates mean a higher floor, and he’s playing with a very talented offensive defenseman in Roman Josi.

Wingers

Kris Versteeg $3600 – CGY vs EDM
Needless to say, the line mate of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan should be a coveted commodity at this price. Indeed, Versteeg is exactly that.

There may be some hesitation when it comes to Versteeg because he is a player that not many teams wanted, and even Edmonton wasn’t willing to give him a suitable contract. Narratives aside, what matters in fantasy is production, and Versteeg’s points per 60-minute rate at five-on-five over the last two seasons was 1.73, a mark that equaled Jeff Skinner and Logan Couture. Though not many teams wanted him, his production has been just fine, and that’s what matters.

Versteeg should be wildly popular tonight, but with so many high-end options like Forsbeg, Subban, Josi, McDavid, Eberle, Gaudreau, Monahan, Giordano, Kopitar, Carter, and Doughty in play, salary relief needs to come somewhere. Versteeg is that salary relief.

Filip Forsberg $6800 – NSH vs CHI
It’s easy to forget that with Forsberg’s success individually – averaging nearly 30 goals and 64 points over the last two seasons – that he’s still just 22 years old, having turned so in August. He’s truly one of the top young forwards in the game, and is getting better.

Chicago’s game on Wednesday night kind of gave us a window into their season. The Patrick Kane line is still very talented, but there isn’t much depth on the team. They were over-matched at five-on-five, with the score-adjusted Corsi at 57-percent in favor of St. Louis (via HockeyStats.ca). With the assumption that Nashville and St. Louis are somewhat even teams, this should be a good night for the Predators.

Forsberg is a player that should garner 19-20 minutes a game, average three shots a game, and now has a full training camp with center Ryan Johansen. The public may still be thinking the Blackhawks are the team they were 2-3 years ago, and they are not. This should be a good home opener for the Nashville star.

Benoit Pouliot $4900 – EDM @ CGY
Not playing with Connor McDavid is an obvious drawback, but there is a reason to go with Pouliot tonight. He still plays the second power play unit, but in the game on Wednesday night, the second unit only received about 30-40 fewer seconds of PP time than the first unit. It may not stay that way all year, but it’s a good indication for secondary plays like Pouliot.

The biggest reason for looking at Pouliot is that the Flames, after separating Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie as a defence pairing last game, are going back to that pairing this game. This is important because as a pairing, from Puckalytics, they were on the ice for about 54 shot attempts per 60 minutes over the last two years, while without them on the ice, Calgary was over 60 attempts against per 60 minutes as a team. They are an excellent pairing, so my assumption is they will be deployed frequently against Connor McDavid. After Giordano/Brodie, there really isn’t much defensively for Calgary, and that should be good for Edmonton’s second line.

Pouliot has averaged 50 points per 82 games during his tenure with the Oilers. He should get easy matchups, second line minutes, and second power play duties. He’s a good against-the-grain option to avoid the McDavid et al. ownership rates.

Centers

Anze Kopitar $6300 – LAK vs PHI
The frustrating thing about using Kings forwards is that their coach blends them frequently. This has already started this year, which is a bit earlier than normal, as Tyler Toffoli skated alongside Kopitar in practice yesterday. With Marian Gaborik injured and Tanner Pearson finishing up his suspension tonight, there isn’t a lot of wing depth right now. That makes Jeff Carter an easy fade tonight, and Kopitar the target.

Despite limited time with Toffoli over the last two years, according to Hockey Analysis, Kopitar does shoot a fair amount more (6.28 shots per 60 minutes) than without Toffoli on his line (5.27). That probably speaks more to the lack of quality of wingers on the team than anything, but it also reinforces that Toffoli can make Kopitar a more offensive player, which is what we need.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins $4900 – EDM @ CGY
If Pouliot is a decent play, by association, Nugent-Hopkins is as well. He, too, should avoid the Giordano-Brodie pairing, and that means nothing better matchups offensively. The five-on-five forward matchups are a legitimate concern, but as long as the game is high-paced, it doesn’t matter too much.

It seems like he’s been around forever, but Nugent-Hopkins is still just 23 years old, and has three separate 50-point seasons under his belt. He did that largely in a role where he was the focal point for other teams (or his line was, anyway). Now that McDavid takes that pressure, it should free up some ice for him.

With how much steam should be on the McDavid line, Nugent-Hopkins and Pouliot should get overlooked. Playing either one is fine, playing both as a mini-stack in a GPP, considering they play the same even strength and power play lines together, is a good way to keep salary down, enabling more expensive stacks.