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Fantasy buzz: Blues, Sharks show off new top lines

Sobotka, Labanc productive on opening night alongside proven forwards

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

 

4:45 p.m.
Daily fantasy advice for Thursday

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy staff will provide daily picks for DraftKings NHL contests. The below article includes expensive and value plays and can be used as a basis for your roster decision-making.

READ: DFS picks: Keller, Coyotes can pounce on depleted Ducks

Injury note: Raanta (lower body) out for Arizona; Domingue to start | More projected goalies

 

2:45 p.m.

Getzlaf added to Ducks' injury list

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (lower body) will miss their season opener against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; PRIME; FS-A).

This adds to a long list of injured Ducks players entering opening night; forwards Ryan Kesler (hip) and Patrick Eaves (lower body) and defensemen Sami Vatanen (shoulder) and Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) are also sidelined.

Even more than after Kesler's injury update last month, this significantly increases the fantasy value of Anaheim forward Rickard Rakell (C/LW, 88 percent owned in Yahoo). Rakell, priced at $6,400 in DraftKings for Thursday, finished among the NHL's top five in even-strength goals (28) and led the Ducks in goals outright (33) last season. He is expected to center the Ducks' top line with left wing Nick Ritchie and right wing Corey Perry. 

 

1 p.m.
Karlsson could be back soon for Senators

There is encouraging news on the Erik Karlsson front: the elite fantasy defenseman could play for the Ottawa Senators as early as Saturday.

Karlsson (Yahoo average draft position: 18.5) is recovering from offseason foot surgery, but could end up being a huge fantasy bargain if he only misses a single game. He has been ruled out for the Senators opener against the Washington Capitals on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, TSN5, RDS2).

The 27-year-old defenseman is coming off a brilliant Stanley Cup Playoff where he played through injury and still scored 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 19 games. He's a four-time 70-point producer and is more than capable of putting up close to a point per game when healthy. He was the third-ranked defenseman in NHL.com's top 250 behind Brent Burns and Victor Hedman despite his injury concerns.

 

Bergeron, Backes sidelined for Bruins opener

Sticking in the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and right wing David Backes (illness) in their season opener against the Nashville Predators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NESN, FS-TN).

The likely center to step up in their absence is Ryan Spooner (C/LW, 5 percent owned in Yahoo), who is projected to play alongside high-scoring left wing Brad Marchand and rookie Anders Bjork. Spooner is priced affordably in DraftKings ($4,600) and could see a production spike in this spot for as long as Bergeron is sidelined.

 

12:50 p.m.
Duchene will remain with Avalanche for opening night

Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene (C/RW, 57 percent owned in Yahoo) is expected to play in their season opener on the road against the New York Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, ALT).

The 26-year-old forward has been the subject of trade rumors in recent months but is expected to play on Colorado's second line alongside rookie forward Alexander Kerfoot and newcomer Nail Yakupov. Center Nathan MacKinnon will likely skate alongside usual linemates Mikko Rantanen and Sven Andrighetto.

From a DFS standpoint, Duchene is a glaring value pick at $4,800 in DraftKings ahead of this eight-game NHL schedule for Thursday. He's coming off his lowest point total (41 in 77 games) in a full season of his NHL career, but could benefit from a clean slate and some rookie additions throughout the lineup (e.g. Kerfoot, Tyson Jost).

The Rangers defense was a point of weakness last season, and though it has improved with the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk, could still allow a few goals to the Avalanche. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, 35, has had the worst goals-against averages of his NHL career in each of the past two seasons (2.74 last season, 2.48 in 2015-16). 

Don't lose sight of the fact that Duchene is a five-time 50-point producer who peaked with 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in 71 games during the 2013-14 season. Although this development certainly hurts his fantasy value in year-long Yahoo leagues, Duchene could still be traded to a contending team at any point this season if Colorado's struggles continue. 

 

10:25 a.m.
Labanc seizes spot with Joes on Sharks' top line

San Jose Sharks forward Kevin Labanc got off to a running start in their season opener Wednesday, scoring two goals (one power-play goal) on five shots on goal with six penalty minutes.

Labanc (LW/RW, 11 percent owned in Yahoo) played mostly on the left side of fantasy-relevant forwards Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski on the Sharks' top line. With a chance to latch onto that role long-term after the departure of Patrick Marleau, Labanc has upside as a deep sleeper. Labanc, 21, went undrafted on average in Yahoo but has the early leg up on forwards Timo Meier, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi in terms of fantasy relevance.

This is far from Labanc's first display of goal-scoring ability at the NHL level; he scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) with 70 shots on goal in 55 games as a rookie last season and was fifth among Sharks forwards in goals per 60 minutes (0.64).

Video: PHI@SJS: Labanc buries his second goal on power play

Boedker did not score a point but played a total of 18:10, including 5:14 in Marleau's old spot on the first power-play unit. Labanc played 2:18 with the man-advantage on the second power-play unit.

 

Marleau impressive in debut with Maple Leafs

Meanwhile, Marleau (C/LW, 76 percent owned in Yahoo) had a whale of a debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring two goals on five SOG with a plus-2 in their 7-2 road win against the Winnipeg Jets. He played on the third line with center Nazem Kadri and on a power-play unit with Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

Marleau, 38, led NHL.com's preseason sleeper list and is already looking like a threat to return value based on his low Yahoo average draft position (149.4). Considering Marleau scored 27 goals with the Sharks last season and now plays for arguably the deepest forward group in the NHL, he's certainly worth owning in all formats.

Video: TOR@WPG: Marleau turns back clock in Leafs debut

 

10 a.m.
New top line emerges for Blues

So much of the fantasy talk surrounding the St. Louis Blues is geared towards who will play on their top line with elite right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. We got an emphatic answer to that question on opening night.

In the absence of injured forwards Alexander Steen (broken hand) and Robby Fabbri (torn ACL; out for season), Tarasenko played with center Paul Stastny and left wing Vladimir Sobotka. His new linemates did plenty of offensive damage in a 5-4 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road; Stastny (C, 11 percent owned) had one goal, one assist, four shots on goal and was plus-2. Sobotka (LW, 6 percent) had two assists and was plus-1.

Stastny, 31, has been an injury risk since joining the Blues in 2014-15, playing in 205 of a possible 247 games. He has a respectable point-per-game average (0.67) in that span, but does not have a high shot volume. That said, Stastny has enough of a pedigree to warrant a deep-league waiver wire pickup given his place on the Blues' top line when healthy. Newcomer Brayden Schenn played on the second line with Jaden Schwartz and Dmitrij Jaskin.

Sobotka, 30, rejoined the Blues late last season after playing three seasons with Omsk Avangard in the Kontinental Hockey League. He scored a goal in his only regular-season game last season and had six points (two goals, four assists) in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games mostly on the third line. This early-season bump could certainly help him scratch the surface of fantasy ownership.

Video: STL@PIT: Stastny finishes Sobotka's dish to pad lead

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