While the rest of the country is waiting on the ball to drop, daily fantasy hockey fans are waiting for the final puck to drop in 2015. Nine games are scheduled for Thursday night with countless options for DraftKings owners to sort through with money on the line.
Before setting your lineups for the final date of the calendar year, check out these must-have players to target at each position for December 31.
Center: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks ($6,000)
Look, there aren't a ton of great matchups on Thursday night, so we'll have to take chances at center. Luckily for DFS owners, Jonathan Toews is finally firing on all cylinders for the Chicago Blackhawks with six points in his last six games.
Normally a fantasy stalwart every season, Toews is off to an uncharacteristically slow start. But after averaging four fantasy points over the aforementioned six-game stretch, owners can expect continued success at a reasonable price for a No. 1 center.
Winger: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets ($7,000)
Speaking of steady players over the last few weeks, Blake Wheeler has enjoyed a solid December. Currently tied for fourth in the NHL in assists with 27, the Winnipeg Jets' points leader is coming off a 6.5-fantasy-point night in his last outing.
Along with his ability to put passes on target, Wheeler's also prone to having huge scoring nights, via Darrin Bauming of TSN 1290:
Blake Wheeler's two assists tonight put him at 8 multi-point games this season. #NHLJets— Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming) December 30, 2015
With nine helpers in his last six starts, Wheeler is certainly worth the $7,000 price point. Oh, and he faces an Arizona Coyotes defense that ranks 24th against opposing right wingers. Start Wheeler with confidence and save money on your No. 1 winger to build a balanced lineup.
Defenseman: Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche ($5,200)
Francois Beauchemin might not be scoring the puck at an alarming rate, but he's still scoring in fantasy. The defenseman recently had his first assist in four games and went for seven fantasy points. How, you might ask? By tallying nine blocked shots and a shot on goal against the San Jose Sharks.
Currently ranked second in the NHL in blocked shots with 108, Beauchemin is a consistent threat for owners even if he doesn't score a point. But with 20 points already this season and a matchup with the Blackhawks, who are ranked 24th against defensemen, Beauchemin looks like a smart start on Thursday.
Goalie: Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars ($7,000)
While Antti Niemi is coming off a horrible relief appearance in his last outing, the Dallas Stars goalie was strong during the previous four. He also plays on a team that ranks first in goals per game at 3.4, so he holds a 15-6-3 record this year.
The Nashville Predators have played well this season, but Niemi has been hot recently when he's starting. After winning the Second Star of the Week in the NHL with a 2-0-1 record, 1.02 goals-against average and .966 save percentage last week, Niemi is a great target for DFS owners at a low price.
For those who like options, another sneaky-good start might be Philipp Grubauer. The Washington Capitals backup might get the spot start with Braden Holtby coming off three starts over five nights. If he does start in the second night of a back-to-back schedule, Grubauer is a bargain at $6,800 against a horrid Carolina Hurricanes offense that he held to just one goal in his last outing.
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Enter the DraftKings $35K Sniper contest on Thursday. Use promo code BLEACHER REPORT when you sign up.