You smell that? It’s hockey season fellas. To some of us, it’s akin to Christmas morning. Regardless of whether you’re a die hard daily pucks grinder or someone looking to dip their toe in the icy waters for the first time, I’m here to help. In short, the purpose of this article is to show who landed where, whether via free agency or trade, and to highlight the DFS relevant players for each team. Let’s get going:
Anaheim Ducks: Just like last season, the Ducks offensive attack will center around Ryan Getzlaf (C). Although he had his worst season ever in terms of PPG, being paired on the top line with proven producer Richard Rakell should give Getzlaf a lift, but he’s more likely to have the recently acquired Sonny Milano by his side. That would clear the way for Rakell to lend his experience to heralded rookie Trevor Zegras (C), who was the 9th pick in the 2019 draft. On defense, Kevin Shatterkirk comes over from Tampa Bay, and should find himself featured on the top defensive pairing and top power play unit. John Gibson should once again be the starting goalie as he was one of the bright spots for the Ducks in 2020.
Arizona Coyotes: Somewhat of an upstart squad in 2020, the Yotes strength remains their defense. Specifically, goalie Darcy Kuemper was nails last season, and will look to build on his .928 save percentage. If backup goalie Antti Raanta can find the form he had two seasons ago, this duo will be special. The defense is led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson (at least 30 points in each season he’s played) and Jacob Chychrun (top 10 in GPG among defensemen last season). On offense, ARI lost superstar winger Taylor Hall to Buffalo, so they will look to their top 2 scorers from last season, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, along with veteran Phil Kessel, to pick up the slack. However much like last year, the Yotes DFS viability will be matchup dependent.
Boston Bruins: Boston’s top line has been DFS gods the last few seasons, so why mess with it? Accordingly, NHL scoring leader David Pastrnak (W) will take his place on BOS1 alongside Brad Marchand (W) and Patrice Bergeron (C). Winger Craig Smith comes over from Nashville, and should give the BOS offense some added depth along with returnees Jacob Debrusk (W) and David Krejci (C). With defenseman Tony Krug now in St. Louis, this is Charlie McAvoy’s defense. Returning goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak give BOS a solid option between the pipes anytime they take the ice.
Buffalo Sabres: Returning top line center Jack Eichel is a force. He notched 78 points in a shortened season in 2020, and ranked in the top 10 in the NHL in goals, power play goals and shots on goal. Look for Eichel to improve on those numbers with Taylor Hall (W) coming over from ARI. I can’t wait to see what these two pull off. Aside from the vets, the youth movement is strong in BUF: Victor Olafsson (W) had the second most goals among NHL rookies last season, and then 19-year-old Rasmussen Dahlin (D) scored the second most points ever by a teenage defenseman. As for depth, wingers Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart look to build on strong 2020 campaigns, and could make for a formidable BUF2 with veteran center Eric Staal who came over from MIN.
Calgary Flames: The Flames top 6 greatly underperformed last season, especially for the amount of talent they possess. They’ve chosen to stick with said talent this season, as Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm will once again man CGY1. Although I look for the top line to carry the torch of DFS production for Calgary, don’t sleep on Mikael Backlund and Keith Tkachuk from CGY2 when setting your DFS lines. Mark Giordano (D) remains an elite defender who should see tons of time with CGYPP1. Goalie David Rittich also returns and looks to improve on last year’s up and down campaign.
Carolina Hurricanes: CAR1 was one of our favorite lines to target for DFS purposes last season, and it looks like nothing will change in 2021. Sebastian Aho (C) managed 66 points in 68 games last season, and with the help of stud wingers Andrei Sevechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen, the sky is the limit for Aho and the rest of CAR1. Last season’s Florida Panthers cast off Vincent Trochek should provide some offensive power on the CAR depth lines. The Hurricanes’ defense returns Doug Hamilton, whose 49 goals in the last 3 seasons are the most in the league. Jacob Slavin also returns todefend the puck in front of so-so net minders Petr Mrazek and James Riemer.
Chicago Blackhawks: I loved rostering CHI last season, and it was looking as if that trend would continue. After scoring 84 points last season, Patrick Kane remains a top DFS play. Center Jonathan Toews was set to continue his run in the middle of CHIPP1, but an illness has him out indefinitely. This hurts Dominic Kubalik most. His chemistry with Toews resulted in him scoring 30 goals in his rookie campaign. Kirby Dach (C) was also looking to build on his strong rookie numbers, but he is shelved long term with an injury. Alex Debrincat (W) can be a decent source of DFS production. The trouble with CHI is their porous defense, and it gets no better in 2021, especially with Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia manning the crease.
