Fantasy Hockey Risers/Fallers: The Bob is surging

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By Jan Levine, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

This week's article includes a hot Pavelski, a rebounding Golden Knight, the Bob on a roll, Hart down for a stretch and the slumping Flower.

First Liners (Risers)

Ryan Strome, C, NYR

Strome, the fifth overall pick in 2011, failed to meet that lofty draft selection with the Islanders, save for 50 points in 2014-15, and didn't fare much better in his season-plus in Edmonton. Acquired earlier this season by the Rangers for Ryan Spooner, Strome has found his game recently. His two goals Saturday gives the pivotman seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last eight games. With Mats Zuccarello traded to Dallas last week and Kevin Hayes traded to Winnipeg on Monday, Strome should get additional opportunities to produce.

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Joe Pavelski, C, SJ

After a hat trick Sunday, the long-time Shark is up to 59 points in 63 games. He has been especially hot the last month, tallying nine goals and 10 assists in 13 games since Jan. 21. Pavelski posted 79, 70, 78, 68 and 66 points in the previous five seasons. With 59 points and six weeks remaining on the year, Pavelski should end in that range of production as he looks to lead San Jose to the top seed in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

Sam Reinhart, RW, BUF

Reinhart notched his third career hat trick on Saturday. Those three points, along with his goal and assist Monday, extended Reinhart's career-high mark in points to 57 in 62 games. Reinhart's output has steadily risen from 42 to 47 to 50 points heading into this season. The second overall pick in 2014, Reinhart signed a two-year, $7.3 million contract extension with the Sabres in September 2018, which now looks like an absolute steal for Buffalo.

Reilly Smith, RW, LV

Smith made the Panthers look bad for dealing him to Vegas as part of the expansion draft due to salary cap issues. As we noted in our preseason outlook, Smith became a dynamic top-six contributor for the Golden Knights. The former Bruin skated on the top line with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, recording 22 goals, 60 points and a plus-31 rating in 67 games. This season has been a struggle for Smith, but he righted the ship lately after returning from injury, notching a goal and seven assists in his last eight contests while skating with his linemates of a year ago.

Roman Josi, D, NAS

The seven-year, $28 million extension Josi signed with Nashville in June 2013 has proven to be a veritable bargain and steal for the Predators. For the price of a second or maybe third-tier defenseman, Nashville has received and continues to benefit from the services of an elite blueliner. Josi's goal and assist Thursday was the fifth time in February he tallied multiple points and pushed him over 50 points for the fourth time in five years. In addition, he's up to 15 points in 13 games this month and is just two goals away from a career high for a single season.

Ryan Pulock, D, NYI

Pulock continued his fine recent play, notching his seventh goal of the season Saturday. After taking a step forward with 32 points in 68 games in his first full season last year, Pulock is up to 30 points in 61 games this year, rebounding after a slow start with four goals and 11 points in his last 11 games. Add 103 hits, 111 blocks and 131 shots and Pulock is having a complete season, becoming one of the better all-around blueliners in the league. He is one of four D-men at this stage of the season to have 100-plus shots, hits and blocks, joining Darnell Nurse, Kris Letang and Radko Gudas.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLM

The Blue Jackets have clearly decided to go for it, acquiring Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel while also not dealing Artemi Panarin or Bobrovksy. That decision might have been partially influenced by the Bob's play this month. Heading into Saturday's game, Columbus' No. 1 netminder was 6-2-0 with a sterling 2.01 goals-against average (GAA) and .929 save percentage over eight February contests. Those numbers all improved after he stopped 26 shots for his second straight shutout Saturday against the Sharks. With a bolstered roster, roll with Bobrovsky the final six weeks of the season.

Columbus Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky, of Russia, plays against the San Jose Sharks during an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Bob has been lights-out of late; an integral part of Columbus' surge. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Mike Smith, G, CGY

Up-and-down, up-and-down — those statements describe Smith's season. He is back on an upswing, winning four starts in a row. For the season, Smith has a record of 18-11-2 with a 2.95 GAA and a .895 save percentage. In those last four starts, Smith has allowed nine goals on 112 shots for a 2.25 GAA and .920 save percentage. Smith's fine play has relegated David Rittich, who opened the door to Smith regaining the starting role with his struggles between the pipes, to backup duty. Role with Smith for now but be prepared to jump ship at the first sign of trouble.

