Cheap Players for Daily Fantasy Hockey – November 25

by Michael Clifford on November 25, 2015

Some cheap players, and some expensive players, to be used on DraftKings Tonight.

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With American Thanksgiving on Thursday, the NHL has decided not to air any games. Competing with families being together around large feasts is hard enough, let alone the tradition of NFL games running all day. This has messed with the week’s games a bit, as there were just two games on Tuesday, and none schedule for Thanksgiving. That is why this column is posted for Wednesday’s games, a monster 13-game slate.

Last week had its hits (Vladimir Tarasenko, Brent Burns, Shayne Gostisbehere), its misses (Vladimir Namestnikov, Matt Nieto), and Sidney Crosby salvaged his night with a late goal. To be fair, though, Crosby didn’t quite live up to his price tag.

As usual, there will be a cheap player at each position ($3000 or less), and an expensive player at each position ($7000 or more for forwards, $6000 or more for the defenceman).

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Cheap Players

Mikhail Grabovski (NYI-C) – $2900

It hasn’t been a great year so far for the former Maple Leaf. Grabovski has managed a higher point-per-game mark than last year despite a slightly lower total of minutes, but he is also shooting less, and that hurts his floor. A reminder: with cash games, a solid floor is the start of roster construction. With cheap players, it’s less of a concern, but building in those couple of points always helps (thanks, Frank Vatrano!).

All the same, Grabovski is in a sweet matchup tonight as the Islanders host the hapless Philadelphia Flyers. The assumption is that Grabovski’s line will see the depth defence pairs of the Flyers this year, which means a lot of Brandon Manning. So far this year, the Flyers are giving up a scoring chance every two minutes with Manning on the ice, and that’s pretty horrific.

Grabovski has also been seeing some power play time of late, and that’s added value. The Flyers as a whole aren’t very good defensively, but it gets worse as we get deeper into the roster. I think Grabovski’s line can exploit that.

Devante Smith-Pelly (MON-W) – $3000

The injury to Brendan Gallagher appears serious enough to keep him out until 2016. That is bad news for Montreal. Over the last few seasons, Gallagher had developed not only into a leader on the team, but a scoring threat from the dirty areas. He provides much more than that – his scoring chance rates, puck possession numbers, and zone entries are all very good – but replacing those goals from 10-20 feet away isn’t easy.

It appears as though the player with the first crack at the first line to replace Gallagher will be Smith-Pelly. This should be taken with a grain of salt; no fewer than three different players played with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty after Gallagher suffered the injury during Sunday’s game. For now, though, all we can go off of is what is expected to happen.

If anything, Smith-Pelly should bring a down-low game somewhat similar to Gallagher. He won’t replace the possession and entry numbers, but at the least, he should be able to get in hard on the fore-check, and get to the front of the net to clean up the garbage. I will say that I prefer Smith-Pelly in tournaments than cash games, as he’s never been a volume shooter – even when he was playing with Ryan Getzlaf – so a goal here is critical.

Yannick Weber (VAN-D) – $2900

It appears that the carousel that is the top power play unit in Vancouver continues. First it had Radim Vrbata, then not, then Ben Hutton, then not, then Weber, then not, then Burrows and round and round we go. Beyond the Sedins and Alex Edler, the other two positions seem to be in constant flux.

This continued at yesterday’s Canucks practice as it appears Weber is back on the top unit alongside Edler. Weber is nothing special offensively, but as long as he is in that position, he carries value.

What is most notable here is Vancouver’s opponent, the Minnesota Wild. Granted, the Wild don’t give many power play opportunities to their opponents, but they are very poor on the penalty kill when they do. Think of it this way: so far this year, they have given 34 fewer power play opportunities to their opponents than the St. Louis Blues, but have given up the exact same number of goals (12). That is because they give up the most scoring chances in the league while short-handed. There is a reasonable chance for Weber to get an easy power play assist in this game.

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Expensive Players

Nathan MacKinnon (COL-C) – $7400

It is hard to argue that John Tavares provides a reasonable price given his matchup against the Flyers tonight. With that said, among centres tonight, MacKinnon has the highest DK points per game to date on the season besides Leon Draisaitl, and he’s priced outside the top-3 centres. Given that the Avalanche host the Senators tonight, a team playing their second game of a back-to-back on the road tonight, MacKinnon seems to be a solid cash option tonight.

Not only does MacKinnon take a healthy amount of shots – over 3.5 per game – he also is averaging over a blocked shot per game. That means on an average night, MacKinnon earns back close to half his salary with his floor. Seeing as the Avalanche have a really good matchup tonight, and the top line and top power play units are still loaded in Colorado, it appears that MacKinnon is a safe bet to reach value tonight.

Alex Ovechkin (WSH-W) – $9400

Recommending Alex Ovechkin is always a dangerous situation. His price tag is the highest on DraftKings, at any position, so getting value out of his price is hard. Using Ovechkin and a mid-priced goalie around $7500 leaves about $4700 per roster spot. Barring using at least two bargain-priced players, using Ovechkin prices a DFS player out of using guys like MacKinnon, Tavares, or Burns.

This is a bit of a unique situation, though. The Caps are hosting Winnipeg tonight, and the Jets are giving their opponents over four power play opportunities per game. Not only that, but they are 29th in the NHL in scoring chances allowed per minute while on the penalty kill, while the Caps are knocking on the door of a top-5 power play by percentage. It is the Perfect Storm of special teams.

Ovechkin’s shot rate gives him a great built-in floor of nearly three points, and there seems to be a very real chance that this is a multi-point night for him. There is argument against using him on any given day in cash games because of his price, but this situation is as good as it gets for those that want to.

Roman Josi (NSH-D) – $6300

I will be very up front and say that I am not a fan of spending up on defencemen tonight. Guys like Josi, John Carlson, and Shea Weber are all in decent situations, sure, but as long as guys like Oscar Klefbom, Alec Martinez, Gostisbehere, and Colin Miller stay so cheap, there is no real need to spend $10K or more on the blue line.

There is a good situation for Nashville tonight. Yes, they haven’t scored in three straight games, and have gone over 100 shots on goal without a goal. On the season, the team is averaging 20.8 scoring chances at five-on-five per game; over those three games, they averaged 21.3. Nothing has changed in their game, they just haven’t found the back of their net.

More than that, though, is that Buffalo, like Minnesota, is a pretty bad penalty killing team: they are bottom-3 in scoring chances allowed per minute. They don’t give up many chances, like Minnesota, but when they do, it’s not pretty.

*Some stats courtesy of Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, and War On Ice. Line combinations from Dobber’s Frozen Pool.