Colorado Avalanche: This team begins and ends with Nathan MacKinnon (C), who, along with wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, comprise the best top line in hockey. As for depth, Nazem Kadri (C) and Andre Burakovsky (W) are both great DFS assets on COL2. Cole Makar leads the way from the Avs defense, as he looks to build on a rookie season that saw him notch 50 points. Phillip Grubauer’s strong showing last season, including some amazing postseason play, has him penciled in as Colorado’s top goalie with Pavel Francouz, who could start for most teams, as a top tier backup.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The real strength of this team lies in their top defensive pairing of Zack Werenski and Seth Jones. Werenski led NHL defensemen in goals last season, and although Jones had injury issues, there is no denying his talent. On offense, Pierre Luc-Dubois (C) and Cam Atkinson (W) should anchor CBJ1, while the newly acquired Max Domi (C) should pair with shot machine Oliver Bjorkstrand (W) and will make for great low cost DFS options from their spots on CBJ2. Finally, the Jackets have two quality net minders returning in Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Koripalso.
Dallas Stars: Defenseman Miro Heiskanen was theStars breakout DFS producer last postseason, as his 26 points ranked third overall. He will likely pair up with John Klingberg, who had 21 postseason points himself. Although DAL had a down year offensively, they are at their best when they run the old DAL1 out in the form of Tyler Seguin (C), Jaime Benn (W) and Alexander Radulov (W). They are in a bounce back spot this season, but their relevance will likely be matchup based. One of my favorite DFS duos from last year was Joe Pavelski (C) and Dennis Gurianov (W) from DAL2, and they should remain so in 2021. Also, Antonin Khubodin is a solid DFS option, and should handle most of the goalie work since Ben Bishop is recovering from knee surgery.
Detroit Red Wings: DET laid at the bottom of most DFS relevant categories last season, and 2021 is not looking much better. However, in some matchups they make for a sneaky play, especially DET1. That line is comprised of leading scorer Dylan Larkin (C), Anthony Mantha (W) (38 points in 43 games) and Tyler Bertuzzi (W) (48 points in 71 games). While Vladislav Namestinkov (W) and Bobby Ryan (W) should provide some depth, DET1 will be the DFS focus here. One thing that definitely improved is the Wings’ goalie situation. By adding Thomas Greiss from the Islanders, DET now has a solid net minder that’s DFS viable most nights.
Edmonton Oilers: EDM was one of our DFS “go to’s” last season, and having retained their best hands, they look poised for a repeat performance this season. All-world skater Connor McDavid (C) and top shelf winger Ryan Nugent-Hopkins anchor EDM1, while 2020’s breakout star Leon Draisaitl will center EDM2. Further, Kailer Yamamoto (W) could be one of the surprise stars of the NHL this season, as he will have the benefit of skating along side Draisaitl and seeing time on one of the Oilers power play units. Edmonton’s defense will continued to be anchored by Tyson Barrie and Darnel Nurse. Toss in Oscar Klefbom (D) when he returns from injury and Edmonton’s D will be a force.
Florida Panthers: Most of the time last season, the Panthers looked like they couldn’t stop pucks from hitting the back of the net if their lives depended on it. Rather than shore up their defense, they’ll again look for Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle to do a better job of keeping pucks from flying past returning starting net minder Sergei Bobrovsky. While there’s no improvements to speak of on defense, FLA did go out and grab some interesting offensive pieces. Aleksander Barkov (C) and Jonathan Huberdeau (W) should fare much better on FLA1 this season with the addition of speedy youngster Anthony Duclair (W). However, their biggest acquisition was snagging winger Patrick Hornqvist from the Penguins. His experience can only elevate the play of whatever line on which he lands
Los Angeles Kings: At first glance, the 2021 version of the Kings looks a lot like the 2020 version. Anze Kopitar (C) and Alex Iafallo (W) remain fantasy relevant options on LAK1, while Drew Doughty (D) remains your best option when sifting through the Kings’ defense. However, a closer examination reveals the addition of some intriguing pieces. First and foremost, the second pick of the 2020 draft, center Quinton Byfield is plenty talented enough to find himself on both LAK2 and LAKPP1. Pairing him with newly acquired winger Andreas Athanasiou on the Kings’ second line could turn into fantasy gold. Finally, veteran Jonathan Quick resumes his role as starting goalie and looks to regain the form that helped him lead the Kings to two Stanley Cups.
Minnesota Wild: While there are some new faces in Minnesota, their backbone remains their talent laden defense. Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matthew Dumba and Jonas Brodin all return to a defense that can both score and play hard nosed defense. Kevin Fiala returns to his spot on the Wild after a breakout 2020 that saw him notch 54 points in 64 games. Centering Fiala’s line should be one our favorite cheap DFS centers from last year, former Preds sniper Nick Bonino. Also, adding rookie winger Kirill Kaprizov to MIN1 to compliment Zack Parise should yield positive results. Finally, the Wild’s addition of veteran goalie Cam Talbot should form a potent 1-2 punch with the returning Alex Stalock.
