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Nikita Kucherov
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NHL GPP Plays: Thursday

by John Britt

After a short Christmas break, the NHL is back in a big way tonight with a massive 13-game slate. There are some huge contests on both FanDuel and DraftKings tonight and here are some of my favorite targets of the evening at each position.

 

Goaltender

 

Matt Murray – Pittsburgh Penguins – Matt Murray struggled out of the gates this season, but he picked up a 39-save shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes in his last start before the short break and has now won all three of his starts during the month of December. Tonight, he’ll face a Detroit team that has dropped six of their last seven games and who are averaging just 2.83 goals per game on the road this season. Detroit will also be missing several key offensive producers (Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Mike Green) and Pittsburgh is beginning to play their best hockey of the young season.

 

Others: Jaroslav Halak, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Braden Holtby

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Forwards

 

Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning – He’s not going to come cheap, but Kucherov looks well worth the investment this evening. He’ll take the ice tonight leading the entire NHL with 22 points (in just 11 games) during the month of December and showed off his top-tier offensive upside with a five-point night against the Edmonton Oilers in his last game prior to the short Christmas break. Tonight, he’ll face a Philadelphia team that has been horrendous in their own end lately and allowed a troubling 3.87 goals against per game on the road this season. With the last line change being used to keep him away from Sean Couturier, Kucherov looks destined for another big night.

 

Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild – While he hasn’t scored a single goal during the month of December, I’m still quite high on Mikael Granlund this evening. Despite his goal-scoring drought, he’s still been a consistent fantasy producer as he’s dished out 10 assists over his last 10 games since last finding the back of the net. Tonight, he should benefit from the Blackhawks’ up-tempo pace (115.91 CP60) and he’ll also be salivating to get a crack at their NHL worst 73.7% penalty kill.

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust – Pittsburgh Penguins – Obviously, Sidney Crosby is a high-end option this evening and I’d love to get him into all my lineups. However, salary constraints will quickly become a problem if you start your builds with Nikita Kucherov. Luckily, Crosby’s linemates on the top forward line are both quite affordable. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust have thrived alongside Crosby and both players have posted 13 points in 12 games during the month of December. The Penguins have one of the better matchups on the board, as they’ll battle a struggling Detroit team that will be without the services of several key contributors. I fully expect Pittsburgh keep Jimmy Howard very busy all evening.

 

Others: Cam Atkinson, Brayden Point, Evgeni Malkin, Jack Eichel, Patrice Bergeron

 

Defenseman

 

Dustin Byfuglien – There are a bunch of nice options on the blue-line tonight and I expect Byfuglien to be a bit overlooked tonight, which increases his GPP appeal. Big Buff has been rolling lately, scoring a pair of goals and adding nine assists over his last eight games. He’s a lethal weapon from the point of the Jets’ top power-play unit and is locked into nearly 25 minutes of ice-time per game this season. He’ll face a Calgary team that has dropped three straight games and Byfuglien is averaging a point-per-game on home ice this season (16 points in 16 games at the MTS Centre).

 

Others: Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Kris Letang, Seth Jones