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NHL DFS Primer: Avoid high-salary goaltenders and more key tips

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
·5-min read

By AJ Scholz, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

With meaningful fantasy hockey contests just a few short days away, AJ Scholz delivers a plethora of recommendations to help you dive back into your pursuit of DFS success.

The NHL has entered Phase 4 in the hub cities (Toronto and Edmonton), we've got preseason games running and the real contests kick off this Saturday, so it's a good time to take a look at DFS strategies and teams/players to watch. The salaries in this article correspond to Saturday's Yahoo DFS offering.

Stacking Top Lines

It's not enough to simply target top players like Connor McDavid ($35), Sidney Crosby ($34), or Aleksander Barkov ($25), as they're often cost-prohibitive and leave you with less salary room further down the lineup. In order to fully capitalize on these elite players and double (or triple) down on their point totals, it helps to stack them with their linemates, who come in with significantly discounted salaries. Adding wingers like Zack Kassian ($10), Conor Sheary ($12), or Evgenii Dadonov ($15) allows you to pick up added points from the studs.

Jake Guentzel #59, John Marino #6, Conor Sheary #43 and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins
It pays to create a stack with Sidney Crosby's linemates. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Avoid the Top Goalie Favorite

Everybody wants to pick the winner, which is why the netminders on the most favored teams will have the highest rostership and salaries. That's why a guy like Mike Smith ($33) is higher than Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck ($32), as the Oilers are -160 to win Saturday's matchup with Chicago. By going with a player like David Rittich ($23) against Winnipeg, you get a goalie who is still favored to win and figures to have lower rostership than the options at the top of the list.

Power-Play Blueliners

Defensemen typically provide the most fantasy production while on the power play. In Pittsburgh's exhibition matchup with the Flyers, Justin Schultz ($12) logged the most time with the man advantage (3:02) with the No. 1 unit and comes in with half the DFS salary of teammate Kris Letang ($25). Similarly, the Flames' Mark Giordano ($20) has the third-highest salary despite not seeing big power-play minutes in Tuesday's exhibition, as that role fell to Erik Gustafsson ($12), who picked up a power-play assist along the way. When the games count, you can bet Giordano will take on a more prominent power-play role, but Gustafsson at almost half the salary looks to get a sizable chunk of time, as well.

Third-Line Stacks

Finding value is key to GPP success, and there is no better place to find that value than with a third-line stack. These groups don't carry the expensive DFS salaries like their top-six counterparts but can still provide plenty of scoring opportunities. The Maple Leafs' third line of Alex Kerfoot, Nick Robertson and Kasperi Kapanen combined for two goals and two assists against the Canadiens on Tuesday. One potential third-line target is the Blackhawks, as Alex DeBrincat ($18), who is one year removed from a 40-goal campaign, will link up with Kirby Dach ($11) and Drake Caggiula ($12). For comparison, their combined $41 salary is only just $6 more than Leon Draisaitl’s ($35).

Look Beyond Injured Players

Avoiding players with an injury designation is the obvious move, especially if you don't have time to go back and adjust your lineups before puck drop. However, the key is to look beyond the immediate injury to track the lineup changes that come with it. Early indications have both Steven Stamkos (lower body) and Victor Hedman (personal) available for Monday's matchup with Washington. In the event either missed time, it would boost the fantasy value for Ondrej Palat, who would jump up to the top line, and Mikhail Sergachev, the most likely replacement on the No. 1 power-play unit.

Shots Faced by Goalies

Securing a goalie victory is important but not the end-all, be-all. Saves rack up plenty of fantasy points, too. While the regular season concluded months ago, it's still important to take a look at the number of shots teams generated per game. This year, Montreal averaged 34.1, which was good for second-most in the league. As a result, utilizing Matt Murray ($28), or Tristan Jarry ($30) if he starts instead, will likely result in a high save total while also providing the best odds to win at -165. On the flip side, the Blackhawks allowed more shots than any other team this season (35.1 per game), so utilizing Corey Crawford ($26) in the chance the team pulls off an upset could provide solid production.

Advanced Stats

The two advanced stats that offer the most intrigue are individual Corsi For and zone offense percentage, both of which can be found on RotoWire's Advanced Daily Lineups and help to identify depth options like the aforementioned third-line stacks. For example, with the Hurricanes third line of Vincent Trocheck ($16), Ryan Dzingel ($10), and Martin Necas ($12), each has an individual Corsi For above 10, which means they're putting pucks toward the net. They also registered zone offense numbers higher than Carolina's second line, indicating they're utilized for more offensive zone faceoffs and should get plenty of scoring opportunities as a result.

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