Montreal Canadians: Although they lost Max Domi, the Canadians have more than made up for it this offseason. While Phillip Danault (C), Thomas Tatar (W) and Brendan Gallagher (W) resume their role as a premier top line for DFS purposes, it’s the additions to Montreal’s depth lines that piqued my interest. Specifically, Tyler Toffoli (W) comes over from VAN, and should skate next to potential breakout star Nick Suzuki (C) and prolific puck shooter Joel Armia (W). The Habs defense will continue to lean on Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, both solid DFS picks. Carey Price remains the starting goalie, with newcomer Jake Allen provides depth.
Nashville Predators: Johansen (C), Forsberg (W) and Arvidsson (W) all return to man NSH1 and provide the offensive spark for the Preds. When push comes to shove, Matt Duchene (C) is ok for a cheaper DFS play, but the vast majority of offense will come from NSH1. Having said that, the Preds possess what is arguably the best defensive duo in hockey in the form of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Neither are afraid to fire the puck on net, but it is Josi that is the crown jewel of DFS defensemen. In net, Juuse Saros will look to build on a strong 2020.
New Jersey Devils: I hate to say it, but NJ is once again pretty thin when it comes to day in and day out DFS-relevant talent. Kyle Palmieri (W) led the team in goals and should be a focus of the offense once more. Fellow winger Nikita Gusev led the team in assist in his rookie season, and looks to take a more prominent role in the offense. I guess you could use Nico Hischier (C) if you need the savings in the right matchup. Corey Crawford recently retired so the Devils backup goalie spot is up in the air as of now. Mackenzie Blackwood is an up and coming goalie with solid numbers. He should see all the game time he can handle with CHI cast off Corey Crawford as his backup.
New York Islanders: The strength of NYI remains its stout defense, although the only consistent source of DFS points in that unit remains Ryan Pulock. Still, despite their overall “defense first” mentality, the Isles top 6 was a sneaky source offensive production last season, and they are all returning in 2021. Matthew Barzal returns to center NYI1 while being flanked by Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, and together they form an affordable DFS stack. Even more affordable than the Barzal line, NYI2 made up of Brock Nelson (C), Anthony Beauvillier (W) and Josh Bailey (W), were one of my favorite sneaky stacks last season.
New York Rangers: Here we go Bake! NYR1 is still one of the most potent DFS lines in hockey. Center Mika Zibanejad is an all-world scorer, and wingers Chris Krieder and Pavel Buchnevich are more than competent in their supporting roles. However, what really has me watching the Rangers this season is the potential makeup of NYR2. Dylan Strome is a decent center, but the magic should come from stud winger Artemi Panairin and super rookie Alexis Lafreniere (W). The NYR top six could be the best scoring top six in hockey. While the defense will still give up a ton of shots, quality goalie duo Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin should keep the damage to a minimum.
Ottawa Senators: One of the biggest let downs of last season was the play of OTT defenseman Thomas Chabot. Although his numbers dipped significantly in 2020, OTT has put some new bodies around him that could see him return to his 2019 form. One of the biggest acquisitions isn’t winger Evgenii Dadonov from FLA. He should step right in to OTT1 alongside last season’s team leader in points, Brady Tkachuk (W). OTT has shored up their depth as well. Veteran center Derek Stepan comes over from ARI, and he it looks like he could be paired with the third pick from the 2020 draft, winger Tim Stuetzle. The kid is a stud who could see PP1 time from jump. Finally, the Sens brought in veteran goalie Matt Murray.
Philadelphia Flyers: It’s not as if Philly lacks the talent to be a top tier NHL team, but as our own Smack will tell you, team chemistry has been an issue. Returning starting goalie Carter Hart was someone we loved to roster last year, and although the Flyers stood pad for the most part this offseason, he should have plenty of support this season. In my opinion, PHI has the most balanced top 9’s on the planet, and stacking PHI1, 2 or 3 could pay off anytime the Flyers take the ice. Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes will center PHI1 and PHI2 respectively, and should be supported by a more than capable cast of wingers that include Travis Konency and Oskar Lindblom (PHI1) and Claude Giroux (PHI2). Heck, stacking Patrick (C), Van Riemsdyk (W) and Voracek (W) from PHI3 could absolutely payoff this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: As all-star centers Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin go, so to go the Penguins. That was true last season and remains true now, as they tend to lead the Pens in any relevant offensive categories. The loss of top six winger Patrick Hornqvist was softened somewhat by bringing Kaspari Kapanen from TOR and Evan Rodrigues from BUF. Kris letang resumes his role as one of the most DFS friendly defensemen on the planet, and Tristan Jarry takes over the clear number one goalie spot after Matt Murray departed for Ottawa. All in all, PIT remains ripe grounds for mining fantasy gold.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are looking to turn it around after a 2020 season that saw them give up way too many goals. Rather than looking elsewhere for defense, SJ will lean on their superstar defensive 1-2 punch of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. These two were down last season as a duo, but they have too much skill for that to last. As for offense, Evander Kane led the Sharks in goals last year and is playable every night. Also, centers Logan Couture and Thomas Hertl, and winger Timo Meier are matchup dependent, but remain valuable fantasy assets under the right conditions. At goalie, SJ had one of the league’s worst save percentages, but acquired Devan Dubnyk from MIN to help change that.
