4 NHL FanDuel Studs to Target on 2/13/20

Cale Makar has been exceeding expectations for the Avalanche. Who else is worth paying up for tonight?

Spending up in any daily fantasy lineup is how to get the superstars and the highest upside players in your lineup. In NHL DFS, it’s different than paying up in sports like NBA or NFL. Someone can be one of the highest-priced players at his position and put up a total dud of a performance, and paying that much for him would be a huge mistake. Let’s make sure we are paying up in the right spots when building our lineups tonight.

Thursday offers up an eleven game slate in the NHL, with some stars in tricky situations. Let's navigate the top of the salary chart and see which ones we like the most.

Mika Zibanejad, Center, New York Rangers

FanDuel Salary: $8,100

It might be surprising for people to see Mika Zibanejad priced just below Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but his play of late has warranted it. Zibanejad has 14 points and 45 shots on goal in his last 10 games, compared to MacKinnon's 12 points and 41 shots on goal in his last 10. The New York Rangers' center is relied upon by his team like a top center would be. He is sixth in time on ice per game for forwards, according to Natural Stat Trick. This has resulted in him averaging 1.17 points per game, 15th in the NHL.

The Rangers are facing off against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. The Wild are thought of as a great defensive team, but that hasn't really been the case this season. They allow the eighth most goals per game in the league. Their penalty kill is the second worst in the league, killing off just 74.3% of their shorthanded situations. This should benefit the Rangers' sixth-ranked power play, and Zibanejad is tied for the team lead with 18 power-play points.

Zibanejad doesn't have the same name value around the league as some players in his price range, but he is our highest-projected skater on tonight's slate. His play and matchup make him worth paying up for in this game.

Leon Draisaitl, Wing, Edmonton Oilers

FanDuel Salary: $8,600

Leon Draisaitl has pulled away at the top of the NHL's leading-scorer chart with 89 points. He is now eight points clear of teammate Connor McDavid. With McDavid out on Tuesday, Draisaitl didn't miss a beat. He had a goal and three assists in a 5-3 win for the Edmonton Oilers. Draisaitl already leads all forwards in ice time per game, and he could play even more with McDavid out again. Tonight will be a different test for Draisaitl and the Oilers.

The Oilers are going on the road to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have been one of the best teams in the league of late, but they will be without some important players on Thursday. Steven Stamkos remains out, and joining him are Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli, each with lower body injuries. This shorthanded Lightning team will have its hands full stopping Draisaitl, who is numberFire's second highest-projected winger tonight.

He's worth playing tonight as it remains to be seen how Tampa will fare without three of their top six forwards in the lineup.

Cale Makar, Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche

FanDuel Salary: $5,900

Cale Makar has been nothing short of a sensation in his rookie season in the NHL. His dynamic talent has helped launch the Colorado Avalanche into second in the Central Division, one point behind the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. He is third in points per game for defensemen with 0.89, which is higher than the marks for established stars in the league such as Victor Hedman and Kris Letang. He has nine points in his last 10 games and 42 in 47 games overall. Makar benefits from playing with talented forwards on the Avalanche, as they average the most goals per game in the league.

Colorado plays host to the Washington Capitals in a battle between contenders in their respective conferences. The Capitals haven't been playing like contenders in recent games, however, losing their last two home outings and conceding a combined 12 goals in those games. Formerly a solid goalie for Washington, Braden Holtby has been anything but, with a save percentage below .900% and a goals saved above average of -15.81.

These are some of the reasons why the Avalanche have an implied team total of 3.42. Makar is priced below a few defenseman who don't score as often as he does and are teams that aren't projected to score as many as Colorado is tonight, The stud rookie is a very solid play in all formats.

Elvis Merzlikins, Goalie, Columbus Blue Jackets

FanDuel Salary: $8,800

Elvis Merzlikins has been one of the stories of the league in recent weeks, as he has five shutouts in his last 10 starts. He had an eight-game winning streak that ended when he faced very good teams in the Avalanche and Lightning. He still surrendered just two goals to each of those high-powered offenses, both of which average more than 3.5 goals per game. His save percentage is up to a very good .930%, and his 15.22 goals saved above average is fourth in the NHL.

Now, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be facing the struggling Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are the second worst team in the league in expected goals for per 60 minutes. They also have the second lowest implied team total on the slate, sitting at just 2.5 goals. Elvis should be able to continue his solid play, and he is a goalie worth paying for tonight.

Nicholas Vazquez is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Nicholas Vazquez also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username hbyanksman. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.