Others include Carl Soderberg, Jack Eichel Dylan Larkin, Brock Boeser, Teuvo Teravainen, Tyson Jost, Ryan O'Reilly, Leon Draisaitl, Sean Couturier, Auston Matthews, David Krejci, Patrick Kane (point streak at 20) Nathan MacKinnon, Filip Zadina (callup), Gabriel Landeskog, Zach Hyman, Alexander Steen, Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Buchnevich, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Compher, Alex DeBrincat, Tomas Hertl, Josh Anderson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jimmy Vesey, Jake DeBrusk, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nino Niederreiter, Chris Kreider, Nikita Zadorov, Tony DeAngelo, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Ellis, Erik Gustafsson, Justin Schultz, Shayne Gostisbehere, Keith Yandle, Filip Hronek, Morgan Rielly, Tuukka Rask, Jordan Binnington, Frederik Andersen, Alexandar Georgiev, Ryan Miller, Darcy Kuemper, Cory Schneider, Semyon Varlamov and Curtis McElhinney.

Buy Low

Ryan Donato, LW, MIN

Donato failed to secure a full-time role in Boston, but should have no issues retaining one the rest of the season in Minnesota after the Wild acquired him for Charlie Coyle. A 2014 second-round draft pick, Donato bounced up and down between Boston and Providence (AHL) the last two seasons, unable to stick in the NHL. In Minnesota, Donato is playing on the third line, where he notched three assists his first two games and the overtime game-winner in his home debut Sunday while seeing top-unit power play duty.

Training Room (Injuries)

Carter Hart, D, PHI

Hart, who was chased from his last two starts, allowing three goals in about 10:30 of playing time, likely will miss at least 10 days with an ankle injury. This injury might explain a bit of his recent struggles, as he was on a major roll prior to those two stinkers between the pipes. Even with that duo of poor performances, Hart has a 13-8-1 record, 2.79 GAA and .917 save percentage in his rookie campaign. Philly has a boatload of goalies and will turn to Brian Elliott, who won the Stadium Series contest against the Penguins, and Cam Talbot — recently acquired from Edmonton for Anthony Stolarz — to man the fort while Hart is sidelined.

Others include Ryan Getzlaf (upper body, missed games Friday, Saturday and Monday), Brayden Schenn (upper body, missed last two games, placed on injured reserve Saturday), Nikolaj Ehlers (upper body, out since Jan. 6, returned Friday), Mats Zuccarello (goal and assist in Stars' debut, broke arm blocking a shot, underwent surgery Monday, out at least four weeks), Jesse Puljujarvi (lower body injury, could miss the remainder of the regular season), Kyle Okposo (concussion, active Monday), Erik Karlsson (left Saturday's game after aggravating a recent groin injury), Kris Letang (left Saturday's game with an upper body injury), Dustin Byfuglien (lower body injury, placed on injured reserve), Corey Crawford (concussion, activated Monday), and Ben Bishop (undisclosed, missed two weeks, returned to action Saturday).

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Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Alexander Wennberg, C, CMB

Wennberg was a healthy scratch for the second straight game Saturday. Drafted 14th overall in 2013, Wennberg posted 13 goals and 46 assists in 2016-17, parlaying that fine season into a six-year, $29.4 million contract with the Blue Jackets in September 2017. Since then, Wennberg has notched just 10 goals and 48 assists in 125 games. With Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel both acquired from Ottawa, Wennberg may be a healthy scratch several more times down the stretch, barring injury or trade elsewhere.

Tage Thompson, LW, BUF

Thompson's scoreless streak hit 12 games Monday against the Maple Leafs. Drafted 26th overall by the Blues in 2016, Thompson came to Buffalo this past offseason in the Ryan O'Reilly deal. Projected as a future power forward, Thompson has shown flashes of that ability but has failed to display any consistency. With the Sabres in playoff contention, Thompson could land in the press box if he is unable to snap out of his slump or provide a more physical style of play on the ice.

Max Lajoie, D, OTT

Lajoie was sent down to Belleville of the AHL on Saturday. After notching five points his first five games of the season, Lajoie has struggled offensively. Despite Ottawa selling off assets and looking to the future, Lajoie earned a trip to the minors largely due to his zero points and a minus-6 rating the last eight games. Lajoie likely will get another look-see this season, but he will need to produce in the minors to earn that promotion.

Others include Nolan Patrick, Tyler Johnson, Clayton Keller, Wayne Simmonds (could be rejuvenated in Music City), Rickard Rakell, Alex Chiasson, Colin Miller, Victor Hedman, Henri Jokiharju and Keith Kinkaid.

Sell High

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, LV

Fleury failed to win again Friday, extending his winless streak to five starts and two-plus weeks. During that stretch he has surrendered 21 goals on 156 shots for a 4.18 GAA and .865 save percentage. Fleury leads the league with 29 victories and six shutouts, albeit with a 2.64 GAA and a .907 save percentage in 53 games this season. With the Golden Knights aiming for a second straight playoff berth, Vegas needs the good, not the wilting, Flower between the pipes.

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