By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes the Duke and the Tuch on rolls, a young blueliner hot in Hockeytown, the backup netminder on fire in Pittsburgh, a lesser-known pivotman producing for the Sabres and a cold Nino in Carolina.
First Liners (Risers)
Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Johnson has 14 points in 27 games on the year, but four of those points have come in the past four games. His playing time is down about 40 seconds from a year ago and almost two minutes less than two seasons ago, but he is seeing over two minutes of ice time on the man-advantage. Johnson is playing as the second line right winger, and if he remains at that spot, he should be in prime position to remain productive. One caveat is that he missed Monday's with a lower-body injury, so monitor his situation for updates.
Anthony Duclair, LW, Ottawa Senators
Duclair continued his strong play the first third of the season, tallying twice Saturday and twice more Monday. Those four markers gave the 2013 third-round pick of the Rangers 15 markers through 31 games this year, putting him on pace to far blow past the career-high 20 he scored in 2015-16. Duclair, re-signed to a one-year, $1.65 million contract by Ottawa this offseason, should expect a healthy raise in salary if he is able to maintain anything close to his recent pace.
Joonas Donskoi, RW, Colorado Avalanche
Donskoi is one of several players having fine first seasons in Colorado. Signed to a four-year, $15.6 million contract by the Avalanche in July 2019, Donskoi spent the first four seasons of his career in San Jose. He topped out at 37 points last season, seeing time on the second and third lines. But he has been a revelation in the Rocky Mountains, filling in while Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog were sidelined. Donskoi has shown no signs of slowing since those players returned, as he has nine points in his last five games and 29 in 30 games this season.
Alex Tuch, LW, Vegas Golden Knights
Tuch has been red-hot lately, notching four goals and three assists over the last five games. Vegas will certainly welcome the boost in production after Tuch had provided only one goal and one assist in his first 10 games. A first-round pick of Minnesota in 2014, Tuch came to Las Vegas in the expansion draft. After notching 37 points his rookie campaign, Tuch upped that production to 20 goals and 32 assists last season. He is seeing time on the third-line and second-line power play, which should enable him to continue to stay hot in the Desert.
Filip Hronek, D, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have been a mess this season, but one shining light has been the play of Hronek. His goal Saturday was Hronek's sixth of the season, giving the young blueliner 14 points. He's already eclipsed the goal output of his rookie season and is just nine points shy of tying his point total of a year ago. On a team with a minus-58 goals for/against differential, Hronek's minus-13 rating doesn't stand out as any kind of aberration and is better than expected.
Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings
Doughty has not posted less than 44 points the last five full seasons, going from 46 to 51, down to 44, up to 60, before dropping to 45 — along with an unsightly minus-34 rating — last year. That decline coupled with concerns over Los Angeles' offense may have caused Doughty to drop in fantasy drafts. Those who scooped him up later than usual are reaping the benefits, as Doughty already has 20 points, 72 shots, 62 hits, and 51 blocks through 31 games. Enjoy the well-rounded production from the former Norris Trophy-winning blueliner.
Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets
Hellebuyck came into Sunday's game tied for second in the NHL with 14 wins and in the same position with a .934 save percentage. He increased both of those marks, stoning 33 of 35 shots in a 3-2 victory. After winning 44 games and being nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18, Helly saw his goals-against average rise slightly more than half a game while his save percentage fell from .924 to .913. He has helped carry a somewhat suspect Winnipeg defense that is without Dustin Byfuglien, serving as a brick wall, last-line-of-defense.
Tristan Jarry, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Murray is still the No. 1 netminder in Pittsburgh, but Jarry made a very strong case for more playing time this week. He posted consecutive shutouts, improving to 7-4-0 this season. Jarry's other numbers are sparking, as he owns a .943 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average (GAA) in 11 games this season. Murray notched his first win since Nov. 9 on Saturday and it will be interesting to see how the playing time in net is determined in the short-term.
