This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
We're back! The NHL qualification round begins with a five-game slate Saturday starting at noon Eastern time. The first official games since Mar. 11 will feature three matchups from the Eastern Conference and two from the Western Conference matchups. An overview of our suggestions and matchups for the league's unprecedented playoff format will be based on where we left off and observations made during the exhibition games.
Vezina finalist Connor Hellebuyck ($7,500) is arguably the league's best goalie right now and comes at an intriguing discount against a team that finished just .001 higher in points percentage during the season. Hellebuyck made 37 saves against a talented Vancouver offence in a 4-1 win during exhibition play.
The Rangers will not name a starter until puck drop but both Igor Shesterkin ($7,400) and Henrik Lundqvist ($7,200) looked solid during exhibition play. They're a popular pick to upset a banged-up Carolina squad missing two of their top defenders (Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce). If anything, Carolina's strong puck possession combined with the Rangers' porous defense could lead to a lot of saves.
Corey Crawford ($7,200) is also a great value play because he alone can tip the scales in Chicago's favor. He looked good during the final three months of the regular season by posting a .928 save percentage, and made 11 saves in a combined shutout win with Malcolm Subban against the Blues in their exhibition encounter.
Mark Scheifele's ($6,000) premier playmaking ability should be on full display against the Flames, who defended poorly in a loss against the Oilers. He's been a point-per-game player for the past four seasons and will be leaned on heavily since the Jets are pretty thin down the middle.
After a lengthy layoff, expect the play to be a little scrambly as teams try to get a feel for their opponent in a much different environment than usual. That should favor the talented Panthers and Jonathan Huberdeau ($5,900), even though the Isles play a very structured style. He finished sixth in scoring among wingers but ranks 12th in salary on DraftKings.
The speedy Jason Zucker ($4,800) will play with Evgeni Malkin, while the still-recovering Sidney Crosby plays with Jake Guentzel. Zucker shoots a lot, giving him a low floor. Edmonton's Kailer Yamamoto ($4,700) represents another talented winger who won't get the top-line assignment, but still gets to play with an elite center in Leon Draisaitl.
Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Any time you can get McDavid when he's not the most expensive player on the slate is a pretty good deal. The added bonus is Nugent-Hopkins also on the top power-play unit, which is usually left on the ice for the full two minutes. Kassian is the passenger, but he's also coming off a career season with 34 points in 59 games.
Rangers at Hurricanes
Zibanejad and Panarin were two of the league's best players before the break. This series features two teams that like to play fast, which also plays right into their hands. Buchnevich is no slouch either, following a career-high 46 points during the season. Panarin and Zibanejad combined for 16 points in four games against Carolina over 2019-20.
Jets at Flames
The Jets' top line is as good as any in the league and they'll play a lot because the rest of the team is rather light on scoring. Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers don't possess a top playmaker like Scheifele to set them up, so this line is probably the safer bet against the Flames. All three also appear on the Jets' top PP unit.
Kris Letang ($6,300) offers the most offensive upside, but Oscar Klefbom ($6,000) might end up with more fantasy points because he blocks twice as many shots. Both will be relied on heavily in their matchups and they are the only two healthy defensemen to average over 12 FPPG on Saturday's slate.
Expect Jaccob Slavin ($5,500) to run Carolina's power play with Dougie Hamilton out. He doesn't have Hamilton's upside offensively, but getting an opportunity on the top unit provides a lot of extra value. Slavin's 145 shots and 107 blocked shots ranked fifth and first on the team, respectively, during the season.
Neal Pionk ($5,000) is in a similar boat as the team's top PP quarterback, even though he wasn't supposed to be the guy. The 25-year-old enjoyed a career season with 45 points in 71 games while averaging 23:23 TOI. He simply does it all – he led all Jets in hits and blocked shots during the year.
Keith Yandle's ($4,000) fantasy value is far too dependent on the Panthers' 10th-ranked power play, but at this price represents a good value play against a very average Islanders' penalty kill. Also, Yandle was just one of eight defensemen to score more than 20 power-play points this season.