It's a rather light Thursday in the NHL with only five games on tap. There are no teams playing on back-to-backs as Detroit travels to Florida, Los Angeles visits Toronto, Tampa Bay hosts Nashville, Winnipeg is in St. Louis and Ottawa faces the Stars in Dallas. Below, you'll find suggested options for crafting an effective lineup.
Ilya Samsonov, TOR vs. LA ($33): Samsonov is finally having the season that pundits predicted when he was drafted in the first round (22nd overall) in 2015. The former Washington netminder has found a new home in Toronto and is 7-2-0 with a 2.09 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He is almost a full goal under his 2021-22 stats when he had a GAA of 3.02, while moving up 28 points in his save percentage.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Jonathan Quick, LA at TOR ($22): The Kings have had trouble defensively this season, giving up 99 goals in 28 games and while Quick's 8-7-2 record is okay, his peripherals (a 3.33 GAA and an .888 save percentage) leave a lot to be desired. Quick faces the Maple Leafs, who are 7-0-3 in their last 10 games.
Roope Hintz, DAL vs. OTT ($26): The Stars were shut out Tuesday for the first time all season, but Hintz had three goals and six points in his previous two games. He centers one of the top lines in the NHL with Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski on his flanks and has 11 goals and 30 points in 25 games this season. Hintz has a goal and eight assists with the man advantage as he, along with his usual linemates, make up 60 percent of the Stars' first power play.
CENTER TO AVOID
Anthony Cirelli, TB at TOR ($19): Cirelli suited up Saturday for the first time this season after he underwent offseason shoulder surgery. While he had a pair of assists against Toronto, he was held without a point Tuesday against Detroit and is still working himself into game shape. That is tough to do quickly, and there are better plays Thursday than Cirelli, who has yet to see any power play time.
Sam Reinhart, FLA vs. DET ($18): It has not been a great season for Reinhart, who has seven goals and 15 points in 26 games after a career-best 33 goals and 82 points over 78 contests in 2021-22. Working in favor of a breakout is that the 27-year-old is on Florida's top power play unit, where he has five goals and two assists. Should Aleksander Barkov (illness) return to action Thursday, that would allow Sam Bennett to return to centering Reinhart, and that will help his cause.
Kyle Connor, WPG at STL ($28): Connor got off to an extremely slow start this season with only two goals and four points in his first nine games, after a huge 2021-22 campaign in which he had 47 goals and 93 points. Connor has come on strong of late though with eight goals and 22 points in his last 15 contests, including five goals and 11 points in his last seven games. Connor had three goals and six points in four games last season against the Blues.
WINGS TO AVOID
Jamie Benn, DAL vs. OTT ($21): Benn has no points in his last three games and four of his last five. He had a strong start to the season and is still averaging a point per game over 26 contests to date, but he skates on the third line in even strength situations with Wyatt Johnson and Ty Dellandrea and that does not bode well for a big scoring night.
Mitch Marner, TOR vs. LA ($29): I know he is on a 20-game point streak, but he has "only" 28 points in those 20 contests. By comparison, Jason Robertson just saw his 18-game point streak come to an end Tuesday, and he had 21 goals and 34 points during his heater. Marner is averaging 2.52 shots per game this season, down from 3.11 in 2021-22 and his worst rate in five years. He does have 10 goals and 32 points in 27 games, but his salary is too high Thursday.
Aaron Ekblad, FLA vs. DET ($21): Ekblad has returned to form since missing 11 games with a lower-body injury earlier in the season. He has three goals and eight points in his last eight games and quarterbacks a good Florida power play that will be better upon the return of Aleksander Barkov (illness) to the lineup. Overall, Ekblad has four goals and 11 points in 15 games after scoring 15 and adding 42 assists in only 61 games last season.
Josh Morrissey, WPG at STL ($21): It has been a coming-out year for Morrissey, who has five goals and 27 points in 24 games this season, fourth best among blueliners behind only Erik Karlsson, Rasmus Dahlin and Adam Fox. Morrissey has points in seven of his last eight games, with four goals and 11 points during the streak. He had two assists in his only game against the Blues this season.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Victor Hedman, TB vs. NSH ($20): It has been a really tough season for Hedman, who has only a goal and 11 points in 23 games. He was a workhorse last season with 20 goals and 85 points, but at the age of 31, time could be catching up with one of the top defensemen of the last decade. Hedman has only two assists in his last 13 games.
Colton Parayko, STL vs. WPG ($17): Parayko finally scored his first goal of the season Tuesday but has only seven points in 23 games. He is fourth among St. Louis defensemen in points as Justin Faulk (18), Torey Krug (11) and Nick Leddy (nine) are all ahead of the 29-year-old. Parayko hit the 35-point mark for the third time in his career last season, but it appears that 25 points are his ceiling this time around.