Others include Jack Eichel, Mark Scheifele, Carl Soderberg, Evgeni Malkin, Dylan Larkin, Phillip Danault, Mattias Janmark, Anze Kopitar, Sam Reinhart, J.T. Miller, Jakub Vrana, Christian Fischer, Jason Zucker, Josh Bailey, Jonathan Marchessault, Jake Guentzel, Artemi Panarin, Victor Olofsson, Mattias Ekholm, John Carlson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jacob Trouba, Miro Heiskanen, Ivan Provorov, Alex Stalock, Semyon Varlamov, Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Carter Hart, and Darcy Kuemper.
Johan Larsson, C, Buffalo Sabres
Larsson has only three goals and 10 points on the year, but one of those markers and six of those helpers have come in the last six games. Saturday, Larsson found himself on the second line at times with Marcus Johansson and Jeff Skinner. Historically, he has been a depth center, but if Larsson can remain on the second line, paired with those wingers, he could continue to produce at a decent rate.
Training Room (Injuries)
Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild
Spurgeon will miss two weeks with a broken hand suffered Tuesday, Dec. 2. It's positive news that Spurgeon will only miss two weeks, as his absence could have been at least twice as long, if not longer. The 30 year old defenseman was off to a solid start this year with three goals and 16 points through 28 games, though he likely won't come close to the career-high 43 points he tallied last season.
Others include Nicklas Backstrom (upper-body injury, missed eight straight games, activated Monday), Patrice Bergeron (lower-body injury, missed past six games through Saturday's contest, placed on injured reserve Saturday), Nazem Kadri (lower-body injury, missed second straight game Saturday), Andreas Johnsson (leg injury, on long-term injured reserve), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand, out since Nov. 23, returned to lineup Sunday), Travis Konecny (upper-body injury, left Saturday's game against the Senators, more updates on his status will be available Monday), Duncan Keith (groin, week-to-week), Philipp Grubauer (hamstring, left Saturday's game, skated Monday, could play Wednesday) and Cale Makar (undisclosed, left Saturday's game, missed Monday's game, might play this week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils
Hughes, the first overall pick in this year's draft, has had the usual rookie ups-and-downs and is in the midst of a lull period. He has just three assists over his last eight games, missing time with a lower-body injury during that span, and no goals since Nov. 7. Overall, Hughes has 12 points and 50 shots through 26 appearances in his rookie season, showing skill and talent but also the need to get stronger.
Noah Hanifin, D, Calgary Flames
Hanifin posted a career-high 28 helpers and 33 points in his first season in Calgary last year. He has been mostly invisible this season, notching just seven points with a minus-14 rating in 31 contests through Sunday's games. Hanifin has produced just 19 hits, 18 blocked shots and 29 shots on goal in his 13-game pointless streak. Look elsewhere for blueline production.
Mike Smith, G, Edmonton Oilers
Smith is alternating starts with Mikko Koskinen, but his recent struggles might result in a change in that arrangement. Prior to Sunday's game, he had just two wins since Nov. 2, going 2-4-0 with a 3.99 GAA and .865 save percentage. Sunday, he allowed three goals on just 22 shots to take the loss in overtime. For the season, Smith is 7-7-2 with a 2.88 GAA and .905 save percentage, but as noted previously, pay close attention to his recent performance for a better gauge of his play.
Others include Michael Dal Colle, Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Perlini, Oliver Kylington, Troy Stecher, Martin Jones, Jonathan Bernier, and Jack Campbell.
Nino Niederreiter, RW, Carolina Hurricanes
Niederreiter has been all but invisible since Nov. 1, tallying just five points in 17 games. Acquired — more like stolen — last season from Minnesota for Victor Rask, Nino registered 30 points in 36 games after arriving at the trade deadline. Niederreiter, drafted fifth overall by the Islanders in 2010, didn't match that high draft status in New York and was dealt to Minnesota. His game improved vastly there, though he was up-and-down the last several seasons and is suffering through a rough campaign this year.