This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
It's a quiet Monday in the NHL with just two games. The Maple Leafs host the Blues, and Buffalo visits Columbus. While finding paths to differentiating your lineups is important with shallow player pools, it's also critical to ensure you also have exposure to a number of the top players.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions are off to an underwhelming start offensively with just five tallies through their first two contests and rank fourth last in expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.73). On the flip side, Toronto has scored a league-high 14 times through three games and sport a rock-solid 53.5 Corsi For percentage at five-on-five. Meanwhile, St. Louis owns a 45.0 mark through two games. The Maple Leafs are modest favorites (-134).
The Blue Jackets didn't do a lot during the offseason to mitigate the losses of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and through two games, Columbus has been outscored 11-3 and sits 0-2. Still, the Blue Jackets are slight favorites (-110). It's interesting because Buffalo has started well again this year with consecutive wins, a plus-7 goal differential and a high-end 58.1 Corsi For percentage.
It's a difficult goalie pool. The slow starts from Columbus and St. Louis make their respective netminders difficult to trust, and Frederik Andersen ($8,200) has the dreaded combination of being expensive, chalky and risky.
Still, Andersen's off to a 2-0 start and sports a .918 save percentage through 194 games as a Maple Leaf, including a .927 mark this season.
There's also contrarian appeal to Jordan Binnington ($7,500). He's been as good as it gets since taking over the No. 1 gig for the Blues last season and has saved 58 of 63 shots (.921 save percentage) through two contests.
Joonas Korpisalo ($7,000) is an obvious source of cap relief as the cheapest starting option in goal. The Finn has started 82 games at the highest level, and while his numbers are underwhelming (.906 save percentage and 2.90 GAA), a home game against Buffalo isn't the most daunting test. Plus, Columbus is the favorite.
It's difficult to load up Toronto's top two lines into a stack, so focusing in on one or two of Auston Matthews ($8,000), John Tavares ($6,700) and/or Mitch Marner ($7,400) is a sound starting point to your forward corps Monday. Tavares' modest start (three assists) has him at a reasonable price, whereas it's difficult to ignore Matthews' five goals and 27 shot attempts through just three games. It's been business as usual for Marner. He has two tallies, three helpers, three power-play points and 12 shots.
With a promotion to the No. 1 line alongside Cam Atkinson ($6,100) and Pierre-Luc Dubois ($5,200), Gustav Nyquist ($4,300) is worth a long look at this price. He scored last time out and is coming off a career-best, 60-point showing last year. It's rare to find a top-line player in Nyquist's price range.
Another Blue Jacket to consider is Oliver Bjorkstrand ($4,100). He's attempted six shots through two games but has yet to land on the scoresheet. However, don't forget his strong finish to the 2018-19 campaign. The Dane scored 16 times over the final 33 games of the season while averaging just 12:57 of ice time per contest.
As noted, the Blues have struggled offensively out of the gate, but the Maple Leafs have been vulnerable because of their run-and-gun style. Look for Robby Fabbri ($2,800) to reward on his bargain-bin salary. He hasn't even registered a shot through the first two games but is projected to receive power-play time and should avoid Toronto's top defenders most of the night. It's also as close as a homecoming as possible for the Mississauga, Ont. native
FORWARD LINE STACKS
After a quiet opener against the Penguins, Jack Eichel ($7,500), Sam Reinhart ($5,100) and Victor Olofsson ($5,900) were on the ice for 22 shot attempts and four goals against the Devils on Saturday. The trio sticks together as a power-play unit, and it projects as a good matchup. It could be a long year for the Blue Jackets, and they're a team to target until proven otherwise.
Toronto's third line has been solid in two of their three games this season and check out as a cost-effective stack providing cap relief and upside. Alex Kerfoot ($4,000), Trevor Moore ($3,500) and Ilya Mikheyev ($3,200) have combined for a respectable 52.8 Corsi For percentage and impressive 6.6 goals per 60 minutes at even strength, and all three play special teams. Kerfoot and Moore skate with the No. 2 power-play unit, and Mikheyev kills penalties.
Morgan Rielly ($6,500) has registered at least one point in each game this season while logging 24:51 of ice time per contest with 4:19 with the man advantage. He's obviously expensive, but his role quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit makes him a near necessity alongside any top Maple Leafs.
Despite Columbus' struggles out of the gate, Seth Jones ($5,200) has provided a nice fantasy floor through his shot volume and willingness to block shots. He's logging 25:08 of ice time per contest with 2:32 on the power play, and after recording a rock-solid 1.6 points per 60 minutes over the previous two seasons, it's safe to bank on the offense to come sooner than later.
Another high-profile defenseman that's also affordable, Rasmus Dahlin ($4,900) has been excellent through two contests with a goal, three assists and two power-play points. He's quickly establishing himself as an elite talent, and the Swede's salary is likely to climb over the coming weeks. Similar to Rielly and Jones, Dahlin projects to log big minutes.
Vince Dunn ($3,900) is a cheaper option who receives power-play looks for the Blues and is coming off an impressive 35-point campaign as a sophomore. He's started 60.9 percent of his five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone during his career and sports a rock-solid 55.0 Corsi For percentage. Just note he's more of a price-fit option than go-to value. Dunn's fantasy floor is low because he isn't a reliable shooter or shot blocker.