St. Louis Blues: The biggest acquisition for St. Louis this offseason is defenseman Torey Krug from BOS. He should slot into the top defensive pairing with Colton Parayko in the place of the departed Alex Pietrangelo. Jordan Bennington looks to build on a strong 2020 as the Blues’ top net minder. On offense, St. Louis’ top 6 remains mostly the same. Brayden Schenn (W) and David Perron (W) led the team in goals in 2020, and will flank Ryan O’Rielly (C) on STL2. The Blues did bring winger Mike Hoffman over from FLA to add some extra depth while the oft-injured Vladimir Tarasenko remains shelved.
Tampa Bay Lightning: There’s no way the champs won’t feel losing all-world winger Nikita Kucherov for the season, but even without him, TB returns enough firepower to remain a force. Brayden Point (C) and Steven Stamkos (W) remain an elite DFS combo on TB1, and their line mate Ondrej Palat (W) provides us with cheap exposure to them. If you’re looking for great DFS value, look no further than Yanni Gourde (C) and Blake Coleman (W) on TB3. Victor Hedman returns as a solid DFS option at defenseman, and all-star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy reprises his role as a premium puck stopper.
Toronto Maple Leafs: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and for DFS purposes, the Leafs are far from broke. Auston Matthews (C) and Mitch Marner (W) remain on of the most prolific top line duos in hockey. They are backed up by John Tavares (C) and William Nylander (W) on TOR2, which would be a no brainer top line duo for most teams. As if that isn’t enough, TOR3 is possibly the most potent 3rd line in the NHL. The Leaf’s defense is anchored by top line duo Morgan Riley and TJ Brodie, as well as former all-star Jake Muzzin in the 2nd defensive pairing. Freddie Anderson returns to guard the crease for Toronto and looks to build on a solid 29-13-7 record.
Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver went out and addressed its most glaring weaknesses: goaltending and defense. Bringing over the vastly experienced Braden Holtby from WAS to tend the net is a significant upgrade over what the Canucks ran out last season. As for defense, Nate Schmidt and Travis Hamonic come over from Vegas and Calgary respectively, and should slot into the top 2 defensive pairings alongside Alexander Edler and Quinn Hughes. VAN1 remains a great source of DFS points as, Elias Pettersson (C), JT Miller (W) and Brock Boesser (W) all return. Also, Bo Horvat (C) and Tanner Pearson (W) remain great sources of sneaky points on VAN2.
Vegas Golden Knights: Vegas made some big noise this offseason shoring up its defense. Specifically, Alex Pietrangelo comes over from STL to join the Knights top defensive pairing with Braden McNabb. Those two will head up arguably the strongest defense in the NHL, including second pairing Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore. Add in the formidable goalie duo of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury and VGK is poised to be a defensive monster. On offense, the Knights boast strong top six with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone leading the way on VGK1, and they could provide an enormous boost to the DFS production of center Chandler Stephenson. The VGK2 trio of Karlsson (C), Smith (W) and Marchessault (W) have a chemistry unlike any other second line that has been forged over eons of time on the ice together.
Washington Capitals: Rather than making giant splashes with who they added or let go, the Caps instead made small but well placed ripples. Their offense will continue to revolve around DFS legend Alex Ovechkin. While Kuznetsov (C), Backstrom (C), and Oshie (W) remain key cogs in the top six and on WASPP1, returning support pieces TJ Oshie (W) and Lars Eller (C) should have their DFS usefulness bolstered by the addition of Connor Sheary (W) from the Pens. John Carlson the will once again lead the Caps defense with help from another Pens castoff, Justin Schultz (D).
Winnipeg Jets: Last but not least, we get the team that I simply could not get right last season. Enough of my sob story. Winnipeg boasts an amazing top six. The Jets once again turn to the reliable trio of Mark Schiefele (C), Nikolaj Ehlers (W) and Blake Wheeler (W) to anchor WPG1. While you could let me center Patrick Laine (W) and Kyle Connor (W) on WPG2and still have a DFS relevant line, bringing center Paul Statsny in from Vegas instantly makes WPG2 a line to watch. The Jets brought in Derek Fortbot (D) from the Kings for added depth on defense, and Connor Hellebuyk resumes his duties guarding the crease.